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Strange How Things Change
Excerpt from New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams

by Jesse Cordes Selbin

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Girls' lives have changed a lot over time. In some countries, girls used to have few rights and now they have many. In the United States and Europe, girls of the past couldn't go to college, get many jobs, or vote. In other countries, girls had more rights in past times than they do now, like in some Middle Eastern countries where girls can't go to school and women can't work anymore.

Often the situation depends on the girl's social class; princesses usually have more rights than peasants, and wealthy girls are much more likely to get an education. Or girls may officially have rights, but still face sexism or death. In China, hundreds of girl babies are still abandoned or killed because their culture prefers males. But there have always been times when an inspiring woman shines, no matter what her culture expects.

c. 2300 BC East Sumeria (now Iran)-Enheduanna was the world's first known writer. She was the also the first High Priestess-the highest religious office of all. Some Sumerian girls had the prestigious job of helping in the temples, but most learned sewing and weaving cloth. Enheduanna and others developed a lunar calendar, which we still use to calculate the dates of Easter and Passover.

c. 1120 BC Israel-Deborah, a Jewish prophet and judge, led the Israelites to victory against the Canaanites. Most girls, though, were under the strict rule of their fathers until they married and became the property of their husbands. Girls learned Jewish traditions, but couldn't study the Torah as boys could.

c. 40 BC Vietnam-Two sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, masterminded a revolt against the oppressive Chinese rule, leading 80,000 men and women, including 36 women generals, to triumph, after which they ruled as co-queens. Females at that time were supposed to obey males, but they did have the chance to become traders, judges, and political leaders.

c. 1370 AD Denmark-Married at age 10, Queen Margarethe ruled after all her brothers died. She united Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and brought prosperity and peace. Royal girls often married early because at birth or in childhood their fathers picked husbands for them who would increase the country's wealth and power. The life of a peasant girl was freer. They usually married around 20 and had more choice in picking mates. Peasant women could manage land themselves if their husband died. However, wife-beating for "disobedient" women was lawful and encouraged.

c. 1680 Mexico-At age 3, Sor Juana could read and learned everything she could. She begged to be sent to school at age 7, but her parents refused. At 18, she joined a convent-the only place where girls could study-and went on to become one of Mexico's greatest poets, writers, and intellectuals.

c. 1800 France-Marie Lachapelle became one of the most important medical researchers of the century. She stopped the use of painful tools for births, created important procedures to help with childbirth, and trained midwives. Not many girls of the day would become scientists. Instead, they worked as dressmakers, laundresses, and shopkeepers or helped with their husbands' occupations.

1893 New Zealand-Kate Sheppard helped get voting rights for women in New Zealand-27 years before women in the U.S. could vote. She was also a pioneer bicyclist. Even though girls worked as hard as their brothers on New Zealand's farms, many people believed that girls and women should avoid riding bikes because it could ruin their "delicate" reproductive organs.

1967 India-At age 12, Indira Gandhi began the children's Monkey Brigade, which worked undercover to overthrow British rule. She went on to become India's first female prime minister, fighting illiteracy and widespread famine, improving relations with the Soviet Union, and sending India's first satellite into orbit. Girls not born into influential families were in arranged marriages by their early teens. The practice of sati, burning a widow along with her deceased husband, still takes place today in some villages.

1972 United States-Angry about the inequalities that African Americans and women faced, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman in Congress in 1968. When a student asked her why there were only White male presidents, she ran for president in 1972. Girls at that time who wanted to be Congresswomen had only 16 women role models. Today, out of 541 Congress members, only 75 are women.

2002 Nigeria-In a country where less than half the females can read, Eka Esu-Williams found a way to study immune diseases. In 1988, she founded the Society for Women Against AIDS because 80% of the world's women with AIDS live in Africa. Her group also teaches girls not to be submissive. Many women still don't feel they can stop their husbands from having many wives, so lots of women become ill and die when their husbands pass the AIDS virus to them.

One thing is consistent-throughout all of time, throughout all places-things change. Whether for good or not, everything is constantly changing, and I hope that, at some point in all countries, girls will have every right that boys do.

About New Moon Girl Media
Since 1992, New Moon has given girls ages 8-12 a place to create their own media and share it with the world. A champion of girl-centered content with New Moon Girls magazine and the groundbreaking online community www.newmoon.com, NM pioneers innovative, ad-free communities where girls develop their full potential in safe, creative and positive worlds. NM is the expert in original, high-quality content made by girls and selected by their peers. Learn more at www.newmoon.com