Women’s History Month pisses me off.
So does Black History Month.
So black people get February and women get March. Wow. How very generous.
I move to call all of the other months “White Male History Month.” Let’s put it on all of the calendars. We can flood the Internet with graphics like this one:
and this one:
And let’s continue pretending that black people, all women and anyone who isn’t a white man are a mere side dish of American history.
Have you ever wondered why African-Americans and women get a whole month dedicated just to them? It sounds kind of cool. Wow!! A whole month!!!
What a crock.
These *special* months exist because the primary focus of American history centers around white men. Granted, this country has been run by a white male majority since its birth – and certain white men sure do like it and wish to keep it that way.
Now, if you’re going to twist everything I say in to some man-hating, male-bashing rant, you’re a sad fool who refuses to see the big picture. I love *some* white men. In fact, my father is a white man. So is my brother and so were both of my grandfathers. I’M WHITE! I’ve even dated white men!!!!
It’s just that white men aren’t the only people in America.
We Americans love to pride ourselves on what a giant melting pot we are, don’t we? A melting pot is supposed to represent people from all walks of life: Native Americans, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, East Indian, and every other color and ethnicity. It’s men and women who have woven the fabric of this country and it’s about time we start recognizing that instead of offering some measly month to honor women and/or black people – as if that should be enough to satisfy us.
Since women are still only getting the month of March to be nationally recognized, honored and celebrated, I will include some history about the women who helped to shape this nation. The following is an excerpt from the beginning of my book American Woman: The Poll Dance:
Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, the first vice president and second
president of the United States. Among other things, she is remembered for letters she
wrote to her husband about governing and politics. Their letters were filled with
intellectual conversations and provide first-hand accounts of the American Revolutionary
War. In the late 1700s, Adams was an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. She
fought for women’s property rights and educational rights. She believed women are much
more than marital companions to men. She felt women should be educated and
recognized for their intellectual capabilities.
In March, 1776, she wrote a letter to her husband and the Continental Congress,
requesting that they, “. . . remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to
them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the
Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
Alice and The Waves Of Feminism
Alice Paul was born in 1885. She was a Quaker and a graduate of Swarthmore
College. She went on to earn her Masters in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University and a Doctorate of Civil Laws from American University. In her day, women were best seen and not heard. She understood that women needed to demand the right to vote because asking for it was a useless endeavor. In the early 1900s, it was a controversial and revolutionary stance. She and other suffragists held banners that read, “We demand an amendment to the constitution of the United States enfranchising the women of the country.”
Alice’s fundraising skills helped her to build membership and support in the fight for
the 19th Amendment. She recognized that in order to get the president to take the notion of equal rights seriously, she needed to be organized, systematic and bold. She started the National Women’s Party. Lucy Burns and other “proper,” educated women stood and picketed the White House with signs demanding equality and they refused to stop until their goal was realized. These women were known as the “Silent Sentinels.” They were mothers, married to professionals or were professionals themselves, and they were graduates of some of the more prestigious schools. They were not extremists – though some might have argued they were. They illustrated that thinking women were serious about equality.
The fight for women’s suffrage and equality didn’t begin with Alice Paul. The first
wave of feminist activity began in the 19th and the early 20th centuries throughout the
world – particularly in England, the United States and the Netherlands. It was propelled
by white, middle class women.
On July 19, 1848, the first gathering dedicated to women’s rights in the United States
was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Some of the movers and shakers in the group
included Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B.
Anthony. Just like today, there were divisive issues within the feminist movement.
The most divisive issue was extending voting rights to newly freed slaves. This
included women, and there were many women of color who made history and fought for
the advancement of equal rights.
One famous black feminist was Harriet Tubman. After escaping slavery in 1849, she
worked as an Underground Railroad conductor and led hundreds of slaves to freedom.
This amazing woman made it her mission to rescue her own family from slavery, as well
as rescuing and helping other slaves. She earned the nickname “Moses” because of her
ability to lead. She was active during the Civil War, working as a nurse and a cook. Her
strength, conviction and moxie led her to be an armed scout and spy! A SCOUT AND
SPY! Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war. As a
result, she liberated more than 700 hundred slaves in what was known as the Combahee
River Raid. She fought for people of color and she fought for women’s suffrage.
Isabella Baumfree, a slave who changed her name to Sojourner Truth, was an
abolitionist who also fought for women’s rights. In May of 1851, Truth delivered a
speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. That speech was recorded by many
observers and became known as “Ain’t I A Woman.” Interestingly, the phrase “Ain’t I a
woman” was not in the original recorded speech. It was added twelve years later. Some
argue that because Truth was from New York and her first language was Dutch, southern
idiom would not have been a part of her speech pattern. Truth fought for civil rights and
was an outspoken activist for all women. She criticized the abolitionist movement for
excluding women, and openly expressed concern and argued that women, black and
white, should be granted the right to vote and that the movement would be diminished if
only black men achieved victory.
* * *
This is a small sampling of some of the achievments women have offered the United States. I go on to include women who made up the second and third waves of feminism and how those waves have become more inclusive with women of color and the LGBT community.
If you would like to see more of that particular chapter, visit this Amazon link and click on the “Look Inside” feature.
I look forward to a day when black people and women don’t need a separate, special month to be recognized. I look forward to the day when American history is about each and every American who contributed something to this nation.