Why Aren't We Teaching Women's History?

Ida B. Wells. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Clara Barton. These are just a few of the most important women in history, but if you were educated in the United States, you might not know their names, largely because women's history is under-taught in American schools. According to new research from the National Women's History Museum (NWHM), fewer than one in four Americans think of themselves as knowledgeable about women's history; in fact, most admit they know more about sports and celebrity gossip than the badass ladies of history. Although this differed by generation — a third of millennials felt like they were well-informed about women's history, compared to a paltry ten percent of those over age 55 — the survey's results highlight how much is missing from our textbooks.

If you're thinking that this might just be the result of the ancient art of forgetting everything you learned in high school, think again. Less than a quarter of respondents recognized female historical figures like Wells and Elizabeth Blackwell, but more than three-quarters were familiar with men like Neil Armstrong and Frederick Douglass. Furthermore, this lack of awareness extended to the modern day; the survey found that less than one percent of respondents knew how many women are currently serving in Congress or working as CEO for a Fortune 500 company.

Although it's easy to blame this on good, old-fashioned American ignorance, the survey suggests a larger problem at hand. More than half of respondents said their history courses disproportionately focused on men over women, and the Huffington Post points out that previous research has shown only 15 percent of historical figures discussed in textbooks are women.

"We know that there are many untold examples of women's contribution to our American history... Time and again, research has proven that female role models — heroines — are powerful motivators in women’s personal and professional lives," NWHM Chair of the Board of Directors Susan Whiting said in a press release.

For a society that claims to value education, it's clear that America's version of history is missing a sizable chunk of its heroines. Let's hope that 2016 brings some much-needed gender equality to our history books. After all...

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