October 05, 2010

A holiday for Sacagawea?

Thoughts on the Run: Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacagawea deserve holidays

By Joe KingOther than the generic "Mother's Day," women have been ignored when it comes to naming holidays.

Four men--Columbus, Washington, Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.--have been regulars on our calendars for years and this corner agrees with their importance, but one senses a certain lack of fairness here.

While teaching American history at Encinal High, I often suggested the need for a holiday in a woman's honor, or, perhaps two women. My choices: Sacagawea and Eleanor Roosevelt. Why those two? Read on.

Perhaps no exploratory adventure in American history rivals that of the intrepid Lewis and Clark expedition across the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and beyond to the Pacific Ocean.

Crucial to the success of this early venture (1804-05) was a young Native American lass named Sacagawea, the Bird Woman.
And:Now for Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. No other first lady is a close second to this remarkable woman--not Dolly Madison, not Edith Galt Wilson, Jacqueline or Nancy. Harry Truman once called Eleanor the "first lady of the World."

What did she do? She held the first series of regular news conferences by a president's wife; wrote a six-days-a-week newspaper column (My Day) from 1935 to 1945, plus regular talks on radio; traveled the country visiting out-of-work factory workers and even shared sparse lunches in sharecroppers' cabins. She visited our troops on far-flung battlefronts during World War II and twice served as a delegate to the United Nations. A better-than-average resume, don't you think?
Comment:  Christmas is about a man too, you know. And Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving are mostly about men.

I like the idea of a Women's Day. To keep the calendar holiday-neutral, we could combine Mother's Day and Father's Day into Parents' Day. Or combine Memorial Day and Veterans Day into Armed Forces Day.

But I'm not sure about honoring Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, she did good things, but so did many other women. She doesn't stand head-and-shoulders above her peers like a Washington or Lincoln. I think anyone who gets his or her own holiday should be someone we immediately recognize as a giant of history. Whatever Roosevelt accomplished, I don't think she was that important.

No, I'd stick with Women's Day to honor all women. Perhaps we could rotate it to honor a different woman each year. First Eleanor Roosevelt Day, then Harriet Tubman Day, Jane Addams Day, Rosa Parks Day, Helen Keller Day, and so forth and so on.

Happy Sacagawea Day?

As for Sacagawea, I think she's received enough honors: monuments, coins, plays, etc. Other Native women have done noteworthy things too.

Besides, Lewis and Clark's "exploratory adventure" doesn't necessarily deserve more acclaim. It was the first great expression of Manifest Destiny--the idea that America was a God-given wilderness waiting for us to "settle" it. It led to the opening of the West and the subjugation of America's Indian nations.

I'd stick with the idea I've suggested before: replace Columbus Day with Native American Day. That would go nicely with Women's Day to honor America's unsung heroes. Again, we could rotate it to recognize a different Indian each year: Sitting Bull, Tecumseh, Crazy Horse, Sacagawea, et al.

Yes, let's remove Columbus Day permanently from every federal and state calendar. Let's mkae Native American Day an official holiday that everyone gets off and doesn't have to be renewed by presidential proclamation each year. Then I'll believe we're on the road to respecting and honoring Indians.

For more on the subject, see Choctaws Replace Columbus Day and Change Columbus Day or Thanksgiving?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Going a little off-topic, maybe we could reclaim Easter as a female holiday. It was named after a goddess, after all...