March is Women’s History Month in the USA. I have no idea how long that has been a thing. I found myself with many questions.
I saw a list of “badass women in history” somewhere. I saw lists of poets and scientists and politicians. I saw women lament that we’d have more poets, scientists and politicians that were female if only women hadn’t been held back. While that is a true statement, it infers that women only somehow had value if they were a published poet or had won an election.
Shouldn’t Women’s History be all encompassing, and include the stories of all women? History is all around us. I’ve been researching my family tree. I have ancestors who were recorded as not being able to read or write on Federal Census records. I have ancestors that stayed at home, ancestors that worked as stenographers and servants. My grandmother had an eighth grade education, started work in a factory at age 13, and worked on and off throughout her life. She didn’t work to achieve a lofty career goal, just for economic survival.
If you look far back enough you have an ancestor that lost a child to illness. A mother in my family tree lost a child very young to gastroenteritis. Perhaps your grandmother or great-great grandmother had a child that was afflicted by polio, a disease that we successfully immunize against today.
You can go to a museum and find out what your ancestors wore. What they fixed for supper. Some of our ancestors killed the chicken themselves. No tidy prebutchered packages of chicken in the old days. For some having a gun was a necessity, you may even have a great great grandmother who resorted to shooting whatever she could find for supper.
My mother will never be a published poet or recognized artist. She has more of an artistic streak than I ever will though. She taught herself to play famous pieces on the piano and sometimes the guitar. She’s painted many watercolors, perhaps just too flowery and feminine to every gain recognition. She’s attempted to master Viennese pastry and authentic Mexican cooking. She’s embroidered. She made dresses for my sister and I were little. She could make a beautifully decorated birthday cake. Just because her works weren’t seen by the world doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
My mom is just a bit older than Hillary Clinton and grew up just miles away from her. My mom had a less priveleged background, so even if she hand wanted to be world famous there were more barriers. Women at my mother’s high school were discouraged from enrolling in certain classes so they woudn’t take spaces away from the boys.
I’m part Polish. I know the challenges my family faced 100+ years ago coming from Poland to America. More difficult though is determining what was going on before they came to America. While the famous Pole Marie Slowdoska Curie was gaining recognition as a scientist what challenges did ordinary women face during that time?
History is about the ordinary women, not just the women who were badass or world famous.