Throughout history, women have been associated with the items of daily life. And in this past century, many of those items have tangibly marked women's struggles and passages, underscoring both the dramatic changes and the same old setbacks. To commemorate the ebb and flow of womankind's last one hundred years in the U.S., we've created a Ms. time capsule, which will be on exhibit in the year 2000 (for more information, check the Ms. Web site and upcoming issues).
Some of the articles in the time capsule accompanied bursts of progress--like a suffragist sash in honor of the movement that gained women the vote. Others, such as silicone breast implants and nonbiodegradable disposable diapers, show that change isn't always for the better. And many entries, like the electric washing machine, recall activities that ricocheted between being oppressive and liberating throughout the century. To the average American woman at the end of this century, a washing machine symbolizes burdensome housework. But prior to the electric washer's invention in 1901, most women spent one third of their lives doing laundry. The newfangled washer freed up unprecedented amounts of time for leisure and self-reflection, helping to create the liberated New Woman of the 1920s and beyond.
Women of this past century have been vanquished and triumphant, clueless and creative, funny and fanatical, divided and in sync. The objects that represent these ups and downs are not intended to be a celebration, but rather to provide a snapshot of the twentieth-century woman. For better or worse, everything in this capsule--from turkey basters to birth-control pills--has altered women's lives.
We invite you to cheer, to jeer, or to create your own time capsule, if you're so inclined.