I have a thing about old letters, images, tawny browns, and filtered light. They remind me of times gone by and the first stirrings of a history written for women, about women, by women. Women’s domains no matter how they are parsed were, and largely still are, focused on the home, and relationships among family and a close community. Legacy of any individual woman depended upon artifacts, often fabric ones, and works created in a woman’s lifetime, letters and diaries, that were displayed or archived by those that remembered her or those who were shaped by her.
Embroidery samplers created by young ladies to showcase their skill with a needle and thread, as well as appreciation of home and their piety, are often the only medium for their words to echo on after a life is over.
Education and literacy had to come to be routine for the average women, and writing supplies had to be priced such that common people could afford paper, ink and the time needed for writing.
It is easy to forget that mass communication is a most recent development. Histories were carefully composed and facts sculpted for them for centuries. The information that fed and fueled our society and informed our actions and decisions was closely controlled by very small numbers of individuals until but a historical heartbeat ago.
Newspapers and other periodicals increased the amount of information regularly added to our knowledge base at an unheard of rate in the last 150 to 200 years. Propriety shaped much of the content of these publications and filters were everywhere.
In the last 15 to 20 years personal publishing developed in both print and electronic forms. Digital information transmission and storage allowed for the generation and consumption of data at a scale unimagined even a decade ago. The size of the dark web of criminal and underworld activity and deep web of information behind firewalls is unknown, but what is available on the open, indexed web is, by itself is creating not only more information than ever before, but of a type never previously collected: the bits and pieces of women’s lives that are creating the first level of a women’s history. The legacy we are writing is not only unique, it is expanding into a new niche.
As some of the women who are creating this new cultural information, we have tremendous influence over the very nature of this new thing we are building and the trajectories that will be built upon beyond our lifetimes. This new type and level of influence over communication is fortuitous as several constants of the physical world and humanity’s place on that world for the last many centuries are morphing in unpredictable fashion.
We may not be able to anticipate what the future will be, but we have opportunity to influence the changes that are transpiring with an openness and a balance that has not been available to us for millennia if ever.