Women's Journal

Why women get written out of history

woman inside a car
Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

History has a nasty habit of hitting the spotlight on men, leaving the brilliant women who shaped our world lurking in the shadows. It’s time to correct the record! Let’s shine a light on some unsung heroines and the incredible things they achieved despite the odds stacked against them.

Why Women Get Erased from History

Sadly, there’s a bunch of reasons why women’s contributions get downplayed or forgotten:

  • Straight-up Sexism: For centuries, women were seen as intellectually inferior. Their work was dismissed, not even considered worthy of remembering.
  • Work without Credit: Often women worked alongside husbands ormale colleagues, who later hogged all the glory.
  • Gatekeeping of Knowledge: Women were denied access to education and scientific institutions, leaving them unable to even get their foot in the door.
  • “Unladylike” Pursuits: Fields like math, exploration, or politics were deemed unsuitable, keeping women from making major breakthroughs.
  • Domestic Sphere = Invisibility: Much of women’s vital labor (childcare, healthcare within the community) got brushed off as “just what women do,” not amazing feats of skill.

Heroines Worth Rediscovering

Let’s meet a few women whose names should be way more famous:

  • Ada Lovelace, Mathematician Extraordinaire: Considered the world’s first computer programmer, in the 1840s no less! She theorized machines could do more than mere calculation, laying the groundwork for modern computing.
  • Rosalind Franklin, Robbed of DNA Glory: Her X-ray images were crucial to discovering the structure of DNA. Male colleagues got the Nobel Prize, her role downplayed for decades.
  • Hedy Lamarr, Inventor & Bombshell Actress: Bored while married to an arms dealer, she helped develop a frequency-hopping technology that paved the way for secure WiFi and Bluetooth.
  • Marsha P. Johnson, Trans Activist Powerhouse: A key figure in the Stonewall uprising, she fought tirelessly for LGBTQ+ rights, facing police brutality and indifference towards the marginalized community she defended.
  • Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter: Born poor in 19th century England, she made major dinosaur discoveries. Male scientists profited off her finds but refused to credit her properly due to her gender and class.

Hidden Figures in Every Field

Unsung heroines exist across time periods and areas of accomplishment:

  • Women Coders of WWII: Tasked with complex calculations for the war effort, their stories went untold until recently because “computers wore skirts” wasn’t a flashy narrative.
  • Unnamed Healers & Midwives: Throughout history, women were often the backbone of community healthcare, possessing vast knowledge of herbal remedies and childbirth.
  • Artists Denied the Spotlight: Female painters, sculptors, and composers faced barriers in training and exhibition spaces, their work languishing in attics rather than museums.
  • Writers Under Pseudonyms: To even get published, women like the Brontë sisters used male pen names, denying them full recognition in their lifetimes.

The Problem Isn’t Just the Past

While it’s tempting to think sexism in science, etc., is an old-timey issue, think again:

  • Modern Pay Gaps: Women STILL earn less, stifling their ability to fund projects, start businesses, or gain clout to make their voices heard.
  • Citation Issues: Studies show work by female academics gets cited less often, impacting their career progress and the spread of their ideas.
  • “First Lady of…” Syndrome: Wives of scientists or innovators often get reduced to helpmates, not intellectual partners in their own right.
  • Lack of Role Models: Young girls without visible examples of women who achieved greatness in a field are less likely to believe they can.

Why Rediscovery Matters

Celebrating unsung heroines isn’t just about feel-good historical trivia. Here’s why it’s important:

  • A More Accurate Picture: History that pretends half the population did nothing of note is flat-out wrong and intellectually lazy!
  • Inspiration for the Future: Girls (and boys!) need to see the full scope of human achievement to believe they can do amazing things too.
  • Correcting Ongoing Injustices: Recognizing historical sexism reveals the roots of inequalities women still face, providing a stronger basis for demanding change.
  • A Richer World: Rediscovering these women adds nuance, weirdness, and a whole range of overlooked brilliance to how we understand the past and its impact on our world.

The historical record is, sadly, full of holes where women’s contributions should be. By actively seeking out and celebrating these unsung heroines, we not only get a more truthful picture of the past, but create a more inspiring and just future. After all, how many potential cures, incredible artworks, or groundbreaking theories have gone unrealized throughout the centuries simply because the brilliance behind them belonged to a woman?

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