International Women’s Day is coming up, and will be celebrated on March 8th this year. A few years ago we got both the Guides and Rangers to make collages about women who inspired them to celebrate International Women’s Day. Both the leaders and the girls brought in newspapers and magazines to make the collages.
The biggest challenge, sadly, was finding articles in newspapers and magazines that told stories about women that weren’t just judging them based on their looks or fashion sense or gossiping based on (often made up) rumours about their private lives.
It brings me to the realisation how much we need more equality in the telling of women’s stories and our history (or herstory!). At the moment I’m working with a group of women who share this view as part of my university practice placement with the Adult Learning Project in Edinburgh. I believe having role models to look up to and see things are possible helps children and young people to dream and believe their aspirations can become reality.
For example, did you know that in Edinburgh there are 200 public statues and out of that 200, only two are of women, and two are of dogs? And yet we have statues of men – some of whom were part of pretty terrible things (like slavery!). Yet we have some incredible women who were connected with Edinburgh. Just this weekend my friend’s wife was telling the story of Elsie Inglis. She set up Edinburgh’s first all female staffed maternity hospital in Edinburgh (which was closed down a number of years ago and has been refurbished so much it is no longer recognisable as the original building), was a suffragist and set up women’s hospitals on the frontline during World War 1 despite being told the women doctors and nurses shouldn’t bother by the War Office.
Do you know the stories of the Quaker women who were told they didn’t have the intelligence to take part in politics but went on to challenge the laws and petition against slavery and then fought for women to be given the right to vote? You can read about four of them here in a booklet produced by the DRB Women’s History Group.
For more information about Women’s stories that you might not be getting told about in school…
I’d also recommend for your own consideration and reflection (if you’re looking for it)
With younger sections, it might be interesting to ask them about female characters in books they find inspiring. We are so blessed now with more variety in the stories available to read these days. I’ve recently been asking my friend’s daughters about why Elsa from Frozen is so much popular than Anna (still don’t get it, and makes me sad when the reply is ‘because she has the prettiest dress’ or ‘because she can do magic’). And I won’t lie, growing up one of my major female role models was the character of Sally in Home and Away! I also loved Dr Kate Rowan in Heartbeat, because she was always standing up for the rights of women and proving that female GPs were just as good as the male GPs!