HOUSTON, TX — The women’s and #MeToo movements aren’t lost on a Houston fifth grader who took the struggle for equality more than 200 years back in time in her essay on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The students were asked to write a diary entry from the perspective of the people involved in the expedition to explore the territory in the Louisiana Purchase and Pacific Northwest, formally known as the Corps of Discovery. The student, identified as Emma, chose Sacagawea, the Shoshone wife of French Canadian Toussaint Charbonneau, who had been hired as as interpreters.
The bilingual Sacagawea knew the Pacific Northwest and helped guide the expedition party, telling Lewis and Clark what plants were edible and which were not, but was largely viewed as unimportant until long after she died. History calls Sacagawea Charbonneau’s wife, the second Shoshone woman he married, but more recent accounts reveal she was purchased or won by him, and that she was a battered wife.
The assignment asked the students to get into the head of the person they were writing about, and did Emma ever deliver.
The post of the essay the 10-year-old’s mother, Karen Rakers Dowd, shared on Facebook generated more than 1,100 comments and was shared at least 33,000 times. Emma writes about keeping the party away from warring tribes and finding horses and food for Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and her husband — who Emma characterized as three “annoying men” — all while carrying her baby on her back.
It should have been called “the Sacagawea Expedition,” Emma wrote. And this final line brings her essay back to modern times as women demand equal pay for equal work.
“And I got zero $!” Emma wrote. “Like come on! I’m never doing that again.”
Many of the comments on the post were effusive in their praise for the fifth grader, echoing the words of Linda BelCastro-Ketcham, who wrote, “You go girl! Women need to stand up for their rights.”
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Others also took on more modern themes. “Yes the privileged white man,” Sherri Fox wrote. “Taking credit for all the work”
“We have all fallen in love with your daughter,” Noel Boquet wrote, also speaking for the collective.
Some comments illustrated the women’s continuing struggle for equality nearly 215 years after the expedition ended.
“This is the disease of third wave feminism,” Das Bear Juden wrote. “A 5th grader writing this is disgusting.”
But Emma got plenty of support from men, too.
“That young girl is right on target!” Tim Hinchcliff wrote. “We certainly need more like her to take leadership roles in the future. We got a good start in the November elections.”
One Facebook user said the essay borrowed too heavily from “The Who Was? Show” on Netflix.
Her mother responded that the class had seen that video during their nine-week study of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Rakers Dowd said in a comment on the post that she raised the question in an email to the teacher and received the following response:
“We have been discussing the Lewis and Clark Expedition this nine weeks. We have seen and read about some of the hardships throughout the journey, but this point of view and take on Sacajawea was all Emma’s work! I was very proud of her by being able to put herself in the past to take a different approach to history!”
Rakers Dowd said her daughter “was inspired by and agreed with the video” and she is “still proud that at age 10 she decided to address this perspective in her paper.”
Image: A statue of Sacagawea, an Indian guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition, is shown at the state Capitol in Bismark, North Dakota. The child depicted in the statue shown here is Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste, who was born during the expedition. (AP Photo/Will Kincaid)