All my research in college focused on women. Whether it was focusing on rape culture in 21st century England and the US or reproduction during the American Revolution. My thesis is on women bootleggers. I started the research last semester when I was studying Odessa Madre, the (lesbian) Queen of the DC Underworld. She was involved in bootlegging (how she started her criminal career), gambling, drugs, and prostitution (she was a madame). In the one book on Prohibition in DC, she is not mentioned at all. She is the most well known bootlegger in DC. She monopolized on bootlegging in DC. She had an in with the cops and she would protect her friends. Needless to say, she was an incredibly important woman and one of the richest black people in the mid 20th century. However, she did not make her money through the legal economy. In the 30s-60s she was the most influential people in the DC underground economy and one of the most influential women in the club scene. She was also good friends with black entertainers like Billie Holiday. She is scarcely mentioned in DC history books and people outside of DC scholars have no clue who she is. She is arguably the most influential female criminal in the 20th century and no one has ever heard of her besides a handful of scholars.
I am a women’s historian because 30+ years after the first books on women’s history have become mainstream, women are still ignored in history classes. Our contributions to history are ignored inside and outside academics unless you are reading a book specifically on women’s history or taking a class on women’s history. I however, am not an academic historian. Yes, I’m getting my masters but I am not getting the PhD. I do want to continue to write about women’s history and I plan on one day working for Disney. Disney has had some amazing talented women work for them and they don’t get half the recognition their male counterparts do. Mary Blair is one of the most talented concept artists Walt Disney hired and most people don’t know who she is. Have you seen Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella? If so, you’ve seen her work. Have you been on It’s a Small World? If so, you’ve seen her work. She designed the ride. But women like her go unnoticed. And its not just in Disney, it’s in any media company. Women’s contribution to media goes unnoticed by many people. We know big name entertainers like Lucile Ball and writers like Jane Austin (note both women are also white) but they couldn’t tell you any other women entertainers.
That being said, I think all history needs to be more accessible to people. I think everyone should know about women’s contributions to history. I think history matters and understanding history helps us understand society. I think until we learn about everyone’s history, we are doomed to live in the misogynistic white supremacist society we currently live in. We cannot move forward and change society until we understand and accept our past.