“The purpose of studying history should be, not only about avoiding past mistakes, but also about reproducing past victories.”
Growing up, my parents kept me interested in history. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of watching documentaries like “Eyes on the Prize” and traveling through Seneca Falls, New York to visit the Women’s History Museum. I have also enjoyed several outstanding history teachers in school. Although I was fortunate in both my upbringing and education, history was never my favorite subject – that is, not until this year’s National History Day competition, when I learned that history was made by real people and not “historical figures.” Digging through dusty primary sources was cool, but meeting, interviewing, and learning the experiences of incredible women like Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, Justice Ruth Abrams, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been some of the most transformative moments of my life and have cemented my love of history.
Which period of history currently interests you the most? Why?
I like learning about all historical periods. If I had to pick, though, I would choose the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 20th century. I marvel at the fact that so many people and disadvantaged groups mobilized for action and meaningful change. I want to understand the forces that drove thousands to march, to protest, and to face violent backlash unflinchingly. Perhaps because our society seems unwilling to confront tomorrow’s most significant challenges, I am eager to learn lessons about yesterday’s most breathtaking achievements. The purpose of studying history should be, not only about avoiding past mistakes, but also about reproducing past victories.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
At the risk of sounding immodest, I hope to someday to lead people to make our country and world a more equal, just, and harmonious place. In a conversation I had with former-congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (as part of my NHD research), she expressed concern about the lack of female representation in politics: “girls just don’t want to run.” That statement coupled with her encouragement to “take the world” and the example set by her and other women of her generation instilled in me a desire to become a policymaker. My NHD research also reinforced my relatively short-term goal of attending to Harvard Law School and seeing where that takes me. That said, I’m still in high school and realize that my aspirations and plans could change dramatically.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
My National History Day paper argued that experience of the first generation of Harvard Law School women in the 1950’s gave them both a golden credential and, because of intense discrimination, a newfound sensitivity to and frustration with sexist policies and attitudes. In short, three years at Harvard turned them into superb lawyers and serious feminists. They were therefore well placed—both willing and able—to lead the legal and political portions of the emerging women’s liberation movement. And lead they did, eventually helping to change the law and position of all American women.