It never occurred to me that being a female author, writing a historic fiction novel about my family’s survival of the Armenian Genocide, would put me in a vast minority. You see, history is still a story that’s mostly told by men.
While the history documented may be invaluable, it is incomplete. Women also made history and their important stories go untold. Women lived it, endured it, suffered it, succeeded in it, cared for others during it, and played both key and critical support roles.
A study inspired by the Vida Count Project, of recent popular history books in America reveals that:
“Seventy-five percent of history books are written by men and 71% are written about men. Thirty-one percent of women who wrote biographies wrote about men, too, while only 6% of male biographers wrote about a woman’s life.”
No one acknowledges this more than Khatchig Mouradian, graduate of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide PhD program at Clark University and author of “The Resistance Network.”
“One of the most important and understudied aspects of the Armenian Genocide is the role of women. The history is mainly written by men, and it’s only recently that there’s been an increasing interest in the role of women during the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. There are very few accounts by women” said Mouradian. “It’s important to look at these different experiences, not only from the perspective of how the suffering and the challenges faced by Armenian women were different but also, from the perspective that Armenian women played a key role in the resistance effort with armed resistance and resistance through humanitarian relief work, resistance through secretly smuggling or hiding children, creating orphanages, and more.”
The gender imbalance goes deeper than telling HERstory, there is also a lack of seeing HERstory. Today, while the world recognizes International Women's Day, strong and important local initiatives are being celebrated with bold visuals of women making HERstory.
Worcester Historical Museum has opened the Pretty Powerful: “100 Years of Voting and Style” exhibit to coincide with the 171st anniversary of the First National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850. The curators were intentional about including minorities and diversity to accurately portray Worcester’s population and reached out to experts for guidance.
Jade Nortey, graduate student in public health at Boston University, and Worcester native painted the mural serving as the backdrop to the exhibit. “When Anne Sadick and Worcester Historical Museum invited me to be part of this project, it was an easy ‘Yes’, says Nortey, “Especially since the exhibit is women-centered and the themes readily aligned with my style and art concepts which depict things representative of me as a woman of color.”
Jade feels fortunate that her first piece of public art would happen because of her lifelong commitment to Girls Inc and because of role models like Ms. Sadick that began when she was a young girl.
Senate President Karen E. Spilka unveiled a photo exhibition in the Senate president’s suite in the State House dedicated to celebrating the often unsung stories of women of color throughout Massachusetts’ history. HERstory: Volume II is the second installment of photos in the president’s suite to acknowledge the accomplishments of women with connections to Massachusetts.
“Every day I go to work in the State House, I am surrounded by paintings and photos of prominent men from Massachusetts’ history,” stated Spilka, the third woman to have been elected president of the Massachusetts State Senate. “The stories of the many, many incredible women who have contributed to this great Commonwealth — and our great nation — have too often been lost to history. It is therefore my great honor and privilege to help to tell their stories, and to make the faces that we see in the State House more representative of the rich diversity that make our state great.”
The exhibition features the photos of 91 women, ranging from 17th century tribal leader Weetamoo and Black landowner Zipporah Potter Atkins to living pioneers Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly, the first Asian American to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth Carter, poet Amanda Gorman, and many others.
Through my research and writing, I am learning that it is never too early or too late to start telling and seeing HERstory. As I am unraveling the mysteries of my ancestors, I am also learning more about myself and from where I came.
Recognizing that unless I continue to push forward telling HERstory, my story and your story could also be untold to the next generations. Let’s continue telling and seeing HERstory which is our story.