By JOAN WAGES
March 26, 2008
The National Women’s History Museum will reclaim the missing half of history – women’s history. Little about women’s history can be found in mainstream culture. Of the 210 statues in Washington, only nine are of women leaders. Less than 5 percent of the 2,400 national historic landmarks chronicle women’s achievements.
Photo courtesy of Joan Wages.
Joan Wages, president of the National Women’s History Museum in Washington D.C.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the museum launched its latest CyberExhibit, titled First But Not the Last: Women Who Ran for President. The exhibit at The National Women’s History Museum focuses on the lives of 12 women who dared to compete for the nation’s top job. Each created stepping stones for the women who followed.
History is a powerful tool. Our wisest leaders study it. By learning from our past, we are not doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Each generation can build on the one before . . . except . . .
Except when there is no history! Very few women know about their own history. Today, it is still mostly relegated to those who enter women’s studies programs or those who’ve somehow stumbled upon this empowering information.
Few of us know that the documentation of women’s history has been repeatedly unearthed, reclaimed, and lost. Christine de Pisan first wrote on women’s history in 1405; Aphra Behn recovered the history of women in 1660; Mary Astell in 1694; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1734; Matilda Joslyn Gage in 1873; Virginia Woolf in 1932 and Mary Ritter Beard in 1946.
Most women today learned little of women’s history in school. Information about the women who came before astonishes women and men. Many times they rhetorically said, “Why didn’t I know that!” The women in history were courageous, persistent and caring.
Empowered by their history, women in the future will step forward with the leadership skills that have empowered men for centuries. Learn more about the incredible women in history by visiting nwhm.org. The museum looks forward to inviting you to visit its permanent home in the not too distant future.