we need, carolyn heilbrun wrote in her 1988 masterpiece writing a woman’s life, stories wherein women deviate from what is expected, and stray from the standard script. we need this, she suggested, because these stories reveal what is possible. they give us- women, men, people!- courage and they are the stories upon which we build our own lives.
it’s easy to forget (or simply to never know) how slow the script has been to change and how limited the range of stories has historically been.
“i desire you would remember the ladies,” abigail adams wrote her husband in march 1776, as he and the continental congress drafted america’s constitution. alas, american women were excluded from full citizenship.
two hundred years later, at the height of the women’s liberation movement, the biographer willi frischauer wrote of jackie kennedy in january 1960:
“the future was closing in on her and kept her keyed up as she approached the climax in any american woman’s life, the inauguration of her husband as president of the united states.”
setting politics aside, let us take a moment to appreciate that, forty years after frischauer wrote it, that statement looks even more stupid after last night.