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Herstory is history written from a feminist perspective, emphasizing the role of women, or told from a woman's point of view. It is a neologism coined as a pun with the word "history", as part of a feminist critique of conventional historiography, which in their opinion is traditionally written as "his story", i.e., from the masculine point of view. (The word "history"—from the Ancient Greek ἱστορία, or historia, meaning "knowledge obtained by inquiry"—is etymologically unrelated to the possessive pronoun his.)
Robin Morgan, in a book of her selected writings states that the debut of the word "herstory" was in the byline of her article Goodbye to All That, in early 1970, in the first issue of the "underground" New Left newspaper Rat after it was overtaken by women to clean it of sexism. She writes that she identified herself as a member of W.I.T.C.H., decoding the acronym as ""Women Inspired to Commit Herstory".
- When women in the movement use herstory, their purpose is to emphasize that women's lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected or undervalued in standard histories.
During the 1970s and 1980s, second-wave feminists saw the study of history as a male-dominated intellectual enterprise and presented "herstory" as a means of compensation. The term, intended to be both serious and comic, became a rallying cry used on T-shirts and buttons as well as in academia.
Christina Hoff Sommers has been a vocal critic of the concept of herstory, and presented her argument against the movement in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?. Sommers defined herstory as an attempt to infuse education with ideology, at the expense of knowledge. The "gender feminists", as she termed them, were the band of feminists responsible for the movement, which she felt amounted to negationism. She regarded most attempts to make historical studies more female-inclusive as being artificial in nature, and an impediment to progress.
Professor and author Devoney Looser has criticized the concept of herstory for overlooking the contributions that some women made as historians before the twentieth century.
The Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that analyzes and tracks trends in language, named herstory the third most "politically incorrect" word of 2006—rivaled only by "macaca" and "Global Warming Denier".
Recent books published on the topic include:
- Herstory: Women Who Changed the World ISBN 0-670-85434-4
- Daughters Of Eve: A Herstory Book ISBN 1-4140-4356-2
- HerStory ISBN 978-1-60402-551-4
- Women's history
- History of feminism
- Radical feminism
- Gender-neutral pronoun
- Gender-neutral language
- Jane Mills, "Womanwords: a dictionary of words about women", 1992, ISBN 0-02-921495-5, p. 118
- Robin Morgan, The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches, a 2014 edition, ISBN 1497678072, p. 33
- Miller, Casey; Swift, Kate (1976). Words and Women. Bantam Doubleday Dell. ISBN 9780385048583.
- Devoney Looser, British Women Writers and the Writing of History (Johns Hopkins University Press: 2000). ISBN 0-8018-6448-8.
- Angus Calder and Lizbeth Goodman, "Gender and Poetry", in Literature and Gender, ed. by Lizbeth Goodman (Routledge: 1996). ISBN 0-415-13573-7.
- Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995). "3 (Transforming the Academy)". Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. United Kingdom: Touchstone Books. ISBN 0-684-80156-6.
- Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995). "5 (The Feminist Classroom)". Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. United Kingdom: Touchstone Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-684-80156-6.
- Global Language Monitor web page (2006). Archived August 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- ""Macaca" named most politically incorrect word". Reuters. December 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-13.