Invisible Women

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

15 Women Most Commonly Named in State Textbooks, NWHM

In the 1970s, educators began to push for the inclusion of women and minorities in textbooks. Textbooks improved. In the 1960s, textbooks allocated a paragraph or more to an average of 10.3 women per textbook. By the 1990s, the number had risen to 57. The movement stalled in the 1990s.

In 2017, the National Women’s History Museum conducted a study titled, “Where are the Women?” The report examined state history standards to find out how women were represented. The Museum noted that:

“All history projects require choices. Including a person or event excludes another. Women often don’t make the cut.”

The study found that 178 women are mentioned in the standards of all fifty states. But only four women’s names occurred in more than twenty state standards: civil rights activist Rosa Parks (34 states), suffragist Susan B. Anthony (30 states), abolitionist Harriet Tubman (27 states), and suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (21 states). Most of the women were mentioned with respect to “women’s issues.”

Chart showing the groupings of standards for various women's social studies topics. NHWM.

As historian Mary Ritter Beard said more than a century ago:

Textbooks "almost wholly written from a masculine point of view are less than half a book.”

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