Why is it said that well-behaved women rarely make history?

Answer

Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich first wrote the phrase "well-behaved women rarely make history" in an article about Puritan funeral services, focusing on the fact that most dutiful Puritan women are no longer remembered, unlike those who were accused of being witches. Shortly after the article was published, many women adopted the phrase as encouragement to challenge authority.

According to an article in Slate, Ulrich said she wrote the article to explore the history of ordinary American women. She pored over Puritan funeral sermons in an effort to discover more about women of that era. However, after finding such information scarce, she wrote the now-famous line. The sentence blossomed in popular culture, and it has been seen on coffee mugs, T-shirts and bumper stickers. Many women embraced the motto as something to remind them that life is too short to always toe the line.

In an article published by Hamilton College, David Foster wrote about Ulrich's observation that, historically, women have been viewed either as kindly caregivers or misbehaving figures who exhibit masculine traits. He quoted Ulrich saying that "well-behaved" women were historically considered passive and added that, in American political history, there is a tradition of widows standing in for their husbands in Congress, but it took many years before it was acceptable for a woman to run for a political position on her own.

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Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said this famous quote. She is a scholar and historian of ordinary people, and a professor at Harvard University ...
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