Andrea's column: Her-story counts, tooMarch is Women’s History month. I didn’t include it in last week’s offering because I wanted to devote an entire column to the subject. When I was in grade school, women in history were pretty much ignored.
As I wrote my column last week, I was surprised to learn of the many causes recognized in the month of March. Kidney disease, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, to name some.
March is also Women’s History month. I didn’t include it in last week’s offering because I wanted to devote an entire column to the subject.
When I was in grade school, women in history were pretty much ignored. The nuns touched on Betsy Ross and Florence Nightingale but because every subject in our Catholic school seemed to have a religious bent, saints were a big part of our lessons.
We learned about Saint Joan of Arc, a 19-year-old French woman who was burned at the stake. All because, during the Hundred Years’ War, God told her to lead an army to take back her country from England.
Another French saint was part of our studies, too. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a Carme-lite nun, who wrote “The Little Way.”
I hungered for American women to admire and waged my own study of historical females. At the Linden Hills library, I discovered Jane Adams, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and other women who had dared to change the status quo.
During high school, I made many trips to the branch library on East Lake Street where I continued my education. Maybe it was a conscious effort to supplement what we learned in history class: male presidents, male generals, male leaders of other countries. Maybe not.
Decades later, paging through a class catalog from a local college, I noticed one dedicated to women’s studies and signed up for it right away.
So there I was, the same age as the instructor but old enough to be the parent of my classmates. Many times, the subject was something I had observed first hand.
I agreed with classmates that education amendment Title IX, enacted in 1972 (long before any of them had been born), was necessary because girls were not afforded the same opportunities that were offered to boys.
Perhaps that ruling prompted “The Battle of the Sexes” a year later. I gave the class a first-hand account of the buzz surrounding Billie Jean King’s whipping of Bobby Riggs in a tennis match. And bragged about the dollar I’d won from a neighbor’s boyfriend who bet on Riggs.
But it was the pioneers I hadn’t known about that made women’s study class a favorite. Suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. After World War I, they, among others, fought to give women the right to vote. Stanton died almost 20 years before the 19th amendment was passed.
Margaret Sanger was another stranger to me. A nurse dedicated to informing women about birth control, she believed it was important to women’s health because of the suffering her mother endured giving birth to 11 children. Sanger was imprisoned for being “a nuisance.”
I thought of these women recently when I came across an extra credit assignment I had written for that class. The instructor had asked us to answer the question, “Why women’s studies?”
“Why not?” I wrote. We have been studying history much too long.