Histography depicted in women’s writing

By Priya Chetty on November 27, 2014

It is indeed a well said fact that people are totally defenceless without their stories. A story empowers them and gives them a sense of dignity. It tells the world about their origins, their struggle for rights, their dignity and their tireless efforts towards gaining victory (Anon n.d.). However, it has to be noted that women have been constantly denied access to a usable history about their ancestors and how they have evolved over the years. Early women historians have said that an access to these stories would provide a deep psychic need which would lead to problems, if not addressed at the earliest (Lerner 1992). If these issues are not addressed as early as possible then it may lead to a deep sense of distortion and self pity. It may also lead to the development of an inferiority complex based on a denigration and elimination of the experiences of their whole group. The main aim of this article is to examine how histography has been portrayed in women’s writing.

Historical evolution of women

The most initial attempts to depict the history of women were more of a mirror image of history of men too. It was only the importance of men and their superior powers which was depicted in the early days of history. They gave importance to politics, economy and military and their own importance to it. The society was mainly male dominated and women were just embedded along the lines where they would fit into these roles. It may be argued that many trailblazing women did not identify with or construct a historiographical tradition that may be joined, copied or perpetuated (Looser 2000). Rather than paving the way for herstory, women were dismissed off from the very throes of history. The women were often related to such men from the deep ends of history like by way of marriage or partnership. Their introduction was limited only to their identity with the men of importance of those times.

Change of trends

When historians from outside the bounds of the elite groups began to write their accounts, they admired woman from ethnic groups and their history was thus published. Some women have also been writing about the history of women for decades in the past but their work has not been acknowledged widely as reported. This trend however changed in the 1960’s (Bentley 1997). By then, the definition of importance expanded and social history became popular. This process made a feeble attempt at depicting how the common man lives but was still clutched in the paws of the socio- political- economic framework. It was found that, what was shown about women was just a general framework but what was shown on men was the domestic work and social obligations of the community which were considered very important. The early attempts of depiction of women was basically as oppressed and passive victims of a society which was predominantly male dominated and the experiences presented by the historians were mainly such that were not originating from their own experiences. An example may be depicted of girls who would toil in mills and factories who would retire home to life of slavery and drudgery. Women were forced to lead a submissive life and this was depicted in history through the journey of such women accompanying their husbands.

Empowering women for the future

The new interest in the lives of such women has led to the study of this subject as a separate variant from that of men. The study of now taken a separate path from the earliest stages to a stage where women are studied separately. An analysis was conducted on women outside the bounds of their men and more research was conducted outside the home like in clubs, midwifery and social work as well as their independent and powerful roles in churches. It was also pondered over that how technology had changed the lives of women and how they have coped with the drastic changes that have taken place in the society from the past to the present time.

The main aim is to make a revelation of the society as a bundle of complex interrelationships between men and women and their coexistence with each other. Many attempts are being made to connect every story to the realistic lives of men and women and how they have been an important determinant in all areas of life and history. One might anticipate that the rapid increase in historical subjects may overlay as they cross fertilize each other. The histories connect men and women in both spheres and not as a separate entity as they were shown in earlier stages. The melding of these stories is given as a reasonable rendering of how a society works in order to give good information and make the society work better and also to enhance good decision making skills. The present is nothing but an illusion for all of us but if we have an illumination about our past which would strengthen our decision making skills and the future for all of us. A strong historiography of the past would go a long way in empowering women for a brighter future and a better society.


Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).