Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out last week, and it's pretty safe to say that most of the universe has witches (and wizards) on the brain. The blockbuster success of the Harry Potter franchise is not all that surprising, though, considering that humans have been obsessed with witchcraft both real and imagined for millennia. One of our favorite things to do throughout history has been to accuse social outliers of one form or another of being witches, whatever exactly that means.
You know those stickers that say, "Well-behaved women rarely make history"? Well, they also rarely get into the history books without getting called a witch at some point along the way. Go figure. This week, I've rounded up some historical figures of varying degrees of renown who would, according to their detractors, have fit right in at Hogwarts with Hermione, Ron, and Harry.
Ladyween (yes, that's what we're calling Halloween here at Bitch HQ these days—it's gonna catch on, trust us) is fast approaching. If you're still searching for the perfect costume, one that combines feminism with history and still leaves you looking sharp, look no further than the Adventures in Feministory archives!
Voltairine de Cleyre was an Anarchist thinker, lecturer, and writer. A contemporary of Emma Goldman's, she was known for her strength of will and commitment to the power of the individual. (Incidentally, she was also a total babe.)
I wanted to write about de Cleyre for the obvious reason that she was a totally brilliant early feminist, but also because while Goldman, her colleague and sometimes adversary, was and continues to be a hugely famous progressive hero, de Cleyre is a relatively obscure figure. This is partly because she died young and partly because she wasn't nearly as gregarious as Goldman, preferring to publish and fundraise in relative solitude. But! The work she did, though different than Goldman's, was just as important.
Speaking as one of the few women at the Pan-African Congress conference in London, 1900, founding the Colored Women's YWCA in 1905, and pushing W.E.B Du Bois to write Black Reconstruction are only three of Anna Julia Cooper's achievements. Sure, when you live to be 105, you can set your sights high, but in an era of progressive depravity when it came to race and gender, Cooper's position as one of America's formidable scholars and educators is no small feat.
This week's Feministory subject, Phoolan Devi, had a life that read like an action movie screenplay. In fact, her life BECAME an action movie screenplay. But integral to discussions of Devi and her harrowing story is the search for truth. Who knew the truth about her? Did she tell the truth? Did the books and movie about her tell the truth? Who WASN'T telling the truth? And which truth were her assassins following when they shot her in front of her home in 2001?
What do you know about Puerto Rican feminists? Not enough, right? Me either, which is why this week's Feministory features a crucial feminist of the United States' often overlooked Commonwealth, Puerto Rico.
Sylvia Plath is the most famous woman poet of the 1950s. She's probably one of the most famous poets of the 20th century. And she was a pretty good poet. Her work is honest, heartwrenching, and chock-full of angst and guilt and daddy issues. But she's also famous for her bummer life story (anybody who's read The Bell Jar knows the extent of the bummer factor), and frankly, I'm a little tired of her. That's why this week's Adventures in Feministory is not about Plath. I want to profile another '50s-era poet who is sometimes overlooked and whose story is
filled with a lot of sassy, smart letter-writing and a prolonged Brazilian
vacation: Elizabeth Bishop.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that women have had a significant impact on the history of American labor politics. From the Atlanta Washerwomen Strike in 1881 to Jane Addams' Hull House, women have always kicked ass and taken names in the name of workers' rights. However, this is a pop culture blog and I am a self-proclaimed pop culture addict, so I say we celebrate Labor Day 2010 with an awesome pop cultural representation of women and labor politics: Norma
Although she always claimed her birthday was May 1st--International Worker's Day, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was born on August 1st, 1837 (although she also claimed to be born years earlier, in part to maintain her grandmotherly public persona).