Writing Women Back Into History

by Gloria Feldt on October 13th, 2010
in Know Your History, Power Tools and tagged , , , , ,

On Monday I told you the story of Sybil Luddington, a Revolutionary War hero who has been all but erased from history.  Since men have traditionally written the major history books, they got to tell their version of events. Not surprisingly they made themselves the protagonists and women have been the supporting characters if they are mentioned at all. Now it’s up to us to tell our own story. Part of changing our relationship with power means that it’s time for women to reclaim our history, and write ourselves into the history books.

Shelby Knox took some time to speak with me at my book launch last week about a woman who has inspired her: suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. Take a look at what Shelby has to say about Gage’s contributions to women’s history, as well as to a popular tale that might surprise you.

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What women from history have inspired you? Whose shoulders are you standing on?  Share your stories in the comments section.

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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8 Responses to Writing Women Back Into History

  1. She might not be as inspiring as Gage, but Anne of Cleves was kind of a rock star in my opinion. She was the only one of Henry VIII’s wives that didn’t lose her life. She actually got quite a hefty divorce settlement and ended up with her own castle, unlike the unfortunate Catherine of Aragon, who was banished and ended up dying because Henry VIII wouldn’t allow doctors to take care of her. (I’m kind of obsessed with reading about all Henry’s wives. . .)

  2. leoshan says:

    I recently read about Anna Rüling. She worked with Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. In 1904 she gave a speech titled “What Interest does the Women’s Movement have in the homosexual question.” She argued for coalition building between the women’s movement and the homosexual movement.

  3. Margaret says:

    The women in Chile are making history. If they wouldn’t have camped out at the mine collapse site, insisting that their husbands be rescued, the operation would have been abandoned after only 17 days.
    They also got together and formed a trust so that if there is any money that comes to one or the other of the miners it all goes into a fund for all of them.

  4. Gloria Feldt says:

    Margaret, that is amazing. I did not know it.

  5. As a personal finance junkie – I am fascinated by women who have recognized and owned the “power of their pocketbooks.” There are three women that get plenty of space in history… but not always for this aspect of their work /lives who have very much inspired me:

    (1) VIRGINIA WOOLF: In A ROOM OF ONES OWN – Woolf so eloquently makes the case for women needing space and money of their own to write / create. I see much discussion on the issue of space… but what really gets my juices flowing was how revolutionary it was for a woman back in that day and era to understand and publicly espouse the power of financial independence for women.

    (2) COCO CHANEL: Here is a woman who literally came from nothing and yet reached a point pre-WW2 where she was employing over 3,000 people. On her own. Under her own name. And owning the power that came from the income she generated. Known so often for her clothes, I am inspired by her entrepreneurial savvy and unabashed desire to make money in exchange for her plentiful skills.

    (3) PRINCESS DIANA: Julie Burchill’s book DIANA really highlights how this woman (known again for clothes, her looks, etc) was a classic example of a (reluctant) feminist. After the horror that was her coming into adulthood in a sham of a marriage and the glare of the media – in the last few years of her life Diana embraced the power of her fame and her (inherited) money to give her a voice and shine a light on issues she was passionate about. Yes, yes, she had many foibles, but the awakening she had when she decided to own her power in the last 12-18 months of her life is something I’ve only ever seen really discussed in Burchill’s book and it inspires me.

  6. Gloria Feldt says:

    Apropos of Virginia Woolf, with a little tongue in cheek, I named a chapter in No Excuses “Secure £500 and a Womb of Your Own.”

  7. Serena says:

    Here’s another clip of Shelby talking about a woman she admires, Inez Mulholland, one of the early suffragists.


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