In the public library I recently came across a really interesting book called Women in Pacific Northwest History. It's a collection of articles about specific women and groups of women who made an impact on the culture and politics of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. I paged through articles about some really amazing people like Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon settler and suffragist, and Bertha Knight Landes, who was mayor of Seattle in the 1920s and the first woman mayor of a major US city. The Northwest has a rich history of women who worked for positive change, and the book, edited by Karen J. Blair, is worth checking out, especially for all of you famously proud Northwesterners.
One section that particularly stood out to me was an article by Gail M. Nomura about a Japanese-American woman named Teiko Tomita. Tomita was born in Japan in 1896 and worked as an elementary school teacher until her early twenties, when her parents matched her with a man who was working as a farmer on the Yakama Indian Reservation in central Washington state. After a two-year epistolary courtship, the two were married in Japan. Soon after their wedding, they traveled to Washington to farm for a few years, thinking they would earn some money and return to Japan. But the climate in central Washington was harsh, and the Tomitas faced prejudice and isolation. The weren't able to earn enough money to go home. Teiko Tomita stayed in the US until her death in 1990.
Djuna Barnes was a poet, novelist, journalist, and artist whose work was known for its unique prose rhythms, its sexual openness, and its fascination with the bawdy and grotesque. She lived in Greenwich Village in the bohemian 1910s, frequented the artists' salons in 1920s Paris, and late in life became a cult icon and famous recluse.
Today's installment of Adventures in Feministory is about a woman who fought for freedom in the Mexican Revolution, reminding her male cohorts that the equal rights they were fighting for should include women as well as men. Meet Dolores Jiménez y Muro: teacher, writer, activist, and Colonel in the Mexican Revolutionary Army.
Although you can count her published works on one hand, Nella Larsen's achievements went beyond literature. She was a head nurse at the Tuskegee Institute, and the first African-American woman to graduate from library school as well as the first to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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.