I’m a little late to the party, I know. It’s already the end of March and I’m just now getting around to doing a post celebrating women in history. Sometimes I’m on top of things and sometimes I’m not. Anyhow, this morning I sat cross-legged in front of the picture book shelf and started pulling out possible candidates: Georgia O’Keeffe? Ella Fitzgerald? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? The women themselves- stellar. The books? Meh. So as my 2 year old napped alongside her daddy, I packed up my five year old (complete with paper crown, foam sword in a carabiner-sheath, and gum boots) and we went to the library, confident that we’d find a crazy-awesome book celebrating, I don’t know, Josephine Baker maybe, or Eleanor Roosevelt or Amelia Earhart. I looked through the picture books- nothing. I finally went over to the Juvenile Biography section. Two and a half bookcases in the entire section. I’d conservatively say one in 12 or 13 was about a woman. This was frustrating, particularly since the whole reason they came up with the idea of giving women in history a month was to give them (and their achievements) a much deserved place in our memories and history books. I know more books exist on this topic, I follow A Mighty Girl with their constant updates on girl-centered books and toys. It’s just that very few of them have found their way into our little library. It bummed me out, man. But I did manage to find a book in the Juvenile American History that honors not just one woman in history, but well upwards of 26- one (or five or six or a whole slew for that matter) for each letter of the alphabet. And you know how I feel about alphabet books by this point. Anyway, there are more women celebrated in A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women, written by Lynne Cheney and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, than there are children’s books about women in history in the entire two and a half cases in our public library. Just saying.
In her famous letter to her husband, second American president John Adams, Abigail Adams wrote:
“I desire you would remember the ladies…If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
The book recounts hundreds of women who have contributed greatly to our society, some that I haven’t heard of, like Mary Anderson, who in 1903 invented the windshield wiper, and many that I have, like Edith Wharton, who was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1921.
When my son handed it to me, asking “Mommy, read this one now please,” I came to page ‘F,’ which stood for First Ladies, and was a full two pages of renditions of 50 or so past wives of presidents. I said, “You know, some day, there will be a man on this page. Because there will be a woman president, and instead of being a first lady, he’ll be the first man.” And he nodded, because this generation, they’ll understand that there’s change afoot.