By Virginia Beck
“Well behaved women rarely make history” — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Ever wondered why it is history instead of herstory? It is simple. Records of the past were created by the conquerors, the victors. And men have controlled history, documentation, literacy, politics, and public conversations for too long.
As U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono says, “There should be more of us.”
The recording of history always belonged to men, because writing belonged to men. Only recently were women allowed to learn to read and write. In much of the world, women are still not literate. Women were beaten, enslaved, tortured and force fed in jails after hunger strikes by suffragettes, led to their imprisonment. They just wanted to be their own people, with a right to vote, and a right to education and property ownership.
In the United States, black emancipated male slaves were allowed to own property, become educated, choose their own marital partners, long before women were.
Women only achieved voting rights in 1920, after nearly 200 separate attempts to acquire the privilege. So independence and property rights are less than 100 years old. Many women stayed widows, so they would not have to give up their property to men.
Ironically, when we trace human pre-history, the archeological records all seem to go back to a woman in Africa. If you are tracing cellular information, the maternal mitochondria, (small micro-organelles inside human cells), are little power packs for the cells, and they are traceable by the maternal line, the mother’s line only.
We owe our survival to women. You were born from a woman who was born of a woman in a long unbroken chain of survivors more than over 300 million years old. If it ever was broken, you wouldn’t be here. Chicken skin moment, right?
Cultures that respect women are mostly destroyed by invading men, who also destroyed their victims’ opportunities for revenge by raping and enslaving women, and killing all existing children, to extinguish the male lines.
So women have a history of loss, suffering, abuse and enslavement, which leads to some huge losses for all of us. So little of women’s art, songs, writings have survived.
Which is why they are all the more precious.
And until the advent of reliable contraception in the 1960s, only a little more than 50 years ago, women were struggling to survive constant pregnancy, breastfeeding, healing, feeding and caring for many family members. All this, while farming, fishing, making fabric or kapa, fabricating clothing, and implements.
Only a few privileged women had the opportunities to develop other interests.
Women healers were persecuted and executed in the millions, over time, and yet, here, they still are.
In women’s history month, I salute those who were famous queens, Elizabeths I & II, Victoria, Liliu’okalani, Kekaiha’akulou (Queen Deborah Kapule), Ka’ahumanu, and those who were pioneers, Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Mary Cassat, Georgia O’Keefe, Joni Mitchell, Nona Beamer, Sarah Caldwell, Ruth Ginsberg and many others.
Let us remember our own Mazie Hirono, Tulsi Gabbard, Patsy Mink, JoAnn Yukimura and countless others.
But also our young people like Mehana Blaich Vaughn, PhD for her work on coastal resources; our pioneers in media, like Jean Holmes, and Leslie Wilcox, and most of all, the thousands of women who are quietly holding our families and our community organizations together. Too many to mention.
Women do a disproportionate amount of family caregiving, and much of their work is unpaid and unacknowledged. Families just expect them to do it, and they fulfill those expectations.
Only another mother knows the hard work of carrying a pregnancy while working, and then raising the child. We give them a day in May, but they are there 24/7. Without women, there is no future.
Praise a woman today, and thank them for carrying their hearts’ love still intact in a world filled with bitterness, violence, prejudice, rejection and abuse. Despite the world, we will always love our communities, our families and our children. It is who we are.
- Virginia Beck, NP, Certified Trager Practitioner®, does private Wellness Consulting and Trager ® practice at the YWCA Women’s Center in Lihu‘ She is part of the Women’s Health Team at West Kaua‘i Clinics, and can be reached at 635-5618.