So it’s Women’s History Month.
On the one hand, I’m glad this month exists, because it means teachers will be doing special units on women’s contributions to society when they might otherwise just continue on with their usual history lessons, which almost definitely include fewer women. On the other hand, I wish these month-long activities and conversations didn’t have to happen at all. I wish we were past the need for them.
BUT! we’re getting there. So, instead of moping around, I decided to participate in Women’s History Month in my own way. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be reading a biography or autobiography a week: two on historical figures, two on modern women. This is a way to educate myself as I continue making my way through the world during an intense time, in which some of our rights are being threatened. But I’m also reading these books to give me perspective. Because I may have problems, but fifty or one hundred or five hundred years ago, my current problems would’ve been mere thoughts on the periphery of my life. I would’ve had much bigger climbs ahead, whether that was securing the right to my own property or simply getting someone to look me in the eyes while I spoke.
Of course, I’m a writer, so I’ll also look at the books I’m reading this month as research. The nice thing about writing YA fiction is that the current trend is to feature strong young women as protagonists. But lately, I’ve found myself getting bored. Katniss was great, but not every woman is going to be like Katniss in terms of her physical strength or her firm moral compass or her apathy towards her physical appearance. Give me girly characters! Give me characters who are leaders because they want to be, not just because they’re forced to be. Give me women who are soft-spoken but still manage to accomplish things and get what they want. Give me women who make a lot of mistakes, or who don’t have anyone on their side. In reading these four books, I’m looking for this kind of inspiration — I’ve tried to pick a variety of women who have lived very different lives and have different reputations. Because as we acknowledge that women can be strong and brave, we move closer to acknowledging that women can be an infinite number of other things, too.
Without further ado, here’s my reading list for March:
1) The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
2) On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles
3) I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Saved the World by Malala Yousafzai
4) HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen
I’ll be back in a week from today with my post on Elizabeth I! Until next time…
(P.S. The image at the top is supposedly of the first women’s rights march in Seneca Falls, New York, though I can’t find a source that confirms this with certainty.)