The Women’s History Timeline…

The girls decided they wanted to do something for International Women’s Day, and I guess because of the library have been thinking more about inspiring women of late. So they suggested that we all come to the meeting (myself as well) with a woman that inspired us. We each chose a decade/era so that no one would have the same woman or group of women, and we came prepared to share about our women. I think the idea was to dress up as well, but none of us ended up doing that!

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They also decided to use their research  to create a timeline of women’s history. It was by no means all inclusive – there’s just so much we could add. All our chosen women were of course main features, and from some of the books which they had requested and arrived in time for that meeting like Rad Women Worldwide had female historical figures they decided to add.

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We got distracted by putting our library together the night they planned to do this, so it was only last week that it finally got finished. I left them to it, chatting to girls about their Look Wider books, and lending out my laptop to some of the girls who were taking turns to use it to write blog reviews on books and films they read/watched over the Easter holidays.

Sometimes I worry with activities like this that it might be too much like schoolwork. But as it came from them, I didn’t get concerned about it. And actually it’s inspired me more to get back involved with sharing women’s history and making it better known. The simple fact is we don’t get these history lessons in school. They also seemed to be invested in the project, and satisified with the end result.

 

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International Women’s Day Collages

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.

International Women's Day - girls brought magazines to make collages about inspirational women...

International Women’s Day – girls brought magazines to make collages about inspirational women…

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…

Women Inventors Website

US National Women’s History Museum

Glasgow Women’s Library

I’d also recommend for your own consideration and reflection (if you’re looking for it)

Soul Pancake: That’s What She Said (a web series partnering with Darling Magazine & Natalie Patterson)

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!

Free to be me

A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video

We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.

You want to say it doesn’t matter.

And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.

When will this change?

I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.

I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?

Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.

I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.

And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.

I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…

I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.

I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?