The Importance of Legacy
What is the purpose behind a project like Living Her Legacy? Why is it important to call attention to the accomplishments of women in particular?
For one thing, women’s accomplishments have historically been erased. Even when women have managed to overcome monumental obstacles and excel in their chosen field, their accomplishments have been systematically excluded and obscured from history. In many cases, the accomplishments of women have been attributed to their male colleagues. While a denial of women’s accomplishments occurs within most disciplines, it has been so prominent in the sciences that it has its own name - The Matilda Effect. The Matilda Effect was coined by Cornell historian of science Margaret Rossiter, who named it after suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage (pictured right). Back in 1893, Gage argued that women were just as capable of inventing and science as their male counterparts. While women scientists have made tremendous achievements since the time of Gage, many of the same 19th century ideas about the limitations of women continue to persist today.
That is why it is so important to publicly recognize the accomplishments of women. Since most folks are kept from this knowledge in the public education system, it is important that projects like Living Her Legacy exist to educate and inform individuals who may otherwise never learn about the incredible achievements of women.
Another upside to publicly recognizing the accomplishments of women is that it can serve as an inspiration to young women and girls. The limited representation of accomplished women in society perpetuates a cycle where many girls find it impossible to see themselves reflected in the work they want to do. Again, this often occurs in male-dominated fields like STEM.
By uplifting the historical accomplishments of women who significantly contributed to, or pioneered, these fields, girls will know that women that shared their dreams have already tackled many of the same challenges they are facing.