“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
I have pondered over this Laurel Ulrich quote for several years after hearing it, and especially during Women’s History Month. I hope during this month, and beyond, we teach our students about people who decided to take risks, be brave, go against the grain and not “behave” to make the world a better place.
Teach them about Rosa Parks, who chose to be non-compliant and sat where she wanted to sit and made an impact on this nation. Teach them about the first woman to run for president under the Equal Rights Party in 1872, Victoria Woodhull. This took significant courage, as women had not even earned voting rights. Teach them about Shirley Chisholm who decided to be the first African-American woman to seek the nomination for president.
Teach them about the many women who history has omitted from their books. Teach them that it is OK to be different.
Teach them about Sojourner Truth who imperiled her life in the service of others; Malala Yousafzai who pushed forth to risk her life for what was right. Teach them about Sally Ride, Harriet Tubman and Maya Angelou. Daisy Bates helped to desegregate schools in Arkansas; Angela Davis brought attention to the corrupt industrial prison complex system; Mamie Till showed the world the injustice done to her son Emmett Till and sparked the birth of the civil rights movement; and Sybrina Fulton, who turning the tragic loss of her son, Trayvon Martin, into a movement that urged us to realize that #BlackLivesMatter.
These women did not listen to the naysayers who said, “not yet,” “some other time,” or “wait your turn.” They decided that tomorrow is today.
I hope that we will teach our students, our girls and boys, that they do not have to be compliant; they should challenge the status quo; they should ask questions like: why, how and when.
Students need to be empowered to question things that are considered the “norm” when they go against our moral compass. Just because something is “the way we do things” does not make it the right thing to do. Many of the women who made history did just that, they decided to be change agents. Our students should be encouraged to be social justice change agents as well!
Women who behave rarely make history. Resist—make your own history!