Whose history is it, anyway?


No history book ever written recorded everything that ever happened. No history book could be that big.

Historians only record two things: what we want to remember and what we can’t ignore. The problem with what we want to remember is that it is based on what we think is important today.

Sometimes it is difficult to judge yesterday’s behavior by today’s standards, especially since we think we are so much smarter today than anybody ever was who came before us.

“History is not just a catalogue of events put in the right order like a railway timetable,” according to the British historian A.J.P. Taylor. It requires us to understand the people who made it and why they did what they did. At its best, it may help us understand how we got to where we are today.

This week the Jamestown Gazette is looking at National Women’s History Month in that light. It is useful to look at what we remember and what we have almost lost and forgotten.

Today we understand the importance, value and power of women’s thoughts and work in ways not always accepted in the past, and occasionally, not even in the present by some. As a result, some women’s history has receded into dusty corners of archives and nearly disappeared from today’s awareness.

People who have few records of what their forebears accomplished are in danger of losing the inspiration, the guidance and the insights that can come from learning about their history.

The “bedrock” of history becomes quicksand if the past we think we are building on is solid and complete. But if bits of history remain untold, our bedrock and foundation are weak. Some lessons learned long ago become lessons forgotten today.

That is why this week we looked back to find women who achieved great, remarkable and even heroic things in our past, and yet today, are barely remembered.

Young women of today can learn that obstacles need never be excuses. Those who wield power are not invincible when faced by real determination backed up by action.

The remarkable women of our past whom we have brought off the history shelves this week represent only a small fraction of the inspiring stories waiting to be retold.

If humanity were a person with two hands, one male and one female, then it is amazing how far we have come with one of our hands mostly tied behind our back. History tells us that when two hands are free, even more will be achieved.

It is women’s history we are celebrating this month, so we challenge our readers to experience women’s history as humanity’s future.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.