Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Stories We Tell | Suzanne Braun Levine
Back in 1972, when I signed on at Ms. magazine, our mission was to document the history women were making every day. Early detractors, like newsman Harry Reasoner, dismissed those efforts by pronouncing the material too sparse to sustain a magazine for more than a few issues. But Ms. kept on filling its pages. It became the place to find out about women athletes, women scientists and executives as well as the brave rebels who were speaking truth to power — women who went unremarked in the rest of the media.
Also unremarked were women whose accomplishments had been lost to history, because no matter how awe-inspiring a woman’s story would have been if she were a man, it was rarely deemed worth including in the record of human accomplishments; if it had been suggested back in the seventies, the phrase “women’s history” would have been considered an oxymoron.
“Lost Women” was launched in the third issue of Ms. and became one of our most popular features. Month after month, it answered such questions as: Why were there no women composers? Not because women didn’t have the creative genius, but because the women who did were “lost.” (In 1975 Ms. even organized a concert of music by women that we had retrieved.) And why, you may ask, were there no women in the major orchestras (except the angelic harpist)? Not because there were no accomplished musicians, but because their skills were not tested. As soon as auditions were held with the candidates behind a curtain, the balance began to shift. But it was decades, until 2007, before Marin Alsop made history as the first woman conductor of a major American orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony.