Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Women of...Warning: Rant Ahead!

Forty years ago, the prejudice against women was blatant--girls heard, "Why should we give you a job/promotion when you're only going to get married and leave." Or, "We've decided to give the job/promotion/raise to a man, since he supports a family." Or, "Everyone knows women don't have what it takes for a job in business/science/sports/[you fill-in-the-blank]."

We've come a long way, but the prejudice still exists, only now, it's a little more subtle. For example, here are some of the Massachusetts curriculum standards for third grade social studies:
* 3.23. Learning Standards: New England and Massachusetts: After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements (science and technology (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell, Nathaniel Bowditch, Robert Goddard, John Hayes Hammond, Edwin Land, Samuel Morse)). (H, C)
* 3.24. Learning Standards: New England and Massachusetts: After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements (the arts (e.g., Henry Adams, Louisa May Alcott, John Singleton Copley, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Geisel, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Frederick Law Olmsted, Norman Rockwell, Henry David Thoreau, Phyllis Wheatley)). (H, C)
* 3.25. Learning Standards: New England and Massachusetts: After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements (business (e.g., William Filene, Amos Lawrence, Francis Cabot Lowell, An Wang)). (H, C)
* 3.26. Learning Standards: New England and Massachusetts: After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements (education, journalism, and health (e.g., Clara Barton, Horace Mann, William Monroe Trotter)). (H, C)
* 3.27. Learning Standards: New England and Massachusetts: After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements (political leadership (e.g., John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Edward Brooke, Benjamin Franklin, John F. Kennedy, Paul Revere)). (H, C)

Can you see what's happening here? Look at the examples given. Of the 32 names listed, only 5 are women! Those who wrote the standards probably didn't think twice about the paucity of women listed. Men had the opportunities to create, invent, to run for public office, etc., so of course they became known, but, women were there, too, working hard. Working long. Working against the odds.

Massachusetts had women scientists such as Florence Bascom, a geologist, Maria Mitchell, an astronomer, and Ellen Swallow Richards, a chemist.

The Bay State had artists such as Harriet Hosmer, Anna Hyatt Huntington, and Katherine Weems, all of whom were sculptors. Women fine artists and writers have always found a home in Massachusetts and there are almost too many to include, so why aren't there more in the standards list?

Massachusetts was home to many businesswomen such as Lydia Pinkham and Joyce Chen. In the fields of education, journalism, and health, women like Mary Bunting, Lydia Maria Child, Margaret Fuller, Dorothea Dix, Mary Eliza Mahoney, and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska lived and worked in Massachusetts.

And as far as political leaders are concerned, there was Edith Nourse Rogers--the longest serving woman in the United States House of Representatives--she ran for Congress, and won, 18 times! Frances Perkins was the first ever woman presidential cabinet member, and she, too, served long and well!

So, why not recognize the abundance of accomplished women in Massachusetts history? Why not acknowledge women's contributions? Prejudice? Ignorance? I wish someone would tell me.

I hope that Women of the Bay State: 25 Massachusetts Women You Should Know helps remedy the situation, we've included many of the women mentioned above. Our publisher, Apprentice Shop Books, is to be commended for taking a chance and actively promoting women. Let's beat this prejudice once and for all!

--Diane

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Hear, Hear, Diane!

Jet said...

Good post!

Jet