Well Behaved Women – The Real Intention of that Quote

I don’t have a ton of energy to talk about anything important.  If you’re curious about how I feel about this inauguration today, see this post.

I did hear something interesting on my favorite NPR show, Fresh Air, this week.  You know that quote, “Well behaved women seldom make history”?  I’m sure you’ve seen it somewhere before and you may have even seen it attributed to many different women.

It was actually written in 1976 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a historian and Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize winner.  She didn’t mean it the way we all have come to understand it.  The quote has become a rally to break the rules to get noticed.  And I’m fine with that if that’s what you’re into, by the way.  If you’ve already crocheted your hat and are on your way to march in your city tomorrow, you go girl.  It’s a worthy cause.  We’re a worthy cause and if marching is what you want to do, go on and do it.

But, if you are a well behaved woman and you don’t want to break the rules, fear not.  Because Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was just stating a fact, not issuing a rally cry.  The quote is from an article, “Vertuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735” about the well behaved women who came before us and how important their lives were in history.  The point wasn’t that the well-behaved women were not doing enough to change the world.  The point was that women like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wanted to tell their story.

So, if you’re not marching tomorrow or if you’re not interested in making history, then your job is to continue to be the strong, if quiet, woman that you are and shine a light on and lend support to other strong and quiet women around you.  Because we might not make the history books, but we will change the world if we all uplift the women around us.

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