Our shared history unites families, communities, and nations. Although women’s history is intertwined with the history shared with men, several factors – social, religious, economic, and biological – have worked to create a unique sphere of women’s history.
With ideas like coverture being the norm for years, women’s experiences in history were often silenced. Their lack of autonomy within society often prevented their unique stories from being told to a wide audience. If you disagree with these statements, I challenge you to take this quiz. How many did you get correct? How many of these women have you never heard of? (I was a Women’s Studies major in college and even I didn’t do too well!)
I want to clarify that I’m not saying that our conventionally taught history is wrong and that men’s experiences are bad. Rather, can’t we flesh out our understanding of the past by broadening our definition of history? As perspective on our collective history has been reshaped, amazing stories have been told. A wonderful place to start is the Women’s History Month page hosted by the Library of Congress. You can find links to incredible online portrait exhibits, an online book about women serving for the National Park Service over the years, an exhibit on female parachutists who infiltrated enemy territory during WWII, and much more. The Smithsonian Institute also has a wide array of resources online.
On a more local scale, you can check out the Women’s Work exhibit at the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University. The exhibit, which features displays on loan from the Appalachian Women’s Museum in Dillsboro, will run through Wednesday, June 8.
In Fontana Regional Library, you can find works about many notable (and not so well-known) women as well. Of interest:
- A new children’s book, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy, just came in at the Cashiers Library.
- The Great Divorce: a Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times by Ilyon Woo details the struggle of a woman in the 1800s who fought the Shaker community for five years in order to gain custody of her children.
- Kimberly Sevcik’s book Angels in Africa: Profiles of Seven Extraordinary Women details the lives of women in Africa who are working toward social change.
- If you want to hear about a Chinese woman in the American west, check out Poker Bride: the First Chinese in the Wild West by Christopher Corbett.
- The experiences of Cherokee women from the 18th-19th centuries can be found in Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1825 by Theda Perdue.
- North Carolina Women: Making History by Margaret S. Smith and Emily H. Wilson discusses the impact women had in the shaping of the Tar Heel State.
This is just a small sampling of what our local libraries have to offer on the subject of women’s history. It would take the biggest post ever to enumerate all the different perspectives and stories we have in our collections. To see a broader range of books, try searching “women and history” in our catalog and see what comes up.