20 GREATEST AMERICANS, III
John‘s link trolling experiment is going as one would expect. Not only did many (most? all?) the participating bloggers post a link to it but it is now generating a lot of discussion based on who deserved/didn’t deserve to make the cut.
Notice also that there is not a single woman on the list of the “greatest figures in American history.” There is one honorable mention of a woman: Harriet Tubman.
Something is wrong with that picture.
I chose the women on my list for several reasons. I chose Susan B. Anthony because she was instrumental in the birth of the women’s rights movement. I chose Gloria Steinem because decades after Susan B. Anthony, it took women like Steinem to energize the women’s rights movement in our lifetimes so that women can enjoy the freedom they now have. I chose Rosa Parks because she was the flashpoint that got the Civil Rights movement started. I chose Eleanor Roosevelt because she was the first activist First Lady. In her time, she was hated or loved just as much as Hillary Clinton is today.
John responds to Meryl with a reasonable question,
. . . who should be taken off the list so Eleanor Roosevelt can get in the top twenty? Her husband? Thomas Paine? Ulysses S. Grant? Come on — get serious. Should we yank Alexander Hamilton or Teddy Roosevelt so Rosa Parks can get on the list? Do you think any of the women who didn’t make it were more significant than men like Andrew Jackson, Douglas MacArthur & Alexander Graham Bell who also didn’t make the final cut? You’ve got to be kidding me.
IÃ¢€™ll agree with John in spirit if not in tone. It’s hardly surprising that women didn’t make the list.
Indeed, it occured to me that I didn’t have any women on the list but I couldn’t think of any to add. Gloria Steinam? Susan B. Anthony? They were minor figures compared to anyone on the main list. Rosa Parks? She was a symbol, not a major actor. Any black woman could have been planted on that bus to get arrested.
Why? There have been zero female presidents, unless you count Edith Wilson and Hillary Clinton. No female inventors on the scope of Edison. No businesswomen on the scope of Ford. No great female combat leaders. No female authors of founding documents. Because, gee whiz, women were discriminated against and kept out of prominent careers until about 30 years ago. That was the whole point of the women’s movement, right?
Aside from the gender issue, Meryl also writes,
I frankly forgot to list Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for that I am ashamed.
. . . .I specifically did not choose Henry Ford because I don’t think he is a great American. His hatred and prejudice take away from his business and engineering acumen. Because of that, he doesn’t belong on the list. Neither do the Wright brothers (how did air travel contribute to the greatness of America? Hello, transcontinental rail line ring a bell?) or Teddy Roosevelt.
Hmm. By modern standards, Jefferson shouldn’t make the list because he had slaves. Personally, I think Henry Ford’s contribution to the society outweighed the fact that he shared the prejudices of his times. And, indeed, MLK had all sorts of personal and political baggage outside his civil rights career. Frankly, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon did more for civil rights than either Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. Because they were white males? No; because they were presidents. With great office comes great influence.