Category Archives: History

Women’s History Month 3/1-3/31/2014

logoMarch is Women’s History Month. This celebration of female achievements began with a group of women in Santa Rosa, CA who formed The National Women’s History Project. If you’re unfamiliar with NWHP, I encourage you to check out their website. The efforts of this organization led Congress to request a Presidential Proclamation designating the week of March 7, 1982 as the first National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress responded to a petition from the NWHP and passed Pub. L. 100-9 which resulted in President Reagan signing a proclamation designating March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” A proclamation has since been issued annually.

agathafromgallaher2

[picture from Gallaher(1898)]

Each year, The National Women’s History Project announces a theme, and encourages readers to submit names of women to be honored on their website. This year’s theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment. I have chosen one of their honorees to highlight as ‘A Woman in Time.’

Agatha Tiegel Hanson was born in 1873. She became deaf and blind in one eye at the age of seven. To give historic context, Agatha entered the world just eight years after slavery was abolished, and one year after Susan B. Anthony and supporters were arrested for attempting to vote. In 1878, when Agatha was five, A Woman Suffrage Amendment was first introduced to Congress. In 1888, she enrolled at Gallaudet University, then a school for the deaf and blind. Agatha was one of 13 women allowed in on a trial basis. She graduated Valedictorian in 1893, the first deaf woman from Gallaudet with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Agatha Tiegel Hanson was a woman of her time and ahead of her time. This is evident in her Valedictorian speech, “The Intellect of Woman,” which you can read in its entirety on handspeak.com. I find the following passage at the end of her speech particularly telling:

Over and above the peculiarities which pertain to a woman as a woman are her needs as a human being. She has her own way to make in the world, and she will succeed or fail in whatever sphere she moves, according as her judgment is rendered accurate, her moral nature cultivated, her thinking faculties strengthened. It is true that we have made a start in the right direction. But that start has been made very recently, and it is still too early to pass sentence on the results. There yet remains a large fund of prejudice to overcome, of false sentiment to combat, of narrow-minded opposition to triumph over. But there is no uncertainty as to the final outcome. Civilization is too far advanced not to acknowledge the justice of woman’s cause. She herself is too strongly impelled by a noble hunger for something better than she has known, too highly inspired by the vista of the glorious future, not to rise with determination and might and move on till all barriers crumble and fall.”

In this address, Agatha extols a woman’s right to independence of thought and deed.  She knows full well the obstacles from history, and yet she demonstrates confidence in the evolution of civilization. She sees past historic bias and recognizes the momentum of change. This is progressive thinking from any woman of that day, but being deaf must have given Agatha particular insight to prevailing prejudice and the potency of determination. I can see why this strong and intelligent woman was honored by The National Women’s History Project.



From http://www.nwhp.org:

In 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in Santa Rosa, California by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan to broadcast women’s historical achievements.

© 2014, A Woman in Time

Humanity Endures as History Swings

Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas by Mariano via Wikimedia Commons

Tomorrow, March 1st, marks the start of Women’s History Month. How appropriate to initiate a blog about women through time. We’ll call this, my initial post, a pre-launch.

I have long been fascinated with what prompts us to behave the way we do as a species. From a young age, I observed people and considered their actions and motivations. I was a pseudo-psychologist/sociologist years before I understood the meaning of the words. As an adult, I’ve become a bit of a history buff. I didn’t appreciate the subject in school but, over time, my have eyes opened to its power.

George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which has also been paraphrased as, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t fully agree with this premise as I believe we humans remain the same at our core. Science, politics and religion may change how we interact with one another and how we perceive our surroundings, but our base instincts are ingrained. Different generations bubble up new ‘truths’ and sway moral sentiment. They are astonished at the cruelty of others, or pass judgement on ‘outsiders.’ These and other various patterns have been mixed and re-packaged through time. Humans have always been inquisitive, creative, passionate, loving, cruel, intolerant, warring creatures. I’ve often considered the idea that society swings, like a pendulum, from one extreme to the other. We advance, certainly, but how close are we to swinging back to a Dark Age? I believe that to learn from history, we must also stay attuned to our base instincts and be aware of repeating patterns.

Within this blog, I plan to expand and challenge the premise that we are not so different through the ages, and to celebrate historical figures who embody the best of our humanity and shine a light for future generations. As my point of view is female, I will focus on women. Each post will include an image of ‘A Woman in Time’ with historic or literary reference, some commentary, and hopefully interviews as I go along. I welcome your thoughts on the subject.
Enjoy.

© 2014, A Woman in Time