The first time I heard of Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was during my American History class in high school. It was a brief, albeit important introduction to the first woman to receive an M.D. and become the first woman physician in the United States. A pioneer in educating women in medicine and a prominent figure in the emerging women's rights movement, Elizabeth Blackwell had a long and illustrious life. As I continued to read about her, I also found out that her family, more specifically her sisters, were also amazing trailblazers who helped Elizabeth Blackwell in many endeavors!
Reggie Jackson. Wilt Chamberlain. Frank Gifford. Pete Rose. What do these guys have in common? Besides their dexterity with various kinds of balls, they were, in 1978, among the familiar faces bought and swapped on trading cards.
They also weren't women, a fact duly noted by 8-year-old Melissa Rich, an avid collector of trading cards who had something of a feminist awakening when she noticed that her baseball cards were skewing really, really, male. She brought this to the attention of her mother, Lois, who in turn consulted with her sister, Barbara Egerman, and soon enough the idea for a series of trading cards highlighting the achievements of women was taking shape.
Gloria Anzaldúa lived a pedal-to-the-metal life, refusing to deny any aspects of her dynamic identity and writing her own page in the great book of queer/feminist/critical theory by tearing out 20 others. Her writings are enactments of the "borderland/frontera" concept that she pioneered; her books fly between prose and poetry, English and Spanish, and any number of personal and theoretical topics that she felt compelled to put between a front and back cover. In occupying a space between genres, topics, cultures and identities, she broke the hegemonic norms that sought to restrain her throughout her life.
"If you're looking for quiet, soothing music that will lull you to sleep, put a record on your phonograph and spend the evening at home. But if you want to hear singing that will make the blood pound in your pulse, listen to the brown bomber of sophisticated song at Mona's Club 440. Her name is Gladys Bentley and she's as gifted with the piano keys as with her vocal cords."
Halloween has arrived! If you're still scrambling for a last-minute costume to wear out tonight, put down the "sexy cat" getup—Adventures in Feministory is here to help! Here are five costume ideas from the past year in Feministories, all guaranteed to make for great Halloweenwear (and you don't even need a pushup bra to pull them off). Click on the links after the jump to learn all about these women (and get info to enhance your costume)!
Dara Puspita ("Flower Girls" in English) were the first Indonesian group of women to pick up instruments and play rock music on their own, without the assistance of any men. Up through the '60s, many Indonesian women had found musical success singing for bands with only dudes, but Dara Puspita decided to cut to the chase and write, perform, and play their own songs. The four jet-setters played in clubs around the world to critical oohs and ahs, but more importantly, they paved the way in their own country for Indonesian women in rock.
"The average farmworker lived 49 years—compared to 70 years for the white majority in the United States. A migrant worker's baby was twice as likely to die as babies of other people. Farmworkers were three times as likely as other people to get tuberculosis, three times as likely to get hurt on the job, and were the lowest-paid workers in the country."
Jessie de la Cruz grew up in these conditions, and as one of the first female organizers of the United Farmworkers of America, devoted her life to make sure that others wouldn't have to.
Imagine, if you will, that you are living in Missouri at the end of the Civil War (1864 or thereabouts). Imagine also that you are a woman without a ton of moneymaking options who is in need of a job ASAP. Oh, and you are also a recently freed slave living in a place and time where people are still getting used to the idea that you aren't a piece of property. (And we thought it was tough to find a job in this economy.) What on earth will you do to support yourself?
Well, if you are a feisty entrepeneuse with a working knowledge of military life like Ms. Cathay Williams, what you will do is dress in drag and join the U.S. Army.
Carmen Miranda, the lady in the tutti-frutti hat, captivated global audiences from the 1930s through the 1950s. She had charm, talent, and money. She also had an incessant loyalty to her identity—affording curiosity, admiration, desertion, parody, and her own self-mockery. All this from a pop icon who once said she only needed a good bowl of soup and the freedom to sing to be happy.