Making History Every Day
“Well behaved women rarely make history.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I read this quote and the inner nerd in me had to google and find out more about the context of her using this statement. I found out that, although it is attributed to her, it has also been attributed to a few other strong women who helped change history at least as far as women’s rights and choices are concerned.
I thought more about this quote and the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was not considered well behaved, at least by the polite society of the day. This longest serving first lady made public appearances on her husband’s behalf and reshaped and redefined the role of the first lady of the United States which branded her as an activist by many in her peer group.
When I think of being well behaved I think of how it is defined by the time and place we live. Pioneer women like my great grandmother did not live in the same conditions as others. They worked hard beside their husbands to prove the homestead and yet even living in much more rustic, isolated circumstances they still had their specific roles to fill.
Today, women have so many more choices in how they live their lives. Their creativity, skills, abilities and passions are allowed to flourish more than at other times in history, at least in some parts of our world. In Canada we, as women, have fewer lists of what we must do to be considered well behaved. I don’t have to stay home and serve high tea in the afternoon, dress up for dinner if I choose not to.
When I graduated high school a few decades ago, I felt my choices of careers were rather limited based on what a well behaved young lady might choose. Out of nurse, secretary, teacher, store clerk or maybe a stewardess I chose to be a teacher. I may have still chosen that career path even if I had all the choices my granddaughters now have.
I may have followed in traditional career choices, been as well behaved as possible in my circle of family and friends and yet there have been times I am sure that teachers and principals may not have used the word well behaved to describe me as I fiercely advocated for what my children or the students in my class needed in order to reach their fullest potential. In fact I had one principal tell me I was being an “over reacting parent.” I refused to back down when the welfare of students and my own children was at stake. Did I change or make history? Not in the community or even that particular school but I believe that children benefited from my advocacy, that I made a difference for one person right at that moment.
History making can be intentional and encompass a community, a nation or globally. A person can set out to do something to make sure their name is recorded in history books for future generations to study and ponder. Yet I like this statement by Laurel Thatcher Ullrich which says, “history can be made by keeping diaries, writing letters or embroidering initials in linen sheets.” Making history really is about leaving a legacy, even if it is only in your family or your sphere of influence, for everything we do has a ripple effect.
I believe the most important way I have an influence on history is with the people in my sphere of influence. I try my best to treat others with kindness and respect, be a mentor and encourage others to move out of their comfort zones and be the best they can be. I hope to make a difference to those I meet on my path of life.
Written by: Carol Harrison