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Preserving Women’s History

Georgie Bright Kunkel | Feb 28, 2014, 11:05 a.m.

There is probably no way to research the true accomplishments of women throughout the centuries.

Women have, from the beginning of time, been considered first and foremost the child-bearers of the human race. Until contraception was widely available, fulltime employment outside the home was not considered an option.

In the past, women who dared to write or invent often had to use a man’s name to be accepted. George Sand is an example of a woman who took a man’s name in order to publish her writing. In her day, even when she inherited property, if she married it automatically belonged to her husband. For this reason, many of the inventions and accomplishments of women were never recognized.

Women have become better educated and society is accepting women in high office and in professions once only open to men. They certainly also deserve to be recognized in history.

There are opportunities for women to tell their stories which are then preserved for future generations. The Washington State Museum in Tacoma is one place that women’s history is being preserved. I was interviewed in connection with a grant to chronicle women who worked to gain the Equal Rights Amendment in this state. You can Google and find this interview online along with others who were active in the women’s movement of the late sixties and early seventies.

Writing a diary is one way of preserving one’s history. My grandparents helped organize the first cooperative colony in Washington State before statehood, so I am a member of a pioneer family. If your family has possession of diaries, consider donating them to a museum. Recently a representative from the Washington State Museum came to my home to select my collection of documents from the women’s movement for the archives. And I have instructed the executor of my will to donate my late husband’s diaries and my diaries to such a museum collection. Seattle’s Fiske Genealogical Foundation also accepts information about Washington State residents and their ancestors.

Every life deserves to be chronicled. Even into his senior years my youngest brother made track records that have never been broken. Since I was executor of his will I made sure that some of his track memorabilia was donated to the college where he started his track career. He was chronicled years after his death by being written up in the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of the acclaimed book Seabiscuit). She wrote about Louis Zamperini, my brother’s track friend. [Zamperini was an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.] Unbroken hit the country by storm and is now being made into a movie to be released in late 2014.

Not everyone can be so famous but each one of us has a story to tell and it should be told and passed on to future generations. Since women have not had their share of written history it is time that they did. Let’s not let one woman’s life go unrecorded.

At age 93, Georgie just returned from a Mexican Riviera cruise where she sang Karaoke three evenings. Her guy won the beanbag toss onboard ship. Now she’s ready to return to the comedy stage at the local Rendezvous Theater Open Mike in Seattle. “My advice?” she writes, “Never lie down too long during the day. Life is too short to sleep it away.” Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@ comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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