Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

24 January 2010

Feminist Parenting: Teaching History

As many of you know, I named my daughter after Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This wasn't in pure ignorance of Stanton's racist and classist argument for women getting the vote before Black men. It was rather in recognition of her igniting a movement that still lives today and brought us, women & men, so much. This spring she had to pick a topic for a research project. She picked three topics and her teacher chose Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

This weekend we were filling out the information sheets that make up her project and reading through the two books she has on Stanton & suffrage when she asked the $64,000 question. "She wanted everyone to be equal right?"

I've never had any thought of telling her about Stanton thru rose colored glasses. Far from it. I guess I didn't think she'd bring up the equality question. But I should have known better.

Luckily one of the books she has is If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights by Anne Kamma. In it one of the questions is about why Stanton and others were upset after the Civil War and the Constitution would be changed only for men. It handles it pretty well by previously discussing how most of the suffragists were also abolitionists and how Sojourner Truth was upset as well. I added in that Stanton also felt it wasn't right that uneducated men would be allowed to vote before educated women like her.

The kid was shocked.

And I didn't even think to touch on Stanton & Anthony's partnership with racists in the West. But we did discuss, after her daddy mentioned it, that back in that time, the only people who really could afford to be educated were people with money. She was then quite offended that she was named after Stanton and said, "I think I'll just think that I was named after the Queen Elizabeth."

Her dad & I laughed as I said, "Oh, mija, if you think what Elizabeth Cady Stanton did was bad, just wait till you learn about Queens."

I went into how everyone, Mom and Dad, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Martin Luther King Jr. are all human beings. No one is perfect. 

I don't remember how we got back to her actual homework assignment, but we did. I know while the conversation is over for now, she's thinking about what she discovered.

And then I started to ponder how much harder it might be to tell her about my own failings one day.

This parenting thing is hard peeps. Really.

Clarification:  Other reasons that went into choosing the name Elizabeth included Elizabeth Bradford from Eight is Enough (yes, seriously), that Elizabeth is a versatile name, that Elizabeth is a strong name and that Elizabeth can be shortened to Buffy.

2 comments:

Elizabeth is the name of the elegant young royal who discovers that her toughness and intelligence are better than gowns (or a prince!) in "The Paper Bag Princess." A VERY good role model, I think.

Ah, yes...The kid loved finding that out.