Women’s History Month, as an academic women’s historian

Women’s History Month is a great event, but one that tends to leave me feeling slightly dissatisfied. The thing is… so much of “Women’s History Month” looks more like “Women’s Biography Month”. And I’m not knocking that per se – I enjoy reading posts about heroines and rebels as much as anyone, they’re often good stories that deserve wider circulation, and it’s a good way to upset assumptions that women in the past didn’t do much of anything.

It’s just that after a while it starts to feel like a feminine mirror of a very old Great Dead Men approach to history. And, yes, I know the Great Dead Men still largely reign supreme in history writing and reading outside academic circles, and Women’s History Month is largely a popular history event not an academic one. So it’s not that surprising if a lot of it looks rather like the popular history of the other 11 months of the year, but with more skirts and less facial hair.

But I think it’s all the more important for academic women’s and gender historians to remember to do a bit more: this month is a great opportunity to show the world something of the breadth and variety of the knowledge produced by our years of sheer hard work in archives and libraries, and the richness and complexity of women’s – and men’s – pasts.

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