Myra Pollack Sadker once said "Each time a girl opens a book and finds a womanless history, she learns she is worth less." It’s basic math. Women are half of humanity, they should be half the content in history classes. But sadly they have not been… and Remedial Herstory is here to fix that.
History tends to be dominated by diplomatic, military, and economic themes that systematically exclude women from the conversation. But history is the study of the past and we know women were there. It’s the study of the documented past-- and even then, we have abundant records about and by women. We know women lived, felt, thought, acted, changed and were changed by history. But why are aspects of history in which women played dominant roles not included? Where is medical history? The history of child rearing? The history of social reform? These histories, and so many more, are just as significant to understanding the past and the present.
We also know that women held, seized, and wielded positions of power--and challenged people in power-- in the diplomatic, military, and economic spheres in every era and period of history… And yet somehow, those women, and their stories, are absent from our cultural understanding of those eras and periods of history. Women have been and continue to be monarchs, empresses, and presidents all over the world throughout history. Women, especially poor women, have always worked outside the home. In some cases, the ONLY histories that we have from certain times and places were written by and often about women.
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century women’s history programs emerged across college campuses around the world, and the field of women’s history was born. Today, so much research and scholarship is available to us, but so little has trickled down to the primary and secondary classrooms, which remain devoid of women’s stories. Today only 40% of secondary history teachers are women (University of Connecticut), and only 35% of PhD’s in history (Slate). Of those male historians, only 6% choose to write about women (Slate) and only 7% of outdoor statues in the US recognize the accomplishments of women (Smithsonian). 28% of recent biographies are about women (Slate). In textbooks men are named at four times the rate of women (Eckert– I counted), the state standards are a bit better naming women at a rate of one for every three men (National Women’s History Museum). Less than a quarter of historic figures listed in state standards are women (National Women’s History Museum), and most secondary educators teach about women less than once a month (Cicely Scheiner-Fisher)! But they don’t have to. Despite the grim statistics, so much is now known about women’s history and it’s a failure of the process of educating educators that so little about women’s history is known.
Women’s history gives us a window into the broader study of gender and sexuality over time. Inclusive women’s history opens the door and encompasses the study of gender and sexuality nonconforming people. It allows us to reevaluate the gendered biases in the study of history and to truly examine sources, cultures, and communities. Why do so many historians draw the biased conclusion that skeletons buried with weapons were male? Because the historical profession is dominated by male historians living in their world with their gender assumptions and biases. But across time, culture, and communities gender dynamics differ… here we can study that.
Our videos will serve as a foundation for further exploration. We will introduce you to some of the major players and a few lesser known ones. We will help you see some of the major issues and debates that rattled women and women’s movements through time. Our videos will spark further study and curiosity. Once you know what types of things are there… you will have to look deeper.
By the end of our series, you will see the myriad ways women transformed and were transformed, not just traditional “women’s topics” but all of history. In every topic and theme in history, if you don’t know their names already, I challenge you to assume women were there and ask, “Where are the women?” And research it. Imagine a world where people of all genders know the significance and history of women and the ways that gender and sexuality have created our own gendered dynamics. Imagine the ways that this deep understanding of gender can create gender equity.