Re: : : The Iroquois and the Early Radical Feminists

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Thu, 1 Feb 1996 19:03:21 PST

On Feb 1, Donna Lanclos wrote:

>I'd just like to note here that "feminists" are far from the only ones
>who look to history to provide precedents ("real" or "imagined") for
>their ideals. It's a popular (and effective) technique, and one that,
>IMHO, in no way invalidates the ideals held by the group employing said
> History is, after all, constructed, is it not?

Donna, you're mixing two things. A "look to history to provide
precedents", whether they be real or imagined, is different than
constructing history to provide precedents. Interpretation is
different than changing. Maybe you really meant "construct" instead
of "look to" in your first sentence- as indicated by your question to
which the answer is, "yes" to the extent of the historian's
limitations. Some construction is often necessary as a means to fill
in the gaps, so to speak, but there is a limit of how much is
acceptable. It's certainly not acceptable when a false picture is

History is always difficult, because we can never look back and see
exactly what happened. Another view of history was expressed by the
Dutch historian Pieter Geyl, "History is indeed an argument without

The degree to which history is a recounting based on the best facts
available versus something constructed to fit an agenda depends on the
circumstances. The Chinese government constructed their historical
notes of what happened at Tianmen Square in 1989 to record something
different than what was seen by all the journalists and cameras. They
simply denied the riots occurred. The manner in which you "look at"
and/or "construct" your observations is a matter of your ethics.