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From School House Rock to Seneca Falls

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Northrop T-38A-30-NO Talon, 60-0551, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1961.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives


My first Women's History Month Event took place in the spring of 1985. I was a college student in Syracuse, New York and yet I was unaware of the importance of Seneca Falls, just down the highway. Lucretia Mott was the name of a woman I heard on School House Rock.

The speakers enlightened me to the diversity of women's voices both in history and during contemporary times. There seemed to be competing interests in the role of women in our culture in the 1980s. I became aware very quickly as to how invisible women's contributions to history had become and how devalued the role of women was in the history that was being made at the time. 

The event focused on Women for the month of March with speakers who ranged from a radical thinker like Andrea Dworkin to sex-positive writers challenging women to take back their sexuality to political figures who challenged the conservative mantras that attacked women in the workplace. Each brought a different perspective to discussions that weren't really happening often enough in my world. I became aware of the portrayal of women in advertising and saw the defeminizing influences on women's work attire, where suits for women were designed with men's bodies in mind and shoulder pads were the norm. Women who wanted to succeed in the corporate world seemed to have to leave their gender at the door.

Women's History month challenged the deluge of imagery that soaked the culture the other 11 months out of the year. It gave voice to those made silent by chauvinism and fear. And as a young college student, it helped me seek out a better understanding of my own ignorance and attitudes as well broaden my knowledge of how popular culture shaped how I saw my fellow students, my professors, and the women I encountered in my daily life.   

Women's History Month truly helped to change my worldview. 

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I reread this that I wrote a while ago about my encounter with Women's History Month and watching the changing understanding of the Transexual community in light of recent media events around Caitlyn Jenner. I wonder how many people are finding a new world view from that brave approach. Bruce Jenner was a bit of a hero as a child, more recently he seemed to play the clown in the Kardashian circus but today she has created a new dialogue that could change the culture, a culture ready to be challenged as I was as a young college student.

It's so interesting to hear the perspective of someone who wasn't specifically involved in feminist advocacy when first introduced to the idea of Women's History month.

How to cite this page

Kelley, George. "From School House Rock to Seneca Falls." 10 March 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 26, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/from-school-house-rock-to-seneca-falls>.

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