Lets Rewrite History!
Have you ever noticed that it can be easier to imagine yourself doing something if you know about someone else who has done that same thing? You think to yourself, hey if she did it, so can I!
It’s even easier to imagine that scenario when the person who did it is like you. If you are a little white boy reading about some kid who grew up to be President, you think, hey, I’m a boy like him, I could do that too.
In most of the world, societies are patriarchal. The histories and stories that have gotten told and re-told and written into the books are usually about male accomplishments. Little girls study those history books and read those stories and think to themselves, well – a boy did that, it must only be for boys.
For example, when I was growing up in the fifties everyone wanted to be a scientist or engineer. American and Russia were locked in a space race and it fired the imagination of an entire generation of kids. My brother was pretty smart and the entire family and all of his teachers encouraged him to be a scientist. He ultimately earned a Master’s degree in biochemistry. I was smart too (turns out that I was much smarter financially!), but don’t remember being challenged or encouraged to pursue science or math studies or projects.
I’m planning a history trip with my Grandson this summer and have been reading up on the colonial and revolutionary days of America. As it turns out, some of the books I am reading today totally refute the stories that my grade school history books taught. George Washington apparently did NOT have wooden false teeth and did NOT tell his Father about chopping down a cherry tree!
History, so they say, is recorded by the conquerors. The story is told to make their heroes look good. Parts get left out that were vital to the conqueror’s successes and other, not necessarily true, parts get written in.
So it was with the story of America’s first satellite, Explorer I according to a book I just completed: Rocket Girl by George D Morgan.
His Mother, Mary Sherman Morgan, an analyst at North American Aviation in the 1950’s, discovered the proper chemical mixture which allowed the Redstone A-7 engine on the rocket to have the oomph to launch a small satellite (now known as Explorer I) into orbit in 1958.
She was a key reason that America was able to join the space race after the U.S.S.R. launched the very first human satellite – Sputnik.
Not even Wernher von Braun and company, the group of German rocket scientists that later became naturalized Americans, could solve the problem of getting the right fuel mix to get the proper thrust, but Mary could – and did. Without her invention, America would have been years behind the Soviets and might not have even become the first nation to land on the Moon.
Where was her Nobel prize? Hmmmm. Where does it mention her in the history books? Hmmmm. Why are the only records the ones in the heads of her old male ex-coworkers? Hmmmm. Why did I not read about her contribution or hear about it on TV when I was a little girl wanting to be a scientist? Hmmmm.
The story is a good one, very readable. It took the author years to do the research, find and interview and verify the resulting facts (some of which are still unknown).
He accurately presents the male dominated environment present in those days – women being forced out of jobs due to returning WWII vets; girls being treated with less respect and caring in their own homes than their brothers; the sheer dominance of men over women in the workplace and the scorn that most higher ups had for anyone daring to place a woman in a position of responsibility.
I discovered this book because I am actively searching for books that present the accomplishments of women. I want my Granddaughter to read about as many different kinds of successful women as she can. I want her to know that she has possibilities and I want her to explore them all. Of course, I also want my Grandson to do the same with successful male role models, but there is no need to search around much for books about them – they are ubiquitous!
This book, however, is written for adults, not little girls. I’d love to hear about any primary reading level books that tell the story of a successful woman in an interesting and exciting way, so please make a comment below if you know of one.
Let’s rewrite history to include the role played by the many unremembered women, men and children! Let’s get it right this time.