Women Make History Daily, Not Just Once a Year

Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of [their] sex. —Abigail Adams (1744-1818), second First Lady of the U.S.

“Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of [their] sex.”
—Abigail Adams (1744-1818), second First Lady of the U.S.

I hope everyone will forgive me for not writing about western history this month — at least not specifically. Every so often, though, even those of us devoted to the history of the Old West must take a look even farther into the past, and sometimes much closer to the present, in order to develop a broader perspective about the era in which our imagination spends so much time. This is one of those occasions.

I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves. —Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), writer and advocate for women’s rights

I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.
—Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author and advocate for women’s rights

March is Women’s History Month. While I appreciate the increased emphasis on remembering women’s contributions to science, art, philosophy, and society in general, I’ve always considered it a bit odd that we need reminding women have contributed. Designating a specific month during which to focus on women’s history implies that for the rest of the year, everyone thinks of women as secondary characters in their own life stories.

Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled. —Jane Addams (1860-1935) social reformer, women’s rights activist, first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

“Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.”
—Jane Addams (1860-1935), social reformer, women’s rights activist, first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

Women don’t sit around waiting for men to make all the great discoveries, think all the great thoughts, and fight all the dragons. They never have. Throughout history, as many women as men have explored the unexplored, cured the previously incurable, and given voices to those unable to speak for themselves. And, as has been famously stated, they did it all dancing backward in high heels.

If women could go into your Congress, I think justice would soon be done to the Indians. —Thoc-me-tony (aka Sara Winnemucca, 1844-1891), Pauite educator, interpreter, writer, activist

“If women could go into your Congress, I think justice would soon be done to the Indians.”
—Thoc-me-tony (aka Sara Winnemucca, 1844-1891), Pauite educator, interpreter, writer, activist

“It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…,” women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in one of their suffrage pamphlets. “[H]ow much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought…?”

Anthony and Stanton often railed against inequality between the genders and the resulting injustices visited upon the distaff side of humanity — lack of access to education and discriminatory civil laws, for example. Today, the philosophy they espoused is, or should be, de rigueur, but until the mid-20th Century, speaking such thoughts in public in many societies carried significant risk to life and liberty. In some societies, it still does.

The best protection any woman can have … is courage. —Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), social activist, abolitionist, women’s rights crusader

The best protection any woman can have … is courage.
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), social activist, abolitionist, women’s rights crusader

For precisely that reason, historical romance novels can be important beyond the obvious entertainment. Unlike much literature written in previous ages, primarily by men, romance novels written during the past twenty to thirty years, primarily by women, portray heroines and female villains with courage, determination, and strength equal to the hero’s. Call me a man-bashing feminist if you must, but I believe it is crucial for readers, particularly younger ones, to be presented with female characters who are much more than decorative pedestal dwellers.

The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race. —Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), social reformer, women’s suffrage leader

“The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.”
—Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), social reformer, women’s suffrage leader

In fact, when one studies history, it becomes impossible to consider the romantic notion of heroes on white chargers rescuing damsels in distress anything more than exactly that: a romantic notion. On any frontier in any age, toughness and capability are essential for survival, regardless of gender. Today’s well-researched historical fiction makes that abundantly clear — and like it or not, fiction resonates in contemporary culture, subtly but undeniably influencing attitudes on both sides of the gender divide. Art always has been both reactive and proactive in that way.

So, readers and writers of romance, don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting your time with ludicrous, lowbrow “trash.” You’re not. You’re buttressing ramparts our foremothers built long ago. Could there be a more pleasant, if stealthy, way to celebrate Women’s History Month?
 

Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

14 Comments

  1. Kathleen, I love reading about strong women of the past. Their hands were tied in so many ways, but they still made a difference and got things done. These are the women I like to write about. There’s much to be learned from the past.

    1. I agree, Margaret! Women’s contributions too often are overlooked. Our foremothers had a tough row to hoe. I wish they could see how far “the weaker sex” has come. 🙂

  2. wonderful post,enjoying reading and learning,,I love for my daughters and grandaughters to know they too can make a difference as these women did,thanks for sharing

    1. I think all of us share that wish for the women who follow us, Vickie. Look how far women have come in the past century alone! I believe our daughters and granddaughters will continue to make a difference. 🙂

  3. Love this post and the quotations! I’ve always felt a bit cheated that with all the history I studied in school–the accomplishments and advances made by women were not included. A lot has changed since then and I’m glad to see that the education following mine has rectified that short-sighted attitude to a degree. Even now women struggle to be included as a full member of society — I’m thinking of Malala Yousafzai and what she has gone through because she wanted an education. What bravery!

    1. Malala is an amazing young woman. Can you just imagine? That she survived the attack is a miracle. That she continued to speak out shows true courage.

      Kathryn, we must be from the same generation, because I always thought it a bit bizarre that only a few women were mentioned — much less studied to any degree — in history classes. Now entire college courses are devoted to women’s history. Yep — we’ve come a long way! 🙂

  4. Hi Kathleen, here at Wildflower Junction we treasure learning about all our strong foremothers, and anything to do with the 19th century. Great job here!

    1. Thanks, Tanya! BIG HUGS, Filly sister!

  5. Perfectly spoken!

    1. Thank you, Cindy! I’m sure the ladies heard your comment loud and clear. 🙂

  6. Yep. Considering that the two of the three most famous people from Owyhee County were women, I have always been baffled that women didn’t play a strong role elsewhere. They did–we just weren’t taught about it. Which brings up the whole subject of women’s studies classes–why don’t they just make the routinely offered history classes accurate?

    1. Excellent question, Trail Boss. Wouldn’t it make sense to fold all the history-making for which women are responsible into an overall history class? Women’s studies courses also imply there’s something second-class about women’s contributions.

      I remember studying Pierre and Marie Curie when I was in school — and I’m reasonably certain Marie only sneaked in on her husband’s coattails, even though she was a full partner in the research. 😐

  7. Kathleen, this is a wonderful post. I always wondered about women in history, too–seems like they were just by-passed unless they were Betsy Ross or Sacajawea. So many women who played such a part in our history–but we were never taught about them. This was very interesting. I enjoyed the pictures!
    Cheryl

  8. To say I applaud you post is an understatement. I have always believed, even as a child, that women were more than history painted them. Thank you, and I agree, we are investing in the future in our writing.

    Doris

Comments are closed.