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HERSTORY: the term was never intended to replace or be a synonym for "history," but is use

March 9, 2009

Summary: coined by Robin Morgan in 1968, this term refers to all the parts of "her story" that have been left out of "his story."  The word "history" itself is not sexist; the "his" in "history" is an English/American-language accident and has nothing to do with the male pronoun or with any male-based word. "Herstory" was never intended to replace or be a synonym for "history," but is used to "emphasize that women's lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected or undervalued in standard histories" (Casey Miller and Kate Swift, /Words and Women/). Until recently, history was written by men about men. "Where women do appear in traditional accounts of the past, they emerge as adjuncts of the masculine world being recorded, as supporting players, seen only in their male-related roles as wife, mother, daughter, or mistress. History thus related occurs around them rather than with them" (Carol Ruth Berkin, in Thomas R. Frazier, ed., /The Underside of American History/). Eleanor S. Riemer and John C. Fout (European Women) describe the wealth of women's writings they found in "books, women's magazines, and periodicals written, edited, and sometimes typeset and printed by women, for women. ... If historians until now have not used women's own sources to reconstruct women's past, it is only because they have not looked for them." See also history, unconventional spellings. For more information on the forthcoming Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Accurate, Bias-Free Language, click here.

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