Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire 2014

March is Women’s History Month–when we have thirty-one days to celebrate women’s contributions to history.  In the case of this blog, it is the stories of New Hampshire women that I mostly share.

Mattie (Kilborn) Webster, Merrimack's first historian, and my grandmother.

Mattie (Kilborn) Webster (1885-1964).  Merrimack, New Hampshire’s first historian, my grandmother and inspiration for much of my research of women’s history.

Why is women’s history important? Because women have been, and still are equal contributors to every historical event in our world history.  No noted military officer could have gone off to war without someone (usually his wife, mother or sister) at home to look after his children, farm his land or otherwise tend his property.  No writer or inventor could have dedicated the time he did without someone to make his meals, tend to his household, and often act as sounding board and inspiration for him.  No noted businessman could have built his empire alone.

Even today history books do not adequately reflect women’s contributions. As long as we continue to ignore women’s history, we reinforce the idea that women’s history is not important or is less important than men’s history. Even the work history is derived from the Latin, histor “wise man, judge.” When I was growing up, children were “to be seen and not heard.”  The same adage could easily be applied to women throughout history.  They often willingly took the back seat to their husbands, brothers, fathers, and other male role models because it was the norm then.  It does not have to be the norm now.

Because it was not written down at the time it happened, sadly the biographical history  of many women has been lost. It is our responsibility to dredge the archives to bring them back into the light.  If we continue to allow the history books to focus on the achievements only of men, of a history time-line based on battles and war rather than accomplishments, and to alter history based on what we find to be a comforting story, rather than what is true, we perform a horrible disservice to future generations.  We have an opportunity NOW to broaden a view of history.

I have written about many interesting women in the past 8 years.  My first blog post on Cow Hampshire regarding women’s history was on 17 March 2006 when I complained about the lack of New Hampshire women’s history.  At that time J. Dennis Robinson of Seacoast NH had dedicated a section to “Seacoast Women,” and though he seems to have downgraded the topic category to “Famous People,” he continues to write about interesting women from New Hampshire’s coastline. As I mentioned in another blog article, the University of NH has a Women’s Studies Program. To celebrate in 2014 they are holding a week long series of events, and and International Women’s Luncheon on March 7th.   They also created an exhibition from photographs of women of the past hundred years at UNH.

My blog stories (on Cow Hampshire) in the past year highlight some intriguing New Hampshire women of politics, education, and activism.  I hope you will read them and let me know if you know of a woman whose story needs to be told.

New Hampshire’s First Female Selectman: Lenna Gwendolen (Wilson) Perry (1899-1986)

Rollinsford New Hampshire’s First Female Legislator, Outdoor Enthusiast, Civic Leader, and Women’s Rights Proponent: Jessie Doe (1887-1943)

Penacook New Hampshire’s First Female Legislator, Physician, Educator and Civic Leader: Mary Louise (Rolfe) Farnum (1870-1965)

Derry, Rockingham County, New Hampshire Educator & Library Trustee: Mary Harriett (Day) Low (1868-1957)

Portsmouth New Hampshire’s Charity Worker and Suffragist: Sarah Whittier “Sallie” Hovey (1872-1932)

New Hampshire’s First Female Aviator, Well-Known Photographer and Philanthropist: Bernice Blake Perry (1905-1996)

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***Additional Reading***

Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History

Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Project, celebrating Women of Character, Courage & Commitment

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3 Responses to Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire 2014

  1. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

  2. I knew when you said you felt a post coming on it would be a good one. I love that you let your opinions through your very good and thorough writing. I am so impressed you’ve been blogging so long. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve that.

  3. Susan says:

    Jjanice, you have created a terrific blog and I am enjoying the series on NH women. The NH Womens Bar Association completed an interesting research project on the first 100 women admitted to the practice of law in NH. Here is part of the article:

    The First 100 Women

    The right of women to apply for admission to the bar of the State of New Hampshire was won by Marilla Marks Ricker, of Dover, New Hampshire, an attorney already admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. It was her Ricker’s Petition, 66 N.H. 207 (1890), which allowed women, previously denied, to seek license to practice law in New Hampshire. However, Marilla Ricker never sought admission in New Hampshire herself.

    The first woman admitted to practice law in New Hampshire was 8 years old when the Ricker decision came down. Classmates of New Hampshire native Agnes Winifred (Winnie) McLaughlin predicted that she would become a lawyer. She did indeed, on June 30, 1917. It took 60 years before there were 100 women admitted to practice law in this state. The 100th woman, Nancy O. Dodge, was admitted on November 1, 1977.

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