“Oh Women couldn’t do that”: The generalization of women’s absence in history

After learning a bit about Jennie Hodgers aka Albert Cashier (who I wrote about in this blog post) I started thinking about how women are remembered in history. Mostly this was related to my own (and probably your) surprise to the fact that women played an active part in the Civil War. This got me thinking as to why this is. Why did I immediately assume that a woman wouldn’t have had a part in the war?

I think that it might have had something to do with the fact that it is often assumed that women didn’t play a very active part in history. There is a general idea that women, due to patriarchy, sexism etc., were restricted in their actions, and therefore “didn’t” and “couldn’t” lead exciting and meaningful lives. This is undeniably false. There are many wonderful examples, like Hodgers/Cashier, of women who played and active and important roll in history. Additionally, just because an individual isn’t famous in history standards doesn’t mean they lead an active and important life.

So how do we change this? It may be through the promotion and discussion of famous (and not-so-famous) women so much so that it becomes normal to know of many interesting historical women. Or is it maybe by making more of an effort to integrate women’s history into the general historical narrative?

Or better yet, is it by not talking about women at all, and just start talking about people, regardless of gender?

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