October
8th 2009
A Woman’s Place Is. . .

Posted under: American history, childhood, wankers, women's history

(H/t The Daily Beast.) Thirty years ago, in the spring of 1979, my family drove from Sylvania, Ohio to Washington, D.C. for a vacation during my brother’s and my spring break week from school. I was 10 and my brother was 8, and it turned out to be a civics lesson that was disguised as a family vacation. (My parents were big on the National Parks and monuments as vacation destinations.)

We arrived just as the cherry blossoms were opening, although the weather was cool and cloudy enough that we shivered inside our windbreakers most of the time. I fell in love with the Smithsonian Instituion museums–of course, American History was my favorite. We toured the White House, and also went to the U.S. Capitol to see Congress in action–I met Senator John Glenn, the former astronaut and our then-U.S. Senator in Ohio. I remember watching a debate in the Senate from the visitor’s gallery, and seeing Senator Edward M. Kennedy make an impassioned argument about noise restrictions to protect people who lived near Logan airport in Boston. (Yeah, it wasn’t exactly a Charles Sumner stemwinder or moral throwdown, but remember, this was 1979, and Kennedy had enough buzz on him as a possible challenger to President Jimmy Carter that even an apolitical ten year-old in suburban Ohio knew that he was the guy to watch that day.)

My big souvenir purchase from the trip was a bookbag that said, “A Woman’s Place is in the House. . . and in the Senate.” I loved it!  It was bright blue, with white letters and white handles.  I was so proud of it.  Surely, I thought, by the time I was twice ten, and definitely by the time I was three or four times ten, women would be represented equally in Congress! Surely by that point, women wielding political power won’t be singled out for ridicule or suffer nasty attacks just because of their sex!

All children are natural Whig historians, I guess.  I’m sorry I know better now.

7 Comments »

7 Responses to “A Woman’s Place Is. . .”

  1. Susan on 08 Oct 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Wow. That’s all I’ll say.

  2. Indyanna on 08 Oct 2009 at 6:41 pm #

    Generals are the ones that are supposed to remain “in their place,” aren’t they, and from what I’ve heard, that constitutional place is one of subordination to the civilian political authorities? However one feels about the complex policy debates going on right now, it seems that this principle is being honored at best somewhat in the breach these days. And of course, the party that got put firmly in its place, as the (putatively) loyal opposition in the last two election cycles, is having problems with this little technicality. Maybe time to pare down to a Rump, or even a Bare-Bones body?

  3. Historiann on 08 Oct 2009 at 7:30 pm #

    Nah, Indyanna–it’s teh grlz who need to stay in their places. Generals who weren’t elected by anybody have every right to try to influence U.S. foreign policy, but teh girlz need to get back in the kitchen and on their leashes.

    (What I like about this video is the almost incandescent rage that shines from Pelosi, as her smile gets more and more frantic and insistent as she tries to answer the question without murdering someone or calling anyone an a-hole in public.)

  4. quixote on 08 Oct 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    I like the lack of a comma after “I’m sorry.” I feel the same way.

  5. Barb on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    Did you watch Jon Stewart tonight and see the clip of Pelosi trying her damnedest to get out from under the paternalistic hand on her shoulder the (male, of course) pol with her at a press conference on Afghanistan? Anyone who wants to learn grace under pressure should watch her!

  6. Feminist Avatar on 09 Oct 2009 at 4:32 am #

    Lovely response by her tho’.

    I remember as a child, when Maggie Thatcher was PM, and being so proud to have female Prime Minister- and then I grew up and discovered what she stood for! Sigh.

  7. Tom on 09 Oct 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Hey Historiann–

    Your story reminds me that I’ve been thinking of writing a blog on the lowly canvas tote bag: sounds like you had a cool one back in the day! (The first one I remember came from Channel 30, in Toledo (not far from Sylvania!), and in my family, all such bags are still known as “Channel 30 bags.”)

    And Indyanna, etymologically speaking, of course, lieutenants ought to be the ones who remain in [their] place: generals, one would suspect, should be all over the place.

    Now, back to my place of work.