Women in History
Typewriters, Computers, and Modern Life
Copyright © 2000 Henrietta W. Hay
Women in History
March 17, 2000
What if women had been included in the history books?
Eve did get into the most widely read one, but she was always the
villain. We have read about Athena and Cleopatra and Joan of Arc and
Queen Isabella and Betsy Ross and Golda Meir and, more recently, Sally
Ride, but generally the writers of history books have never met a woman
they felt worthy of inclusion.
I'm a great test taker when the scores don't count, so I took the sample
quizzes of the CSAP that were printed in the papers recently. I am
happy to report, I passed. But I didn't do so well on another test that
I found on the web having to do with women's history. Much to my
complete embarrassment, I failed. Here are three of questions I
missed. How many can you answer?
Who printed the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that
included the signers' names?
Who came to this country as a teenager to study science and stayed to
become one the world's foremost experimental physicists?
What mother led a 125-mile march of child workers all the way from the
mills of Pennsylvania to President Theodore Roosevelt's vacation home on
The answer to the first is Mary Katherine Goddard, newspaper publisher
who had such a strong reputation in the colonies that when Congress fled
to Baltimore in 1776 they trusted her with the revolutionary task of
printing their treasonous document.
Chien-Shiung Wu received both the National Science Medal and the
internationally respected Wolf prize for scientific research. Her most
important experiment showed that conservation of parity could be
violated in nature.
The feisty labor organizer, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones,
led the children's march to bring the evils of child labor to the
attention of the president and the national press.
March is Women's History Month. The idea started in Europe in 1911 when
March 8 was designated as International Women's Day. But it was not
until 1981 that it became official here when Congress passed a
resolution establishing National Women's History Week. Co-sponsors of
the resolution were Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, and Representative
Barbara Mikulski from Maryland. Talk about the Odd Couple. If those
two can agree on something it's gotta be worthwhile.
But long before the official month was designated, activist women were
realizing that "history" as taught in school was incomplete and often
inaccurate. Women simply did not exist in most history courses.
Of course, it is hard to be famous or heroic when you are a second class
citizen, which women were until the twentieth century, but through the
years they have managed to make contributions in every field of
As calls were being made for inclusion of Black Americans and Native
Americans in the history books, women also began demanding that some
changes be made. "Every time a girl reads a womanless history she
learns she is worth less," wrote Myra and David Sadker in "Failing at
Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls."
Finally universities began to see the light and to include the fields
of women's history and the broader field of women's studies. Slowly
the changes are trickling down so that little girls can read history
with a whole new slant -- history that includes both men and women.
Here are a few more to look up in your new history books.
Who was the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, deposed when
American business and military interests wanted to annex Hawaii to the
What woman enlisted in the Union Army as a man and infiltrated the
Confederate camp in the guise of a boyish black cook? Note: apparently
the mission was more successful than her biscuits.
What presidential wife, who is famous for rescuing a portrait of George
Washington from the nasty British, was actually, in her final brave act
before leaving the White House, rescuing a handsome portrait of . . .
If you want to know the answers to these, see whether you can find them
in your history books. If not, try
History looks different when the contributions of women are included.