Throughout time we have studied “History” is it not time we study “Herstory”

Throughout time we have studied “History” is it not time we study “Herstory”? One of the biggest “Herstory” areas women have fought for is feminism. Feminism is not saying we are a cookie cutter society. It is not turning a blind eye that there are glaring differences between men and women. Not all men are guilty of belittling women or exerting dominance over them. Then what is feminism? “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P., 2007). According to a web article, “The feminist perspective is a conflict theory and theoretical perspective, which observes gender in its relation to power, both at the level of face-to-face interaction, and reflexivity within a social structure at large. Focuses include sexual orientation, race, economic status, and nationality” (Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P., 2007). The primary focal point is to discern the difference between equity and equality. This movement was to push for “Equity” for all genders, sexes, sexual identities, ages, races, etc. One author who used her writing and her life story to reflect on the transcendentalist failures. Her story was also instrumental in breaking down societal gender norms—feminist movement ignited.
Transcendentalism was a new movement which promoted peace and harmony in becoming oneself. Transcendentalists believe that everyone can reach ultimate truths through spiritual perceptions, which “transcends” purpose and sensory experience. They believed that God was omnipresent in all aspects of one’s life. They believed everyone was capable of feeling God’s presence. According to Kulik, transcendentalists believe that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—corrupt the purity of the individual. They have faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. Their way of thinking was rebellious and non-conformist and created a large riff between Age of Reason believers. “While transcendentalists believed in many values, they can be summed up in three essential values: individualism, idealism, and divinity of nature” (Kulik, 1). The transcendentalist felt that politics and religion stifled man’s independence. It was felt that man was completely self-reliant never conforming to society’s norms, and rely on one’s own values. The second value was based on creativity and imagination which was opposite of the Age of Reason believers. This is a radical change in thoughts and beliefs divided many communities. The third value was the belief in religion of nature. Transcendentalists were very spiritual beings, but did not believe in organized religion. The term “over soul” was their belief that all things happen for a reason and that nature should not be altered, but left as found.
Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1932. Raised by transcendental parents, she grew up with a group of transcendentalist authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. As a young girl, her father decided to create a utopian society called the “Fruitlands.” A small group of followers decided to leave the city behind and go be one with nature. They made a pact that they would be self-reliant on the land and not eat or use animals to survive. They headed out with what they could carry in their wagon to create their perfect place. They truly represented the core values of transcendentalists—self-reliance, imagination and creativity, and destiny. It was during this time; Alcott began journaling her thoughts and feelings about this utopian society. These journal entries became a part of her novel, “Transcendental Wild Oats.” These journal entries used fictional names to represent the members of Fruitland. The purpose of Fruitland was to abstain from worldly activity. They never produce more food than they needed. They believed that surplus would inhibit their core principals and could possibly cause them to become dependent on trade. The men decided that they would also be on a strict diet and become vegetarians. “Neither coffee, rea, molasses, nor rice tempts us beyond the bounds of indigenous production,” Lane wrote. “No animal substances neither flesh, butter, cheese, eggs, nor milk pollute our tables, nor corrupt our bodies” (Boller, 124). The ideas behind the Fruitland made it possible for them to live isolated from society and deny the world completely. Every member agreed on the beliefs of the utopian society except Louisa and her mother. Louisa depicted her mother as a rebel and question the utopian norms and the banning of using animals to provide comfort and sustainability. One such quote that depicts her rebellious spirit was the following question: “What shall we do for lamps, if we cannot use any animal substance! I do hope light of some sort is to be thrown upon the enterprise,” said Mrs. Lamb, with anxiety, for in those days kerosene and camphene were not, and gas unknown in the wilderness (Alcott). Eventually, the utopian society failed and the members were forced to return to reality. Alcott’s story depicted how essential being a part of society was to survival. This was the major conflict between what the transcendentalists believed and what they needed.
Alcott’s story was instrumental in breaking down gender equity. She was one of best-selling writers of the late 1800s, and many of her novels are still very popular today! Her life was far from ordinary. In Transcendental Wild Oats, she wrote about her family and the roles each had with in the utopian society and in the “real world.” She was one of four daughters and lived in poverty during much of her life. At an early age, she was employed in stereotypical women’s work which included teaching, sewing, being a governess, domestic helper, nurse, and finally a writer. Alcott wrote about her life experiences using a blend of historical figures with fictitious names. “In front of this lively party stalked a tall, sharp-featured man, in a long blue cloak; and a fourth small girl trudged alone beside him through the mud as if she rather enjoyed it” (Alcott). It is suggested that the fourth little girl represented Alcott as a young girl. Even as a young girl she went against the grain and made her own path through life. This journal entry allowed the reader to note the differences of how little girls should and should not act. They were expected to be chatty, play with dolls and help their momma with housekeeping. Men were expected to be tough and able to weather any storm and be the protector of all children and women. Louisa was a lot like her mother—strong-willed, independent and smart. Throughout this story, Alcott sarcastically describes how the romanticism of the male leaders created more work for the women. During the storm, Sister Hope (Louisa’s mom) summons the children to try and save the crops, but it was not enough to save their community. The men sulk and are devastated that their experiment fails and they are forced to return to the real world. The move to this remote area allowed the men to suppress the women and they were a necessity when it came to taking care of the house, preparing meals, and tending to the children. At any time one of the women questioned what was happening they were quickly shut down with the ole adage that all will be okay if they just placed their faith in God and the men. After the utopian idea fell apart, Louisa’s mom became the primary bread winner. After her mother’s death, Louisa took over providing for her siblings. She was against marriage to gain financial means. She felt that getting married was an end to your life. She never married and became quite wealthy with her writing.
Historically, women assumed certain roles deemed appropriate by men. Those roles are still alive and well in today’s society. Women were seen as homemakers, teachers, seamstresses, and were expected to tend to the children. Throughout time, women realized that they are much more capable and began a movement to break down stereotypical roles for men and women alike. Women like Alcott took a stance and began breaking down those walls. During WWI, women were needed to take on non-typical roles to help support the war while their husbands were away. They were able to work in factories, on assembly lines, and join the armed forces. Although their roles in the armed forces were limited, it was a huge break through holding jobs outside the home. Fast forward to today and you will see a much different picture for women. Women are now expected to work outside the home to help provide for their families. Gone are the days when we were expected to stay at home bare foot and pregnant. While Alcott’s quiet protest of not getting married and working to provide for her siblings seem so small, it was actually a huge statement that allowed women to see their worth and capabilities. She was instrumental in the feminist movement. Here is some food for thought: “When women are the advisors, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it and if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails they generously give her the whole” (Alcott).