Hidden Figures and Forgotten Facts

Amanda Frost on YouTube

Two Global Women’s Caucus events in April and May shed more light on the situation of American women, past and present. Facts and factoids, heroines and victims that somehow slip through the cracks in our telling of the story of women in our history books.

Linda Scott, professor emeritus of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Oxford, talks about including women in the world economy in her book The Double X Economy.  With hard data that is easy to read, she describes barriers that have kept and keep women down, through history and still now. Fathers buying and selling daughters (do dowries still exist?) against their will; husbands burning brides whose dowries run out (yes!); men appropriating women’s earnings; banks discriminating against women applying for loans; corporations paying women less than men (we all know that one); depriving women affordable child care…and on and on.

But The Double X Economy is not only a diatribe of miseries.  Happily there are solutions and Linda Scott lines them up is a way that gives hope for the future, encouraging for those of us who believe in political action.  And don’t we all?

Amanda Frost, in her stupendous work You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers asks these questions:

What if…

  • you applied to vote and were told “no” just because your spouse was a foreigner?
  • you came back from visiting family members overseas and were refused re-entry to the US, despite having been born on American soil?
  • your US passport renewal was denied because you were born at home, not in a hospital?
  • you were under investigation by the Dept. of Justice, simply because you were born near the US-Mexican border?
  • US Immigration demanded documented proof of your US citizenship, what do you possess that can accurately prove this

The loss of citizenship over the past two centuries has been reflected in many of the United States’ most gripping political struggles and much has been directed against women and minorities—over slavery and women’s suffrage, but also communism, immigration and world wars.

Once again unsung heroines and heroes rise up from the pages and smack us face on with the need to repair injustices through political action.

And while we’re at it….

Books Abroad, our feminist reading group has read two blockbuster books that look at two issues that provide a revisionist version of US history that concern both women and race.  The first is Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson and the second is Wayward Lives Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman,  Both books look at history from a personal point of view, examining narratives and stories of real people. Wayward Lives gives new meaning to feminism, following the lives of black women born after the slave emancipation who emigrated north and pursued their liberation in a particular way.  The second wave of feminism has been seen generally as a movement of white women.  But before that came black women whose struggles had been overlooked until now in the movement.  Both books dovetail and intersect and discover important details that might have escaped us.