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Over the past several decades, few fields of American history have grown as dramatically as women’s history. Today, courses in women’s history are standard in most colleges and universities, and historians regularly produce scholarship on women and gender. In 1981, historian Gerda Lerner provocatively challenged, “always ask what did the women do while the men were doing what the textbook tells us was important."
A red open car blasts past you, exhaust and radio blaring, going at least 10 miles faster than the speed limit. Want to take a bet on the driver? Well, you won’t get odds. Everyone knows the answer. All that exhibitionism shouts out the commonplace, if not always welcome, features of young males. Just rampant testosterone, you might say. And that’s right. It is testosterone. The young man may be driving the car but testosterone is what’s driving him.
Out and About: a first book of poems
Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
Candlewick Press. 2015
Preschool thru Grades 3
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Beloved British author/illustrator Shirley Hughes introduces
a new generation of readers to her bustling, neighborhood where anything is
possible. Her London is filled with diversity and
Today is the last day of Women's History Month for 2015 and because the theme this year is about Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives, I thought who better to turn to for today's post than Kathryn Atwood. A few year ago, Atwood wrote a fascinating book called Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance and Rescue. Now she has followed it up with a book about women heroes in World War I and once again, their stories are as amazing as they are compelling.
In Women Heroes of World War I, Atwood introduces the reader to some of the women, a few still in their teens, who decided to serve their country, despite the real dangers that they were to face. Some became nurses, caring for the wounded as close to the front lines as they could get. Others joined the resistance or became spies, some became soldiers fighting side by side with men, and still others were journalists, reporting events from the heart of the conflict.
Some of the women are familiar, like British born Edith Cavell who found herself in Belgium when the war started, director of a school of nursing there. After the Germans invaded Belgium, hospitals were forbidden to care for any Allied soldiers that might find their to one of them. Edith, ignoring the Germans, cared for wounded Germans soldiers openly, and for wounded Allied soldiers secretly. And when these were healthy enough, she made such they had safe passage out of Belgium to the Netherlands. Edith and her network can be credited for heroically getting a lot of Allied soldiers to safety before the getting caught by the Germans. Her capture and punishment, which caused an uproar around the world, subsequently changed the way Germany handled women POWs at the insistence of the Kaiser.
One of my favorite stories is Helena Gleichen and her friend Nina Hollings, two ambulance drivers in Italy who sometimes found themselves driving through intense shelling to get wounded men to hospital. Later, after training in Paris to become radiographers, they could be found driving around the Italian front with a portable x-ray machine. With their x-ray skill, Helena and Nina were able to help the wounded in some surprising ways, for example, locating shrapnel lodged in areas that wouldn't have been found otherwise and bringing relief to the wounded man. For their heroic work, the women were awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (the OBE).
My personal favorite is the story of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Yes, I do mean the mystery writer. Mary was also a journalist who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post and in 1915, she decided she wanted to go to Belgium. After all, she had nursing experience and could report of the conditions of the hospitals there, but what she really wanted to do was experience the war as soldiers do. Mary finally did get to see the front lines, including no man's land, and even managed to get an extensive interview with the King of Belgium. Returning home she wrote her articles, but realized the war was going to last longer than anyone thought.
Women Heroes of World War I is a well-written, riveting book. Atwood divides the women's experiences into four sections - Resisters and Spies, Medical Personnel, Soldiers, and Journalists. The women profiled come from different countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Russia and each of their individual stories ends with a Learn More inset listing where to find more information them. Atwood's extensive, intelligent research is evident in all the women's stories and she includes sidebars that give additional information about the women and the war. Also included are an Introduction, an Epilogue and many, many photographs of war and the different women in it. An extensive and useful Glossary and Bibliography, and well as a list of websites can also be found at the back of the book.
World War I was at first greeted with incredible enthusiasm, causing young men to unhesitatingly leave school, jobs, and families to join their countries armed services. After all, no one thought it would last more than a few months. Women were also eager to do their part and for some that meant being in the thick of the fighting, not working on the home front. Women Heroes of World War I not only informs the reader about these now mostly forgotten women heroes, but pays homage to them and all the women who decided to do constructive for their warring countries.
I can't recommend Women Heroes of World War I highly enough, and what a wonderful book with which to end this year's Women History Month.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
Turning 15 On the Road
to Freedom: my story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March
By Lynda Blackmon Lowery; as told to Elspeth Leacock and
Susan Buckley; Illustrated by PJ Loughran
Dial Books. 2015
I borrowed a copy of
this book from my local public library.
Grades 4 thru 12
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‘The possible’s slow fuse is lit
By the imagination’
– Emily Dickinson (Franklin, 1999: 608)
When back in the 1990s I started doing research into women’s careers I was struck by how many respondents apologized for not having had a ‘career plan’ or indeed for not having a career at all. When I returned to these respondents seventeen years later I was curious about what had happened to their dreams, and wondered if they had been fulfilled, or somehow shattered. However, I soon realised that these were all the wrong questions, based on assumptions about women having long-term, guiding visions that either work out or fail. But it wasn’t like that. Many spoke of luck, of falling into their careers, and of being in the right place at the right time – or the wrong place at the wrong time. Such explanations might have served to highlight diffidence or modesty that is seen as socially desirable or to explain trajectories that respondents felt were more meandering than purposeful. Or it could be that in a society that values goal orientation and strategic decision-making, the lack of a clear end-point is a bit embarrassing. However, without clearly articulated plans and dreams, the achievement of these visions was a moot point.
Instead, the stories I heard were about how the women continuously responded to their changing contexts, making a myriad of incremental adjustments as the structures, cultures, and ideologies that informed their choices evolved. Most did mention moments of success or failure, such as Rachel finally being able to move her law firm out of her front room, or Silvia whose hotel business suddenly ground to a halt as foot and mouth disease swept through the English countryside. But no one spoke of her career as a delineated, bounded entity that could be fixed or judged in its entirety.
Highlighting the idea of organizational strategy as emergent (in contrast to conventional wisdom of the day which saw it as wholly rational), Henry Mintzberg drew on the metaphor of the potter. Without a clear picture of the final product, she uses her accumulated skill, knowledge, and touch to mould her pots, watching them take shape beneath her hands:
At work the potter sits before a lump of clay at the wheel. Her mind is on the clay but she is also aware of sitting between her past experiences and her future prospects. (Mintzberg, 1987: 66)
Neither the potter nor the women in my research experiences unfettered choice; their horizons are not limitless and neither pots nor careers can look any way or be anything. Rather they are circumscribed, constrained, and enabled by what is seen to be possible at any given time. Given this moving, emergent picture, better questions would have been: How did respondents understand careers, where did these ideas come from and how did they envisage their own career-making within this broad landscape? To answer these questions I propose a new concept: the career imagination.
The career imagination attends to the idea of career as both a social and an individual process, cast and re-cast in the flow of time and across space. As my respondents narrated their careers, in 1993/4 and again in 2010, they painted rich and detailed pictures not only of what they did or the way they did it (or indeed what they were inclined to do), but also of the understandings that these actions, or propensities for action, were based on. I am calling these pictures the career imagination. It is a cognitive construct, articulated discursively, that defines and delimits what is possible, legitimate and appropriate, prescribing its own (sometimes competing) criteria for success. It is a local accomplishment, a product of a particular time, place and social circumstance, informed by experience and history.
Part of what I like about the term ‘imagination’ is its ordinariness. Situating the concept firmly in daily life gives it salience and purpose. Indeed, I find myself referring to career imagination, not just in academic discourse, but also in everyday conversations – unexceptional talk about, say, my parents’ working lives or what my own children see as their future possibilities. However, while this commonsense appeal is a great strength, it is also raises concerns precisely because in the course of our day we use the term in such diverse, even contradictory ways. On one hand we use imagination to refer to flights of fancy, thoughts that transcend everyday experience and understandings and take us to new places and untrammelled possibilities. My data contained many such examples, like Anthea who said she had always wanted to pan for gold! However, I am not using the term in this sense. The career imagination is a bounded concept, defining the limits of what a person sees as possible in career terms, and in so doing, also what is impossible.
As respondents considered what careers look like and how their own careers might be construed, they spoke of occupations and the trajectories they prescribed, underpinning values, the connection between career and other aspects of life. They reflected on the material rewards and career identities that their working lives might bestow upon them.
Although the concept connotes dynamism, it does not discount the many enduring elements in respondents’ (or indeed in any of our) stories. Thus old ideas don’t simply disappear as new ones come to the fore, but rather the career imagination continuously expands, accommodating, sifting, and sorting possibilities. It can thus be seen as a repository of history and experience, and a product of its particular time and place. Like the potter whose products carry traces of the past as she works in the present and into the future, it is at once steeped in the past, but alive to current contingencies and mindful of the things to come.
Headline image credit: Always standing, always reaching out by Broo_am (Andy B). CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr
The theme of the American Society of Criminology meeting this November is “Criminology at the Intersections of Oppression.” The burden of violence and victimization remains markedly unequal. The prevalence rates, risk factors, and consequences of violence are not equally distributed across society. Rather, there are many groups that carry an unequal burden, including groups disadvantaged due to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, place of residence, and other factors. Even more problematically, there is an abundance of evidence that there are marked disparities in service access and service quality across sociocultural and socioeconomic groups. Unfortunately, even today this still extends to instances of outright bias and maltreatment, as evidenced by ongoing problems with disproportionate minority contact, harsher sentencing, and barriers to services.
However, there is promising news, because advances in both research and practice are readily attainable. Regarding research, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve our existing state of knowledge. To give just a few examples, we need much more research on hate crimes and bias motivations for violence. Hate crimes remain one of the most understudied forms of violence. We also need many more efforts to adapt violence prevention and intervention programs for diverse groups. The field has still made surprisingly few efforts to assess whether prevention and intervention programs are equally efficacious for different socioeconomic and sociocultural groups. Even after more than 3 decades of program evaluation, only a handful of such efforts exist. Program developers should pay more systematic attention to ensuring that materials that use diverse images and settings. However, it is also important to note that cultural adaptation means more than just superficial changes in name use or images.
Regarding practice, what is needed is more culturally appropriate approaches. In many cases, this means more flexible approaches and avoiding a “one size fits all” approach to services. Most providers, I believe, have good intentions and are trying to avoid biased interactions, but many of them lack the tools for more culturally appropriate services. One specific tool that can help is called the ‘VIGOR’, for Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks. It is a safety planning and risk management tool for victims of domestic violence. It is ideally suited for people from disadvantaged groups, because, unlike virtually all other existing safety plans, it has places for social and community issues, financial strain, institutional challenges, and other issues that affect people who experience multiple forms of disadvantage. The safety plan does not just focus on physical violence. The VIGOR has been tested with two highly diverse groups of low-income women, who rated it as better than all safety planning they had received.
The VIGOR also offers a model for how other interventions can be expanded and adapted to consider the intersections of oppression with victimization in an effort to be more responsive to all of the needs of those who have sustained violence. With greater attention to these issues, there is the potential to make a real impact and help reduce the burden of violence and victimization for all members of society.
Dr. Hamby attended an Author Meets Critics session at the ASC annual meeting yesterday morning. The session was chaired by Dr. Claire Renzetti, co-editor of the ‘Oxford Series of Interpersonal Violence’.
Written and illustrated by Cece Bell
Amulet Books; an imprint of Abrams. 2014
To write this review, I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.
Everyone has a superpower. What is yours?
In El Deafo, author-illustrator Cece Bell shares her
experience growing up deaf.
I was a regular little kid. I played with my mom’s
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
by Katheryn Russell-Brown
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.
"Spread the word! Little Melba Doretta Liston was something special."
The first line of this picture book biography announces to readers that they are about to meet an amazing individual.
Women are involved in many organized illegal activities, albeit in small numbers. Editors Rosemary Gartner and Bill McCarthy of The Oxford Handbook on Gender, Sex, and Crime have compiled important information about women’s involvement in organized crime. Here they’ve adapted some information from “Organized Crime: The Gender Constraints of Illegal Markets” by Valeria Pizzini-Gambetta (Chapter 23).
(1) Most organized crime falls into one of two distinct types – illegal industries and mafias — both of which are dominated by males. Illegal industries supply illegal commodities through networks that vary in shape and size according to the circumstances of the trade. Mafias are club-like groups defined by ritual entry, a territorially-based hierarchical structure, and the supply of extra-legal governance to illegal markets. Both types of activity have been dominated by men, but there are many historical examples where women also participated, particularly in illegal industries.
(2) There is historical evidence of mixed-gender groups of criminals. Several mixed-gender groups of criminals roamed the Netherlands and the German territories in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some pirate groups in the Far East were also mixed-gender marauding communities. In the early nineteenth century, Chinese pirates were ruled by the widow of their late general for several years. They formed a nation at sea, in which junks were gender-mixed, with female captives and family members on board. Buccaneer and pirate communities in the Caribbean golden age were essentially gender-exclusive; nevertheless, a handful of women entered the world of sea piracy through love relationships, cross-dressing, and kinship.
(3) Female entrepreneurs have been involved in running illegal businesses in the modern period. Marcellina Cardena, Marie Debrizzi, and Stephanie St. Clair were part of the gender and racial blend that animated gambling in Harlem until the 1930s. These so-called “bankers” needed only cash and a network of policy vendors to conduct illegal gambling. They hired other women to go door to door to take dime bets in exchange for a small percentage of the win from both bankers and winners. Women have also played important roles in the drug trade. In Latin America, Eva Silverstein (arrested in 1917), Sadie Stock (arrested in 1920), and Maria Wendt (arrested in 1936) were part of international rings of traffickers that imported opium and its derivatives from China and Mexico for export to the United States and Europe. More recently, Mahalaxmi Papamani and her network of Tamil female neighbors managed an important share of the drug retailing market in Mumbai in the 1980s.
(4) Although less common, women have also formed gender-exclusive crime groups. The “Forty Elephants” was an all-female group that flourished in the shadow of The Elephant and Castle male gang in London throughout the nineteenth century and well into the 1950s. The young women of this group specialized in shoplifting in the West End. Their sorority was hierarchical and a “queen” was in charge of distributing targets among the group members.
(5) Women often play “traditional” female roles in organized crime. Women have been relatively less involved as active offenders in mafias; instead, traditional female roles remain the most important resource for this type of organized crime. Intelligence gathering, turf monitoring, and hiding illegal commodities or weapons are tasks that can be accomplished as part of women’s ordinary daily routines. In most groups, women are trusted auxiliaries in a number of capacities at times that are critical for the functioning of the group’s operations.
It’s easy to assume that we know what pain is. We’ve all experienced pain, from scraped knees and toothaches to migraines and heart attacks. When people suffer around us, or we witness a loved one in pain, we can also begin to ‘feel’ with them. But is this the end of the story?
In the three videos below Joanna Bourke, author of The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers, talks about her fascination with pain from a historical perspective. She argues that the ways in which people respond to what they describe as ‘painful’ have changed drastically since the eighteenth century, moving from a belief that it served a specific (and positive) function to seeing pain as an unremitting evil to be ‘fought’. She also looks at the interesting attitudes towards women and pain relief, and how they still exist today.
Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Her book An Intimate History of Killing (1999) won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, and ‘Eyewitness’. She is also a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular newspaper correspondent. Her latest book is The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers.
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A Woman in the House (and Senate): how women came to the
United States Congress, broke down barriers, and changed the country.
By Ilene Cooper; Illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley
Grades 7 and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.
It is interesting what we take for granted, especially the
opportunities for women. Now girls are
Last week the Guardian reported, “A state minister from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party has described rape as a ‘social crime’, saying ‘sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong’, in the latest controversial remarks by an Indian politician about rape.” While horrified by these comments, I remembered that a book from OUP India’s office had recently landed on my desk and the author, Pratiksha Baxi, might be able to shed some light on the issue of rape in India for Westerners. Below is a post Baxi sent in response to my query following the story mentioned above. –Christian Purdy, Director of Publicity
By Pratiksha Baxi
In the wake of the Delhi gang rape protests in 2013-2014, a section of the western media was critiqued for representing sexual violence as a form of cultural violence. For instance, a white woman reporter said to a friend, ‘we are filming Indian women of all kinds. You look modern. Please, can you say—I am India’s daughter’. Not fazed by the angry refusal, the reporter found some other ‘modern’ looking woman to mime this script for the camera. The Delhi protests became a resource for a certain kind of racialized sexual politics, which looped back to a nationalist rhetoric decrying the tarnishing of the image of the country abroad. Indian politicians responded by blaming the media, feminists, and the protests for sensationalising rape, and producing the crisis now posed to the image of a globalising economy.
The national and international political debates ignore Indian feminists and law academics—who innovated new juridical categories such as custodial rape and power rape—leading the path to conceptualise rape as a specific technique of state and social dominance. They do not cite the learning of subaltern or Black feminists of the Global South. Nor are different jurisdictions compared to raise more serious questions about the cunning nature of law reform in neo-liberal contexts. Although there has been feminist research on rape, feminist interventions in international law and several global collaborations to combat violence against women, there seems to be an inability to carry the complexities of these debates in the national and international mainstream media.
In India, the political rhetoric on rape continues to deploy conventional scripts: boys will be boys; sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong; alcohol causes men to rape. There is a political refusal to recognise that rape is central to dominance, a routinized expression of sexualised power. Nor is it in political interest to displace the use of rape as a form of social control. Rather rape becomes a means of doing competitive party politics or as a technique of consolidating power.
Sexual assault is used as a means to control dissenting bodies. Rape is a technique of terror that is used with impunity to control social mobility, stifle dissent, reassert social control, gain political control, and target ‘hated’ communities. There is no serious attempt to challenge this kind of rape culture, which inhabits the cultures of policing. It is a political apparatus of sexual terror, not to be confused with theories of male sexuality or as evidence of cultural predispositions. Rather this rape culture rests on a political apparatus, which has several organised features.
First, it rests on a system of policing and law enforcement, which makes rape look like consensual sex, and consensual sex look like rape. For example, the use of the rape, kidnapping and abduction laws to criminalize love across caste or community is rampant, whilst rape as a form of caste dominance is scarcely taken seriously.
Second, the political apparatus of rape deploys violence to produce the public secrecy of rape: while everyone knows that women are raped, we are told no one must talk about it.
Third, this political apparatus rests on a scripted representational regime that attributes the blames of rape to women, alcohol, literacy, poverty, public access and so on—everything but the structures of dominance in a globalising economy. It institutionalises a politics of forgetting—from the traumatic histories of mass sexual violence to caste atrocities—we are told that there is no connection between everyday and mass scale sexual violence.
Fourth, it denies the link between the dispossession of the marginalised from property or land, and the growing rate of sexual violence. In the Baduan rape and lynching case, the children went out to the fields of the dominant caste to relieve themselves. The subsequent demand for bathrooms for dalit women is an expression of this dispossession, which makes them vulnerable to brutal sexual violence, murder and lynching.
Fifth, such a political apparatus acts as a thought police. It denies the right to sexual autonomy and choice. And it rewards those politicians who rape, riot, murder, censor or humiliate.
All this means that there is complicity between state and society in privileging rape as the expression of male power. The state conserves and even stokes the desire to rape as the foundational tool of male power. This is a political trait, not a cultural trait. There is an ever-expanding indifference to sexual violence survivors, which seems to be in inverse proportion to the anti-rape protests. For instance, even today a spare pair of clothes is not provided to rape survivors when their clothes are confiscated as evidence in police stations or hospitals.
Sexual violence can be prevented and redressed if this political apparatus is disbanded. To destroy this political apparatus, the doing of politics—local, national and international must change. Rather than engaging in an aggressive and masculine competition over crime statistics, politicians must engage seriously with the nature of institutional reform and response to sexual violence.
In the context of the international laws and policies on violence against women, the new government must allocate generous gender budgets to provide essential facilities to rape survivors and institute measures to prevent sexual violence. This must accompany zero tolerance for rape of women, men, sexual minorities and children. The recommendations to criminalise marital rape; repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and legislate against rape as a mass crime must be implemented. Section 377 IPC, a colonial law criminalizing homosexuality must be repealed. In other words, sexual autonomy and sexual dignity must be respected. This means that the conventional notions of sexual morality, which regulate women’s sexuality, pathologize queer sexuality and celebrate violent masculinity, must no longer lay the foundations of the Indian polity. National and international politics must recognise rape as political violence rather than cultural violence; substitute the language of ‘rescue’ with repatriation and learn from languages of social suffering rather than vocabularies of power.
I am not a fearless woman. I’m actually quite timid. I like order and predictability and rules. When I was a magazine editor, I started each editing task by making sure the fonts and margins and other formatting issues were right. Only then could I tackle the content.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because in the author bio of my most recent book, Roller Derby Rivals, my editor at Holiday House wrote, “Sue Macy loves to write about sports and fearless women.” And it’s true. Nellie Bly got herself committed to an insane asylum so she could write an expose. Cyclist Dora Rinehart rode more than 17,000 miles in 1896 through the muddy, rocky, mountain roads around Denver. Midge “Toughie” Brasuhn (right) regularly careened around Roller Derby rinks with no concern about injuries—and ended up with eight broken noses during her career. To me, these accomplishments are alternately inspiring and terrifying.
As someone who was trained as a journalist, I find it perfectly acceptable observing and writing about fearless women while remaining out of the fray myself. I am moved by women who have the drive and determination to overcome society’s taboos or their own fears in order to follow their dreams. I’ve listened to scores of women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League talk about their motivation, and the common thread among all of them is the passion they had for the game. Over and over again, they’ve said, “They were paying me, but I would have played for free.”
When people are really passionate about what they’re doing, they grab my attention. At the start of my research on Roller Derby history, I went to a contemporary bout between the Garden State Rollergirls and a visiting team from Maryland. I barely knew the rules of the game at that point. What’s more, the announcer was muffled by an inadequate sound system and the action was so fast and furious that it was hard to follow. But one woman stood out. She was a New Jersey skater, covered with tattoos on just about every visible patch of skin, and she was magnificent. She wove in and out of the opposing skaters, lapping the field and then passing her opponents to score points. Her Derby name was Jenna Von Fury and her skill convinced me that Roller Derby was indeed a sport worth writing about.
Late last year, the computer search engine Bing produced an awesome TV commercial highlighting some of the female heroes of 2013. To the tune of Sara Bareilles’s song, “Brave,” Bing celebrated several fearless girls and women, among them the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai; marathon swimmer Diana Nyad; and Edie Windsor, who brought the Supreme Court case that that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. It was an impressive example of the never-ending parade of fearless women whose achievements have made an impact on the world, and a virtual shopping list of topics for a writer seeking to be inspired.
So as I finish my final post for I.N.K., I promise to continue producing books about women who made their mark as they challenged the status quo. I'll also occasionally blog on my Web site, suemacy.com. Check it out when you get the chance. Or follow me on Twitter @suemacy1. And thanks for reading.
496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.
Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”
Dinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.
They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.
Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.
On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.
As a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.
By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.
Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.
In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.
The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.
I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.
The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of The Civil
by Teri Kanefield
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was sick and
tired of the horrible conditions she and other black students endured attending
the Robert R. Moton High School.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up ten of our books that feature some amazing women of color! From a baseball player to an American politician, these women have helped pave the way for many others.
7. Patsy Mink, How We Are Smart - an American politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii
8. Hiromi Suzuki, Hiromi’s Hands - one of a handful of women in the male-dominated world of sushi chefs
9. Rosa Parks, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth - Mrs. Parks changed the course of history when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement
It’s a peculiar and depressing phenomenon that women—far more than men—who have moved past youthful attraction and procreating age tend to become invisible. So a film featuring a 58-year-old female divorcee is something of an anomaly (you can watch the trailer here).
Trend-bucking protagonist Gloria (who lends the film its name) refuses to be typecast. Her now-grown children have left home and are having children of their own. Her ex-husband has moved on. She would like to move on too.
Attempting to defy loneliness, disconnection, and old age, Gloria ventures out to singles parties. This is where we meet her in the subtitled Chilean film’s opening scenes, swallowing a drink and plucking up the courage to enter the dancing and dating fray.
But her prospective beaus bring a lifetime of baggage and bad habits, and Gloria finds her flings brief and unfulfilling. Adult courting is, it seems, just as awkward and excruciating as when you’re in your teens.
Then Gloria meets Rodolfo, a former naval officer now fun-park owner seven years her senior and with whom she can actually imagine a future. Yet the relationship’s not without its quirks and challenges, and it’s these difficulties and how they infer to the rest of Gloria’s life that provide the film with its main narrative drive.
Without giving too much away, we gain insight into Gloria through these events and incidents and how she handles herself throughout them. She is a fascinatingly complex, strong woman we come to admire and respect.
Gloria is an understated lead and the film itself is quietly, thoughtfully unveiled. Which makes it sound, on paper, as though it’s slow and boring and lacks the makings of a hit, but it’s the antithesis: subtle, surprising, compelling.
Gloria is someone who could be our mother. She’s someone I’m conscious I might grow up to be (and yes, that realisation was rather like having to face my own mortality).
Because here’s what most impressed me about this film and for which I can’t take credit for thinking up because it’s in the director’s notes (although it made complete sense when I read it and decided I must have known it subconsciously):
The film, which is told from Gloria’s point of view, contains not a single frame in which her body isn’t present. Every scene ekes out information about how she’s feeling about life and how and where she fits in with the rest of the world.
Here’s the zinger: Gloria plays a supporting role in the lives of those around her, yet Gloria has managed to turn a supporting role into a leading one.
‘Gloria is the study of character that we all know in real life, but we have never seen in a movie before,’ producer Pablo Larrain says, ‘and that’s a major achievement.’
The story is mature, nuanced. Gloria is an unobtrusive character, more observer than at the centre of the action. Her vision is failing and her over-sized, almost Coke-bottle-thick glasses dominate her face. She scrambles with putting them on, adjusting them, and occasionally taking them off throughout the film—they’re an aid as much as a hamper.
Perhaps most surprising and haunting is that Gloria’s is a story that’s everyday, yet we’ve never noticed or considered it before. Gloria offers us a new lens through which to look—I’m now looking around me with a new perspective and clarity.
Chilean actor Paulina Garcia, normally a theatre actor and now, like Gloria, playing her first leading feature film role, inhabits Gloria magnificently. Her actions are strong yet mild, grief-stricken yet stoic. She’s determined to find a place for herself—and to find love—in a world that overlooks her for both.
Garcia was awarded the Best Actress award at the 2013 Berlinale film festival; the film won Best Film at the same event. The jury reportedly commended the film ‘for its refreshing and contagious plea that life is a celebration to which we are all invited, regardless of age or condition, and that its complexities only add to the challenge to live it in full’.
I agree with that sentiment. Gloria surprised me—I’ll admit I paused momentarily when I was offered its review. I wondered: What insight could I possibly gain from the film or offer on its verdict? Would I even be able to maintain interest for its entirety?
The answer is a simple yes. The film’s not slow, it’s thoughtful. Gloria is not definitively sad, she’s ultimately extremely optimistic and resilient. The story’s not ordinary, it’s utterly important and relatable. Next time I hear a love song come on the radio in my car, I’ll be smiling and singing along and thinking of Gloria and women like her (which may include me).
Which begs the question: If there are few (or I’ve missed) films featuring ordinary women not traditionally put in leading roles, I’ve missed books that do similarly. If I were to try to expand my reading oeuvre accordingly, which book(s) would you recommend I start with?
I am one of the last professional women I know to read Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf, 2013). If you are also among the laggards, it is an inspiring call to women to lean into leadership. Too often, Sandberg shows through research and life story, women are not considered “leadership material,” and not just by men. We also send that message to ourselves, and attribute any success to external factors such as luck and the support of others. We just don’t think we have the right stuff to be leaders.
Too bad Sheryl Sandberg has not been to Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. After studying the communities of faith along that one street—around 88 congregations, the number fluctuating year to year—I found one thing that stumped me. There are a whole lot more women in leadership in these houses of worship than in any national sample of clergy. The most generous research findings reflect 10-20% of congregations to be headed by women in the United States today. In my sample, 44% of communities of faith have female leadership. This phenomenon is true across the religious spectrum. “Prestigious pulpits” in the historic Mainline Protestant churches are disproportionately occupied by women. But so were the pulpits in small independent African-American churches. Two of the three mega-churches had women as co-pastors. In the third, the associate pastor is a woman and considered the heir-apparent for the senior position. Two of the three peace churches had women leaders. There are no longer Catholic churches on the Avenue (which don’t have women priests), and the two mosques I researched were led exclusively by men. But the small Black spiritualist Hurleyite congregation (Universal Hagar) has a woman as pastor.
Universal Hagar Church, a Hurleyite congregation, is located across the street from Fair Hill Burial Ground. Photo by Edd Conboy. Used with permission.
How can we account for this? It might have something to do with Philadelphia’s cultural history of inclusivity, providing a context in which women broke through the stained glass ceiling in the AMEZ and Episcopal traditions. Perhaps it is more closely related with the Great Migration North, in which women sought out church anchors in neighborhoods in which to settle. Frankly, I am hoping a researcher will figure this out…and bottle it!
More impressive to me than the numbers are the amazing women I interviewed. Women like Pastor Jackie Morrow, who started a church and a school in a row house, and ministers to everyone in her corner of Northwest Philly, from the young men who play basketball in her parking lot to the mentally challenged woman who regularly stops by for prayer, food, and a hug. Or Rev. Melanie DeBouse, who pastors in the poorest neighborhood in the city and is teaching young children to “kiss your brain” and older men how to read. Or Rev. Cindy Jarvis, senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, where she oversees a budget of over a million dollars and has underwritten efforts to prevent gun violence, provide health care for the poor, and a vibrant social and educational program for seniors. These women, and others on the Avenue, are leaning in to take leadership roles not in corporations but in the trenches of gnarly urban problems.
Make no mistake: I like Sandberg’s book. But the clergy women of Germantown Avenue are leaning into stronger headwinds with impressive competence and confidence. They inspired me more.
Katie Day is the Charles A. Schieren Professor of Church and Society at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. She is the author of Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street and three other books and numerous articles that look at how religion impacts a variety of social realities.
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Henry Holt and Company, 2014
The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.
Elementary school students are often assigned a project in which students are asked to choose a biography from the school or public library, read the book, then write a report or create a project that highlights the accomplishments of the person. As a
If Salome dropped her veils today, would we call her bad? Or would we arrest her parents for a variety of crimes against a child? If Mata Hari made up a whole new self tomorrow and danced her way into a criminal lifestyle, would we execute her or send her to counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder? Would we encourage Lizzie Borden to move into her own apartment, Bloody Mary to establish an ecumenical council, and Typhoid Mary to take some nursing courses at a community college? Would we still consider these women bad? Or would we consider them victims of bad circumstances? As our world changes, so does our definition of bad. Especially when it comes to half the world's population--the half that happens to be female.
With women's relatively new rights--to speak out, to vote, to have power over their own bodies--comes a new set of responsibilities. Women are no longer required to do a man's bidding--no matter whether that bidding is legal or not. But no longer can a woman say that she was just followign a man and count that as justification for bad acts.
We measure guilt and innocence today on a sliding scale. And never has it been easier for the general public to "weigh" the misdeeds of its favorite modern-day bad girls. The nightly news, tabloids, blogs, and the fast pace of the Internet all make sure of this. Today, as throughout history, the court of public opinion is capable of swaying or tempering the criminal courts.
Now that you have been introduced to some of history's bad girls, you will have to decide for yourself if they were really bad, not so bad, or somewhere in the middle. And perhaps you will see that even the baddest of bad girls may have had a good reason for what she did.
On my mini book tour last week, I visited the lovely town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. While writing and researching about Anna Keichline for Women of Steel and Stone, Anna's grandniece, Nancy Perkins, asked if I'd be willing to allow the Bellefonte Art Museum to host an author reception when the book was published. I responded immediately, "But, of course." Fast forward two years later and scheduled considering good driving conditions, I headed toward the center of Pennsylvania. My trip was filled with many fun surprises and observations. Here are just a few of them: Stayed in a Anna-designed house!
Anna's grandniece, Nancy, owns a home designed by Anna and asked me if I wanted to stay with her during my visit. What a treat! Almost surreal. What surprised me was the realization that one really doesn't get the true feel of a piece of architecture until you see the work first hand.
Anna Keichline Designed Home
Anna's houses were designed with many unique details. The house reminded me of the California Bungalow I owned in Long Beach California - built in 1930 - but Anna's house had a basement, a second floor, and stairs to an attic. Some details that stood out to me were a cozy breakfast nook, beautiful fireplace, hardware for drapes on french doors, arched windows and matching doorknobs.
Hardware for Drapes
Kitchen Patent #1,612,730 1924
First Floor Bathroom
Harvey Apartments 1935
Decker House 1931
Bible Home 1916
Harvey House 1939
Beautiful architecture can be torn down.
Sadly, the beautiful Garman Opera House was recently torn down. Anna's Cadillac Building is disrepair but the community is hoping that it will escape the wrecking ball.
Beautiful architecture can be transformed into other uses.
In 2001, the Plaza Theatre was shut down and turned into the Plaza Centre Antique Gallery. Turning a art deco theatre to a two-story store changed the entire structure and feel of the building, but the beautiful ceiling details and unique wall coverings still remain. If you go to the very back of the second floor, you can still peek into the "crying room"--- a room for mothers to take their fussy babies and toddlers, a feature not found in theaters in the 1920s.
Plaza Theatre 1925
Plaza Theatre Ceiling Detail
Crying Room in Back of Theatre
Anna's Childhood Home
Anna's Cabin in Fishermen's Paradise
Office Where Anna Worked w/ her Father
Anna Featured on Bellefonte Monopoly
Book Signing in Anna K Exhibit
Nancy and I next to Anna
To get another perspective of Anna's life and the town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, here's an entertaining and informative YouTube video, that I just found.
The common stereotypes about battered women are wrong and not based on up-to-date science. Here are five common myths about battered women and the real truths about the realities and complexities of domestic violence.
Battered women keep domestic violence a secret.
Reality: Countless research studies show that most battered women disclose their partner’s violence to at least one person—about 80% to 90% of victims in many studies. Victims not only tell, they often tell multiple people and agencies. The problem is not that women don’t tell, it is that they do not receive useful help when they do disclose.
Victims just need to call the police.
Reality: Police officers cannot offer a cure-all for domestic violence. Police arrest perpetrators less than half the time when they are called to the scene of domestic violence incidents, according to the most recently available national data. Worse, arrested perpetrators seldom go to jail—approximately five out of six perpetrators arrested for domestic violence never serve any jail time.
Battered women don’t seek professional help.
Reality: Despite the limitations of police and victim services in many communities, battered women seek help at rates that are similar to people facing other problems. Battered women report to the police at rates that are similar to many other crime victims, and also similar to the helpseeking of people with psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
Battered women just need to leave.
Reality: All sorts of dangers can increase when women try to leave, including separation violence, stalking, and increased homicide risk. Further, custody battles and other risks can, in some ways, pose even greater threats to women’s well-being and that of their children. We all wish that there was a simple solution like walking out, but the reality is far more complex.
Most women need professional help to cope with domestic violence.
Reality: Most women cope with the problem of domestic violence with informal helpseeking. In nationally representative data, it was ten times more common for women to go to a friend or family’s house than to a domestic violence shelter.
If you want to help women who have been victims of domestic violence, listen to their assessments of what is important, respect their values, and help them come up with a plan or seek resources that address all of the complexities and realities of domestic violence.
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Image Credit: Violencia de género. Photo by Concha García Hernández. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Last month on National Astronomy Day, I was at the Clay Center Observatory signing copies of How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know.After inscribing a copy for a young boy, I looked up at his older sister.
“Do you want to go to space, too?” I asked.
“I did once,” she said.
She gave me a small smile, a Mona Lisa smile—that is, if Mona L. were a just-budding adolescent proud of her newly acquired sense of condescension.
“Oh…other things took over,” she said in a tone that implied I couldn’t possibly know what she meant.
Oh…but I do.Having been there and done that, I was actually thinking about something else.Do these other things that "take over" really have to edge out wanting to go into space or a daily check on favorite animal cams?Is this really an either/or situation? Do the hormones make us want to pack away those childish things?Or, despite so many strides, do we still think there’s only one type of girl that does those hormones justice?
This last question still on my mind, I later googled “nerds becoming popular” and immediately clicked on the images page.I already knew that Sheldon’s chic and Zuckerberg’s billions have brought those three words in close company.What I wanted to know was how many pictures of girls I would see sprinkled in among the guys wearing pocket protectors and suspenders.
Discounting “popular” girls torturing geeks, here’s the first “nerd girl” picture I came upon.I was hopeful. What a fool I was. Once I clicked through to its home site, here are the words I found:Who would have thought that being a nerd would be cool? Well the time has finally come. There is nothing more fashionable that an over-sized pair of geeky glasses. PS-When I saved the picture to my computer to easily transfer to this post, I noticed it was labeled, "pretty nerd."
Little Mona Lisa Girl at the Clay Center, the deck has been stacked against you.Come on, STEM books, cool geek girl role models, Neil Degrasse Tyson.Help girls aspire to go to space and wear cool nail polish in orbit, if that’s what they want.Help everybody feel as if science and smart is back in fashion and sexy.
I spoke to astronaut Sunita Williams when writing Burp in Space, but never asked her if she felt she had to choose between lipstick and her dreams.I wish I had. Maybe I would have been primed to say something to this young girl.Even if she couldn’t hear me now, perhaps it would plant a seed. I know lots of girls get reacquainted with previous interests as women, but I hate to think of what has been lost in the meantime because their intellectual passions couldn’t coexist with the teenage definition of femininity.
On June 20, Liz Rusch is publishing I.N.K.’s last recommended booklist.This time it focuses on STEM-related topics.Let’s all take a second look.
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Thank you, Linda.Thank you, I.N.K. Thanks to all of our readers. It’s been a pleasure.