I got a couple of interesting responses suggesting that I should include Margaret Thatcher because she’s a historical figure. Although I think my post explains why I won’t, I thought I’d elaborate here.
As background, I use facebook as a personal space. By and large, my FB friends are people that I know and I will tend not to accept people as friends that I don’t know or that I know have political views that will upset me. I have every right to this and it means that I can enjoy FB as a social space.
Twitter is slightly different. I’m on there as @HistoryWoman1 and I try (often unsuccessfully) to concentrate on matters relevant to HistoryWoman and the website. I do describe myself as “Pacifist, Feminist, Socialist. Annoyed by political shenanigans” so (I hope) it’s reasonably clear what I stand for. I follow a few personal friends, some comedians, quite a few history sites and others that I find interesting. I’d like to follow more but there wouldn’t be time to pay enough attention to them.
If you’re familiar with the HistoryWoman website, you’ll see that I’ve got a long list of birthdays allocated to women who’ve either made a difference or achieved in a man’s world. There are over 400 women listed and it’ll take years to do them all justice. There are obviously thousands that I haven’t added.
Who I’ve left out and why:
1. Women who are alive – you’re not “history” till you’re gone!
2. I don’t have many women that achieved in the entertainment industry – there are obviously loads of these. When I decided to start the website, I was very aware that the role models available to girls are the likes of Lady GaGa, Rhianna, Anne Hathaway etc. This is kind of okay but (in my view) I’d like to see girls aspiring to become reformers, lawyers, professors etc. Women in entertainment have plenty of coverage elsewhere.
3. Royalty and “First Ladies” – I know that many of these have done lots of charity work etc., but arguably this is PR for their spouses or families, or to fill time that otherwise hangs heavily with no “real” role to fulfil. On the other hand, I’d happily include someone like Eunice Kennedy Shriver (founder of the Special Olympics) because I really like what she achieved and the impact it has had.
4. Women whose impact (in my opinion) was more bad than good- I want to showcase women who were pioneers and women who worked for the common good. There are lots of interesting stories of “wicked women” out there and I choose not to showcase them.
And there’s the rub. It’s all subjective.
But: All of history is subjective. Most writing is subjective. The History Woman website is subjective - it’s not an encyclopaedia and it doesn’t pretend to be. I can’t be apologetic about that.
My starting point, back in 2009, was my great great granny, Helen Barton, whose story had been lost (even in the family). I’ve gradually uncovered her history, largely thanks to finding her book on the internet and thanks to the Australian newspaper archives on http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ (thanks again Trove!!). Helen Barton’s story is briefly told in the Women’s Stories section of this website but here’s a summary.
Helen Barton was born into a large family of silk-weavers, had only a primary education, became a domestic servant and married an engineer at 20. Thanks to a patented design,
John Barton made enough money to be living on “private means”by his late 30s. Sadly, he died at 42 leaving Helen Barton a widow with 6 children at 38. She became a restaurateur, joined the school board, entered local politics, and worked tirelessly towards improving
the lot of the poor (through her role as parish councillor and through temperance work). She was involved in reducing infant mortality and setting up employment schemes. She founded a Friendly Society for female domestic servants and was involved in the early
national insurance scheme. She travelled the world campaigning and was known as the “Queen of Scottish Orators”. Is it any wonder that I wanted her to have her place in
While researching Helen Barton, I was constantly finding other forgotten stories and thus started the idea of having a website dedicated to women.
All of which brings me to the answer to the original question – why I won’t be including Margaret Thatcher. Please bear in mind what I’ve said about her above“a woman who actively worked to dismantle society and destroy communities”. Yes, it’s subjective. Yes, it’s my opinion, but it’s an opinion held by millions and it’s a perfectly valid opinion that can be backed up with evidence if I had to (which I don’t as I’m entitled to my opinion)
1. She doesn't deserve it – there are so many women that I could add and I have to decide what my priorities are. Margaret Thatcher is not on my list of priorities.
Actually, there’s only that one reason.
I am prioritising (as I’ve said elsewhere) reformers not deformers and pioneers not people who would send us backwards. Margaret Thatcher will be talked about extensively over the next few weeks and she will get all the coverage she needs historically and journalistically elsewhere. I won’t be adding to her story other than this blog entry. She doesn’t need me and I don’t (and never did) need her.