Thursday, March 1, 2012

Women's History Month Kick-Off

Do we still need a Women's History Month?

When I was growing up in the 70s, my mother was increasingly active in the Women's Movement. She went to Consciousness Raising events, Guerrilla Comedy performances, and other activities. She made it a point to bring home her new-found knowledge and empowerment, making sure her two daughters were raised with pride and confidence in our female-ness. (I think she did a pretty good job.)

I remember going to the library and checking out all kinds of biographies, and I especially loved the stories about women in history. There were lots of biographies, but if I was looking for a story about women, I had to pretty much settle for Betsy Ross, Amelie Earhart, Marie Curie, Susan B. Anthony, and a handful of other women. And I had to search hard to find those few stories.

At home, I had the early issues of Ms. magazine to read, and that gave me other stories to read. And, I was that kid who would spend hours reading the encyclopedia. I read about everything, but occasionally would come across a new woman's story, and then spend time in the library trying to learn more.

I don't remember hearing about the beginning of history of Women's History Month, which actually started out as a week in 1978 in Sonoma County (represent!) designed to give more attention to the contributions of women to American history. But do I remember when women's groups were advocating the Congress to make it a national event in the late-80s, and how exciting it was when they finally did.

(I also remember all the backlash comments, "Why do we need a women's history month, but not a men's history, herp derp." I still see those comments, and I'm not going to debate them here.)

While this is a blog for self-rescuing princesses, and we celebrate our history year-round, I wanted to do something special for Women's History Month. So I've gathered lots of photos and stories and hope to publish a couple each day. (If there are any women you'd like to see featured, please leave a note in the comments.)

To be honest, it was not as easy as you'd think it would be. Or at least should be. My go-to websites are the wikipedia list of events, births, and deaths for each calendar day, and a couple of "this day in women's history" sites. While wikipedia is the easiest to navigate, it's rare that I find an event that is about a woman, other than some queen or princess being crowned or married. Even in the births, I usually have to look nearly halfway down the list before we get into the women of the 19th century. Most of the women listed earlier than about 1860 are, again, queens and princesses, and generally only famous for being married to a famous male regent. 

Even the women born in the 19th century and early 20th century are more likely to be famous for being actresses or musicians. Not that I have anything against entertainers, but it's not always the type of story I'm looking for.

And trying to find storied of women of color? Ai ai ai. That's a real challenge. I've been lucky that there are quite a few resources for Black History Month featuring black women. But in terms of finding stories of Asian American women  I've had to get friendly with a bunch of different Asian American focused blogs, hoping to come across the rare story about women.

I'm not complaining, really.

OK, maybe a little. It shouldn't be this difficult to find stories of women. For being 50% of the population, we still only make a tiny bit of historical accounts.

And that is why, 25 years later, we still need a Women's History Month. And why it's especially appropriate that this year's theme is "Women's Education -- Women's Empowerment."

Let's get started!


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