By Ruth Gadebusch
Just as February has been designated Black History Month, March is Women’s History Month in recognition of the void in telling our history fully. It is more than a matter of pride. We build on the contributions of each member of the human race.
One group’s story is as deserving as another. On occasion, the lesson might be not to repeat but smart folk learn from mistakes as well as find inspiration in the good. Thus, it becomes imperative that we preserve the stories of all segments.
We designate these two months not to downplay the White male dominance in recorded history but simply to share the platform. After all, we share the planet.
Here, I caution that the emphasis is learning. We judge at our peril because some future society is likely to be just as incredulous at our actions as we are at lifestyles of our own predecessors. We need only look around ourselves to see that we have not come as far from our historical past travesties as we like to think.
As we near the century mark of women getting the vote, how many females do we have in elected office in this county? The Valley? This state or nation? Yet, we like to think of ourselves as progressive. Note too, that I did not say women were given the vote. Of course, they had the support of many men, but it was still a long hard-fought quest to achieve the goal.
Many nations have had women presidents, prime ministers or other top leadership posts but this nation still waits. Few of us would question that gender played a role in our last presidential election. We need to know the role women have played to demonstrate their talent even when it was forced to stay behind scenes. California was the first state to have women fill both U.S. Senate seats, but we have not had our first female governor.
Incidentally, we can make history by electing that first woman governor this year. We have a superbly qualified candidate in both experience and temperament in Delaine Eastin. She has served in local government, state legislature and as state superintendent of public instruction. Poll after poll shows citizens putting education as our priority. This is our opportunity to put our vote where we say our priority is with Eastin’s experience. Action speaks louder than words.
We have all heard the story of that gathering in Seneca Falls, N.Y., on that hot July day in 1848. We have also heard of Susan B. Anthony and maybe Alice Paul who wrote the Equal Rights Amendment nine decades ago still not enacted.
Some of us even know a bit about how the racial issue interacted in both good and bad ways in the fight for that precious vote but few of us know much about the countless largely unheralded who devoted their lives to advocating for that vote and otherwise made this a better nation. Space does not allow for telling even a few of their stories here, which is why we still need a women’s history month and why a group of women has long worked to build a women’s history museum in Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital contains many museums emphasizing particular aspects of our history with the newest featuring African American history, leaving one space on the Mall. Congress has finally allowed a study to be done but has not committed the financial support given to previous efforts to create museums highlighting various parts of the history of this nation. It is time to remedy that situation.
Women are people too, and this 51% of the population has a story to tell. The suffragist motto of “men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less” is still appropriate.
Lest we forget, we can, and must, learn from history. Efforts to erase it are misbegotten, but even more wrong are the groups urging the ugliness to return who would resurrect symbols of the past that we wish had never happened. We must remember it was wrong then. It never should have been, and even more important, must not be allowed to be tolerated now. Or ever!
Black history. Women’s history. All history, lest we forget!
Ruth Gadebusch is a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.