Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mary Ritter Beard: Feminist of the Day?

Mary Ritter Beard
Historian, writer
"The dogma of woman's complete historical subjection to men must be rated as one of the most fantastic myths ever created by the human mind."

As I've said before, the starting point for my feminism was the women's history, and Mary Beard was working on women's history about 55 years before anyone else.

What I particularly love is that she didn't just focus on women's oppression, she also talked about women's agency. Now you can tell I'm a feminist historian because I'm inclined to rant about agency at short notice. But to me it's really important that we don't just look at how people suffered, but how they resisted, because as soon as you start looking at history you see that people do resist, and this resistance shapes the world.

But she wasn't just a historian (the best radical historians never are), she was a member of a number of suffrage groups and she was an organiser for the National Women's Trade Union League. She was a member for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and opposed World War II, which was pretty far sighted for someone who was passionately anti-fascist (it's possible that she was line following - although you'd think if she'd changed her mind once Germany invaded Russia that would have been mentioned - there's nothing about her having ever been in anything I've read).

Conclusion: Easily one of my heroines, and that was before I knew anything about her life. Go and read her books, learn more about her, our past matters.

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