Social studies retold: Women’s History teaches from the female perspective

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Margot Durfee

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When you think of Wilson electives, what comes to mind? Overcrowded classrooms with uninterested students, or specialized courses with a heavy course load? While there are many rigorous electives like Biomed and Engineering, the vast majority are often seen as “overflow courses”—classes where students are randomly placed and lack interest in the subject matter. As a result, Wilson is attempting to introduce more popular and engaging electives, one of which is Women’s History.

When social studies teacher Michele Bollinger heard the school was going to offer Women’s History, she decided she wanted to teach it. “What I would really like to do is… give students a chance to express interest that they might have in women’s studies and gender studies… [and] support the idea that women’s history is really diverse in terms of race and culture,” Bollinger said.

Women’s History, which is open to all students and is being offered for the first time this semester, introduces students to women’s roles throughout history and includes a discussion of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement. There will also be an analysis of how feminism has evolved over time and what it means to be a feminist today.

Bollinger, who has taught at Wilson for 14 years, said the course is important because it allows students to have a greater understanding of how women have played a role in history. Social studies classes and textbooks often teach history centered around the achievements of male figures, meaning students will learn less about women and their contributions to the world.

In terms of the representation of women in history classes, Bollinger believes that while “a lot of progress has been made, we still have far to go in terms of genuine equity.”

Cordelia Stanton, a junior enrolled in one of the two Women’s History class periods, agrees. “[The class] is a great opportunity to learn about issues like feminism and gender and sexuality that have a huge impact on the world today,” she said “I hope to learn more about the actions that we can take in order to lessen the negative impact of these stereotypes on young women and teens.”

While taking the course is a great way to start learning about women’s roles in history, it’s not the only way. Bollinger encourages students to always be on the lookout for information about the historical impact women have had on society, whether it be in museums or libraries—it’s all around us. And if all else fails, “[students] can also come stop by during my office hours and I can recommend a good book,” Bollinger said.