Without Representation

I’ve been reading a collection of the articles by Laura Ingalls Wilder for the Missouri Ruralist paper. She wrote on a wide variety of subjects, and while she had some decidedly un-feminist beliefs, some of her writings are thoroughly feminist in nature.

Writing about the creation of a local farmers’ club, she touched on the subject of women’s participation (emphasis mine).

As arrangements were being made for a meeting of the club, some one near the speaker said, “The women must come too,” but it was only after a broad and audible hint from a woman that this remark was made and it was so plainly because of the hint, instead of from a desire for the women’s presence and co-operation, that it made no impression.

At the first meeting of the club, the following week, there were only two women present. Quite likely it was the women’s own fault and if they had taken part as a matter of course, it would have been accepted as such, but it seems rather hard to do this unless we are shown the courtesy of being mentioned. We will get over this feeling in time no doubt and take the place we should, for a farmer may be either a man or a woman and farmers’ clubs are intended for both.

    —Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Without Representation,” Missouri Ruralist, July 5, 1917.

While she’s speaking specifically on the subject of farmers’ clubs, the broader point that it was and is difficult for women to make a place for themselves in male-dominated spaces is also true. And it doesn’t take an openly hostile atmosphere to make things uncomfortable for women. Just the fact that we’re in the minority and that we know we aren’t actively wanted there is intimidating.

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