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Women's History?

(24 Posts)
LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 21:06:25

I was just thinking ... from reading threads here and there ... about how different my view of women's history is from what it was when I was learning at school (and we barely studied it really). But there's still so much I don't know about how women lived and what things were really like for them in the past - even the past that's living memory. I read stuff like those Jennifer Worth books about being a midwife in the East End in the 50s and I can't begin to get my mind around it. And I was really stunned to find that marital rape isn't a thing far in the past but only made illegal in this country in 1991. I was wondering what shocked others about women in history, or what you'd say we're not taught/told about, and should be? To me now, it feels as if women's history is a big part of what I want to know about, and feel I should know about, but it doesn't seem very trendy really!

HazleNutt Wed 28-Sep-11 21:15:17

all women finally got the fight to vote in Switzerland in...1990. The last canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden did actually not give the women the right to vote voluntarily. The supreme court had to decide that the word "citizens" in the constitution actually includes women too.

TheSmallClanger Wed 28-Sep-11 21:35:54

There's a lot of women's "secret history" too, which is now downplayed most of the time as it doesn't fit in with stereotypes.

For example, there were quite a lot of female racing drivers in the 1930s, who sometimes won big prizes and certainly moved among the prestigious motorsport circles with comparative ease. Because there are few top-line women drivers these days, they have been erased from mainstream history in many places.

In a similar vein, there have been female combat pilots since the First World War, in various places around Europe, Turkey and the former Eastern Bloc. Their existence is only grudgingly acknowledged.

The more I read and learn, the more I find that women have almost traditionally taken part in certain occupations now considered "male". Statisticians, early computer technicians, sound engineers and scientists in various biological and materials fields were often female at various points during the 20th century.

Women practically invented electronic music. The first full-length electronic composition was by Johanna Beyer in 1938.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 21:50:49

Crikey hazle, that's amazingly depressing!

clanger - yes, secret history, that's it exactly isn't it? When I think about what we didn't get taught at school, it's stunning. I especially like the fact about Johanna Beyer. smile

TheSmallClanger Wed 28-Sep-11 21:53:01

You can listen to Johanna Beyer's Music of the Spheres here.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Sep-11 21:56:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 22:03:10

clanger - thanks! smile

SGM - gosh. That is terrifying and humbling, isn't it?

That reminds me about women's history and wars - we have this idea that women didn't fight in wars, but archaeologically, we know they did (unless getting buried with bits of weaponry embedded in your bones is pure coincidence!). That rubbish by Dennis Dutton that was linked to in another thread was boring on about men going and fighting wars without the least awareness that women have always been involved in wars.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Sep-11 22:03:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 22:05:23

Cross-posted UPT - thanks very much!

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Sep-11 22:05:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 22:09:40

It must be what clanger says, mustn't it, SGM? We're told women don't fight wars because these days being a front-line soldier is something men do, and it is (if you see it like that) 'under threat' from women soldiers who want to join in. So we must be given a whitewashed history to pretend that the very idea is unthinkable.

(I find this especially horrible as I went to school with a girl who was killed on tour a few years ago and though I didn't know her well I was so shocked and sad because she was one of those women who wanted to fight with the men, and whose dad brought up both his daughters to do so as if they'd been sons - army family.)

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Sep-11 22:14:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LittleWhiteWolf Wed 28-Sep-11 22:17:37

I have Rosalind Miles "Womens History of the World". I must find it and re-read it, I haven't read it in about 10 years.

I also have a book by Kate Adie called "Corsets to Camoflage" which details the crucial roles women played in World Wars I and II.

What is not remarkable is how involved women have been in shaping history and particularly in times of what. What IS remarkable is the lengths gone to deny such history.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 28-Sep-11 22:28:10

Oooh, LWW, that Kate Adie sounds fun - is she easy to read?

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 28-Sep-11 22:28:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheSmallClanger Wed 28-Sep-11 23:14:20

Try Googling "Night Witches", if you're up for a bit of women-at-war history stuff. They were an all-female Soviet precision bombing squadron during WWII, who were highly successful and lost very few of their pilots.

Also Marie Marvingt - among other things, she was a WWI bomber pilot, and also developed the idea of the Air Ambulance.

Because these women did not have the decency to die dramatically, like Amy Johnson or Amelia Earhart, they are sidelined in modern history. They don't fit into the dominant narrative, so they are ignored. Fast-forward fifty years to the Challenger shuttle disaster; hapless, helpless schoolteacher and Shuttle passenger Christa McAuliffe is remembered, while highly-regarded career astronaut Judy Resnik, who also died, is largely forgotten.

LittleWhiteWolf Wed 28-Sep-11 23:34:29

LRD, yes it is. Its quite hefty, but it is an a4 book with plenty of pictures, too. A lot of it is first hand accounts, so its very accessible. I admit that I bought it also about 10 years ago when I was 16 so it appealed to my short attention span, but its informative as a place to start or add to some existing knowledge.

NotADudeExactly Wed 28-Sep-11 23:37:22

I went to school in Switzerland when that supreme court decision mentioned above was made. Not on that day, that is - my mum dragged us kids to the demo. Swiss TV has some brilliant archive material that shows women being interviewed and expressing absolute outrage at their poor men being forced to let them vote. Only in German, I'm afraid.

The legal equality of women was only added to the Swiss constitution in 1981, by the way. Before that, not letting women in Appenzell vote was in fact legal as women were de iure not equal to men.

orangeisthenewgreen Wed 28-Sep-11 23:45:22

I think the thing that made me most sad was reading about a group of women in the C19th who wanted to study medicine and how, after having won the right to do so at Edinburgh university, they were harrassed on their way to class at the Surgeon's Hall by a group of male students who shouted abuse and threw mud at them. Once in the hall, some men pushed a sheep into the class with the joke that if "inferior animals" were now allowed, then why not sheep?

I was gobsmacked and depressed when I read this. It was the first time I realized the full extent of prejudice against women in those days and that their lack of achievements in history wasn't simply down to the fact that they bore children.

LRDTheFeministDragon Thu 29-Sep-11 09:35:56

orange - in 1987, women were admitted to Magdalene College Cambridge, and the man students put on black armbands and carried coffins through the halls in protest.

alexpolismum Thu 29-Sep-11 14:23:32

Well, women can now participate actively in war in the Australian army

Funny that one comment reads "I cannot see women coping with the nasty, extreme violence of warfare". What does he think women have been doing for centuries?

Catitainahatita Thu 29-Sep-11 17:40:13

Ooh a history thread! <sad excited emoticon>

I tend to think that women don't feature in traditional history for the simple reason that the tasks and jobs undertaken by women were not considered important nor heroic. In terms of military history for example, in Mexico (if not all LA), the first armies were anything but professional. The rank and file were made up of the ranch hands of the officers, prisoner and unlucky conscripts in the main. They would be accompanied by wives, sisters and daughters. One foriegn visitor described how the women would rise at 5 am (before the men I don't need to mention) to grind the corn to make flour and then make tortillas for breakfast for example. Many of these women would also take up arms later that day.

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