There’s a proverb that says “women hold up half the sky,” a centuries-old homage to the vital role women play.
Cal Poly Pomona Professors Roseanne Welch and Peg Lamphier have compiled those historic feats in a new encyclopedia titled “Women in American History.”
The four-volume set covers pre-colonial history to modern-day feminism.
“It’s women in American history and culture, so we thought about what kind of women don’t normally get into encyclopedias to ensure there was a great diversity expressed,” says Welch, who holds a doctorate in American social history of the 21st century.
Some women who are included in the compilation are ones people may not expect to see in an encyclopedia.
“Lady Gaga hasn’t made many encyclopedias, but her philanthropy and influence on media earned her a place in the book,” Welch says.
The encyclopedia starts with Francisca Hinestosa, a Spanish woman who disguised herself as a man and traveled to America from Spain with the Florida expedition of Hernando De Soto, and ends with Janet Yellen, the first female to lead the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve.
Welch’s favorite part of the project was learning about people in history she didn’t know about, such as Hedy Lamarr.
“She is mostly remembered as a sex symbol but who in fact co-invented modern-day faxing with composer George Antheil,” she says. “The two invented frequency-hopping, a method of changing the frequency of a signal from a submarine-control center and the outgoing torpedo up to 88 times in order to prevent jamming.”
Welch and Lamphier hope the set will be placed in school libraries around the country and remind women that their intelligence and curiosity can lead them into any field.