Like I have said before I have found myself increasingly interested in the oppression of certain types of people throughout history. This is partly because one of my original interests in history was Mary Seacole and how, when I was growing up, she was never part of the narrative of impressive woman, that included Florence Nightingale.
Race has always been the most interesting part of history for me, and I have explored it in many different contexts including African American slavery and the indigenous societies of America. However, I have always been careful to try and stay away from the idea of gender studies and feminist history. I don’t know if this has come from a devotion to studying race relations, or the fact I went to an all girls school that tried to force the importance of studying women onto us. Okay, it was probably the latter as there are only so many times you can learn about the suffragists and suffragettes and their differences.
So I have tried to stay far away from the idea of women in history in my time at university. However, this has never really shown its self as in the first year I remember picking two essays predominately about women’s role in certain periods of history and now I am doing a module about the Ideals of Womanhood in 19th century America.
Even on starting these topics I have always had a bit of a cautionary approach- taking it that all historians that study women are trying to prove that women had either more importance than they did or that they had no importance whatsoever. I have since learnt that though this may have been the initial approach historians took to studying women, it has eased down to try and really understand what there lives were like.
On studying the Ideals of Womanhood module I have finally started to realise why we should study the history of women, as though I do agree that most history involves men and is written by men, there is things we can gain from learning about women. There are important women as far back as we know, and even ignoring them the everyday life, though not as interesting in some cases, is still important in understanding a culture, increasingly different from us.
That is why studying women in history is important as our society, is and hopefully will forever be creeping further from repressive behaviour and becoming more equal and tolerant. Today on reading late 18th century female pleas for equality, while in the library it really struck me how lucky I am that I was sitting in a library, learning and not just learning, but learning something that is not in the domestic sphere. On looking around the library though I realised all of us were lucky, male and female, everything has changed in such a short space of time- with people being able to vote and learn, as well as a multitude of other opportunities. However, there is still a way to go in many situations, but history has proved that positive change can happen, and hopefully it will.