This month, we have been celebrating the role of women in our history. Sometimes I give a lecture in my classes about the problems that arise with how we teach and view history in our country. All too often, we attempt to measure our success in education by focusing on the information retained rather than the more important aspect of building the ability to think and make connections.
When it comes to studying history, we focus so much on dates and events that we forget that people -- real human beings -- influenced and lived through those times. When we do talk about the people involved, we talk about them as though they were more than human -- we forget that they, too, experienced doubts and fears, that they stumbled and made mistakes yet had the courage to continue to move on and grow. When we forget that the people in our pasts were just like us, we also forget that we are just like them – that we do have the ability to make a difference in our world.
Men are given a predominant role, and the stories of the women in our histories are lost, which creates a distorted view of who we are and where we come from.
Dedicating a month to talk about the women in our history is a step, but it’s not a big step, and it’s not enough. Still, it does provide us an opportunity to recognize the achievements of these strong and independent women who made a difference, and their stories can be an inspiration to us all.
The men who blazed the trails and built the communities that we live in did not do so alone. There were women who faced the same trials and challenges that the men faced – as well as carrying extra burdens on their shoulders. One of my ancestors, for example, arrived in Salt Lake City after having to overcome enormous obstacles, only to be directed to go to the San Luis Valley to help build a community here. She threw the few belongings she had, along with her two children, and pulled a handcart through the mountains. She had already lost her husband, and while she was travelling with a group, she pulled the cart by herself.
Knowing about those who have blazed the trails for us, understanding that they had challenges to face and overcome, that courage is not built and does not rise without opposition, will hopefully help us to find the courage within ourselves to face our challenges and move forward.