Stories carry memories, history, and wisdom. They have the ability to ground us in an experience we may know little to nothing about, yet invoke feelings as if we were part of that very experience. We use stories to widen our understanding, deepen our capacity for empathy and compassion, and connect to lives of generations before and after us.
This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is ‘Celebrating Women Who Share Our Stories’. To celebrate, we the women on our team gathered to answer a few questions from our conversation guides:
- How have stories about history impacted you? Who has been an impactful female historical figure in your life? (History and Society: https://livingroomconversations.org/topics/history_society/)
- What examples of female leadership did you grow up with? Who were your female role models? (Women + Leadership: https://livingroomconversations.org/topics/women_leadership_and_power/)
- What personal experiences, if any, do you have with gender inequality? (Women and Society: https://livingroomconversations.org/topics/women-in-society/)
Here are some of the responses:
Joan: Biographies and autobiographies of women are one of my favorite ways to have a window into history and culture- Wild Swans, Daughter of Persia, Eleanore Roosevelt, Woman of Egypt……
(anonymous): I am in awe and admiration of some of the more current historical figures — those that are making an impact in the recent past, such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Hilary. Both are bright, amazing women that didn’t let the opinions of men hold them back. They pushed forward to show their brilliance, compassion and common sense even in the midst of adversity.
Becca: For me personally, it’s been a long journey of recognizing what gender inequality looks like in practice. I’ve experienced little things like people speaking to my husband and not acknowledging me as well as bigger things like struggling with imposter syndrome or feeling out of place in predominantly male spaces. I am so appreciative for women who speak up and tell their stories. In a way, they give voice to my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. As a mother of four boys and one girl, it’s so important to share these stories. Whether I realized it growing up or not, I have always been drawn to stories about women. I remember the brief mentions as a child of Sacagawea, Joan of Arc, and Harriet Tubman in school and wanting to know more. I love discovering more names and stories and adding my own experience to women’s history.
Cassidy: As I have grown and become involved in women’s health issues, I have come to greatly admire the former supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so much so that I named my dog after her 🙂 The way she was so outspoken about women’s rights and fought diligently to reduce instances of gendered prejudice and discrimination is very inspirational to me.
Sushila: Although not listed as historical figures, authors of women’s history have made the most impact on me as they opened a world not taught in my 20 years of formal education. Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future answered my questions about why half the world’s population’s contributions were not included in our world narrative. Her more recent books, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics present how we can shift from humanity’s destruction to a sustainable caring world if we connect the value of women and the earth we live on to our actions and economic choices. Women’s stories reveal the alternatives to a masculine dominated world narrative. Some of my favorites: Man Made Language by Dale Spender, When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd (I replicated her pilgrimage in Crete), and Untie the Strong Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
Anaïs: Even though history is about what has happened in our past, we are still uncovering and discovering so much about it, which makes history feel just as mysterious and changeable as the future. Especially when history is taught from a single story perspective — which has often been the case in American history — and coming to relearn history from the perspectives of those who have been intentionally silenced and shut out. Having to reshape our ideas of what has been traditionally taught impacts our identity in ways that can be empowering and/or devastating, depending on who and what you’re reading about. As a woman of color, relearning history carries both disappointment and empowerment. As far as impactful female figures in my life, growing up, I have always admired Harriet Tubman. The courage and bravery it took to not only pave the way to free herself, but going back to free others, is a way of heart that I carry within me to this day. I also deeply admire Sojourner Truth, famous for her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. Like Harriet Tubman, she escaped from slavery to freedom with her infant daughter. Truth reminds me that our voice carries power, resonance, truth, and to be bold in our truth. Lastly, I also want to recognize Josephine Baker, who was a dancer, singer and actress. I just recently found out about her when someone commented on one of my dance videos, “Channeling that Josephine Baker”. I had to look her up immediately and was just in AWE. Her expression is wildly unhinged, daring, bold, and free. I can see so much of myself in her expression and am deeply inspired by her work.
What’s your story? How would you answer some of these questions? We’d love to know how women, history, and gender inequality have impacted you. Happy Women’s History Month!