Would you believe that I’m not really a history buff? Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy history and truly love leading class trips and bringing students to all of the historic places that GO travels, but I am not a history buff like most of my co-workers. I am, however, a HERstory buff! Behind every great man is a great woman with an amazing story.
Some of my favorite HERstory is that of the first ladies of the United States. One of those occurred before we were even a nation. Everyone knows that John Adams was the second President of the United States, the first Vice President and assisted Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Did you realize that prior to drafting the Declaration of Independence his wife, Abigail Adams, sent him a letter urging him and the other members of the Continental Congress to remember the nation’s women, to give them more rights and to not put all the power in the hands of the husbands? Can you imagine in 1776 what a progressive idea this was and how much respect for one another that they must have shared for her to feel comfortable writing that? The Adams’s are often referred to as “America’s first power couple.” After reading some of the thousands of letters that they sent to each other, I can see why! Another fun HERstorical fact: Mrs. Adams is the only other first lady, aside from Barbara Bush, to be the wife and mother of a president.
While there is a ton of fascinating HERstory between 1776 and 1933, I would be remiss not to mention another of my all time favorite first ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt. While everyone else is reading up on how Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated four times, I am reading the HERstory of Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know she was orphaned at age 10 and sent abroad to live in a very forward thinking boarding school in London where she traveled around Europe with the headmistress? It was during this time she became more independent and outspoken, all traits that would serve her and the US well once she became first lady. After her husband contracted polio in 1921, Mrs. Roosevelt stepped in and contributed a great deal of effort to her husband’s political aspirations. Once he was elected president, she was the forerunner in showing the world that the first lady was an important part of American politics. She gave press conferences and spoke out for human rights, children’s causes and women’s issues. She even had her own newspaper column, “My Day.” Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Roosevelt remained active in politics for the rest of her life. In fact, she urged the United States to join the United Nations and then became its first delegate.
So while I enjoy learning and talking about the history of the US and the world, I know that behind most great men is a great woman. It is her story that also intrigues me and I enjoy sharing these stories during the class trips I lead to Washington DC and New York City.