March is women's history month. We need a special month because,
according to most of the history books, there was only one sex in the
world until late in the 20th century. By some biological miracle it was
self-perpetuating and needs to be celebrated.
But the women were there all the time. According to Vicki Léon's
irreverent, funny stories of women through the ages, there were quite a
few who were presumptions (uppity, in modern language) and damn proud
Several of them were rulers of their lands--at least for a little while.
One that we don't hear much about was Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt for a
few years. When her dad, Tut I, died, she married her half brother,
Tut II. When Tut II died she took over as regent for the infant Tut
iii, but later had herself proclaimed Pharaoh. She lasted for several
When Irene of Athens was crowned sole ruler of the Byzantine Empire in
737 she became the first woman ever to hold the throne of the old Roman
Empire. She ranks with Hatshepsut and Russian Empress Catherine the
Great as a breaker of male-dominated dynasties.
Jumping a few millennia to American women , in 1848 women could not
vote, own property or run for the School Board. Today, some seven
generations of activist women later, we have two women on the Supreme
Court, female Senators and Governors, a few C. E. O.'s of major
corporations, women in every profession , and housewives running those
essential volunteer organizations. They are making the news and the
1948 was the year that Seneca Falls Declaration was adopted, led by
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It stated in part, "We hold these truths to be
self evident that all men and women are created equal" and started a
revolution. Later Stanton teamed up with Susan B. Anthony to form the
National Women Suffrage Association. Those two made quite a team.
Stanton, mother of seven and prolific writer stayed home and wrote
diatribes against female discrimination, and Anthony, aggressively
single, spread her partner's words across America.
There have been so many American women on whose shoulders we are
standing today that it is hard to pick just a few.
Elizabeth Blackwell , who graduated in 1849, was the first woman in the
United States with a "regular" medical degree. She worked in providing
medical care to indigent women in New York, and later trained female
Another doctor was Rena Sabin, of Denver, a famous medical researcher.
I even interviewed her once back in the dark ages when I had a two hour
radio show, the title of which shall remain forever a secret.
Jacqueline Cochran directed the Women Airforce Service Pilots during
World War II, and later was the first female pilot to fly faster than
the speed of sound proving that women truly could fly.
Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, was
shut down and arrested, but eventually opened one in New York City.
That caught their attention.
Babe Didrickson Zaharias was the probably the greatest female athlete of
the 20th century. She excelled in every sport she tried, basketball,
diving, golf, tennis, track and field. She was born the same year I
was, so I followed her career closely.
Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique" and launched a second
wave of feminism in America -- a wave that for the first time included
the legions of "conventional" women, married with children. As one of
them, I'll bet I was one of the first ones who read it.
The bout of the century that I would love to see - but I am about 100
years too late, would be between Susan B. Anthony and Pat Robertson.
Anthony had numerous affairs but refused to enter into what she called
the slavery of marriage. Robertson said, "If you get married you have
accepted the headship of a man... the husband is the head of wife and
that's the way it is. Period." But wouldn't it be fun to watch those
two square off against each other. I'm betting on Susan. Fortunately,
American women are smart enough to make their own choices.
Every month since the beginning of recorded history has been Women's
History Month. The guys who wrote the books just didn't know it.