The Third Third

Are we history? Or still making it?

The first time I heard the Days of Our Lives reviewed as History was when my kids started studying the Vietnam War in high school. “But that was just yesterday!” I protested, although, in fact, it had been 20 years since the TET offensive. How did something that seemed so immediate, and so shape-shifting to me, get into the History books already? And just who had parsed that messy, messy story into a linear tale of events that was supposed to make sense to a 16 year-old who didn’t even know what a draft was? (Unless, perhaps, it was a draft beer.) I had a few stories of my own to add. As I recall, my kids were smart enough not to roll their eyes, but unfortunately, what fascinated them most of all was my father’s threat to stop paying my college tuition if I showed up at any peace march or protests, and, sadly, my compliance. Now I see that Gail Collins of the *New York Times*, is offering a new, online course called “When Everything Changed” about the “revolution” brought about by the women’s movement, beginning in 1960. The course starts November 10, 2009. See ( This is my story, too. And yours. Not *his*tory, as we in the trenches were wont to say, but *her*story. But I didn’t think we were done with it yet, and I am finding it somewhat deflating to have it tied up in a neat little package of three lessons, even though they are important lessons. Or maybe it’s just tragic – that calling the women’s movement “history” forces us to realize both how late in the history of the world this movement came to life (Collins starts with 1960), and how long we’ve been working to revolutionize a society that isn’t “fixed” yet (almost 40 years). Or, as my daughters are inclined to point out, particularly with regard to our profoundly unresolved tensions between work and family, “You really didn’t solve anything, did you?” Granted, Women’s History classes won their academic *bona fide*s soon after I graduated from college in 1969 and reached back to the Suffrage movement and before, inserting women back into a historical record they had helped to create but heretofore been systematically expunged from. But this is different, somehow; this is the part we participated in, and I am not at all confident history will be any kinder to our efforts than my daughters. At base, that is why I cling to the idea that we aren’t done yet, that there are new chapters to write in the history of the women’s revolution and that we who started this story in the 1960’s need to be writing them, or acting progressively enough that there’s something to write about say, 10 or 20 years from now. What would that look like? Equal pay for equal work. Real quality child care. Enhanced compensation signaling the importance of the work of child care workers, teachers, and social service professionals, especially those serving children. Pensions and retirement benefits for women working in nonprofits. Increased flexibility in the workplace – school-hour shifts, shared jobs, etc. The absence of barriers to women in all professions, for example, in the priesthood. Women’s control over their bodies at all times and especially with regard to reproductive rights. What else? You tell me. (Please comment below.) And then, let’s get active again. We don’t have to *be* history; we can still *make* it. (Add your suggestions for advocacy and action in the comments below.)
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