Grasping for straws only makes you and your cause appear more pathetic.
Case in point: I was listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, and the topic was Did Betsy Ross actually design the first flag?
Based upon the historical evidence, it is doubtful that she did.
But normally clear-headed podcast host Candice Keener had apparently been consumed by her feminist side for this podcast, declaring that she was upset that Betsy Ross’s place in history was begin challenged since so few women appear as important figures in early American history.
While I sympathize with the plight of women in terms of their place in the history books, it’s an unfortunate but true fact that women were not involved in the affairs of state that typically place a person’s name prominently in the historical record. They could not run for public office, they could not serve in the military, and for a long, long time they could not even vote. We’ve never had a female President, and until the 1990’s, very few women ever served in the Senate (a total of 37 so far in the body’s two hundred year old history).
For a long, long time, it sucked to be a woman if you wanted to get into the history books.
So while it’s understandable for Keener to want Betsy Ross’s accomplishments to remain untainted, let’s remember that this is essentially a sewing accomplishment, and not a terribly original one at that. After all, the colors of our flag are identical to the colors of the Union Jack and wasn’t very different than several other flags at the time, including the British East India Company’s flag.
And again, we’re talking about a sewing accomplishment.
But Keener goes over the deep end in the podcast when she reports that contrary to popular belief, Betsy Ross was not a seamstress but an upholsterer. “And this makes me respect the woman even more, having to handle those heavy rugs, curtains and even Venetian blinds.”
Heavy rugs? Venetian blinds? Am I wrong in saying that Keener is probably more insulting to women with this statement than she is complimentary to Betsy Ross? Does she really expect me to respect a woman more for sewing curtains rather than bloomers?
What I’d like to tell Candice Keener is this:
Look, I know it’s sad and frustrating that women don’t play a larger role in early American history, but there’s nothing you can do about it. We cannot change the past.
But attempting to prop up the historical significance of an early American upholsterer who may or may not have designed a rather unoriginal flag for our country does not do women any good. And adding that your respect for this woman increased when you learned that she had to sew curtains and Venetian blinds undermines your credibility and makes women appear weak and pathetic, at least in your mind.
Even if Ross designed and sewed the first American flag, this is still a sewing accomplishment. She did not win battles. She did not place her life on the line for the country. She did not assume the mantle of leadership.
Save your praise for women like Joan of Arc, who actually did many of these things and at a remarkably young age.