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Friday, March 29, 2019

A Final Thought on Women's History Month

I had an epiphany while reading "Bad Girls Throughout History" by Ann Shen a few weeks ago. My mind took me back to elementary school where we did something called the "wax museum." We chose a historical figure, made a tri-fold board, dressed up like them and memorized a 45-second speech. I chose Paul Revere, and I distinctly remember discussing this decision with my parents. I said something along the lines of, "well there aren't any cool women in history, so I'll be a man."
Oh, how those words hurt me now. I sat on my bedroom floor and cried as I thought about that moment when third (or was it fourth) grade Hayden didn't think women were good enough to be portrayed at the wax museum. 
But, at the same time, I will give myself a little credit because this wasn't entirely my fault. Every history book I had read in school (and still, now that I've graduated from college) focused on men's achievements. In the past few years, I've read many a book about women, and I had no idea Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run for president with a full-fledged campaign back in 1884 and 1888! We had a woman running for president 35 years before women were granted the right to vote. BUT WE NEVER LEARNED THIS. I know so much about all of the Founding Fathers, but we couldn't take the time out of our history class for a small paragraph about a woman running for president in the 1800s. 
Why did I learn about men millionaires and billionaires but not Madame C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire, who was a woman of color?! We got a few sentences about Betty Friedan but never anything about Margaret Sanger, a woman who revolutionized women with birth control and Planned Parenthood. 
There are countless women who have been left out of textbooks simply because someone decided a long time ago that men's achievements meant more. And I'm not saying we shouldn't learn about those men — George Washington is critical to America but so is Nellie Bly. We need a revolution in the way we teach history in this country, and it starts by including women (ALL women) in our textbooks and lesson plans. Their achievements are just as remarkable — hell, we wouldn't have WiFi or dresses that showed knees or the EPA without them - xoxo darling, Hayden.

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