History, for the most part, has been written by men about men – men at war, in politics, diplomats, scientists, writers. History is mainly about men.
Women have been excluded and when we are mentioned we are often placed in sex-stereotypical roles, wives, mothers, and mistresses. Although women have broken history in every field, traditional recordings of history have minimized or ignored our contributions and our effect on historical events. Until the 1960’s, the male-dominated history profession ignored serious studies of women, of course, written by women scholars.
Although the “feminism” movement began in the 19th century it wasn’t until the 1960’s that “feminist” movements changed the world with the development of the birth control pill, giving women access to easy and reliable contraception and thereby allowing more women an opportunity to decide their own life-style choices.
Did you know that in 1647, America’s first suffragist, Margaret Brent was the first woman to own property and demanded that the Maryland Assembly grant women the right to vote? In 1766, Mary Katherine Goddard was our first woman publisher. In 1832, Catherine Beecher wrote “A Course of Calisthenics For Young Ladies,” the first book about physical fitness for young women. But we took a step backward the next year when Oberlin College admitted young women as students – but – in addition to studying, they were required to cook and do laundry for male students!
In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became our first female doctor. In 1869, Wyoming surprised us all giving women the right to vote. Arabella Mansfield passed the bar in Iowa making her our very first lawyer. In 1902, Martha Washington was the first woman honored on a postage stamp. In 1919, Jeannette Rankin had the privilege of being our first woman elected to Congress and our first Senator, Rebecca Fellon followed in 1922.
These women and so many, many more dared to live their dreams – women who fought to be educated, women who’ve made significant differences in every possible field and are barely remembered, let alone recognized by us: their recipients and legatees of their enduring work. These pioneers fought impossible odds: dirt and disease just a small part of it. They fought for our right to equality; marry when we want, whom we want; divorce and with support, our rights to own property, to write, vote, speak. Many wore long heavy dresses, never knew electricity, never drove a car, or went to a Wal-Mart, and brought baby after baby into a scary world and watched while more than half of them died before they ever had a chance to live. They went to jail for us and stood by their principles in impossible situations. Were they afraid? You can bet your life on it! Were they always polite, meek, mild and the litmus test for all of us – LADYLIKE! Each month we’ll visit the lives of women in our history. Women we knew, women we remember, women we’ve read about, women we cheered and glowed in their successes. I hope you enjoy reading about the First Women In History. Do you have a favorite? Let me know and I’ll be glad to include her story in our salute to our FIRST WOMEN IN HISTORY.
Do you appreciate hearing real stories like this from real women? There’s strength and support in numbers —join Plaid for Women to connect with real women just like you!