Published 1:01 am, Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Contrary to the connotations of the title, this editorial is not about chivalry, per se.
It is about equality and appreciation. It is about putting women on the pedestal that they so clearly deserve. It is -- to adopt the theme of Women's History Month -- about "Writing Women Back into History."
Certainly, behind every great story, there is a great woman. Yet too often we don't hear about these unsung heroes of society.
As the National Women's History Project states, "When we began our work in the early '80s, the topic of women's history was limited to college curricula, and even there it languished. At that time, less than 3 percent of the content of teacher training textbooks mentioned the contributions of women and when included, women were usually written in as mere footnotes. Women of color and women in fields such as math, science and art were completely omitted. This limited inclusion of women's accomplishments deprived students of viable female role models."
"Today," the organization continues, "when you search the Internet with the words `women's + history + month,' you'll find more than 40,500,000 citations. These extraordinary numbers give testimony to the tireless work of thousands of individuals, organizations, and institutions to write women back into history."
According to www.history.com, Women's History Month grew out of a weeklong celebration of women's contributions to culture, history and society organized by the school district of Sonoma, Calif., in 1979. The idea quickly caught on within communities, schools and organizations across the country and, in 1981, Congress made it official when it passed a resolution establishing Women's History Week. Six years later, the event was expanded into the entire month of March.
The 2010 theme, "Writing Women Back into History," commemorates the project's 30th anniversary and recognizes efforts to document women's accomplishments and experiences in textbooks and other educational materials.
In the vein of this year's theme, it was in Westport in 2000 that Greenwood Press published Leila R. Brammer's book Excluded from Suffrage History: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Nineteenth Century American Feminist.
Gage, a radical feminist thinker and historian whose writings shaped her times, joins the ranks of women such as Maya Angelou, Abigail Adams, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Emily Dickinson, Ameila Earhart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oprah Winfrey in the National Women's Hall of Fame. The women mentioned here are obviously some of the more well known names in history, yet they are a small fraction of the 236 inductees. We encourage you to check out the National Women's Hall of Fame online at www.greatwomen.org, or take the drive to Seneca Fall, N.Y., and see it in person.
If the drive seems a bit daunting but you still prefer a personal experience over a digital one, then be sure to stop by Fairfield University next week as it celebrates Women History Month. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 22, with an exhibit from the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, "We Fight For Roses, Too: Connecticut Women and the Quest for Equality," the university will host a week-long series of events. To see the full schedule, visit www.fairfield.edu.
While not in the National Women's Hall of Fame, we think it is worth mentioning Mary Dixon Kies, who, in May of 1809, received the first U.S. patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. Aside from Nutmeg pride, this historical event bears great significance because it marked a major turning point in a woman's right to retain property of her own.
While great strides have been made to create an equal society in terms of gender and efforts to recognize women's contributions to history have paid dividends, there is still room for improvement.
In fact, the "Report on the Gender and Racial Composition of Connecticut State Boards and Commissions," released March 12 by Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, revealed that women only represented 38.5 percent of the appointed membership on state boards and commissions, despite the fact that they constitute 51.2 percent of the state's population. The good news is that this was a 1.5 percent increase since the study was last performed, in 2007. The bad news, though, is that 2009 actually saw a small increase in the number of state boards and commissions that had no women appointed members. In 2009, women were not represented on 15.3 percent of all state boards and commissions -- a 1.8 percent increase from 2007.
"While 2009 numbers definitely show some improvements in the diversity of our state boards and commissions, it still concerns me greatly that the representation of women and African-Americans on these crucial, deciding bodies is woefully inadequate," Bysiewicz said. "We must all do our utmost to make sure that the membership of boards and commissions that regulate many aspects of government and commercial transactions in Connecticut reflect the population of our state. Unfortunately, we are still not there."
Evidently the baggage of ignorance weighs heavily on progress for women. Fortunately the spirit of perseverance is stronger. Consider these facts from the U.S. Census Bureau:
"¢ 155.8 million -- the number of females in the United States as of Oct. 1, 2009. The number of males was 151.8 million. At 85 and older, there were more than twice as many women as men.
"¢ $35,745 -- the median annual earnings of women 15 or older who worked year-round, full-time in 2008, down from $36,451 in 2007 (after adjusting for inflation). Women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.
* 29.4 million -- number of women 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or more education in 2008, higher than the corresponding number for men (28.4 million). Women had a larger share of high school diplomas, as well as associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. More men than women had a professional or doctoral degree.
"¢ 55 -- percentage of college students in fall 2008 who were women.
"¢ More than $939 billion -- revenue for women-owned businesses in 2002. There were 116,985 women-owned businesses with receipts of $1 million or more.
"¢ Nearly 6.5 million -- the number of women-owned businesses in 2002. Women owned 28 percent of all non-farm businesses; 916,657 of these were employer firms.
"¢ More than 7.1 million -- number of people employed by women-owned businesses. There were 7,231 women-owned businesses with 100 or more employees, generating $274 billion in gross receipts.
This is just a sample of how important women are to our world. And while numbers and statistics can be compelling, even more important to remember is that without women, man simply would not be.
To gain a greater appreciation of the role women play in culture and society, we encourage readers to take the time this month to explore the numerous resources available on the subject. Here's a list of a few of our favorites: