This weekend, I reached my own personal Wikipedia milestone: I started my 100th article, during the New York Academy of Sciences Women in Science edit-athon. It was about Nellie M. Payne (1900-1990), an entomologist who held a couple patents on insecticides. She did some pioneering research in the 1920s, on the effect of low temperatures on insects. I just chose her off the work list for the edit-athon, probably because her name is Nellie (I’ve also done entries for chemist Nellie May Naylor and music hall performer Nell Emerald). It’s not my most interesting entry, nor my best entry, but it’s my 100th entry. Onward! (My user page at Wikipedia has the complete list, if you’re curious.)
Posts Tagged ‘women’s studies’
Oh! Bury me in books when I am dead,
Fair quarto leaves of ivory and gold,
And silk octavos, bound in brown and red,
That tales of love and chivalry unfold.
Heap me in volumes of fine vellum wrought,
Creamed with the close content of silent speech;
Wrap me in sapphire tapestries of thought
From some old epic out of common reach.
I would my shroud were verse-embroidered too—-
Your verse for preference—in starry stitch,
And powdered o’er with rhymes that poets woo,
Breathing dream-lyrics in moon-measures rich.
Night holds me with a horror of the grave
That knows not poetry, nor song, nor you;
Nor leaves of love that down the ages weave
Romance and fire in burnished cloths of blue.
Oh, bury me in books, and I’ll not mind
The cold, slow worms that coil around my head;
Since my lone soul may turn the page and find
The lines you wrote to me, when I am dead.
It’s my birthday too, but not a milestone like the 250th.
“How many women thus waste life away, the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre.”
—Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
Because I’ve still got suffrage on the brain, and because “at last” is a phrase likely to be uttered a lot tomorrow, I share this image of Justice and American Womanhood (both personified as women) embracing, captioned “At Last,” from a 1919 women’s suffrage magazine…
Today is the birthday of Cuban diva Celia Cruz (1925-2003). In this vintage video, the bra looks ridiculously uncomfortable, but Celia is rocking that lamé dress….
I’ve been scanning some old family photo albums that recently came into my care. These are two of my great-great-grandmothers, Marion Glencross Bryden and Emma L. Boyer Marsh:
Like a lot of nineteenth-century kids, neither woman grew up knowing her own mother. Marion’s mother Helen Brown died at age 25, just three years after she arrived in America from Scotland. And Emma’s mother, Elizabeth White Boyer, died in England, in childbirth (her tenth, at least). Emma and her siblings crossed the Atlantic together, from teenagers down to three little girls and a baby (Emma was one of the little girls–she stayed close to the others, Lida and Alice, though they were raised in different homes upon arrival).
The picture of Emma is probably from the 1880s, from the context of other photos in the same album; the picture of Marion is taken very late in life, in the 1910s, by Emma’s son, E. Roy Marsh.
A favorite. Lisel Mueller (b. 1924) is a German-born American poet, who won the Pulitzer in 1997, among other awards.
The Laughter Of Women
The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness
It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out
The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again
Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women
It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other
What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.
I’ve been trying to learn to sew clothes lately–nothing complicated–the skirt above is my first attempt at a tiered skirt, for example. It’s not great work, but it’s wearable. In doing this, I’m realizing that maybe it’s a good idea for someone who does women’s history to know a little about the work of constructing clothes, among other basic knowledge we could bring to our studies, but don’t always.
Most of my projects have involved women who created things, not as artists, but as an expected part of their domestic lives. The antebellum North Carolina women in my dissertation often mentioned spending the week cutting out the next season’s clothes, and sent each other patterns and sketches. Mary Austin was proud of her cooking skills, enough that she gladly gave her enchiladas recipe to a women’s magazine in the 1920s, and her cookbook (among her papers at the Huntington) is still powerfully scented with vanilla. Opening that box is like walking into a bakery–the whole reading room turned to see who brought a fresh cake into the room. (When she was pregnant, she paid her rent by baking pies for the boardinghouse.) Celia Thaxter was famous for her garden, which somehow thrived even on the rocky island where she lived. Marion Brown in my current work was a prodigious knitter (according to her letters), and a dressmaker (or so they told the census).
So, by learning to do needlework or sew or cook or garden, maybe we can better grasp what rhythms and pains and talents their work involved, as physical, sensory, intellectual acts? Yeah, I think so. Maybe even pick up on some subtle references and metaphors in their writing. Learning to sew to understand a past seamstress a little better is like learning a language or an industrial process or a set of laws or other elements of her everyday life–except that learning a language is something you can put on your CV, and learning to sew, well…. not so much.