Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bumper Stickers

. . . at the Republican Party booth at the Marin County Fair.

Amongst the stickers there’s an interesting feminist slogan! The backstory is quite interesting:

At the beginning of her career as a historian of early America, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published an article entitled "Virtuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735." Could anything sound more narrowly academic than that -- a scholarly examination of a small subset of Puritan funeral sermons? But Ulrich's paper was destined to have a long history. It opened this way:

"Cotton Mather called them 'the hidden ones.' They never preached or sat in a deacon's bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven't been. Well-behaved women seldom make history."

Since 1976, when that paragraph was printed in American Quarterly, Ulrich's final ringing sentence has appeared -- sometimes with the word "rarely" replacing "seldom" -- on T-shirts, coffee mugs and buttons. It has gradually grown into one of the best-known slogans of modern feminism.

Photo: Republican Bumper Stickers—Marin County, 2009


Jenny K said...

Hi Mike! I actually had that sticker, "Well-behaved women rarely make history" on my car, which was parked at the SSA lot in san rafael. Then one day, someone decided to deface the sticker (while it was parked at work). They crossed out "make history" and wrote "exist," and left a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet under my rear windshield wiper.

Mike Mundy said...

That could almost, I say, almost, be the subject of a blog post on culturepress.