Though Clara Schumann was born in 1819, her biography reads more like a modern-day drama. Raised by a divorced father (the infamously temperamental piano teacher Frederick Wieck), Schumann quickly developed virtuoso skills on the piano and became a child star, touring Europe before the age of 18. While her touring paid the bills (much more than her husband Robert Schumann's job composing), Schumann's piano playing transformed into a love and knack for composition that earned her the adoration of Chopin, Brahms, and Mendelssohn. Yet the environment for women composers in the 1800s was toxic—so much so that it inspired Schumann to lament at the age of 20 that, "A woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?"
"I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him."
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.
"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.
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.
The groundswell of support that Angela Davis received after her
wrongful imprisonment in 1970 (based on trumped up murder charges in connection
with the Black Panthers' attempt to free three black prisoners from a
correctional facility in Soledad, California) was enough to get her
acquitted 18 months later by an all-white jury. The involvement of her
close friend Bettina Aptheker in particular is an awesome story of
sisterhood and solidarity, and is the focus of this week's Adventures