From admired historian—and coiner of one of feminism's most popular slogans—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich comes an exploration of what it means for women to make history.
In 1976, in an obscure scholarly article, Ulrich wrote, "Well behaved women seldom make history." Today these words appear on t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, greeting cards, and all sorts of Web sites and blogs. Ulrich explains how that happened and what it means by looking back at women of the past who challenged the way history was written. She ranges from the fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan, who wrote The Book of the City of Ladies, to the twentieth century’s Virginia Woolf, author of A Room of One's Own. Ulrich updates their attempts to reimagine female possibilities and looks at the women who didn't try to make history but did. And she concludes by showing how the 1970s activists who created "second-wave feminism" also created a renaissance in the study of history.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History|
|Release Date: 09-23-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History
Chapter One: Three Writers
Here are the stories of three women making history. One was a poet and scholar attached to a French court, another was an American activist, the third an English novelist. None was a historian in the conventional sense, but all three were determined to give women a history. The settings in which they worked were radically different. The problems they faced were surprisingly—disturbingly—the same.
For each, a moment of illumination came through an encounter with an odious book.
Paris, France, c. 1400
Christine de Pizan sat in her study. Weary of serious reading, she opened a satire someone had given her for safekeeping. She knew better than to take its diatribes against women seriously, yet somehow its arguments disturbed her. Even the sight of the book made her wonder why so many learned men had “devilish and wicked thoughts about women.” She took more volumes from their shelves. Men’s opinions spilled out like a gushing fountain, filling her with doubt. “I could hardly find a book on morals where, even before I had read it in its entirety, I did not find several chapters or certain selections attacking women, no matter who the author was.” She began to think God had made a vile creature when he created woman.
In her despair she began to pray, asking why she could not have been born male. As she sat with her head bowed, tears streaming from her eyes, she discerned a beam of light falling on her lap just as a ray of sun might have done if it had been the right hour of the day. Looking up from her shadowed corner, Christine beheld a vision: standing before her were three rad