In 1966, when Jean Rhys was 76 years old, her novel Wide Sargasso Sea was published. The novel, a prequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, is told from the perspective of the Caribbean Creole "madwoman in the attic" who was Mr. Rochester's first wife. Her editor, who worked with her on Wide Sargasso Sea,highlights the difficulty of Rhys' life, saying, "It is impossible to describe briefly the burdens inflicted on her by poverty, loneliness...It remains a mystery how someone so ill-equipped for life, upon whom life had visited such tribulations, could force herself to hang on, whatever the battering she was taking, to the artists at the centre of herself."
Once women got the right to vote, they didn't consistently vote dry – in part because an unintended consequence of Prohibition (working in tandem with the social and economic aftermath of World War I) was that for the first time in U.S. history, drinking was no longer the exclusive provenance of men. Women held or went to parties where alcohol was served, and they also went out to speakeasies. The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Repeal turned the WCTU's home-hearth-and-health arguments right back at them, saying, "Children are growing up with a total lack of respect for the Constitution and for the law."
The pairing of women's suffrage and Prohibition always seemed to me like another quirky historical coupling, an example of the same group of people simultaneously favoring a critical common-sense idea (universal suffrage) and an unbelievably naïve, moralistic solution to society's problems (Prohibition).
Early in the morning of November 8, 2000, Donna Brazile sent a text to then–presidential candidate Al Gore. The candidate lay in wait with several aides, watching as the chaotic election results unraveled. Out of either determination, or stubbornness, she texted "Never surrender. It's not over yet." Even without winning the election, Donna Brazile had already made history as the first woman of color to ever direct a major national presidential campaign.
Domitila Barrios de Chungara was a labor rights leader and political activist from Bolivia. In addition to advancing the status of the working class of Bolivia, Barrios de Chungara was also an advocate for women's rights.
You probably know her as the French intellectual who penned the feminist tome The Second Sex. But did you know that in addition to writing this 800-page (in English translation—the French is shorter) classic of feminist theory, Beauvoir was also a journalist, essayist, novelist, playwright, memoirist, and travel writer? Recently, there has been a renaissance in Beauvoir studies dedicated to fully exploring her prolific body of work.
If all you know for sure about Columbus Day is that some guy did something in 1492, consider spending part of your "holiday" today learning more. Then reconsider Columbus Day altogether, because it's a truly shameful part of US history that should be remembered but certainly not celebrated.
To really celebrate, we'd also have to kill that someone.
Margaret "Marge" Tucker was a 20th-century Australian Aboriginal activist, organizer, and writer.
Born on the Moonahculla Reservein 1904, Tucker (at the age of 13) and her sister (who was 11) were forcibly separated from their mother and sent to Cootamundra Girls' Home, where they were trained to be domestic workers for two years. She then went to work for little pay for white families, some of whom were abusive. These relocations came courtesy of the Aboriginal Protection Board, where "protection" in this case meant protecting Aboriginal people from themselves—separating families and dictating employment, residence, and education for Aboriginal people.
Today, the Raging Grannies wear purple to protests and harmonize songs like the "Free Trade Trot" or "Police Brutality." In 1985, a 60-year-old Denver grandmother named Justine Merritt was an original raging granny—only she channeled her frustration against the military industrial complex into embroidering.
As a good queer studies (not to be confused with lgbt studies, gender studies, and women's studies–though, they're all related) student, it's important to have your bases covered. You start with the foundational texts, because as an incredibly new (we're talking about my age, here) and constantly evolving field of knowledge, queer studies theories inevitably build on each other as society changes. As Michael Warner coined, queer studies is "a subject-less critique, with a focus on a wide field of normalization as the site of social violence." Terms are carried from one essay to the next, ideas are thrown diagonally, across, backwards, and mixed up with a whole bunch of other things ranging from race theory, to postcolonial theory, to pretty much every social study under the sun, and basically, if you start somewhere in the middle, you'll probably get lost, and overwhelmed. It's like a secret club where everyone cites each other. But don't be discouraged—you can catch up! Let's take a trip down queer memory lane, and visit some old friends. If you've ever read any contemporary feminist or women's and gender studies material, it's likely that you've come across the names of those who are considered pioneers of queer theory—Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, Lauren Berlant, and of course, Eve Sedgwick, amongst a host of other fancy academics. Like many queer theorists, Sedgwick's writing is dense, and not the easiest to unpack in a single read, but I swear she was an awesome lady who I am definitely grateful to have read in such depth.