Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Well-behaved women seldom make history."

The quote above was penned by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich while writing an article about notable women in American history. I believe it was meant to underline her particular style of getting to the meat of history by looking at the lives of ordinary people and gleaning the rich clues left there for the talented eye to see.

From Wikipedia:

Ulrich's innovative and widely influential approach to history has been described as a tribute to "the silent work of ordinary people" -- an approach that, in her words, aims to "show the interconnection between public events and private experience."

One of my favorite books is written by Ms. Ulrich. It's called A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812.

It's a fascinating look at this ordinary woman's life, interpreted deftly by Ulrich with attention to detail and a keen eye toward viewing the mundane not as inconsequential, but as essential stitches in the background of the historical tapestry. Many other historians overlooked Martha Ballard's diary only for the reason that it was an ordinary woman's account of ordinary day-to-day things, nothing of particular value. Well, I am certainly glad that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich recognized the trove of information in this ordinary life. And I'm not the only one to think so - her book won a Pulitzer.

So, although it may be true that well-behaved women seldom make history, they are the ones who live it. Indeed, I think they are the quiet backbone to history.

I'm not advocating quiet lives for women - heavens no! I'm just saying quiet lives shouldn't be ignored. Quiet can be big in its own way.

Thanks, Laurel, for showing us that.

Now read the book - and then go out and misbehave : )


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I love this type of book. Thanks for writing a book report about it. I will try to find it at the library to read.

ICQB said...

I hope you like it, Lisa,it made me want to try to grow some flax and process it and spin it.