A Woman of HistoryMarch 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.