My five-year-old came home with an assignment on Friday: for Women's History Month he must read about a famous woman, write two sentences about her achievements and paste a picture from a magazine or whatever.
The "suggestions" listed the obvious, Amelia Earhart and Indira Ghandi but I can't believe the list was topped off with Oprah. I suppose that's where the suggestion to find a picture of our subject in a magazine comes from because I haven't seen Amelia or Indira in the news lately.
At first, I thought of all the women I knew that made history. For me personally, a few came to mind: Evita Peron for having a musical made after her, Imelda Marcos for all those fucking shoes and Madonna for just being so annoying. But I don't think the teacher would have appreciated my picks.
Strapped for time, I asked Grammy if she'd stop by the library on the way back from the dollar store and see what biography she could find. It was quite a gamble because the Sunnyside Library has a tendency to not have any book you're looking for. Turned out luck was on our side -- Grammy came back with a children's book on Susan B. Anthony.
B. Anthony, as my boys like to call her, would have never crossed my mind. I know the name only because she was on the hopeless one dollar coin that everybody thought was a quarter, hardly a commemoration for a woman who had done so much. Honestly, I only found out just how much she changed history as a result of reading the biography with my kid. Fighting for a woman's right to vote, helping the slaves escape north to freedom -- I thought to myself, this chick's alright.
I should have foreseen that my five-year-old would get upset that she had died fourteen years before a woman's right to vote was enacted. He was rather upset about Charlotte dying in Charlotte's Web even though Wilbur moved on like Paul McCartney did after Linda Whats-her-face. But in truth, I didn't know she didn't get to see the fruits of her labor.
The little guy finally felt better after I explained that America is a better place thanks to B. Anthony, even though she had not been alive to see it. She wasn't the first and she certainly wouldn't be the last to make sacrifices for reform - I just can't think of anybody who is doing that right now, other than the average Joe's they write about in Reader's Digest.
When we finished the book, I asked my son to think of two sentences about B. Anthony to write in his report. The first was easy, she was helping women to vote.
"Okay, what else did she do?" I asked
He thought hard for a moment. "She got old," he said.
The problem was he was right -- she did get old and that does answer the question. But I pressed on searching for an answer until finally he remembered that small skit she had helping the slaves find their freedom. This was how his report read:
"Susan B. Anthony wus halping wmn to vot. She halpt slavz to run uway."
They are encouraged to sound and spell the words out on their own - thus the cacophony in spelling. Then again, his daddy don't do much better.