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Introduction to the Blog

In the mythology of the ancient Greeks, Clio is the Muse of History. She was one of the nine daughters born to Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, and Zeus, the most powerful of the Olympic Gods. Of course, Clio’s role then was to inspire male historians to record heroic and memorable actions – by kings and warriors. It is doubtful that Greek women played any part in the invention of the Muses, except to personify them. However, we women historians (or in the French feminine form historiennes) can now reappropriate Clio for our own purposes. “Herstory” now challenges “History.”

Women historiennes prefer that Clio speak for herself. So I am inaugurating this “blog” where Clio can present what women of the past have said about their own lives, can critique historical accounts that have left women out. Here we can highlight the important things we now know from exploring the past in new ways, worldwide. We can show, as the sociologist Jesse Bernard once put it, that “so much of what is happening is at the margin between history and news.”

So what is women’s history? Let me offer my understanding:“Women’s history encompasses the history of humankind, including men, but approaches it from a woman-centered perspective. It highlights women’s activities and ideas and asserts that their problems, issues, and accomplishments are just as central to the telling of the human story as are those of their brothers, husbands, and sons. It places the sociopolitical relations between the sexes, or gender, at the center of historical inquiry and questions female subordination. It examines the closely intertwined constructions of femininity and masculinity over time in one or more cultures, looking for evidence of continuities and changes. It also exposes and confronts the biases of earlier male-centered historiography, asking why certain subjects and choices of themes for study were favored over others and posing new questions for investigation. Women’s historians have expanded the scope of research on women and gender both temporally, from prehistory to the present, and geographically, from dealing only with the West to encompassing the globe.”

Our International Museum of Women thinks that featuring women’s history is a vital component of our mission. For our 2008 theme and on-line exhibit, “Women, Power, and Politics,” this blog highlights women’s stories, their overlooked and forgotten deeds, and what women’s historians have learned about women’s history (some prefer calling it “herstory,” but this doesn’t work in translation) on this theme. We will explore the notions of women’s power and its complicated relationship to women’s entry into political decision-making. I find inspiration and draw energy from learning about women’s history and I’m sure you will too.

Sources: Catherine B. Avery, ed. The New Century Classical Handbook. New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1962. [Clio, p. 304; Mnemosyne, p. 723; Zeus, pp. 1156-1161]. Jessie Bernard, “Prologomena,” The Female World from a Global Perspective, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987, p. xii.

Karen Offen, “History of Women,” in vol. 2, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, ed. Bonnie G. Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.