Where are all the Wonder Women?
I know they’re out there — somewhere. But I’m having trouble finding them.
History books ignore women. Students are taught that throughout history, women simply accepted the hand they were dealt, with occasional spurts of activism. When people think “women’s movement,” they think of the suffrage movement of the early 1900s and bra burning in the 1960s and ’70s. But what happened in between? Did women go into hibernation?
The fight for gender equality is not a series of stand-alone movements. The women’s movement is dynamic and constantly charting new territory in the realm of equality.
Women are continuously making small strides toward equality. During most American wars, women fought the good fight alongside men — if not literally on the battlefields.
This isn’t just a problem of little girls who need someone to look up to. Boys need to see that women have had a significant hand in getting us to the present.
When we have a conversation about gender equality, we need to have a conversation about women’s roles throughout history. If we taught women’s history the way we teach the Revolutionary War, maybe people would think differently.
History is the basis for our beliefs. We believe America is built on democracy, because we learn our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and fought the Revolutionary War.
Here’s how this influences gender equality today: Both girls and boys grow up thinking the world was a patriarchal place; women were merely pawns men moved around as they pleased.
At one point, women had power. Before the 1800s, women could have a source of income independent of their husbands, wrote Linda Grant De Pauw in her book, “Founding Mothers: Women of America in the Revolutionary Era.” It wasn’t until the early 1800s that women’s rights were stripped away. Women with that kind of independence at that time in America’s history are powerful — they send a message of female strength and purpose during our country’s development.
When students aren’t shown examples of women role models outside of mainstream women’s movements, it seems women just faded in and out of power. If the only female historical role models you can think of are Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, there’s a problem.
History books may overlook them, but when women are presented as equal players in history, gender equality makes more sense. Women didn’t come out from under the shadow of men; they were standing alongside them the whole time.
Originally published on OregonLive.com, as part of the Oregonian’s 2015 High School Journalism Institute