CLIO TALKS BACK: Why Do Women (and Men too) Need Women’s History?

Clio notes that in the USA, the month of March is Women’s History Month, as designated by the Congress of the United States (this, too, was a struggle). So it’s time to think about why we need women’s history – and particularly why we need to know about the history of women’s struggles for liberty, equality, and justice. Clio has gathered a collection of interesting quotations on this subject from historians around the world. Here is a sample from the 1990s.

"The year Zero: this is a striking title. Before 1970 nothing happened? Women had never demanded anything? Unthinkable. Then what is the sense of this affirmation? Must one get rid of the past? Why? Should one avoid wasting one's time acquiring knowledge of it? Could one affirm, a priori, that we had nothing to learn from the past?
Hedwig Peemans Poullet (Belgium), 1991

"Feminism should be added to the political an autonomous political movement, next to the liberal, socialist (or social democratic) and religious parties."
Marianne Braun (The Netherlands), 1992

"History is not simply what happened in the past but, more pointedly, the kinds of knowledge about the past that we are made aware of."
Antoinette Burton (USA), 1992

"The historiography of feminism is hampered by . . . lack of a functioning feminist tradition transmitted from one generation to the next. . . . Few of those who have protested about women's oppression in any given generation have known about predecessors and even those who did rarely acknowledged them."
Barbara Caine (Australia), 1995

The loss of collective memories, of myriad stories about the past, has contributed greatly to the ongoing subordination of women. The unending, cumulative building of broadly defined histories of women, including histories of feminism, is a critical component of resistance and change."
Susan Stanford Friedman (USA), 1995

"Time and again, the conclusion imposes itself that the amount of feminist activity over the past six centuries has been consistently underestimated, even by historians sympathetic to the feminist cause. . . . The question is not, in our opinion at least, whether we ought to reconstruct a history of European feminism(s), but how we may do so."
Tjitske Akkerman & Siep Stuurman (The Netherlands), 1998