Margaret Johnson, the Goodby Silverstein & Partners partner and chief creative officer, is behind a new app that debuted at SXSW promising to celebrate stories of women typically omitted from history textbooks.
The "Herstory" app comes under the banner of Daughters of the Evolution, a new organization formed by Johnson to focus on equality (named after the panel she presented last year at Cannes). Created in collaboration with Goodby for Women's History Month, it aims to address the fact that, according to research, 89 per cent of history textbook references are devoted to men.
The app uses augmented reality to show women's stories from history. When users scan an image of a male historical figure in "A History of US, Book 5: Liberty for All? 1820–1860," it unlocks a story of an important female historical figure from that same period and superimposes it: for example, when a user scans President Zachary Taylor, they will see an illustration and story of Cathay Williams, the first African-American woman to enlist in the army (using a disguise and a pseudonym) during the Civil War, when women were prohibited from entering the military. The app currently features stories of 75 women from the 19thcentury.
“When I reflected on the fact that women are so underrepresented in the textbooks our children are studying, I started looking for a creative solution to address it,” said Johnson. “Technology and education are becoming more and more symbiotic, and augmented reality is the perfect tool to bring to life the missing stories of women’s role in history.”
Goodby enlisted the help of author and feminist historian Kate Schatz to identify a diverse selection of women and ensure the accuracy of the stories represented. “History absolutely has been his story, written by men for men,” said Schatz. “This app has the power to change that: It expands history and empowers the person using it. When you see someone like you in a position of power doing something that you’ve never known someone like that could do, it’s indescribable.”