When I was in school, I did not do well in history class. I mean, I did well enough to pass, but I didn’t get why we needed the course. It was all names and dates of people and places that seemed to have no relevance to my life. Now that I’m older, I see that we do a disservice to students when we make history boring. The fact is, history is full of STORIES. Everybody loves stories. If that weren’t true, there is no way the movie, television and gaming industries would be as big as they are today.
In recent years, I have learned more history in story form. I started out with historical fiction, stories of fake people set in real places, times and events. Those led me to look for stories of real people in history. Not only have these stories been interesting in their own right, they have finally become relevant. Learning the history of Women’s Suffrage has helped me appreciate my right to vote and to participate in political discourse. Those women fought long and hard (over 100 years) to have their voices heard. I owe it to them to take part.
Learning the history of the Civil Rights Movement makes me appreciate the fact that I am a full citizen in this country and am mostly treated as such. I was born well after the era of fire hoses and lynchings. It also reminds me not to accept injustice when it is directed at me or at others. History has taught me the vital role allies play in righting wrongs and in moving us toward progress and equality. Those who have inherent power should use it to help level the playing field for others. Those of us seeking that equality should accept help when it’s offered. Progress does not happen only by the efforts of the few, but by the efforts of the many.
In my series, Women Behaving Badly, I seek to answer three questions about each woman I depict: Who is She? What did She do? Why does She matter? To me, that last question is the most important and is what was missing from my history lessons all those years ago. Why should I care? Because it is all connected. It’s the butterfly effect. Seemingly small events and decisions from the past reverberating throughout the present and the future. Answering that question over and over again has given me new insight into the world around me. It has also made me more curious than ever before.