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Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

03/26/2015

Oftentimes when we think of history we recall the great names, the daring deeds, the larger narratives, and the accomplishments and achievements that fill our history books. And we usually think of the men who made history. Women, however, have also made history. When they’ve stepped outside of the proscribed roles that relegated them to supportive but essential responsibilities, they were considered unusual and sometimes unwomanly. They were not “well behaved” in the eyes of many. Women who drove cars, remained single by choice, dressed differently, and pursued higher education and/or careers were labeled nonconformists and sometimes considered a threat. The suffragists, for example, believed they should have the right to vote; they mounted campaigns to bring attention to their cause. War and the quest to locate a prisoner of war led one woman to mount a campaign during the Vietnam War. The Red Cross became a haven for women who desired leadership roles while still providing for the relief of the distressed. Business owners were an anomaly and faced obstacles yet persevered. The material culture that helps us remember these women and the history they left now resides in our museums. Celebrate Women’s History Month on Saturday, March 28, 2015, from 10:30 to 12:00, with a Behind-the-Scenes tour highlighting selected artifacts about women’s history in American culture.

Dr. Lauranett Lee is Curator of African American History at the Virginia Historical Society. She will be leading Saturday’s tour with Paige Newman, Associate Archivist for Collections Processing, and Rebecca Rose, Registrar.   Read more posts by Lauranett, Paige, and Rebecca.

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