Marilyn Monroe is credited with popularizing the saying “well-behaved women rarely make history.”
Unfortunately, a lot of young women take this quote to mean that they should live recklessly, flaunt their sexuality, try to be “bad b*****s” and treat people with disrespect in order to be “famous” and unforgettable. That’s what the reality stars and celebrities of today are doing to stay relevant, after all.
But it’s just not true. This is just what our popular media would like young women to believe so that they will continue to consume, consume, consume. It’s a way of keeping the minds of young women clouded with these images so that they will do (or pay) whatever possible to live up to them.
The truth is that the majority of the people we see everyday in the media who have adopted this approach to being “unforgettable” WILL be forgotten. No one will talk about them 25, 50 or 100 years from now.
Let’s look at a few women who weren’t “well-behaved” according to society’s standards for women, yet held themselves to a high regard and still made history, never to be forgotten. 1,000+ years from now, they’ll still be a part of history.
Queen Elizabeth I
They called her the “Virgin Queen” because she refused to take on a husband to rule by her side as society deemed “appropriate.” She knew that if she got married, her husband would take over and she would probably be pushed to the side or even overthrown. During her rule, she led her troops to an important victory when the Spanish Armada threatened her shores. Queen Elizabeth ruled for many decades during what many call the “Elizabethan” era. To this day, many historians try to sully her name–I believe it’s because they refuse to believe a woman was able to reign alone without a man for so long. She is a great example of a woman who went against the status quo, made her own way in this world and will always be remembered in history.
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was and is one of the world’s most treasured woman writers in the history of the United States. She went to college at Howard University in D.C. She was one of the first initiates of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and joined Alaine Locke’s literary club. She studied anthropology at Barnard and Columbia University. After graduating she chose to travel the U.S. recording the stories of the interesting people she met. She took a record of African American history that few people understood at the time (and to this day) in her best-selling books Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Though her talent and treasures weren’t fully appreciated during her life, her legacy lives on to this day and will continue.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) is one of the most well-known and liked presidents in the history of the United States next to Abe Lincoln. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt took an equally prominent role in politics as the nation’s First Lady during that time. She was a champion for human rights, an outspoken voice for women at a time when women barely had the right to vote. She became known as “one of the most esteemed women in the world” and is also famous for her quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
When I first heard the story of Harriet Tubman, it was hard to believe. She escaped slavery, but instead of enjoying her freedom as most people of those days did, she decided to make 13 dangerous trips back to the place where she experienced so much pain to save others. Harriet was definitely a woman who wasn’t “well-behaved” but she will always be remembered for her heroism.
There are so many more amazing women who can be added to this list, but I believe this to be a good start. So whenever you hear that saying “well-behaved women rarely make history” please keep it in the proper perspective.
Lynn Gilliard is a writer and transformational blogger. She is the author of a self-help guide entitled Survive, Live or Thrive? and a popular relationship guide entitled Let Him Chase YOU.