In honor of my last column for Women’#146;s History Month, I wanted to actually discuss the women who have made history (especially in the United States). Thesewomen have generally received far too little credit for their enormous contributionsto the development of our society.
I am glad that the U.S. treasury has honored a woman on the gold dollar; althoughI question how many people actually know who Sacajawea was and why she was importantin history. Her role as the guide for Louis and Clark in exploring the LouisianaPurchase is far less publicized than Paul Revere and his famous ride. Similarly,those women who fought in the Revolutionary War, either by helping male rebelsor dressing as men and engaging in battle, are ignored in text books and unsung by history.
All of the women at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, and those who worked diligently throughout the 19th century to obtain suffrage for women and emancipation for African-American slaves, are generally forgotten in the turmoil surroundingJohn Browne and Abraham Lincoln. Susan B. Anthony was honored with a dollar,though Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Sojourner Truth have yet to be recognized.
Women fought for more than 80 years to improve women’#146;s educational and economic opportunities and gain the right to vote. During the abolitionist movement,these women actively worked for the end of slavery and pressured the U.S. government to extend its rights of citizenship.
Harriet Tubman is the most famous leader of the Underground Railroad, and her efforts alone helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. Her story is better known than most, and proved that in the face of extreme danger from rich, white men, women were capable of extraordinary things.
Women played roles in WWI and WWII that were just as important as those of men. Women served in the armed forces and operated the industrial machine that produced the technology for warfare. Rosie the Riveter is the poster-icon for the millions of women who took jobs building airplanes and tanks. These women have gone unnamed and unappreciated by a history that sees importance only in those who wear an officer’#146;s uniform.
Feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Kate Millet sparked the Women’#146;s Movement and revolutionized gender politics. Dozens of other women in the latter half of 20th century have distinguished themselves, and some of them have even been recognized for their efforts. It is incredibly importantfor us in the 21st century to acknowledge those women who have and are makinga difference in the U.S.
I know this column has been more of a history lesson than an opinionated commentary,but these women need to be recognized as history makers. White men are not the only ones to have made significant contributions to American society. Our culture is the product of every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and level of ability. No single person or population is the whole story; we are all pieces of the bigger picture.