Brown vs. Board of Education—the Supreme Court decision that ruled school segregation unconstitutional—passed in 1954, but turning legislature into action took several years to transpire. It wasn't until 1957 that nine black students, already enrolled at Little Rock Central High, began their first day of school, only to be met with an angry crowd and the Arkansas National Guard. The governor of Alabama, Orval Faubus (names don't get much more evil-sounding than that) prevented the students from entering the school. It took a presidential intervention on the part of Eisenhower to send the National Guard to escort the students. Behind the scenes though, was Daisy Bates.
Ella Baker is best known for her involvement in the civil rights movement during the late 1950s and 1960s, when she helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. These organizations were indeed pivotal, but, as Baker herself said, "One of the things that has to be faced is the process of waiting to change the system, how much we have got to do to find out who we are, where we have come from and where we are going." Baker believed that a revolution entailed an ongoing process rather than a finite blueprint; her accomplishments and ideology then, should be studied as a transformative trajectory rather than as discrete events.
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.