Women Weave a Tapestry of History, Learning

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rosaparks Okay, boys and girls, let’s name 10 things that women have done to enrich our history or enhance our opportunities.

Right, okay, sure…uh…let’s see…hmmm.

For me at least, that question is harder than I think it should be. I grew up long before there was much effort to educate children—boys and girls—that history should showcase the ways in which both men and women have played valuable roles in shaping who we are as a society today and who we can become tomorrow.

It’s Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” It’s meant  to encourage us to reflect upon what we teach children and what we don’t teach them. It’s a wonderful time to recount the contributions of women to the establishment and growth of modern civilization.

We can celebrate women in history by helping little girls develop a full and robust vision of life’s possibilities as they grow into women. Additionally and every bit as importantly, we should teach our little boys those very same things.

This can be done by sharing early and often that women over the centuries have participated in weaving together a world where everyone is a contributor. In turn, little girls, with encouragement from all of us, must create their own personal histories, by hearing age-appropriate tales of women, bright, brave, committed and strong…and also of women who are less so.  If children are to have a realistic understanding of the world, all portraits belong in the gallery of those who have gone before.

Every woman begins as a baby girl, charged up with the power to live a life she creates, expressing her own ambitions, applying her own efforts to making the most of her life. Women’s History Month provides us grownups with a call to action to ensure that the strongest possible role models for girls are made available for them to consider, discuss and emulate.

Strong male role models are seen just about everywhere. But given the history of at least this country, there is still work to do to ensure that boys are brought up to see women not as smaller, less physically strong versions of men, but rather as uniquely able to contribute to the world in equivalent, yet perhaps different, ways.

Both girls and boys need to regularly encounter women (and girls!) who are creating, leading, solving, confronting, enduring, resisting and flourishing in the roles they have chosen for themselves. That is why, NOT coincidentally, the books in our Unite for Literacy library have been created to display girls and women in positive roles in all walks of life, alongside the men and boys with whom they collaborate.

We have no agenda here besides creating tools that families can use to help children develop a clear, age-appropriate vision of the roles that individuals of any gender have played in shaping history and may play in shaping the future. Children learn by watching and discussing how others behave, and good books designed to share insights into females involved in science, technology, engineering and math provide little ones and their families with a close look at the broad reach possible for our current and future women of history.

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4 Responses to “Women Weave a Tapestry of History, Learning”

  1. Mandy Stewart March 25, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Thank you for writing this! I will share widely. Literature that we use (and that we don’t) surely shapes the lives of our sons and daughters, male and female students. I have my university students create thematic units regularly, but most of the books they include show men in leadership roles instead of women. We have to be purposeful to include stories that have often been left out. I wrote something similar a few days ago: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mandy-stewart-ph-d/dia-diversity-in-action-for-all-families_b_6890276.html

    • Mark Condon March 26, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      Mandy! What a terrific article. Thanks for sharing from a very personal perspective.

  2. Pat Chrosniak March 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    OK, Mark…..

    1. Lydia Moss Bradley—The only female millionnaire during the time of Carnegie, JP Morgan, etc. Researched real estate in central Illinois and got soil to make many counties the richest in the state for farming. Gave property to those willing to become farmers, and, property to build OSF Hospital in Peoria;
    was on the board of a bank, created the Polytechnic Institute of Horology that became Bradley Univ.; worked with Wm Rainey Harper to model BU on U of Chicago; endowed the city with funds to maintain the parks in perpetuity. Rumored to have participated in the Underground RR. Married and saw five of six children die in early childhood and the sixth at age 14; became an innovator when her husband died at age 42. Lydia has been inducted in the Seneca Falls National Women’s Hall of Fame.
    2. Susan G. Komen via Nancy Brinker, her sister–Race for the Cure and Breast Cancer Awareness throughout the USA. [She is buried in Peoria.]
    3. Edna St. Vincent Millay–poet and playwright who lived in a carefree, “Bohemian” lifestyle, competed against men for a poetry prize.
    4. Maya Angelou–Of Course!!!!
    5. Angelina Jolie–model of courage for breast and ovarian cancers
    6. Mother Theresa–God Bless
    7. Donna Brazile–political pundit and commentator regarding presidential politics
    8. Arwa Damon–journalist in the hot zones in the Middle East
    9. Arianna Huffington–brilliant entrepreneur for news magazines
    10. Buffy St. Marie–Cree and Canadian American whose music promotes conscience-raising about issues of justice. Founded the Cradle Board Project and brought attention to Native Americans.

    • Mark Condon March 26, 2015 at 11:04 am #

      What a wonderful and varied list. I suspect you could have gone on to 20. Thanks so much, Pat!