Why write women's history?
For years, men have been referring to their wives as their better half -- not because women are better than men, but because the mere presence of the fairer sex can make life complete and more enjoyable. A town without women would be meaningless, difficult, and lonely. Women have a distinct impact on the world around them, and as approximately half of the population you would think that their history would have been told by now. But looking through our local libraries and museums, you will notice a distinct deficit in this area.
We are on a mission to fill in the gaps of the written history of Clay County, Missouri, by finding these remarkable, everyday women and writing what we know about them. Like sisters in time, they came together to form communities and build this county from the ground up. Teachers, and wives, business owners, and suffragists, of various colors and backgrounds, all beautiful patches individually, they are stitched together to create a warm and comforting quilt that calms us with its presence. Tattered and worn, even threadbare in spots but a comforting sight when we are cold and weary at the end of the day.
These ladies who came before us blazed a way for the changes that we enjoy and even take for granted today. They lived through so much, including the Civil War, the Great Migration, and The Industrial Revolution, including the development of electricity and the spread of the railroad across America, but rarely do we hear their take on these great changes.
Although we think of them as gentle and unimposing, women have been fighting for the things they believe in for a very long time. One way or another, they used the tools they had to gain an education for themselves or their children, own property, help build churches, run businesses, or influence their husbands or fathers to support their ideas financially and politically. Sometimes they lived calmly within the unwritten rules that help a society run smoothly, and other times they worked around society’s rules to meet their needs. When that didn’t work, some of these women made a bigger fuss until they were able to make the changes they needed. These great changes included finding their voice and gaining the right to vote.
So make room on your shelf and in your hearts to discover the better half of Clay County, Missouri. As Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”