The World of Well-Behaved Women

If only we could figure out what one is

Barbara Cleary
I AM Catholic

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Melbourne in the 1800s (vintag.es)

Bumper stickers can speak volumes about the person who owns the vehicle. Apart from the free political advertising that adorns many car bumpers, we can be easily entertained while tooling through town or across the country by clever wing dings that challenge us to COEXIST, encourage support of one sports team or another, and my favorite: the sometimes humorous or thought-provoking sayings with a subtle edge. The one that I have seen quite frequently of late is the insipid statement that “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.

I fully understand the point: the bumper sticker owner wants us to believe that in order for a woman to achieve anything of value in this world, she must set aside conventions and embrace that which is not typically considered “womanly.” We are expected to believe that unless the woman was a revolutionary of some sort, like Susan B. Anthony, the flappers of the 1920s, or those active in the feminist movement in the late 20th century, the everyday woman has little impact on the world. Or is that what the statement really means?

Of note is that the person to whom this statement is attributed is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. She later explained that she did not mean to imply that just because a woman is well-behaved, she has no importance in history; rather…

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Barbara Cleary
I AM Catholic

Catholic wife/mom/Nan to four grandchildren. Writing about my faith, and life in a chaotic multigenerational home while trying to see the humor in it all.