A Woman of History

March 01, 2008

There is a wonderful conversation in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, between Anne Elliot and Captain Benwick. He remarks, “I don’t think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

Anne replies, “Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

Published in 1818, Austen’s novel shows a clear perception of the paucity of women in history books. Yet almost 200 years later we are still struggling to get an accurate and complete picture of women in history. We can’t even get Congress to fund a permanent home for the National Women’s History Museum, a coalition partner of AAUW.

In 1987, Congress did agree to recognize women in history by passing a resolution marking March as Women’s History Month, which Congress has approved annually with bipartisan support. Actually, Women’s History Month started in 1911, with International Women’s Day recognized on March 8 each year. AAUW’s own online museum chronicles AAUW women in history

Keep your eyes on AAUW Dialog throughout March as we celebrate women, past and present. Let’s fill in some of those missing chapters about women in history that Austen mentions. In the comment section below, share a story about a woman who inspired you and why. And take a moment to share this link with someone you know who has a story to share. The more women we recognize, the stronger our history will be.

By:   |   March 01, 2008


  1. Daune Shark says:

    When I think of a historical woman I think of Dr. Maya Angelou. The first time I read Phenominal Woman I was drawn to any and everything that she was involved with. Maya Angelou is a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer and director.

    In 1981, Dr. Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. In January 1993, she became the second poet in U.S. history to have the honor of writing and reciting original work at the Presidential Inauguration.

    With women such as this I am always inspired to do more and apply my best to everything that I become involved with.

  2. I have two women who deeply shaped my life. The first was my grandmother, Helen Kwasigroch. born in 1908, her family sent her from the farm to work in the city, to send money back for her younger brother & sister. always feeling less confident – because her education stopped at third grade & she was tall for her age – she married a much older man. In the depression he lost his job. she became a full-time earner, first working for others, than opening her own catering business. for many years, she catered the parties of Syracuse’ rich & famous. Long before the times of take-overs and mergers she created her own niche. And was respected & successful (albeit she never charged enough!)

    the second, was my piano teacher, Barbara Micale. A concert pianist, she was devastated by the loss of her fiance in WW2. she became faculty at a small community college in Syracuse, offering her teaching to children in the community (like me) who couldn’t have afforded her ‘real professional rate’. we were kids of public servants… firemen, policeman, teachers in the city school system. she was brilliant, talented & kind, until breast cancer took her at the age of 52.

    I loved them both – true heroes to me – that made history different in a small part of the world – Syracuse,NY.

  3. Sandy Kirkpatrick says:

    Every Women’s History Month, my mind turns to my paternal grandmother, the first in her family to be born in America. About 90 years ago, she wrote letters, participated in rallies and marches, and demanded the right to vote as an American citizen. When the laws of the land finally gave her the right to vote in 1920, she turned her energy to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

    I owe my grandmother — and so many other women like her — a great debt for the strides that have been made in women’s rights over the past 100 years. And so I owe it to their memories to continue their good work towards achieving true equity for all women and girls.

    So keep fighting for that National Women’s History Museum funding, AAUW!

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