March might be known for coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, but it’s also National Women’s History Month, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. If you’d like to read-up on NWHM, you can view the website for the National Women’s History Project here— the site is chock-full of wonderful information and resources.
In keeping with the theme of women’s history, for this week’s Gal-lery, I asked some of our editors and contributors here at The Daily Geekette to share with us which woman from history they found intriguing, whom they perhaps most admired or found utterly inspirational. Keep reading to discover who Brianna, Kayla, Sarah and I would love the chance to meet!
Sojourner Truth (1797-Nov 26 1883).
Born into slavery, Isabella Baumfree had been through four owners by the time she was 13. She finally escaped in 1826 with her infant daughter: “I did not run off, for I thought that to be wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.” A kind couple purchased the remainder of her services from her owner until the New York Emancipation Act went through. That same couple helped Truth with the court case to recover her enslaved son. She became the first black woman to take a white man to court and win. In 1843 she renamed herself, and gained greater fame for her powerful speeches, such as “Ain’t I A Woman” speech of 1851.
I read a biography on Sojourner Truth when I was about nine, and I was wowed by her. When accused of being a man due to her broad build and height, Truth declined to be privately examined by ladies present at the rally. Instead she bared her breasts for the entire audience to see. A woman, indeed!
Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869- May 14, 1940).
If I could meet any woman in history, it would, without a doubt, be Emma Goldman. I grew up listening to the musical Ragtime, which featured Goldman as an instigator and an inspiration to other characters in the show. In the song, “The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square” moved me to tears the first time I saw the show live. I had to know more about this woman who could inspire like that!
My research into Goldman’s life quadrupled my respect for her. Not only was she an anarchist who fought for equality among all people, but was, in the beginning of the twentieth century, advocating for birth control! Just consider how politicians react today, and then imagine what this woman faced during her lifetime. She was relentless and women have gained so much from her. I wouldn’t just want to meet Emma Goldman, I’d want to rally by her side.
I have gotten as close to that wish as I’m ever likely to get. Steampunk Emma Goldman can be found at various conventions around the country, and is extremely active on Facebook. It’s awesome to see someone continuing in the original Goldman’s footsteps over a hundred years later.
Anastasia Romanov (June 18, 1901- July 17, 1918).
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Anastasia Romanov and her family. I’m planning on, over the summer, taking some time to learn more about the politics behind the family murder. But just the how the thought that this young woman might have survived a massacre brought hope and mystery into so many peoples’ lives — it’s really powerful, if you think about it. It doesn’t hurt that the Don Bluth film is spectacular.
Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906- April 12, 1975).
I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet, because I could, at long length, expound upon the amazingness that is Josephine Baker. Just who was this engaging woman? Born into poverty in the early 20th century, Ms. Baker was brought into this world as Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her childhood and teenage years working a variety of jobs, from babysitting and housework for rich white families, to waitressing. She was married and divorced by her very early teens (notably, Ms. Baker never relied upon a man for her financial resources– she was totally self-sufficient in this respect!) and started developing her dancing skills in clubs and street performances before joining the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers in 1919, with whom she toured the United States for the next few years, until the troupes disbanded. In the early 20s, she move to New York City to work on Broadway, and by the mid 20s, she headed to Paris, France, riding the wave of popularity that American Jazz carried all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
In Paris, she was know (and probably best known) for her ebullient stage shows (she performed only in a skirt consisting of 16 bananas, for instance), and started singing professionally in 1930; she subsequently starred in two movies (Zou-Zou and Princesse Tam-Tam). All the while in France, Ms. Baker was positively a sensation, but when she returned to New York to perform in the Ziegfield Follies, but American audiences were not receptive to this talented, sophisticated woman performing in such a manner, simply because she was black.
During World War II, Ms. Baker served France as sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force– additionally, she entertained the forces, worked as a spy by means of smuggling secret information on her music sheets, plus she volunteered with the Red Cross. In return, this amazing woman was awarded two of France’s highest honors, the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance.
Starting in the 50s, Ms. Baker, along with her husband Jo Bouillon, eventually adopted a total of twelve children from around the world, which she lovingly referred to as her ‘rainbow tribe’. Also, returning Stateside in the 1950s and 60s, Ms. Baker sought to fight racism, and her efforts afforded her the honor of the NAACP naming May 20 as Josephine Baker Day.
Additionally, she’s a poster woman for one of my favorite eras, the 1920s, and her costumes were everything they should have been– provocative, luxurious, beautiful and mesmerizing. Overall, I love Ms. Baker for her tirelessness in the face of life’s adversity, her talent and admirable creative ingenuity, her unending efforts to fight racism and her numerous and cumulative lifelong achievements.
Which historical women rate high on your list of people you’d love to meet if you only had the chance? Why do you want to meet them, and what questions would you ask them? Let us know in the comments below!