Why I Am Grateful I Can Read

In Ancient Greece, education for women included intense physical training so that their bodies were strong enough to bear children.

In Colonial America, a woman’s education emphasized learning to be a good wife, mother, and housekeeper.

In the 1950s, women were going to school, but after secondary education, most were expected to get married, have children, and please their husbands.

It was not until relatively recently, with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, that women were even able to gain “equal rights” to men.

Often, I forget how lucky I am to be able to receive a college education. Additionally, I often find myself begin to complain amount the reading I have to do, and I forget that in many other periods of time, I would not have known how to read because it would not have mattered if I were educated or not. My education, an aspect of my life that has always been a given for me is a privilege that, unfortunately, women have not always had access to.

Since I was little, I have had an extreme love of reading, and as I’ve grown up, I have become an avid bibliophile. In 2015, I was determined to read twenty-thousand pages by December 1st, 2016. I read close to thirty books that year, and as a junior in high school, drowning in AP classes, SAT prep, college applications, and more, I was incredibly proud of myself for accomplishing my goal. I never once stopped to think what a feat it was alone that I had access to thirty books, or that I was able to take advanced classes and apply to colleges.

Every day, I read road signs and restaurant menus. I read Aristotle and John Green. I read Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me that based on my taste in candy, I am twenty-five years old. I read the instructions on college applications. I read a letter telling me that I have been accepted to Kenyon College, a school which, like most institutions, originally was created for men alone to receive their education.

Because I have been lucky enough to be well-educated, as well as because I have common sense, I know that women should have gained these rights long before we did. I should not have to be grateful that I can read or that I can go to college, but nevertheless, I am.

Last year I read the dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. In the novel, Offred—named so because rather than an individual person, she is seen as a possession of her “Commander,” Fred—lives life as a Handmaid, a woman who is used purely for her body’s ability to be a vessel for childbearing. Before she was a Handmaid, Offred had a career, she had an education, she had a say in how she carried out her life. But, in a second, she loses her job, her access to reading materials, and her identity.

The thought that our society could one day turn into Offred’s, that I could lose my right to an education, my right to control what I do with my life, petrifies me. It still devastates me that there are parts of the world where women do not have access to a proper education, and that so many women around the world are still illiterate.

From now on, I will be thankful every day that I was born where and when I was. I will be thankful that I have access to books, and I will forever be grateful that every day I study at Kenyon, I receive an education that previously was only reserved for males.


Image credits: hersuccess, penguin books, abcnews