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Review of Hidden Figures 

15 Feb

Usually, when a movie comes out about historically important women, my excitement is tinged with some trepidation. So often, these kinds of movies are about exceptional women – geniuses or rebels – and they are presented as the exceptions. “Can you believe that a woman did this?” the undercurrent asks. “Isn’t she so brave and unique and so unlike all of those incredibly ordinary women?” As if womankind has only ever had a few moments in history where she was worthy of notice and respect. 

Hidden Figures is not like that. 

There is certainly the genius, Katherine G Johnson, who the entire story is centered around. And all three of the main characters are in some way exceptional. 

But rather than constantly gasping at the heroines’ braveness and intelligence as if that’s the only thing that makes them worthy of being the eye of a movie, Hidden Figures humanizes them. It frames their efforts to overcome injustices not as the sacrifice they must make to overcome their inherent ordinariness, but instead as the ordinary travails of a black woman’s life. It tells the story from the characters’ perspective, pulling the viewers in by reminding us that we have at least 99% of our DNA in common. Black female geniuses want to be happy, it says, and happiness is not transcending gender and race in order to find a partner or do a great job, but encompassing gender and race in the process. A woman can be intelligent and also want to be a great wife and mother, it says. A black woman can be black and also want to be recognized for her accomplishments. 
A black woman can be a black woman and also have white women and men cheering her on. 

Mildred Fish

26 Jan

Sometimes you go in search of Mildred Fish, a controversial researcher of scurvy in children, and come across Mildred Fish-Harnack, a Nazi resistor, instead.

The Woman in the Lincoln Assassination, Mary Surrat

18 Mar

Mary Surrat, if it were not for the Lincoln Assassination, would not be in any history book whatsoever.  She was a typical middle-class Southern sympathizer woman…”

 

 

Daisy Bates, Civil Rights Activist

16 Jan

You know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. Today is the day we celebrate his incredible legacy.

But do you know the story of Daisy Bates? She is, arguably, just as important as Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for Civil Rights, but not many people know of her. A child of tragic circumstances, she was to become “more recognizable than Martin Luther King Jr. locally”.  Besides being an activist, she was also a writer, a wife, and, briefly, the local NAACP President.

Continue reading

African-American Slaves In Their Own Words

5 Jan

In the words of the women and men who experienced it, famous African-American actors tell about slavery in the American South. It’s split in a weird place, so you basically have to watch them in order if you want to get the whole story that Oprah recites.

Be careful if you’re sensitive to liberal use of the n-word and/or descriptions of rape.


Nora Guthrie Talks About Her Father

31 Dec

It’s a bit of a big thing in my town right now that the Woody Guthrie Archives are finally going to find a permanent home in Oklahoma.  So even though this isn’t history about a woman, I thought the blog could handle a little Nora Guthrie talking about her famous father.

Letter to Liza Pozdnyshev, From Her Mother: A Re-Telling of Tolstoy’s ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’

17 Aug

I originally wrote this as a final paper for a class called European Women’s History.  The assignment was to write a short story using what we had learned about women’s lives in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.  One of our readings had been the Kreutzer Sonata, a first person account by Leo Tolstoy of a man going insane with jealousy over his wife.  As much as I love Tolstoy’s writing, the story itself rubbed me the wrong way, and I could only finish reading it by imaging what the wife’s perspective might be.  Here is my rendition of her tale:

I am well aware that your father has already told you the story of my death.  I am sure that he vilified me, making me sound like a loose and shrew-ish woman, but I am also aware that this is my only chance to impart my wisdom to you and I hope that you will bear me out.  Continue reading

Women Engineers in the 1970s

3 Aug

There is a great video here that I found via a rather roundabout way.  Apparently, it was originally made as a recruitment video for women in the 1970s.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to embed it here, but you should go watch it.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

1 Aug

Have you ever heard of the awesome gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe before?  Neither had I until my good friend Spring from Progress on the Prairie introduced her to me:

Fashionable Women of Color

9 Jul

Thanks to NPR, I discovered this great blog*, which has a ton of historical pictures of women of color.

I’m going to submit this photograph myself, which I unfortunately don’t have any background information for (I found it at the post office!) but I love nonetheless:

The little boy is pretty stylish too!  I’d love to have his pants (adult-sized, please) and her shirt…

*I read Minh-Ha’s main blog, Threadbared, all the time, but somehow never noticed this offshoot.