Well-behaved women seldom make history

I’ve been tagged by Nick Barrowman at Log base 2, with the historical figure meme. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to pick a historical figure and list 5 random/weird things about this person.

I had to think really hard to pick my favorite historical figure. I don’t think I can name my favorite ice-cream flavor, let alone a favorite historical figure. I thought about William James, because when he was at Harvard he was a buddy of Charles Pierce, which is the historical figure chosen by Nick.

But–sorry Bill–it ought to be a woman. A crowd of bad-behaved women came to mind:

  • Emmeline Pankhurst (“Be militant each in your own way. I incite this meeting to rebellion.”)
  • Rosa Parks (“When they stood up and I stayed where I was, he asked me if I was going to stand and I told him that ‘no, I wasn’t,’ and he told me if I did not stand up he was going to have me arrested. And I told him to go on and have me arrested.”)
  • Anaïs Nin (“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy.”)
  • Josephine Baker (“I wasn’t really naked. I simply didn’t have any clothes on.”), and
  • Rachel Carson (“The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.”)

I wonder why I thought of them. I suspect that it’s because women need to be good to the point of sanctitude or quite bad to become historically famous. And bad girls tend to be more interesting.

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So I picked the baddest woman on the block, Mary Jane West, know to the world as Mae West. I’m pretty sure she counts as an historical figure. She was born two centuries ago–exactly on August 17, 1893. And everybody who is still famous after so many years deserves her place in History, wouldn’t you say? [or shall I say Herstory?].

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