March Is Women's History Month

I have written Women's History Month Guest Editorials since 1986. The first one I published in the Huffington Post Blog was "Women in America's History," which was posted January 8, 2013. I plan to pick one from my book (2009, Prisms: Refracting Light of Women's Lives, Xlibris) for each week of March to share with readers who may not have read them.

The main point of each has been to show ways women helped build and maintain America from the beginning. Men used high-sounding, fair-sounding words to describe our new nation, but they have never shared power or money equally with women. Those in power have refused to follow standards the Founding Fathers set. Cokie Roberts has written two eye-opening books, Founding Mothers (2004, Harper Audio) and Ladies of Liberty (2008, Harper Audio.com), explaining from the women's own writings some of the early mechanisms used in forming this nation. I quote her work often.

I was taught in school that America is the "Land of the Free where all are supposed to be treated fairly and equally." I also learned early that women and minorities are not "treated fairly and equally."

Open-minded, fair people know these truths and are working to remedy the situation. But some people close their ears and roll their eyes whenever I share my research. These people have not yet internalized or acted on this vital information. So I am going to re-run several of my editorials in this blog hoping that new eyes will read them...and will work to help create that equity promised so long ago in the U.S. Constitution.

The presidential elections often bring out the worst in candidates, and this year is no different. I suggest that readers research past elections and note which party's policies have helped ALL-of-the-people before they vote. Each of us must also research the candidates beyond what "they" say in their ads. We need to know who-these-people- are and what-they-stand-for before we trust them with our precious votes.

Today I'm sharing my 1988 editorial originally published in The News-Star in Monroe, Louisiana. It was headlined "History omits women's role in shaping society:"

United States Public Law 100-9 acknowledges that "the role of American women in history has been consistently overlooked and undervalued."

Historian Dale Spender relates, "Women's past is as rich as men's; that we do not know about it...is part of our oppression." (1982, Women of Ideas and WHAT Men Have Done to Them, London: Ark) Children are denied knowledge of great female HERoes [emphasis mine] and brainwashed into believing there are no precedents for feminine accomplishments. In addition, textbooks foster gender bias. Educational researcher Marj Jenson declares, "Public schools have no right to purchase with public funds and to require children to read texts which in any way belittle the worth of females or minorities or stereotype them," yet "in 1979, in spite of the women's movement, affirmative action programs, and publishers' guidelines, in United States history texts...for every seven hundred pages about men, there were only fourteen pages about women" (In Stephenson, 1981. Women's Roots, CA: Diemer Smith).

American children are still being socialized for a world in which women are neither expected--not permitted--to earn a living wage. Such stereotyping damages women and men...and, too often, leads to poverty.

Our Legislature passed a resolution for teaching women's history in Louisiana high schools. This is commendable, but it's much too late! By age three, children know which gender-role stereotypes they are expected to fill. In early grades, girls speak, read, and count better than boys; and they are equal to boys in math and science. But by junior high, girls restrain ambitions and achievements because they've learned that many boys don't like girls who achieve...and their socialization requires male approval above everything else. Both genders realize at a very young age that our society values boys more than girls.

Dr. June Stephenson (1981, Women's Roots, Diemer Smith) asserts that "omission of women from history fosters an attitude that says "...what females did or do is unimportant, an attitude that adversely affects human relationships. Imbalance in the teaching of history helps perpetuate sex discrimination and it demeans girls." Incorporation of women's history into K-12 curriculums will teach children of the vital role women have played in building civilization and will provide more accurate role models of both genders.

When people realize that women have contributed equally with men, they will also realize that women should have the same rights as men. It's time to teach the complete history of our nation!

This and some other editorials I have written over the years have their origins in my master's thesis, Sexism: Subliminal Societal Control, which I defended and published in 1987. My son has offered to publish my thesis on our website. If enough readers are interested, we will do that soon.