Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest post from Heather of Capricious Reader about Dead Ladies

Everyone please welcome the wonderful Heather of Capricious Reader to the blog today. She's talking about a project on HER blog that I am super excited about and I think you will be too!

Last year, I read a book called The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin and it really spoke to me. Crispin's story has been stewing in my head and heart ever since. Who hasn't, at some point in their life, wanted to just burn it all down and start all over? Or, perhaps, end it all? What do you do? How do you survive that panic, that fear, that pain? If you're Jessa Crispin, you turn it all in and go off, in search of - something. Just go off and find something else to do with your life. And, you know, sometimes...just sometimes...I get that feeling. That if I wasn't tied down...if I wasn't tied down by family and job and bills and had just a modicum of gumption - it is exactly the type of thing I would want to do. This idea, of selling off my life, breaking all the ties, and roaming the world for awhile; in search of the places where expats go to work, to live, to find themselves; is fascinating. To do as Crispin did, and find them:
“It was the dead I wanted to talk to. The writers and the artists and composers who kept me company in the late hours of the night: I needed to know how they did it. I’d always been attracted to the unloosed, the wandering souls who were willing to scrape their lives clean and start again elsewhere.”
Some small part of me is attracted to this too. That is attracted and wonders, fleetingly, what it's like. To start all over.
I would never do it. But I'll never stop wondering either.
And this idea, of picking someone, immersing myself in his or her life and ideas, his or her struggles and successes.... It just sounds fascinating.
I really wanted to do it.
So I got started.
I decided to undertake a project of my own and read more about women who interest me. I have a pretty extensive list of ladies I want to learn from, and I have randomly picked ten to share for Wesley’s All Lady July. I want not only to learn about what they did, but what made them the way they were. What made them tick, so to speak.
Ida B. Wells - A few years ago, back when I first started listening to podcasts, I listened a fantastic one on Ida B. Wells (link to the cast) by The History Chicks and I was immediately interested in this great lady. She did many pioneering things for blacks and women, but she's probably best known for her work crusade against lynching.
Margaret Fuller - I first read about Margaret Fuller in American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever and it only made me want to learn more about this remarkable woman. She was Thoreau’s first editor, Emerson’s close friend,  the first female war correspondent, and did a great many things before dying tragically shortly after she reached the age of 40.
Margaret Knight - Whenever you go to the store and get a flat bottomed bag, you have Margaret Fuller to thank. She constructed a device to fold and glue the bottoms together. A man stole her design and got a patent on it. She successfully filed a patent interference lawsuit. She created her own company and received royalties for her work. She invented many other things AND I CANNOT FIND A BIOGRAPHY ON HER. Just kids books. I guess I have some searching to do.
Harriet Quimby - Harriet Quimby was one of the first women to fly a plane, was the first woman to fly the English Channel, and found success in Hollywood as a screenwriter. And all before she died at the age of 37.
Lillian Moller Gilbreth - You may or may not recognize her name, but she is the lady who wrote Cheaper by the Dozen, the book the movie was based on. What you may not know is, well, I'm going to let Wikipedia tell a bit here, because seriously, she did SO MUCH; she:  was an American psychologist and industrial engineer. One of the first working female engineers holding a Ph.D., she is held to be the first true industrial/organizational psychologist. She and her husband Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. were efficiency experts who contributed to the study of industrial engineering in fields such as motion study and human factors. The books Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes (written by their children Ernestine and Frank Jr.) tell the story of their family life with their twelve children, and describe how they applied their interest in time and motion study to the organization and daily activities of such a large family.
Jeanette Rankin - I haven't found a book on this lady that I think will be comprehensive enough, but I have to find one. She was the first lady elected to Congress. How could I NOT want to learn about her?
Isabelle Eberhardt - From the book description: Eberhardt's journal chronicles the daring adventures of a late 19th- century European woman who traveled the Sahara desert disguised as an Arab man and adopted Islam. Wow, right?
Sofia Tolstoy - I hate to admit it (or maybe not?), but I've never found Leo Tolstoy very interesting. I tried to read War & Peace and, well, let's just say it didn't go well. Sofia on the other hand, she sounds interesting. How DID she put up with that man? I WANT TO KNOW.
Helen Pitts Douglass - Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color. She was the second wife of Frederick Douglass. There is little written about her, so I will look for her in her husband's writings.
Daisy and Violet Hilton - Conjoined Twins. Freak show notoriety. Vaudeville stardom. Crash landing. Good golly geeeeeez fascinating.
My list has grown and changed these last few months. I’ve learned many interesting things. Corrie ten Boom, in her book The Hiding Place,  was a Holocaust hero who survived concentration camps with strength, faith, and determination. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her short work We Should All Be Feminists, brilliantly observed the blatant discrimination around her in the US and in her native Nigeria - and showed just how marginalized women continue to be. I learned from Jhumpa Lahiri (in her book In Other Words)  that, while it is possible to do something extremely hard - in her case, to learn another language - it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. And I learned from Nina MacLaughlin that, no matter how crazy it sounds - a girl CAN BE A CARPENTER if that’s what she wants.
Hard word. Dedication. Faith. Hope. I learned so many things from these ladies. And I can’t wait to learn more.

Wesley note: Are you guys so excited now? I'm so excited now.

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