Friday, June 6, 2008

Who are th 12 greatest women alive today in the United States?

A Chilean writer asked this of the National League of Women Voters, and the League is now asking us. They want to see "a range of occupation, residence and temperament," and these must be "women who have made their own way, without the assistance of father or husband." Ha ha. That last condition excludes a lot of women who probably think they are pretty great.

The NYT contends that the 12 greatest women "are women that have never been heard of outside of their own homes, and seldom appreciated there; who have put aside their own ambitions ... to build careers for which their husbands got credit." But the League is looking for famous women, so the Times names 12 famous women: Geraldine Farrar, Edith Wharton, Carrie Chapman Catt, Molla Mallory, Alice Paul, Ida Tarbell, Jane Addams, Amy Lowell, Minnie Maddern Fiske, M. Carey Thomas, Mary Pickford, and Agnes Repplier. Ah, but "six of the twelve have never married," and the married ones are all childless. "Let those who think it is easy to manage a first-rate career and a first-rate home simultaneously find an explanation for that."

Well, my first attempt at an explanation would be to guess that the NYT composed its list of twelve with an eye toward who was childless. But, yet, it's certainly true that it's not easy to balance career and family. Why can't we factor that in as we select the greatest women? First, you say the really greatest women are the ones who put aside all career ambitions for the sake of the family, and then you present us with a list of great women who are all childless. It's obvious what you want to say. You want to warn women away from careers. Unless we are willing to abandon the hope for a good family, we should forget about having a career. This is a terrible message. Try harder to find good examples of women who have balanced family and work and show us how they have done it — or modern women should toss this reactionary newspaper aside. We deserve better.

THE YEAR THAT BLOG FORGOT IS: 1922.

8 comments:

Christy said...

The NYT totally ignored Marie Curie who had, by 1922 won a Nobel in both Chemistry (1911) and Physics(1903). She raised two girls alone after her husband died when they were 9 and 2 years old.

Ann Althouse said...

She wasn't American.

Ralph said...

Mary Pickford, but no Lillian Gish? Fame was fleeting, even then.

Paddy O. said...

Interesting they also snubbed Ida B. Wise. She was a big leader in bringing Prohibition to the US, only two years prior.

She was married, and while there's not a lot of info to be easily found I think I saw that she had a son. Certainly it seems she was a force in her own right.

So, so many doors were just entirely closed to women at this time, making becoming visibly great almost impossibly hard. I wonder how much creativity and discovery and leadership we lost by making sure men didn't have competition. Sad to think about.

Personally, I prefer the good new days in this regard.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Oh my goodness. This is the blog that even the blogger forgot.

Paddy O. said...

I think she ran out of time, Ruth Anne.

jersn said...

thanks for something insightful on an otherwise idiotic day. i'm reading you simply because apparently we both like DFW. and it is good stuff.

Linda said...

Ann, stumbled onto your blogs when I got sidetracked looking up "jack in the pulpit." I LOVE this blog, especially. Hope you keep going!