Women in our memories

Humanity has a very long history, right ? Important historical events have been known for generations now and some events are part of our general knowledge. Yet, for a large part of the world’s population, notably women, it also seems that  their history is rather concise. The place of women in history has only been a recent question, a contemporary matter of discussion. My first question is the following :  Where were the women throughout history ? 

Needless to say, women have always existed. However, what they did, who they were, their voices, their actions, their aspirations, their progress, their mistakes are questions without answers in several historical accounts. Is their absence from those accounts caused by the fact that they are less to discuss or little to explore and even less to teach ?   Of course not. Their absence is a choice. 

Let’s think of our history class for a moment. If women were mentioned, they were probably queens, princesses, daughters or wife of a powerful man. They were used to serve one man’s purpose. We have dismissed women in benefit of learning about men’s actions and progress through time. Of course, it has been known for a while that history is written by conquerors. Minorities group have had to fight against the official history within societies in order to get their voice heard, to make sure their experiences were known. 

Drawing upon my master thesis, which I wrote last year as part of my master degree in global history and international relations at the Erasmus Rotterdam University, the way we remember events, and people, have an impact on contemporary societies. I wrote about challenged and contested memories in public spaces drawing a comparison between two case studies located in France and in Spain. I explored memories of slavery through important figures celebrated in public spaces in France and memories of Franco’s regime remembered in statues or other public artefacts in Spain. By analysing the public space within both countries, it dawned upon me that representations of the past, memories of the past and historical accounts significantly dismissed several groups of people, and their memories. 

Soon after I finished writing my thesis, I started to read about memories that historical accounts had decided to dismiss. A French book in particular triggered my interest about memories and women in history. Ni vu ni connues published in 2017 by the Collectif Georgette Sand introduced portraits of women from different periods of time, and from various fields of activities. What did these women have in common ? All had been made invisible by historical accounts. The process of making women invisible was first introduced to me in this book. 

Making the connection between my academic research and this notion of visibility, I seek to further research about memories and their impact on contemporary societies. If the fact that some memories are missing from our public space triggers disputes, and if groups of people are starting to be given a voice, and a space in which to explore their past, maybe history as we teach it needs to be also updated ? 

When we discuss the past, when we teach it, when we remember it, we should allow more than one perspective. Memories of the past, history teaching, cultural representations, and our heritage have an impact on today’s social interactions between different identities. There are a choice. History as we teach it now is a choice. Those who were invisible need to be chosen. They need to be chosen in literature class, in philosophy class, in art class, in museums, in movies, in history books, in public spaces, and so on… 

Why ? Because we need, as a society, to draw lessons from history. Lessons do not have to be only about who won which war, and who conquered which territory, and important works to remember from male writers. Which lessons from important women figures, or women’s actions and voices from the past have we missed ?  

This website dedicates itself to women. It fits within the current context with the objective of being part of new entreprises about making women of the past more visible. This website seeks to make more connections between women of the past and women of today as I believe that we need to create women in our memories in order to encourage and reach social, cultural, political equity between men and women. 

This website will be divided in various sections. One section will explore women from specific towns, cities or more generally places around the world. A section will  will share important dates on which to remember women’s past enterprises. In another section, researching about women in different fields will be the opportunity to celebrate their works, and contributions, to the world of today. More broadly, what women were doing at different time and places through history need to be analysed, understood and known. Finally, in one last section, I seek to share the many different ways with which we can take part in the remembrance of women.