Monday, July 13, 2009

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

This is taken from "The Writer's Almanac" on July 11, 2009.

It's the birthday of the woman who first said "Well-behaved women seldom make history"; historian and writer Laurel Thatcher Ulrich born in Sugar City Idaho (1938). She wrote several books about the lives of women in colonial New England, including A Midwives Tale (1990), which won the Pulitzer Prize for history. And back when she was a graduate student, she wrote an obscure academic article about Puritan funeral services and she included the quote "well-behaved women seldom make history." She was saying that nobdy paid much attention to the group of ordinary law-abiding Puritan women she was writing about, because everyone was so focused on the women accused of witchcraft in Salem. But her quote got taken out of context and used as a rallying cry for women to break away from their expected roles and misbehave. It got reprinted on T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs and tote bags. And finally she decided that if she was getting so much press in the mainstream culture, she might as well use it, and she wrote a book with the same title, published in 2007. The cover features a woman wearing a shirt with the authors' own famous quote.


Ms Hen said...

Things do get taken out of context very often.. (slanted).. Well she used the opportunity to write a book with that name..

BTW what was that book about??


Lena said...

My mother in law has a bumper sticker with that quote and it has been hanging on her refrigerator for years and years. That is the first place I ever read it.

Rob-bear said...

I'm not sure the "well behaved" is exactly right. But I'll go with it until I can think of something better.