The National Women’s History Museum pays homage to the academic field of women’s history with the release of its newest mini-documentary series, “Keepers of History: Women Who Protected One Half of Our Nation’s Story.” The 20-minute video traces the development of the women’s history field and shines a spotlight on the women historians, who against tough barriers preserved the stories, contributions and experiences of American women. The video also pays tribute to the tremendously valuable contributions that women’s history archives played in the development of the discipline.
For much of its existence, the standard field of U.S. history ignored and diminished the importance of women’s lives, work and experiences. The type of history that long was taught focused almost exclusively on white men, usually those in politics and the military; and women historians as well as women’s history were relegated to the footnotes of our national story.
It was only in the mid 1960s that women’s history began to solidify as an academic field. Yet, for as long as there has been a United States of America, there have been female historians. Mercy Otis Warren, for example, not only helped create the American Revolution with her anonymous anti-British plays; she also recorded the war’s history in three handwritten volumes.
Historian Mary Ritter Beard (left) not only participated in the Suffrage Movement for the vote, but she also published on the topic of women’s history as early as 1915. Her seminal work, Women as a Force in History (1946), challenged the foundation of popular viewpoints that held women as inconsequential in the rise of American and global civilization. It also provided a guide to those historians who later would establish the field of American women’s history.
The documentary also features other important women’s history scholars, such as Gerda Lerner, who was paramount to the development of the field. She founded the first graduate program in women’s history in 1972 at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College.
The documentary is an informative and fascinating look at the challenges women historians faced in preserving the history of our foremothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, and incorporating it into the larger story of U.S. History. To view the video go to http://www.nwhm.org/about-nwhm/press/featured-press/keepers.