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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/2/15

Whose history is women's history?

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Reprinted from www.dailykos.com by Denise Oliver Velez

Hidatsu woman: Mrs White Duck, 1908 photo by Edward C. Curtis
Hidatsu woman: Mrs White Duck, 1908 photo by Edward C. Curtis
(Image by Library of Congress)
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As we segue from Black History Month into Women's History Month, the shift in images across the internet, on official sites, and in museums moves from black to white. Yet if we are to truly tell the her-stories of the women of this land, should we not start at the beginning with the women of the First Nations?

As I searched through photographs in a variety of archives, there were many to choose from, but few even bothered to have a name for the portraits, which simply get titled "Indian woman" or "Native woman," or perhaps "Zuni woman." Often when women's history is addressed somehow to be "inclusive," we, the women who are often not included, are added in as part of the celebration, and we are then native women, or black women, or Asian women, and white women are simply "women."

Women's history for far too long has been a line of laundry flapping in the wind--faces of white suffragists, pinned next to Rosie the Riveter, billowing next to prominent white feminists and politicians. Clipped onto the line are snippets of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, for color and attempts at diversity. The theme for 2015 from the National Women's History Project is "Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives," and yet the first weavers of this nation are barely part of the weft of the fabric. It is also not a dead thing of the past, since women are making history each day, yet often it is the dominant narratives that are reported, and the struggles of those women who are "invisible" are appropriated, as discussed so movingly by Ajijaakwe on her blog. Similar responses have erupted from women of color, questioning Patricia Arquette's use of "we" in her Oscar ceremony remarks. Just who actually is "we?" Far too often, it does not include me.

Since 1996 there has been a plan to establish a National Women's History Museum in our nation's capitol. Although it is currently an online resource only, there has been an ongoing struggle to get legislation through Congress to establish an actual building. That effort has been rife with controversy, from a wide variety of sources, political and academic.

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