Why HERstory Matters

The look on the television interviewer’s face said it all. Her mouth dropped, reflecting her incredulous reaction. I had just shared a few snippets about the status of women in the 19th century. During that period, American women could not own property, women had no right to their wages, and most colleges did not accept female students. In cases of divorce, men received complete and total custody of the children. And it was completely legal for a man to beat his wife for the entire 19th century, and well into the 20th century.

All this was a long time ago, when the status of women was comparable to that of a child, and her civil rights were sometimes compared to those of slaves. Astonishing, I know. Why would that matter now? Wasn’t that two centuries ago?

It does matter.

Women fought long and hard to win the right to vote. Over 72 years and two generations hard! These activists were viciously lambasted by the media of the day, the printed newspapers. In her memoir, one of the founders of women’s suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton describes the reaction of the press to the first Woman’s Rights Convention of 1848 thusly: “All the journals from Maine to Texas seemed to strive with each other to see which could make our movement appear the most ridiculous.”

Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other outspoken advocates for the cause made logical and clear arguments to improve women’s rights for over 50 years. Their words fell on the deaf ears of the all-male legislators. Former slave, Sojourner Truth traveled the country for years, speaking out for women’s rights, the abolition of slavery, and the need to aid freed slaves after the Civil War. They were tenacious, resolute, and at times, disruptive.

The brave, unwavering activism of these women defied the cultural norms of the time and the work they left behind is a gift. I think of it as an inheritance left to every woman in America by the women who came before. Are you able to attend a college or university and enter the profession of your choosing? When your parents pass away, are you able to share in the financial inheritance, or does it only go to the male offspring of the family? If you answered yes to either of these questions, thank the women of the 19th century who fought to ensure those rights.

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We must first learn and understand where we came from so we can move forward in the right direction. To quote Gloria Steinem, “Women have always been an equal part of the past. They just haven’t been a part of history.”

That’s why we created Voices of American HERstory (VOAH). Women played an enormous role in American history and deserve to be acknowledged. The voices of Stanton, Anthony, and Truth provide an inspirational example of courage, strength, and persistence. We hope to borrow and build on those qualities by sharing their voices with new audiences in schools, businesses, and the community and making their stories relevant for today.

Please become a backer of our KICKSTARTER campaign and support our efforts to expand HERstory. Your donation will help us reach students of all ages through live and virtual performances and through our upcoming film of the actual speeches of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and Sojourner Truth. Thank you! KICKSTARTER link here.
It matters.