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28 comments

[–] drdee 22 points (+22|-0)

This book really opened my eyes to how much women's history we've forgotten:

https://archive.org/details/womenofideaswhat00spenrich

Somewhere in the book Spender writes about how men's history is directional while women's history is cyclical--every couple of generations we have to 'rediscover' important women and their work; for some reason women's history and women's accomplishments just never 'stick'. This is a really sobering example of that. So the wider question for me is how do we stop this cycle, and stop forgetting everything women say and do every few generations?

[–] emptiedriver 7 points (+7|-0)

It seems like it is such a small number of people who write history - who really care, who have the money, who invest time and effort to make sure people are remembered for what they do. And that's often why someone becomes part of the storyline. Sometimes it happens spontaneously but so often after someone dies, their work is remembered by their fans or students, but then those people move on to new things, or just die themselves, and if they haven't spread knowledge and excitement about the person's accomplishments then it will just wither away - even someone fairly popular can be forgotten soon enough.

In some circles there are prizes and memorials for people, grants, conferences, buildings and special days to celebrate, that make it more likely that they are kept in memory. Quoting, dedicating, referring to those who came before, revering what was produced and pointing it out regularly, is important to making someone part of history... men may be more involved in the public sphere, talking more consistently about their mentors and influencers, more likely to spend the end of their life dedicating new trusts and fellowships rather than playing with the grandchildren, starting charities and funds to "secure a legacy". It can work, and it can affect who else is remembered since the people they talk about are automatically part of that group.

"History" isn't one absolute line, it's just the endless memories people repeat and record about what happened, so what gets told the most and the most loudly is most likely to be heard.