Women’s history is so much more than just the suffragists/suffragettes and women’s lib!
Those are important parts, but not the be-all and end-all by any means. Women make up half of the human race, and therefore half of the history – we’re just less likely to hear about it. Who said that a woman who gave birth eight times and kept a house clean without chemical cleaners or a vacuum didn’t have value? Just because it was the norm back then, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an achievement.
Read this account of multiple working motherhood and have another think:
Lucy’s absolute passion is women’s history of all kinds – be that discovering the practical skills that a woman may have had in undocumented history, recreating Tudor recipes with school children or exploring the history of a Victorian woman in minute detail through all available records.
She runs The Women Who Made Me project, which aims to reconnect people with their female ancestry across the board – researching and presenting women’s lives in the past to build a collection of social history stories, talking to groups about how to find their own stories and displaying her discoveries.
Inevitably, she finds when she talks about women’s history, most people want to tell her about their granny. Sometimes it’s a generation or two further back, but it’s almost never their mother – possibly people are too close to their mothers to see them as significant, or we’re temporally too close to see it as history.
Stories about female relatives are often passed on by the spoken word – oral history – which is particularly important when historical documents barely make mention of women’s lives past the fact that they were wives and mothers, and also can provide extra information on the 20th century when the 100-year release rule on certain documents stymies research.
The Women Who Made Me project
The Women Who Made Me project seeks to bring the lives of real women from the past into focus, against a family history background traditionally populated by their male contemporaries, and urges people to re-evaluate and reconnect with their female ancestry.
Historical records are reflective of the society at the time, when women enjoyed little rights of their own, and therefore their stories are harder to come by as they are eclipsed by the rather more obviously available information of men.
Their lives may be harder to find, but not impossible. Their stories are researched through documents and oral histories – for example folk songs – and brought to a modern audience to give a record of ordinary women’s experiences at different times through history.
So far, we’ve profiled nuns, penitents, criminals, divorcees, landladies, social pariahs, farmer’s wives, cooks, women’s officers, prostitutes, social workers, gentry, workhouse inmates, engineers, stockbrokers, mothers of fourteen, mothers of none, mothers of illegitimate children, artists, musicians, manageresses, prison wardens, matrons, highwaywomen, confectioners, travellers, teachers, ballet dancers, factory workers, and someone who recommended do-it-yourself enemas. All important and diverse parts of women’s history.