Dead women's stories

There's a lot of talk these days about making sure women are better represented in media. But what about representing women's stories from the past?

For centuries, women's stories have gotten lost because the men in charge of creating our official histories decided not to document them. 

The New York Times rewrites history with a shot of estrogen

The New York Times is one of those official curators of history, and they're owning up to their role in omitting women. Their new(ish) initiative, Overlooked, seeks to tell the stories of women — famous and not-so-famous — who made a big difference in their time here on Earth. 

Exploring women's obituaries 

Last night I attended a talk at The Wing, the women's co-working space I recently joined, all about Overlooked and related topics, such as:

 Amy Padnani, the woman behind Overlooked

Amy Padnani, the woman behind Overlooked

  • Who decides what constitutes an "important" or "newsworthy" life?
  • The challenges of researching women's history, which hasn't been preserved nearly as comprehensively or methodically as men's 
  • Who else has been overlooked? (Hint: People of color)

The evening was moderated by The Wing's resident historian, Alexis Coe, and featured Amisha (Amy) Padnani, the Times' digital obits editor who had the idea for Overlooked. Amy is BAD ASS. As one of only two women on the obits team, the only person of color, the youngest member of the team (I believe), and the only person on the team assigned to digital, she deserves MAJOR props for bringing this idea to fruition. Go girl! 

Telling our stories while we're alive

The other panelist was veteran Times obits writer Margalit Fox, a true character full of stories and quotable phrases (and some that are unquotable!). Fox emphasized that "obituaries have almost nothing to do with death" — instead, they are the story of a person's life. She also noted that "When you die, you can't report your own story" — which underscores our rallying cry here at Mighty Forces, which is that we women must tell our stories while we are living

Action item: Read women's biographies!

Coe encouraged all of us in attendance not to just rely on Internet round-ups of "15 cool women from history!" as the sources of our knowledge about women who've come before us. Inspired, I came home last night and started reading Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the "Little House on the Prairie" books I loved as a child (and plan to start reading to my own daughter, soon).

What's a biography of a woman that you'd recommend? I'll round up your recommendations and publish them here on the blog! :)