vivien: (writing)
Bwahaha, I am so delighted that I found Aphra Behn.

Aphra Behn (10 July 1640 – 16 April 1689) was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature.

She was also a SPY!

By 1666 Behn had become attached to the Court, possibly through the influence of Thomas Culpepper and other associates of influence, where she was recruited as a political spy to Antwerp by Charles II. Her code name for her exploits is said to have been Astrea, a name under which she subsequently published much of her writings.

In March, 1677, Aphra Behn's play The Rover was produced. It was probably her most successful play, and to this day her best known. Nell Gwyn, the famed actress and mistress to King Charles II, came out of retirement to play the role of the whore, Angelica Bianca ('white angel').

Now there's a set up for a historical fiction novel I'd devour.

While Behn's plays were generally popular with their audiences, she encountered criticism from contemporaries and later readers alike for the rampant sexual content. Alexander Pope, for instance, wrote of Behn:

The stage how loosely does Astræea tread
Who fairly puts all characters to bed.

Haters gotta hate. It sounds like Aphra was a woman who believed in exploring sexuality and marching to the beat of her own drummer. It makes me happy to find women like her from centuries ago. Things don't change as much as we think they do, and alternative thinkers have always been with us.
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
Yeah, I am not doing so well here with catching up. I'm finally feeling better, though!

Marian Wright Edelman is a woman doing a great deal of good work.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. The Children's Defense Fund's Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

Mrs. Edelman, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, began her career in the mid-60s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund. For two years she served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in l973 began CDF.

She's a hero of mine.

A quote of hers I love: If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.

She is very quotable:
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
After I'd collected the women I wanted to write about this month, I realized there was no one from Australia! So I went looking and found Edith Cowan. She did amazing work as a reformer.

Cowan became concerned with social issues and injustices in the legal system, especially with respect to women and children. In 1894 she helped found the Karrakatta Club, a group where women "educated themselves for the kind of life they believed they ought to be able to take". In time she became the club's president. The Karrakatta Club became involved in the campaign for women's suffrage, successfully gaining the vote for women in 1899.

After the turn of the century Cowan turned her eye to welfare issues. She was particularly concerned with women's health and the welfare of disadvantaged groups, such as disadvantaged children and prostitutes.

Cowan believed that children should not be tried as adults and, accordingly, founded the Children's Protection Society. The society had a major role in the subsequent introduction of children's courts. In 1915 she was appointed to the bench of the new court and continued on in this position for eighteen years. In 1920 Cowan became one of the first female Justices of the Peace.

In 1920 Western Australia passed legislation allowing women to stand for parliament. At the age of 59, Cowan stood as the Nationalist candidate for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth because she felt that domestic and social issues were not being given enough attention. She championed women's rights in parliament, pushing through legislation which allowed women to be involved in the legal profession. She succeeded in placing mothers in an equal position with fathers when their children died without having made a will, and was one of the first to promote sex education in schools.
vivien: (waiting for a star)
When I was a kid, Indira Gandhi was the leader of a large country and it didn't seem to be a big deal. To my little self, anyway, who wasn't bombarded with Internet and 24-hour news. No one asked her what designer she was wearing, that I can recall. She was assassinated when I was a teenager, and I was truly shocked and saddened. I really admired her, because she was a woman, and her job was to run a country, and that was that.

Indira Nehru Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 and would be the only child of Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru. Being influenced and inspired by her parents, Indira Gandhi rose to power in India and eventually became prime minister. She dedicated her life to progress in her country despite the overwhelming problems and challenges she encountered.

After Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's death in 1966, Indira Gandhi served as prime minister until India held the next election. She won that election, and in 1967, became one of the first women ever elected to lead a democracy. In 1971, Gandhi was re-elected by campaigning with the slogan "Abolish Poverty."

Being the first woman Prime Minister of India, and an influential leader, in a prevalently male-dominated society, Indira Gandhi is a symbol of feminism in India. As per economic surveys, when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister, 65% of the country's population was below the poverty line, and when her regime ended in 1984, this figure was 45%. During her rule, food production increased by 250%. Literacy also increased in India by 30%.

While she was not perfect and she definitely had some controversial things occur during her administrations, she was a woman in power who got stuff done.
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
Dr. May E. Chinn was born in 1896 and overcame a great deal of difficulty to succeed in a medical career.

Her work in cancer research helped in the development of the Pap smear, a test for early detection of cervical cancer. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Bellevue Hospital Medical College, one of the first female African-American physicians in New York City, and the first African-American woman to intern at Harlem Hospital.

Like all other black physicians in the New York area in the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Chinn was barred from any association with the city's hospitals. She had tried to learn more about cancer after observing advanced stage terminal illness among her patients, but when she asked for research information about her patients from the city's hospital clinics, they refused. Chinn decided to accompany her patients to their clinic appointments, explaining that she was the patient's family physician. In so doing, she could learn more about biopsy techniques while securing a firm diagnosis for her patients. Such resourcefulness typified Chinn's approach to the barriers she faced during her career.

From 1928 to 1933, Chinn studied cytological methods for cancer detection with George Papanicolaou, noted for his work on the Pap smear test for cervical cancer, becoming an advocate for cancer screening to detect cancer at its earliest stages.

In 1944, Dr. Chinn was invited by Dr. Elise Strang L'Esperance, founder of the Strang Cancer Clinic at Memorial Hospital, to take a position in the Tuesday afternoon cancer clinic. Chinn accepted. The following year L'Esperance gave her a staff position at the Strang Clinic at the New York Infirmary, and Chinn stayed with the clinic until her retirement in 1974. While there, Chinn promoted cancer screening methods for non-symptomatic patients, routine Pap smears, and the use of family medical histories to predict cancer risk.

In 1954 Dr. May Edward Chinn became a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and in 1957 she received a citation from the New York City Cancer Committee of the American Cancer Society. In 1980 Columbia University awarded her an honorary doctorate of science for her contributions to medicine.
vivien: (waiting for a star)
I was surprised and delighted to come across Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, the Maiden of Ludmir. I've encountered a few examples of new-to-me women's history for this project.

The Maiden of Ludmir, (full name: Hannah Rachel Verbermacher), (1805–1888), also known as the "Ludmirer Moyd", was the only female Rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement.

Hannah Rachel Verbermacher was born in the early nineteenth century in the shtetl of Ludmir, Volhynia region of modern day Ukraine to Hasidic parents. Her father, Monesh Verbermacher, was a devout Hasid of Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, known as the "Maggid of Chernobyl", as well as a wealthy businessman. He provided an extensive education for his only daughter, which included many fields of Torah study.

She appears not to have been a remarkable child, but underwent a transformation in her late teens. Declining marriage, she started to fulfill all the commandments, including those not incumbent among women, and increased her Torah study. She gained fame as a scholar and holy woman with powers to perform miracles.

I found another interesting source while researching her (I am trying to have at least one other non-Wikipedia site for each of the women featured): Learned Women in Traditional Jewish Society.
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
The Trưng Sisters (c. 12 - AD 43), known in Vietnamese as Hai Bà Trưng (literally "the two Trưng Ladies"), and individually as Trưng Trắc (Chinese: 徵側) and Trưng Nhị (Chinese: 徵貳), were two first century Vietnamese women leaders who successfully rebelled against Chinese Han-Dynasty rule for three years, and are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam.

And from
Trung Trac, the elder sister, was the widow of Thi Sach, lord of Chau Dien, in northern Vietnam, who had been assassinated by a Chinese general for plotting with other lords to overthrow the Chinese. Trung Trac thereupon assumed leadership of the movement. In ad 39 she, with her sister Trung Nhi and other members of the aristocracy, marched on Lien Lau, forcing the Chinese commander to flee. Within a year the sisters and their allies held 65 northern citadels. At Me Linh, in the lower Red River delta, the Trung Sisters jointly proclaimed themselves queens of an independent state (of unknown name) extending from southern China to the present site of Hue.

So they were up against the Chinese who were as crushing of rebellions then as they are now, so the sisters' story does not end happily. The ability to stand up to enemy forces against the odds is remarkable for anyone, though, really.
vivien: (Default)
Wow, five days in and I am already made of fail! That just means you get two awesome women tonight!

If you are on a computer and you don't know who Ade Byron Lovelace is, then it's a good thing you're reading.

Babbage asked the Countess of Lovelace to translate Menabrea's paper into English, subsequently requesting that she augment the notes she had added to the translation. Lady Lovelace spent most of a year doing this. These notes, which are more extensive than Menabrea's paper, were then published in The Ladies' Diary and Taylor's Scientific Memoirs under the initialism "AAL".

In 1953, over one hundred years after her death, Lady Lovelace's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine were republished. The engine has now been recognised as an early model for a computer and Lady Lovelace's notes as a description of a computer and software.

Her notes were labeled alphabetically from A to G. In note G, the Countess describes an algorithm for the analytical engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. It is considered the first algorithm ever specifically tailored for implementation on a computer, and for this reason she is often cited in popular culture to be the first computer programmer.

While there are critics who doubt the significance of her work, I still think it's significant that a woman of her time contributed to the technology I am using today. Ada died of cancer in 1852, at the age of 37. Imagine what she might have done had she lived a little longer.

The next of the March women is a contemporary.

France Anne Cordova is an American astrophysicist, researcher and university administrator. She is the eleventh President of Purdue University.

After graduation she went to work as a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. According to Woman: "As a young astronomer, Córdova pioneered a new approach to studying the stars. She helped mobilize hundreds of her colleagues around the world, amateurs and professionals alike, to simultaneously point their telescopes at the same fleeting events in space; the stars that pulse, flare, and explode." She was one of the first astrophysicists "to measure the X-Ray radiation emanating from white dwarfs, old stars with intense gravitational fields and pulsars, stars that flash rhythmically like fast-spinning lighthouses in space."

From 1980 through 1986, she also served as project leader for a project called Astrophysical Processes in Strong Gravitational Fields. Her primary duty was to direct a research group whose interests included pulsars, X-Ray binaries, cataclysmic variable stars and the dust shells of novae.

This is all cool! She's the oldest of twelve kids and she's come far in her career. What I found most interesting about Dr. Cordova is the fact that physics was her second career. She was an English major with anthropology fieldwork for her undergraduate work. She worked as a writer. And then she became a scientist! Best of both worlds!
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
Wilma Mankiller was a former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and lived on the land which was allotted to her paternal grandfather, John Mankiller, just after Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Surrounded by the Cherokee Hills and the Cookson Hills, she lived in a historically rich area where a person's worth is not determined by the size of their bank account or portfolio. Her family name "Mankiller", as far as they can determine, is an old military title that was given to the person in charge of protecting the village. As the leader of the Cherokee people she represented the second largest tribe in the United States, the largest being the Dine (Navajo) Tribe.

Mankiller was the first female in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe. With an enrolled population of over 140,000, and an annual budget of more than $75 million, and more than 1,200 employees spread over 7,000 square miles, her task may have been equaled to that of a chief executive officer of a major corporation.

Chief Mankiller was in office while I was at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK, which is the capitol of the western branch of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in abject poverty, and she left quite the legacy.

Her official site:
vivien: (gentle does not mean weak)
I'd planned to start my thirty days of incredible women with this personal hero of mine, and now her story is more timely than ever.

Margaret Sanger devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women. Born in 1879, Sanger came of age during the heyday of the Comstock Act, a federal statute that criminalized contraceptives. Margaret Sanger believed that the only way to change the law was to break it. Starting in the 1910s, Sanger actively challenged federal and state Comstock laws to bring birth control information and contraceptive devices to women. Her fervent ambition was to find the perfect contraceptive to relieve women from the horrible strain of repeated, unwanted pregnancies.

In 1952, she founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation and served as its first president until 1959. Sanger died in Tucson, Arizona, aged 87 years, a few months after the 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold vs. Connecticut, that made birth control legal for married couples, the culmination of events Sanger had started 50 years earlier.

Margaret was a nurse whose mother died after 18 pregnancies. She saw the damage back alley abortions caused to women's bodies and lives. She went to jail and received horrible criticism to blaze the trail for generations of women to enjoy reproductive freedom. It sickens me that reproductive freedom - what I choose to do with my own body - is still under attack.

On this topic, I also want to recommend a website to anyone who has teenagers (or, for that matter, anyone who has sex or sexual organs): Scarleteen is geared towards teens and young adults, but lemme tell you something - I learned things I didn't know. And I am a well-read lady. Craziness. The site also goes into gender issues and some incredibly informative consent education that would have been SO nice to have access to back in my day. Check out the site. Seriously.


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