Monday, September 30, 2013

O’Keeffe’s “almost successful aspiration to be entirely her own woman

"In 1979, Georgia O’Keeffe at ninety-two was the only living woman to be included in artist Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party.” A tribute in place settings of porcelain and embroidery to thirty-nine important women in history. O’Keeffe’s plate rose off the table higher than any other plate—symbolizing, in Chicago’s view, O’Keeffe’s “almost successful aspiration to be entirely her own woman.” ~Jean Shinoda Bolen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Making amends is the beginning of the healing of the world

“To salve the world’s wounds demands a response from the heart. There is a world of hurt out there, and to heal the past requires apologies, reconciliation, reparation, and forgiveness. A viable future isn’t possible until the past is faced objectively and communion is made with our errant history. I suspect that just about everyone owes an apology and merits one, but there are races, cultures, and people that are particularly deserving. The idea that we cannot apologize to former enslaved and first peoples for past iniquities because we are not the ones who perpetuated the evil misses the point. By receiving sorrow, hearing admissions, allowing reparation, and participating in reconciliation, people and tribes whose ancestors were abused give new life to all of us in the world we share. Making amends is the beginning of the healing of the world.” ~Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

Saturday, September 28, 2013

At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman

"In the beginning people prayed to the Creatress of Life. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman." 
~Merlin Stone 

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Friday, September 27, 2013

A woman who writes has power

“A woman who writes has power, and a woman with power is feared. In the eyes of the world this makes us dangerous beasts.” ~Gloria E. Anzaldúa

I am the person I know best

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best. " Frida Kahlo

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next." ~ Helen Keller

A Tribute to Amy Johnson

On this day,
Shire blood flowing
in your veins,
you -
moth-borne -
half-way around the globe.
Not yet thirty years
from birth,
you knew,
your Yorkshire lass roots -
grounding you always -
would let you fly
beyond your northern sky
to other worlds,
other places,
new smiles
on new faces...
More years behind me
than you were allowed,
I too find my wings.
My roots -
deep in your Yorkshire soil,
straddling England
to sink for generations into London -
allow my branches to reach high
and the birds of my thoughts to fly
dancing with your gipsy-moth soul
that calls dry,
North-of-England confirmations
that your precedent
flings freedom
to the four corners of my world
and spins it
to a multi-coloured globe.
~Ruth Calder Murphy
Picture: Amy Johnson - British Pilot (1 July 1903 – 5 January 1941)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Something to strongly consider as Herstorians....

“This means that, as a Black feminist, I cannot be expected to respect what somebody else calls self-love if that concept of self-love requires my suicide to any degree. And this will hold true whether that somebody else is male, female, Black, or white. My Black feminism means that you cannot expect me to respect what somebody else identifies as the Good of The People, if that so-call Good (often translated into manhood or family or nationalism) requires the deferral or the diminution of my self-fulfillment. We are the people.“  ~June Jordan, “Where is the Love?”

Why feminism is important

“…women are caught in a cycle of repetition. They go through life experiences that others have had and theorized about without being able to build upon those theories. That is why feminism is important, especially - though not exclusively - for women. Feminism represents a body of knowledge that allows us to break the cycle of repetition and live our lives based upon KNOWLEDGE rather than IGNORANCE.”- Judy Chicago

Every Woman's Story Counts - Including Yours

In media, as in all areas of leadership, we have a 17% problem. Regardless of what media you chose - or sector of culture including government and business leadership, women make up somewhere between 17-20% of producers and contributors, especially at senior levels and where money and decision making happen. The status of Women in Media, while slowly changing, is incontrovertible. News. Movies and Entertainment. Gaming. History and literature. Magazines. Political narrative. Online communities. School curricula. The number is, mercifully, slightly higher on line. In advertising - a major form of very visible content - 97% of creative directors are men. In movies, 75% of all producers, 80% of all editors, 86% writers, 95% of all directors are men. On screen 77% of all protagonists in top grossing films are male.

The result: We tell every conceivable kind of story about boys and men - . Whereas we continue to shroud the complexity and diversity of women's life experiences in invisibility, shame and silence. ~Soraya Chemaly

Every Woman's Story Counts - Including Yours

Art by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Living in the earth-depositis of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

~Adrienne Rich

Monday, September 23, 2013

Huda Shaarawi, Egyptian feminist & activist

Huda Shaarawi (1879–1947) was an Egyptian feminist who influenced not only women in Egypt but throughout the Arab world. She was a pioneer in feminism, and brought to light the restrictive world of upper-class women in her book The Harem Years, published in 1987.

Huda Shaarawi (also spelled Hoda Shaarawi or Sha’arawi) was raised in the harem system, which kept women secluded and veiled. Very wealthy families would have separate buildings and eunuchs to guard the women and act as their messengers to the outer world. The word “harem” actually refers to the rooms in which the women stayed, separate from the men. All women, rich or poor, went outside veiled, except peasant women in the countryside. Veiling and the harem system were cultural traditions, and were followed by Jewish and Christian women as well as Muslim.

Huda was very well educated from a young age. She was tutored in a variety of subjects and spoke French, Turkish, and Arabic.

At the age of 13, Huda was married to her cousin Ali Pasha Shaarawi. In their marriage contract, he had promised to leave his slave-concubine, but she bore him a child a year after their marriage. Huda separated from him and they remained so for the next 7 years. During this time she was able to be independent, since her father had died when she was young. She extended her education and became involved in activism. As she grew older, her husband, a political activist himself, included her in his political meetings, and often sought her counsel.

Huda had a hand in many “firsts” for women in Egyptian society. In 1908, she founded the first philanthropic society run by Egyptian women, where they offered services for poor women and children. She believed that having women run such projects would challenge the view that women are created for men’s pleasure and in need of protection. In 1910, she opened a school for girls focused on academics, rather than teaching practical skills like midwifery which was common at the time.

Around the world, social reform movements, including women’s suffrage, were gaining ground, and the women of Egypt were not immune. The country was modernizing, expanding educational opportunities for women. She organized lectures for women on various topics, bringing them out of their homes and into public places. After the World War I, many women left the harem to take action against British rule in Egypt, and Huda Shaarawi stood up to organize them. In 1919, she helped to organize the largest women’s anti-British demonstration.

In 1923, Huda Shaarawi founded the Egyptian Feminist Union, which is still active as a non-profit today. They focused on various issues, including women’s suffrage and education. Huda was also passionately against restrictions on women’s dress and freedom of movement, which was a central part of harem life.

Huda had evolved as a feminist throughout her life, influenced by the inequalities she had endured growing up, as well as her education, her period of freedom after her marriage, and the ongoing changes in the world. When Egyptian independence was announced in 1922, women were expected to return to their old way of life in the harem after helping fight for freedom. Huda was not prepared to do that.

After Huda’s husband died in 1923, she made a decision for which she is now famous. She returned to Egypt after attending a women’s conference in Europe. Stepping off the train back in Cairo, she removed her veil in front of the crowd in public. Everyone was shocked at first. After a few moments, the crowd broke into cheers and applause. Some women joined her in removing their own veils. Within a decade of Huda’s act of defiance, few women still chose to wear the veil.

Hoda Shaarawi continued to lead the Egyptian Feminist Union until her death, demonstrating and organizing the fight for women’s rights in the new Egypt. She represented Egypt at women’s conferences around the world, advocating for peace and disarmament. She was also a member (and in 1935, vice-president) of the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship, and founding president of the Arab Feminist Union in 1945.

With her unique blend of western-style feminism with her own country’s customs, culture, and Egyptian nationalism, Huda Shaarawi influenced millions of Arab women and people all around the world.

Used with permission and gratitude from

Sunday, September 22, 2013

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Last month was the fiftieth anniversary of The March on Washington, during which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. With millions of others, I read about the march, reread the speech, and followed the stories about the commemorative marches in Washington, DC, Richmond, VA, and elsewhere. When I was a child learning about this march in school, it had the flatness of history, which is presented to schoolchildren as something solid, with a beginning, middle, and end. Something that can be snapped shut, like a book or a laptop. This, of course, is not so—not so at all. The movement toward racial equality is still here, catching its breath, taking the lay of the land, and planning for the next leg of the journey. As I watch the shape it takes and learn the contours I missed as a student, I think of the women of this movement, whose names should occupy a firm space in our memories and hearts, but who are too often strangers to their own legacies. Today, I want to honor one of those women: Fannie Lou Hamer.

You know the saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”? That was Fannie Lou Hamer. Her life gave the words depth and resonance—born Fannie Lou Townsend in 1917 to Mississippi sharecroppers, she worked hard to survive her entire life. She also became a central figure in the fight for freedom. After attending a civil rights meeting in 1962, she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an activist group that fought racial injustices and segregation in the South, and she dedicated herself to helping other black people to register to vote. She knew how to organize, orate, and motivate people—her biographer, Kay Mills, said, “If Fannie Lou Hamer had had the same opportunities that Martin Luther King had, then we would have had a female Martin Luther King.”

She knew how to stand up to those in power, how to use truth to confront injustice. And injustice was something with which she was intimately, violently familiar—she was childless because she was sterilized without her permission during an unrelated procedure, and she was arrested, jailed, and severely beaten for her activism within the SNCC. The things this woman had to put up with just to survive, much less to keep up her faith and her fight, are astonishing. But they weren’t rare—they were, in fact, commonplace for a black woman in the South at that time, particularly one involved in activism. Which means that Hamer was extraordinary—to be able to stand and speak and fight and inspire as she did, not to give in to the internal and external pressures of pain and shame and degradation.

In 1964, Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party—in that same year, she went as a delegate of the party to the presidential convention. She spoke of her jailing and beating on national television and challenged Senator Hubert Humphrey when he was pressuring her to take a political deal that would have given token power to a few black people without real change: “Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people’s lives?

The impact of a black woman challenging a powerful white man on TV was enormous—it showed people what was possible. That is what Ms. Hamer did with her extraordinary talents, strength, will, and faith—she showed people what was possible as well as right. And in doing so, she brought us all closer to justice, that place we are still trying to get to, where equality isn’t just a word, and no one is prevented by violence or manipulation from exercising his or her right to vote, and to a voice in our political process. She knew the truth, and she spoke it powerfully: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

~Elizabeth Hall Magill, "Fannie Lou Hamer: A Profile" from

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Queen Liliʻuokalani, first and last queen regnant of Hawaii

Liliʻuokalani (1838–1917), born Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha, was the first female monarch of Hawaii to reign in her own right. Up until the 1890s, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was an independent sovereign state, officially recognized by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Germany. During Liliʻuokalani’s reign, the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii took place in 1893, when she abdicated “to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life”.

Queen Liliʻuokalani is remembered for her many musical compositions, including the famous song “Aloha ʻOe” (“Farewell the Thee”). Many of these were written during her imprisonment after she abdicated her throne, and they express a deep love of her land and people.

Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha was born, one of 15 children, on September 2, 1838 to High Chiefess Analea Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea. Her mother was one of the fifteen counsellors of the king Kamehameha III.

Traditionally, parents created new names for their children, giving careful thought to their meaning. Sometimes these names were revealed in dreams or visions. Incidents before or during a child’s birth were considered significant in their naming, as in Liliʻu’s case: Liliʻu’s great-aunt developed an eye infection at the time of her birth, which is why she was given the names “Liliʻu” meaning “smarting”; “Loloku” meaning tearful; “Walania”, “a burning pain”; and “Kamakaʻeha”, “sore eyes”. Though it may seem strange to us, in Hawaiʻian culture these names were not considered bad, ugly, or unlucky; they commemorated the time of her birth.

Liliʻu‘s brother Kalākaua was elected to the throne in 1874, after the previous monarch Lunalilo died without an heir. Kalākaua immediately named his brother Leleiohoku as his heir, putting an end to the era of elected kings in Hawaiʻi. However, Leleiohoku died childless in 1877, so King Kalākaua named their sister Liliʻu as his heir. Kalākaua gave his sister the name “Liliʻuokalani”, meaning “the smarting of the royal ones”.

In 1887, Liliʻuokalani learned that her brother had been forced to sign the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This consitution immediately became known as the “Bayonet Constitution” because of the use of intimidation by armed militia which forced King Kalākaua to sign it or be deposed. The consitution was written by Hawaiian, American, and European anti-monarchists to strip the Hawaiian monarchy of much of its power, instead empowering the kingdom’s legislature and cabinet. Many of those who wrote or backed the constitution saw it as a first step toward the overthrow of the kingdom and the annexation of Hawaii into the United States.

King Kalākaua died after a long illness on January 20, 1891; his final words were, “Tell my people I tried.” Liliuokalani inherited the throne shortly after. Believing she had the support of her hand-picked cabinet, Queen Liliʻuokalani began working to annul the constitution forced onto her people. She started writing a new constitition that would restore the veto power to the monarchy, and voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians.

When they heard of Queen Liliʻuokalani’s new constitution, American and European businessmen and residents started organizing to depose her. They wanted Hawaii annexed to the United States so that their businesses could have the same sugar bounties as domestic producers. In 1893, they formed a “Committee of Safety” to accomplish their goals of overthrowing the Hawaiian Kingdom and deposing the Queen, and the annexation of Hawaiʻi to the United States.

On January 16th in 1893, sailors and marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore under orders of neutrality. The presence of these troops, ostensibly to enforce neutrality and prevent violence, were effectively a threat to Queen Liliʻuokalani and made it impossible for the monarchy to protect itself.

Liliʻuokalani was a peaceful, spiritual woman, and believed in a peaceful resistance. She did not want the blood of Hawaiian people to be shed. Hoping that the US would eventually restore Hawaii’s sovereignty to the rightful holder, the Queen temporarily relinquished her throne to the superior military forces of the United States:

I, Lili’uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government. Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.
— Queen Liliʻuokalani, Jan 17, 1893

However, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s wish for Hawaii to regain its independence was not to be fulfilled. The Provisional Government, composed of European and American businessmen, refused to reinstate her sovereignty, despite a report commissioned by US President Grover Cleveland’s administration finding her overthrow illegal.

The annexation of Hawaii was delayed by two petitions with over 38,000 signatures representing ninety-five percent of the Native Hawaiian population, and the Queen went to Washington D.C. herself to petition for her cause.

Despite all of this, the Republic of Hawaiʻi was proclaimed on July 4th 1894, with Sanford B. Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, proclaimed as President. The Republic of Hawaiʻi was recognized by the United States government as a protectorate (similar to Puerto Rico’s status in modern times). Voting rights were limited to only 4,000, most of them politicians already in power.

Liliʻuokalani herself was arrested on 16 January 1895, accused of being involved in a failed 1895 counter-revolution, though she denied any knowledge or involvement at her trial. She was put under house imprisonment for a year, until in 1896 when the Republic of Hawaiʻi gave her a full pardon and restored her civil rights.

Liliʻu was an incredibly accomplished and prolific musician. She played the guitar, piano, organ, ʻukulele and zither, and sang alto. She could read and write music, and loved composing songs in her native Hawaiian language.

The Hawaiian people have been from time immemorial lovers of poetry and music[...] To compose was as natural to me as to breathe; and this gift of nature, never having been suffered to fall into disuse, remains a source of the greatest consolation to this day.

Though Liliʻu came from a family of accomplished musicians, she was the most prolific. What distinguished Liliʻuokalani from her family was her huge number of compositions, her ability to notate her songs, and her hard work to perserve and publish them for her people.

I have had more calls for my music than I could possibly supply. An edition of “Aloha Oe,” published by me in Washington this winter, simply for gifts to my friends, is nearly exhausted. No copies have ever been offered for sale; but in response to the very general wish, I have collected a number of my songs, chants, and pieces written or translated by me during the past twenty years or more, and hope soon to put them into the hands of the publisher, so that any stranger desiring to possess samples of Hawaiian music may have that opportunity.

She wrote original compositions as well as notated and translated many traditional Hawaiian songs. She hoped to preserve the musical traditions of Hawaii so that its history and culture would never be lost.

These songs, in which our music circles then excelled, are to be heard amongst our people to the present day. And yet it still remains true that no other composer but myself has ever reduced them to writing.

In her original music, she helped to preserve key elements of Hawaii’s traditional poetry, while mixing in Western harmonies brought by the missionaries. In her musical compositions, she expressed her feelings for her people, her country, and what was happening in the political realm in Hawaii.

Liliʻuokalani dictated in her will that all of her possessions and properties be sold and the money raised would go to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Children’s Trust to help poor and orphaned children. The Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust Fund still exists today, and published a compilation of her works in 1999 titled The Queen’s Songbook.

Shared with permission from

Friday, September 20, 2013

Girls Re(write) Herstory

I have a sense of reverence about women’s history, partly because my life would be incredibly restricted if it weren’t for the sacrifices of women who have lived before me and partly because women’s history is hard won twice over. First, in the living—words spoken and bodies risked. And second, in the learning—for women’s history isn’t taught as just plain history. Consciously forgetting or omitting the names of women who shaped our world is a form of disrespect and dishonor, and a direct way in which patriarchy perpetuates itself. To undo this damage, women’s history must be sought and found—it must be devoured whole and savored slowly. It must be learned, not just by women, but by us all, so that we might know where we are, who got us here and how, and where we’re going. I am happy to have discovered a new resource for doing just that: a blog named Girls Re(write) Herstory.

The blog, created by children’s author and activist Trista Hendren, empowers girls and women to create the present by learning and sharing knowledge about their heroines, or “She-roes.” Anyone, anywhere can write an essay about a She-roe and submit it—children as young as five are welcome to participate. Trista’s goal is to collect enough essays and resources to begin publishing books about women and girls—a wonderful way to reclaim our past while creating our present. The blog already includes an interesting list of She-roes, including Ada Lovelace (who helped to develop and explain an early version of a computer and software) feminist She-roes such as Alice Paul, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Gloria Steinem, and living women who are shaping our world, such as Indian environmental activist and author Vandana Shiva.

In addition to information about She-roes, the blog includes inspirational stories, quotations from women who have shaped our culture and our understanding, and links to interesting articles and resources. I encourage you to check out this blog, share it with others, contribute an essay or help a young girl or woman write her own essay, or help in any other way you can. Girls Re(write) Herstory is creating a shared repository of knowledge that is empowering, inspiring, and comforting. In learning and sharing our own history, we place ourselves in time so that we may create our future with humility, confidence, and faith.

~ Elizabeth Hall Magill - THANK YOU SO MUCH for including this on your WONDERFUL site:

A Love that Forgets: an opportunity to correct the silence of HIStory

National Treasure cleans home to survive at age 62. Let's retire her so she can spend her remaining years healing.

On September 15, 2013 the world remembered the four little innocent girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson who were murdered in the bathroom of the 16th Street Baptist Church 50 years earlier by the KKK in the racially charged city of Birmingham, Alabama. Prayers were prayed, songs were sung, sermons were preached, and bells were tolled.  The title of the sermon to be preached on that terrible Sunday morning was "A Love that Forgives."  It was not "A Love that Forgets" and yet that is what the city of Birmingham did for 50 years.

Because there was a fifth little girl in that bathroom that morning and she survived the blast though she was terribly injured and disfigured by its effects.  Her name was Sarah Collins Rudolph, she was twelve years old and before this year she was rarely mentioned along with the four little girls who died, one of whom was her own sister, Addie Mae Collins.  

Sarah was scrubbed from the history books.

Sarah lost her left eye in that blast and suffered cuts and imbedded glass throughout her entire body.  On that day her dreams of becoming a nurse or a mother was demolished along with the church and the stained glass face of Jesus that was blown off with it.  

And then she was promptly forgotten.  

During the service this past weekend no special chair was set aside for the lone survivor of that day, no special parking place, no invitation to speak and tell her story, no fund to benefit her, the lone survivor of that day.  Sarah was indeed an afterthought.  It is shameful!

And the next day September 16, 2013, after everyone had patted themselves on the back for an event that brought in millions of dollars to the city of Birmingham, 62 years old Sarah Collins dragged herself out of bed at 5:30am and prepared herself to go to work cleaning homes in order to pay her ongoing medical bills which are a direct result of that fateful day.

So, since the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama and even the church, which has an enormous endowment, has not offered to retire Sarah, a real alive National Treasure, from the relief of overwhelming bills and menial labor let us-- the rest of the world do so.  At the very least let us raise enough money to cover her medical bills and send her on a vacation with her husband.  She deserves that much.  She did not ask to be a national treasure but because hatred tried to take her life and then apathy guaranteed her abandonment, let us not go another day without correcting this horrible miscarriage of justice.  Let's give a woman who has suffered 50 years quietly and in dignity a gift. Let's retire Sarah!

Please give as generously as you can via and help spread the word. 

A man was given all the credit....

Radical Feminist Science and Tech

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The world would split open

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.”
― Muriel Rukeyser

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Just finished The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks - truly an inspiring read - WE MUST LEARN OUR HERSTORY!!!

10 Things You Didn't Know About Rosa Parks

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Starting Anew

“I decided to start anew.
To strip away what I had been taught.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

We're not trying to invent something new

"Our history is not a history of the marginalization and exclusion of women. Ours is a history of the empowerment of women. We're not trying to invent something new. We're trying to pick up where we left off." ~ Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the author of The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life, and several articles examining the relationship between Islamic law and society, gender, interfaith relations, and leadership issues in modern Muslim communities.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's your place in the world!

"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." ~ Mae Jemison

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why are the majority of children's books still about white boys?

If you haven't done so already, check out Soraya Chemaly's article on rolereboot.

"Do you know what percentage of children’s books feature boys? Twice as many as those that feature girl protagonists. In the most comprehensive study of children’s literature during a period of 100 years, researchers recently found that:

57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.
In popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.
The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters.

It’s not just the quantity, but the quality as well. Female characters, as in movies, are often marginalized, stereotyped, or one-dimensional. For example, in Peter Pan, Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure, and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. The animated books featuring animals are particularly subtle. Think about Winnie the Pooh—Kanga is the only female character, and she’s definitely not one of the gang.

The researchers concluded, “The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children's media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games, and even coloring books.”

Soraya L. Chemaly writes about gender, feminism and culture for several online media including Role/Reboot, The Huffington Post, Fem2.0, RHReality Check, BitchFlicks, and Alternet among others. She is particularly interested in how systems of bias and oppression are transmitted to children through entertainment, media and religious cultures. She holds a History degree from Georgetown University, where she founded that schools first feminist undergraduate journal, studied post-grad at Radcliffe College.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learn history. Take responsibility for history

“Another thing is, people lose perspective. It is a cultural trait in America to think in terms of very short time periods. My advice is: learn history. Take responsibility for history. Recognize that sometimes things take a long time to change. If you look at your history in this country, you find that for most rights, people had to struggle. People in this era forget that and quite often think they are entitled, and are weary of struggling over any period of time” ~Winona LaDuke

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Our experience in our body has been immersed in shame.

"In Christianity God came in a male body. Within the history and traditions of patriarchy, women’s bodies did not belong to themselves but to their husbands. We learned to hate our bodies if they didn’t conform to an ideal, to despise the cycles of menstruation—“the curse,” it was called. Our experience in our body has been immersed in shame.” ~Sue Monk Kidd

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

“False history gets made all day, any day, the truth of the new is never on the news.” ~Adrienne Rich

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut

I read this book last night with my daughter, who is 7. I believe it was released this year - and I found it a great addition to books for girls about women in science.

At one point she asked me, "Is this a real story?!"

It was amazing to learn about all of Jemison's accomplishments throughout the years - including mastering 4 languages and launching several businesses and organizations.

We desperately need more books like this for our girls!!

"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." ~Mae Jemison

More info:

Agreed-upon myths

""The history of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed-upon myths of its conquerors." ~ Meridel Le Sueur

Monday, September 9, 2013

The real revolution

"The real revolution is always concerned with the least glamorous stuff. With raising a reading level from second grade to third. With simplifying history and writing it down...With helping illiterates fill out food stamp forms -- for they must eat, revolution or not. The dull, frustrating work with our people is the work of the black revolutionary artist." ~ Alice Walker

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"War is not women's history." ~ Virginia Woolf

Our ability to tell our own stories

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness -- and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe." ~Arundhati Roy

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Idealized into powerlessness

“Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.” - Erica Jong

       Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Call for Submissions: Voices for Social Justice in Education: A Literary Anthology

Editors: Julie Landsman, Rosanna Salcedo, & Paul Gorski

Deadline for submissions: Midnight, January 15th, 2014

What we are looking for: Poetry (including spoken word), creative non-fiction, memoir, short stories, images of visual art, and other types of writing or visual art that paint a picture of what justice and injustice look like in our schools.

Please read this Call for Submissions fully and, if you choose to submit one or more manuscripts, email them as Word documents, following the specifications below, to:

Stories make meaning for us. We can read “scholarly” articles, abstract theories, or collections of research and all of this is important. However, it is the stories, the poems, the music, the memoir, the essays, the fiction, that bring to life all of the information, all of the declarations about what is good, what is not working, what is needed. In this Voices for Social Justice in Education anthology we desire writing that brings the reality of schooling to life. We want poems about 3rd period physics, short stories about recess in the second grade one hot spring afternoon. We want memoir about your best and worst teachers. We want essays about what is working now, at this moment, in your classroom—what makes a difference in the lives of your students, what is making your school a place students want to be or don’t want to be. We want to know in vivid language, be it from memories or journal entries, in the form of spoken word or in a carefully constructed short story, what social justice means in schools today. What are your hopes and how do they play out? What matters to you when you walk in the door of your building, when you stand up in front of class, when you are late for your last class of the day?

We are writers ourselves. We love language and we know how powerful it can be, how it can move people, to reach those who can make change. We want your words, your language, your passion to help provoke that change.

Guidelines and Specifications for Contributors:
(1) Poets may submit up to 5 poems at once; please submit each in a separate document with your full contact information on each one (see #4 below)
(2) Prose writers may submit up to 15 pages
a) Times New Roman 12-pt font
b) Double-spaced
(3) Images of visual art should be submitted in .pdf or .jpg format
(4) Include author/artist name(s) and email address(es) on each piece submitted
(5) Remember, we are looking for work explicitly about social justice in education and schools, so great work about social justice that is not explicitly relevant to education schools will not be considered

Please feel free to share this Call for Submissions widely!

Friday, September 6, 2013


“If you have any doubts that we live in a society controlled by men, try reading down the index of contributors to a volume of quotations, looking for women's names.” — Elaine Gill

History is the history of men

“As girls study Western civilization, they become increasingly aware that history is the history of men. History is His Story, the story of Mankind.” – Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The constant inventing of the wheel

“Men develop ideas and systems of explanation by absorbing past knowledge and critiquing and superseding it. Women, ignorant of their own history [do] not know what women before them had thought and taught. So generation after generation, they [struggle] for insights others had already had before them, [resulting in] the constant inventing of the wheel.” – Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pride and Rage

“Because men have a history, it is difficult for them to imagine what it is like to grow up without one, or the sense of personal expansion that comes from discovering that we women have a worthy heritage. Along with pride often comes rage – rage that one has been deprived of such a significant knowledge. – Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

How You can Help

There are MANY ways to be involved with this project.

Nominate a she-roe for our list (preferably someone who is not often mentioned in the HIStory books or who is not written about in all her fullness.

Write an essay about your she-roe. We will have various essays for women. Children as young as 5 can write something. This will be a project for all ages.

Submissions of art and photographs.

Offer to edit. We will need LOTS of help in this area. The essays written by younger kids will not be edited and can be in written form.

Offer to be a mentor for this project and help girls with their ideas.

Offer to help with the blog as an administrator.

Offer to coordinate volunteers and essays.

 If you are a teacher, involve your class(es). 

If you are a writer or blogger, write about this project!

Help with Social Media - we need Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Share this project with friends and family on your own social media networks.

We will need anchors for this project - women and older girls who are willing to commit to staying on for several years.

We would love to have several historians oversee this project for accuracy.

All submissions will be posted to this blog and we will choose selections for books based on topics.  Our first discussion has been around Civil Rights female activists, such as Gloria Richardson.

At some point, we will need funds to print books.

Whatever your skill set, we can use your help!

For now, you can email - but I would love several hands to help distribute this work!

Nominate your She-roe here

"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" - Maya Angelou

You can leave the name of your she-roe here as a comment.  Include why she is important to you - as well as if you are willing to write an essay about her. Be sure to leave your email address if you are - or email
“Perhaps we are like stones; our own history and the history of the world embedded in us, we hold a sorrow deep within and cannot weep until that history is sung.” ~Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The War of the Word: Women and Religion

With the establishment of Universities in the 12th century, the role of nunneries and monasteries as educators of the world is virtually eradicated. These places only admitted men. For the next 1,300 years, all women were barred.  It wasn’t until 1920 that woman could be legally awarded a university degree. I’m sure Hilda would have been horrified.

The moment in our history inhabited by Hilda, Khadija, Aisha, and Theadora should not be called the “Dark Ages”.  This was a time of illumination, when women used the power of ancient traditions and embraced exciting new ideas to re-write the story of our world. 

By searching searching through 12,000 years of human history, I’ve discovered compelling proof that the female of the species and religion have always been inseparable.  Divine women have nurtured us with their fierce power. They’ve helped founded religions and been at the heart of our greatest civilizations. During the Dark Ages, they brought light and leadership, showing us the way forward.

Forget or ignore them and we impoverish history and ourselves.

We have to understand the connection between women and the divine because the product of that relationship over tens of thousands of years of human history has shaped the world that we live in and the lives that we all lead today.   

from “The War of the Word: Women and Religion” presented by Bettany Hughes

There is a better way of doing things

"The history of women's oppression must continually be juxtaposed with what came before. Only then can we have a vision of what we were and therefore can be. The lack of this knowledge encourages women to want incorporation into man's world on an "equality" basis, meaning that woman absorbs his ideologies, myths, history, etc. and loses all grounding in her own traditions. There is a better way of doing things." - Andree Collard

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Women’s Studies Must Start Earlier.

Imagine for a moment a picture of your greatest s/hero. Who is it? Why is this person your s/hero? How does their life relate to yours? How has she influenced you?

Our s/heroes are important: they guide us to where we can go (if we dare) and save us from our own limiting beliefs about ourselves. How do we guide our children to find role models who will empower them?

Every woman I know who took Women’s Studies in college talks about how their whole world sort of opened up with their first class. Why do we deprive our girls of this experience throughout most of their education? Is it possible more children would love going to school if it related back to them directly?

How can they have heroes that don’t reflect who they are?

The highlight of my son’s second grade class was a “Hero Speech”. The kids researched various s/heroes, picked one that they identified with most strongly, continued to research that person more thoroughly, and finally wrote and presented a speech (in costume) to the entire second grade community, including parents and grandparents.

It was a wonderful project, and I was thrilled to see my son so engaged with his research on Benjamin Franklin. When he finally took the stage, he was Ben Franklin.

However, when I went into his classroom a few months before to celebrate his birthday, I was dismayed. The kids were allowed to ask anything of me about my son’s very early years. The questions they came up with were both creative and fun to answer. I decided to ask a few questions of my own.

I was only hearing about research on male heroes. I asked if the kids could name some female she-roes.

No one could name even one.

The teacher explained that they were somewhat limited because the project required that they research books dedicated to heroes at their appropriate reading level. Apparently there just are not enough books written for second graders about women in HIStory.

The day of the speeches was a proud one. It was heartwarming to see all the kids dressed up in their costumes, filled with pride after months of mastering their presentations. As the children’s speeches were delivered, I couldn’t help notice the numbers of girls who were dressed as male heroes, giving brilliant speeches in men’s words.

There was not a single boy, of course, who dressed as his female she-roe or spoke in her words. My heart ached for all the second grade girls. In fact, I felt very sad for every woman in that room.

I couldn’t help but wonder why this is still happening.

“Because men have a history, it is difficult for them to imagine what it is like to grow up without one, or the sense of personal expansion that comes from discovering that we women have a worthy heritage. Along with pride often comes rage – rage that one has been deprived of such a significant knowledge.” ~Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party

And here is where it gets extremely personal for me: I have felt that rage, full-force.

I know what it is like to find out you have been lied to, to make less money, to be marginalized as a single mother, and to feel less-than in all the ways we do at times as women.

While my feminism seemed to lie comatose in the throes of raising 2 young children, I couldn’t ignore what was happening to my daughter and how my own passivity had contributed to it. By the time she turned 5, I already saw the way the world was beginning to taint her image of herself. We had disconnected the cable several years before, but the message was still seeping in from other places: you are not enough.

It pained me to hear my little daughter say she would be prettier if I would let her dye her hair blonde. It pained me to see her already worshiping a body-type that is completely unattainable for any woman.

As a feminist, I had worked very hard to raise my daughter as a strong girl. I did not buy Barbie dolls or allow princesses as role models, but she seemed to be getting excessive amounts of both from all directions.

It also became obvious to me that my daughter’s strength was not valued. The same behavior from my older son was acceptable, even praised. But my daughter and her girl-friends were rewarded for being passive and criticized when they had “too much” energy or were assertive.

It became clear to me that if I wanted a comprehensive education and a spiritual grounding for my daughter, I’d have to provide it myself.

The lessons we inadvertently teach girls are apparently staying with them throughout their lives. In a recent article by Leslie Bennetts in Newsweek Magazine, she states:

“Research shows that even women with stellar credentials often lack the confidence to put themselves forward, while men with far inferior qualifications show no such hesitation.”

I did not know about Women’s Studies until my sophomore year of college. Now, at 38, I am still trying to heal the damage that a male-centered education and spirituality has caused me. I hoped we would begin teaching our daughters earlier, but this has not happened.

The textbooks that our children read are still almost entirely male-dominated filled with male-accomplishments.

The United Nations has declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl and we have 102 years of International Women’s Day under our belt. However, highlighting the accomplishments of women a few days a year is not enough.

I don’t understand why we wait to teach Women’s Studies to our girls until they are in college.

This is too late.

The damage has already been done.

My hope is that when we start teaching our children a broader history at home, they will begin to ask questions of their teachers that will eventually force change. In researching curriculum reform, it seems like we have a v-e-r-y long way to go.

The assumption seems to be that curriculum reform isn’t needed anymore. Some people even go as far as to say that boys are not doing as well in school now and that they need more attention.

My fear is that we are missing the bigger picture. As Leslie Bennetts stated:

“The truth is that men continue to run most major institutions and make most of the important political, executive, policy and other decisions in the United States. And as demonstrated by the current battle over contraceptive coverage in health insurance, the dearth of women decision-makers often results in policies that fail to serve women’s needs, let alone the larger goal of equality.”

Our girls deserve better.

Women have a history that has been systematically suppressed.

Our collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has a profound effect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. This influence can be seen in their life choices, partners and financial security for the rest of their lives.

It also has an effect on the way their future partners will view them – and ultimately treat them. The time to introduce feminism to all children is now.

~Trista Hendren, adapted from Failing Girls, published in Elephant Journal