All History is Not Created Equal
It has been a thrill to see my fellow sisters make history over the last year. Kamala Harris was elected the first female Vice President, more women serve in Congress than ever before, and there is now at least one woman on every S&P 500 board. But while women are making history in the present, we must do better recognizing women from the past.
A 2017 study of educational standards found that for every three times a man was mentioned, women were only mentioned once. Outside of the classroom, a 2014 report found that less than 5% of National Historic Landmarks mentioned the contributions of women, only 9 of the 112 statues at the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall depicted women, and less than 8% of public sculptures nationwide were of women.
I refuse to accept that half of a population should be relegated to less than 10% of its history. Women are an integral part of history and we must do more to celebrate their stories:
- Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. At first, she was turned away. Undeterred, she tried a second time and was admitted. She sustained multiple injuries in battle and earned a full military pension for her service.
- In her fight to end slavery, Maria W. Stewart became the first Black woman to publish a political manifesto and was one of the first women (Black or White) in the nation to give a speech in public.
- Without scientist Rosalind Franklin, James Watson and Francis Crick would not have discovered the structure of DNA. Unbeknownst to Franklin, the DNA pictures she had captured were shown to Watson, who was stunned when he saw her work. Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize, with no acknowledgment of Franklin.
- Owing to the efforts of Tlingit Native American Elizabeth Peratrovich, the Alaska Territory passed the first anti-discrimination legislation in the United States. Peratrovich was so important to the passage of Alaska’s anti-discrimination legislation that February 16th (the day legislation was signed) is recognized as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
As we fill the holes in our knowledge of women’s history, we must also better value women’s contributions in the present. Women earn only $0.82 for every dollar a man makes. This number decreases to $0.63 for Black women, $0.60 for Native American women, and $0.55 for Latinas. These statistics are unacceptable and must be remedied.
Borrowing from poet Emma Lazarus, who wrote the inscription on the Statue of Liberty –
Until we are all free, we are none of us free.