Here is the semi-embarrassing circumstance that resulted in the more-than-semi-embarrassing-realization that I haven't yet written about Maya Angelou for this blog: I was watching the first day of OWN's (Oprah Winfrey Network, duh) new programming with my mom, (...nope. Can't even come up with a sarcastic parenthetical. I just was.) and saw that Dr. Angelou would be featured on an upcoming series called "Master Class." Actually, I saw that a new show on OWN would feature Maya Ang—, which is all I saw before I bolted off the couch to my computer and yelled back to my mom that we needed to figure out DVR recording before Sunday night at 10. She was surprised by my new enthusiasm for the Winfrey gospel, needless to say. And I'm surprised I haven't yet waxed adoring on this writer, this poet, this actress, director, dancer, professor, activist, this woman who more than any other artist makes me glad to be American, to be female, to be human at the same time as her.
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.
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.
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.
Given the current economic crisis (and the fact that Slumdog Millionaire cleaned up at last night's Oscars), it seemed high time we dedicated the Adventures in Feministory segment of the blog to a woman who was all about the Benjamins. We could all use a little financial inspiration these days, right?
So stop clipping those coupons, put off your dumpster diving until the weather gets a little warmer, and read on to learn more about Madam CJ Walker, the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire. Let's hope that her entrepeneurial spirit and skill at crafting hair care products for black women (her specialty) will inspire some of us to follow in her feministory footsteps.