Tag Archives: women

Women in World War II: Rosie the Riveter and Beyond

girlsofatomiccityI recently finished reading The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan. It is a fascinating look into a town that never existed on any map but had a HUGE influence on the outcome of World War II. Although not all of the residents were women, of course, the story is told through the lives of several different ladies who found themselves at this historic place. These women varied in the amount of education they had received, their race, marital status and part of the country they were from, but all of them contributed to output that Oak Ridge was designed to create – enriched uranium for use in the first atomic bombs, including the ones dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

As I was reading this book, it reminded me of another I had read a few years ago about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska, also during World War II. Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene tells the story of a very small town that was on the major railway line almost all U.S. troops used during their transport from basic training to deployment. Onceonceuponatown the people in the town realized who was passing through their area, they made sure that no matter what time of the day or night, each and every train would be met with smiling faces and food. This town used its rationing coupons, not for themselves, but to help scared soldiers – many away from home for the first time – feel appreciated and loved. Every single train had a birthday celebration, complete with a cake. Many soldiers remembered their stop in North Platte decades later, even though it may only have lasted ten minutes. By the time the war was over, the North Platte Canteen had taken care of over 6 million soldiers. That’s just staggering for a town of about 12,000 people. Once again, not everyone in North Platte who helped at the canteen was female, but we all know who was baking those cakes and making the sandwiches.

This all got me to thinking about the various roles women played in World War II, both in and out of the military. For Women’s History Month 2015, consider finding out more about how the “fairer sex” contributed to the winning of the war, both at home and abroad. Here are a few items that might be of interest…

bandsofsistersBands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands during World War II by Jill M. Sullivan – I bet you knew that there were/are military bands. But did you know that in World War II all of the branches of the military had their own women’s band as well? They were used to support troop morale and to recruit women to the armed services. In some cities they were greeted warmly and given keys to the city. In other places, they were unjustly run out of town. The music biz is never an easy one!

Beyond Rosie the Riveter: Women of World War II in American Popular Graphic Art by Donna B. Knaff – During World War II, women were encouraged to take on jobs that were normally reserved for men. Propaganda posters at the time, such as Rosie the Riveter, certainly reflected this idea. However at the same time, women were being encouraged through the same media to not lose their femininity. This contrast makes for a thought-provoking study.

Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II edited by Maureen Honey – This is a collection of poetry, essays and photographs compiling the history and the contributions of African American women in World War II. Although they were largely left out of the propaganda and recruitment posters, these women participated in every aspect of the war and home front that their white counterparts did. These writings, many not seen since their original publication, show the lives of women of color and you can see the roots of the civil rights movement within the stories.

fromcoverallsFrom Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front by Elizabeth R. Escobedo – If you thought finding the voices of African American women and their experiences during this time period was difficult, imagine the lack of information about Latino women. This book does a nice job identifying how they contributed to the war effort, while still needing to combat the prejudices of the nation they were serving. I especially liked getting to see some of the bilingual wartime propaganda posters.

Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses during World War II by Meghan K. Winchell – Servicemen relied on the USO to provide them with a recreational outlet and some sense of normalcy during World War II. However, the recruitment process for the hostesses was biased. It served to reinforce stereotypes of the working class, as well as women of color. The military felt that if they exposed soldiers to “good” girls, they wouldn’t feel the need to seek out the “bad” ones. How the women excluded from participating made their inroads to volunteering and what those who were selected for the USO thought about life within its social constraints provides interesting reading.

Our Mother’s War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin – This book all began when the author found a journal and letters her mother had written while serving with the Red Cross in the Pacific. It is a good overview of many of the roles women played during World War II – wives and mothers at home, entertainers, WACs and WAVES in the military, spies, politicians, and even those who worked for the enemy.

winningWinning My Wings: A Woman Airforce Service Pilot in World War II by Marion Stegeman Hodgson – Marion was one of the first women trained to fly military aircraft with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).  The WASPs flew airplanes stateside to test their repairs or deliver new aircraft to the airmen who would then fly them into combat. It was a dangerous job, as Marion recounts in her letters to the wounded Marine pilot she eventually marries after the war.

Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947 by Rachel Waltner Goossen – For those who objected to the war, there were still opportunities to be of service. Many women, often with religious anti-war beliefs, joined the Civilian Public Service to do forestry work, disaster relief training, or to work in hospitals stateside. This organized pacifist culture had some benefits for those who wanted to contribute something of a humanitarian nature during wartime. But they were more often met with prejudice because of their convictions, and some found it hard to find employment once the war was over as veterans were coming back to the workforce.

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood – This contains stories of women from many countries, but the United States is well represented. I wanted to make sure something that explained the secret side of the war was on this list. Included within, you will find Virginia Hall – once considered the most dangerous Allied agent in France, Muriel Phillips –a Jewish nurse at a tent hospital in France during the Battle of the Bulge and Marlene Dietrich – who entertained the troops as part of the USO, while also involved in an OSS propaganda campaign aimed toward the German troops.

womenwhowroteThe Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel – We know it takes bravery to be a soldier, but imagine the guts needed to be the first person inside a recently freed concentration camp, just BEFORE the rescuing troops enter. Now picture that person as a woman, because for the camp at Dachau in southern Germany, it was. The women journalists and photographers who were sent oversees to cover World War II were amazing and inspiring, as are their stories.

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

topsecretTop Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II produced & directed by LeAnn Erickson; written by Cynthia Baughman – This is the story of six of the women mathematicians originally recruited by the Army to be human computers tabulating ballistics trajectories. Once the first electronic computer was created (ENIAC), they needed people to program it. These six women were those people. They never received recognition for their absolutely vital role in the winning of World War II, nor for their pioneering work in the field of electronic computers. That’s a crime as far as I’m concerned.

Women in World War II: 13 Films Featuring America’s Secret Weapon courtesy of the National Archives of the United States – This is a collection of actual wartime propaganda short films. Their purpose was to encourage women to join the war supporting industries, as well as to convince both sexes that women were actually up to any and all of the tasks formally done exclusively by men. Highlights include “Women of Steel”, the one narrated by Katherine Hepburn, and getting to see Eleanor Roosevelt in living color.

Soon arrving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Soon after arriving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

And One Government Document:
Breaking Codes, Breaking Barriers: The WACs of the Signal Security Agency World War II courtesy of Karen Kovach, History Office, Office of the Chief of Staff, US Army Intelligence and Security Command – World War II ushered in an era where women were needed in military service in far greater numbers than ever before in American history and for a wider range of occupations. This slim volume belies the importance of the job of the women contained within. They were tasked with breaking the encryption of the enemies’ messages. By doing so, they saved countless lives.  Especially poignant is the quote about the day of the bomb drop from the WAC assigned to monitor Hiroshima, “I came on to my trick and started tuning to my assigned frequencies. I was copying Hiroshima, it was one of my stations, but I couldn’t find it. I’m saying to myself, ‘what the heck is the matter?’ I’m dialing all around, searching all over the place trying to pick it up, trying to locate the signal. There was nothing there.”

-Melissa M.

P.S. Did you notice the interesting thing about almost all of the authors in this list? They are all female. Huh. Women writing about women’s history. What an idea!


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Graphic Novels from a Woman’s POV

When most people think of graphic novels, they think of comic books. And when they think of comic books, they think of adolescent males living out their superhero fantasies vicariously through the pages of a book with mostly pictures and few words. I would venture to say that most people wouldn’t think of women and women’s issues when they think of graphic novels.

But those of us who work with these kinds of books know better. I see the “typical” graphic novel and they are very popular, but I also see graphic novels based on classics, ones that represent people and their everyday lives, that are written to help deal with and understand historic events, those purely for fun, some specifically to make you think, and ones that give advice in a more non-traditional way.

I am most attracted to the graphic novels written from a woman’s point of view and those that deal with women’s issues. This preference may come naturally as a result of my gender and I recognize that. But it’s nice to know that authors and illustrators are taking the inclinations of me, and those like me, seriously enough to put pen to paper in the graphic novel format. No one likes to be left out.

Here are some of the graphic novels that have caught my attention recently:

Aya Series by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie – This series about a teenage girl who lives in the Ivory Coast during the 1970s will make you realize that the dramas of suburban life can happen anywhere at any time.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel – The true story of the artist’s relationship with her mother. Alison’s mother stifled her own artistic interests due to marriage and child-rearing, thus stunting the emotional relationship between mother and child. What follows is the tale of how Alison developed into the writer and artist she is and how she finally came to a truce with her mother.

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet – A look inside the dark dreams of a woman. Some may seem a little out there, but you’ll see truth resonate for you in at least a few of them. Reassurance for you that just because you had that weird dream, you are not actually crazy.

Underwire by Jennifer Hayden – You’re middle-aged. You want to have sex with your husband, but life keeps getting in the way. Your teen-age daughter is acting psycho. Your son is living away from home for the first time. What do you do? Write and illustrate a graphic novel so that others just like you can laugh and cry right along with you.

The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story by Marian Henley – This is the story of how one woman got from “me” to “we”. At the age of 49, she decided to adopt a child from Russia. Along the way, she discovered things about her relationship with her boyfriend of seven years, as well as her parents. If you’ve gone through the process of an international adoption or are considering it, you’ll want to read this journey.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley – The chronicle of a six week trip to Paris by a 23 year old and her mother. It’s a lovely journal of their Parisian adventures, as well as their relationship, told through stories, drawings and photographs.

Cancer Vixen: A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto – An honest and moving true life tale of the cartoonist’s battle with breast cancer. She gives it to you straight, all the highs and the, unfortunately, more numerous lows. If you are going through a similar trauma and want to feel like you’re not alone, this is your story.

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Résumé, Ages 0 to 22 by MariNaomi – A visual diary of all the author’s interactions with boys (and conversations with her girlfriends where they talk about boys) from the age of 5 through her early 20s. The beginning of each section had a title page that charts the life cycle of a butterfly. The connection is both obvious and apropos.

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. and Bryan Talbot – A tale of two father-daughter relationships, drawing parallels in their coming-of-age experiences in two different historical time periods.  Both women rebel against societal expectations based on their gender, as well as experience hardships and personal losses. These events made their relationships with their fathers were difficult at best.

Tammy Pierce is Unlovable, Vol 1 & 2 by Esther Pearl Watson – This is the diary of Tammy Pierce circa the late 1980s. She draws pictures and writes about the usual high school events that fill her day: detention, boys, dances, makeup, mix tapes, and girls that are sometimes her friends and sometimes not. You will see your high school experience on these pages somewhere. Either you were Tammy or you were one of her classmates.

My advice is always try reading something new, something outside your comfort zone. You never know what adventures and wisdom you may find lurking in the pages of that book you thought you’d never read.

-Melissa M.


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Hate Ain’t Sexy, and Other Wise Things You Can Learn From Poetry

“I write poems, and I am a poem.” — Vanessa German

copyright 2003, wisarts.com – all rights reserved

Everybody is a poem waiting to happen, even those of us who flinch at the word “poetry,” perhaps those of us especially, because at some point in our upbringing or education we were taught that poetry is only for the special, or the weird, not for us. Poets are either safely dead or dangerously alive, and either way, you’d best give them a wide berth because poetry stains, like blood and chocolate, and good luck washing it off of you once it’s had a chance to seep in.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Scared? Don’t be. You are a poem. You may never put pen to paper in all your born days, but your life is a poem. Some people just take it one step further and put themselves (and other people) on paper, so the rest of us can step back from our own perspectives and see the world around us in a new way. Exploring poetry is simply another way of exploring your world.

If you do not like poetry, I strongly suspect is simply means that you have not yet found your poet. Or maybe it’s just one poem, your poem, buried somewhere in the stacks or lost in the tangled web of the internet (Indra net?).  Does the possibility disturb you? Excite you? Send you back to bed with the covers safely pulled up over your head?

Good. That means you’re getting somewhere. Treat reading poetry like speed-dating: flirt shamelessly, experiment prodigiously. Walk away from whatever doesn’t resnoate with you, but be willing to try anything at least once. Allow your eyes to be seduced, romanced. Extend the same courtesy to your ears.

Consider the possibility that your poem hasn’t made it to the library yet. Maybe your poet, your poem, are out there in your city, the next county, half a world away Go to readings. Introduce yourself to the poets you meet at readings and ask them what they’re reading these days. Listen to podcasts. Talk to bookstore owners and librarians and random people reading poetry in coffee shops. Hunt for your poet, your poem, as if it were a golden ticket, because it is.

If you still doubt me, I can only shake my head and retreat back into the dumbstruck wonder of my own experience. I am not a poet, and yet, when I surround myself with poets, and dive into their work, my own writing gains something it would not otherwise have had. Poets have taught me that hate ain’t sexy*, that the devil is in the details, that children’s stories are secretly for grownups, that incremental repetition can be an effective technique for making your point. Poetry reminds me that, no matter how much I have learned, there is so much more to learn. It’s the most real thing there is, poetry, and it’s yours.  Free. For the taking.

–Leigh Anne

also a poem

*This line was uttered by the aforementioned Vanessa German, during a reading here at the Carnegie Library. At the time she read the work she called it “Jorge,” and it’s either just never been recorded and posted anywhere, or I simply can’t find it.  It’s my favorite poem that apparently only exists in my head.


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Snapshot, World War II*

I seem to stumble upon wonderful historical non-fiction rather than actively seek it out. A review will capture my interest or a book on display at the library will catch my eye and I will devour it in mere days. I haven’t read much about the history of the second World War but, what I have read has been bits and pieces, not about battles but about the ordinary people and the daily life during the war.

  Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro. I’m fascinated by world’s fairs; the first one I read about was the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City; Bill Bryson’s At Home also has a chapter about another in 1851; that was my initial interest in this book. But the 1939 World’s Fair is merely the jumping off point. You’ll read about pacifist Albert Einstein’s concern over Germany stockpiling uranium and his decision to encourage the president to develop the atom bomb, the daily security threats that erupted in tragedy at the fair, and the surreal atmosphere of simultaneous excitement and innovation set against the tensions of a world at war. One interesting caveat: a time capsule was buried during the fair and a book was published which listed the contents and other information about the time capsule. This book was sent to all major libraries around the country; we own that book!

 In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. I don’t think Larson will ever top The Devil in the White City but this is still good. College professor William Dodd was desperate to finish his epic account of southern history but felt that the responsibilities of his teaching career were keeping him from his work. Somehow, he thought that being an ambassador to a small European country would give him the leisure time and freedom to complete his life’s work. But the post assigned to him during a time of fierce German patriotism saw the rise of Adolph Hitler and the coming of a second world war. This is the story of his family’s fearful four years in Nazi-controlled Berlin, their exposures to violent anti-Semitism (and the conflicts within the U.S. government to recognize and act on it), and the toll it took on the family’s life ever after.

Anne Frank: the Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose. Teenage diarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank’s story of life  hidden in an attic in Holland to avoid discovery by the Nazis has been written about extensively. Literary writer Prose pens an elegant, poignant, and informative history of the diary itself and its history and publication snafus (including the difficulty Anne’s father, Otto, had in initially publishing it).

Our Mother’s War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin. To me, this is  the most fascinating part about history and wartime: what was everyday home life like in the United States during that time? What about women in the workplace and those who chose to serve and their experiences? Yellin explores the prejudices women encountered and more in this excellently researched book told in a readable style.


*This is the eighth post in my ongoing series of recommended historical non-fiction.

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I tend to prefer stories told from the female point of view, definitely in fiction but often in non-fiction as well. As a woman, I can relate better to other women than to men. Besides, I have always felt that women don’t always get to tell their side of the story. Now is their chance.

The following books–the sixth post in my on-going series of historical non-fiction books–are all about women in history; a lot of it isn’t pretty and some of it is sad. But it’s herstory.

 The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. Catharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Katharine Parr. “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.”  I once worked with another librarian who was obsessed* with all things Tudor. They have enjoyed a revival of sorts but I think the world has been intrigued by this era all along. After rejecting Antonia Fraser’s (I didn’t like the writing style) and David Starkey’s (a little biased I felt) books, I finally chose what I believed to be the best introduction to the subject for me. There are many others, of course, but I liked Weir’s balanced and elegant narrative backed up by extensive research. She also just tells a really good story.  Each wife’s experience is both poignant and powerful; you just can’t make this stuff up!

Source: Pocahontas County Fare

Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle by Janet Todd. The English major in me is forever enchanted by the history and literature of late 18th/early 19th century England. This is the little-known story of poor Fanny Imlay, half sister of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), illegitimate daughter of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, step-daughter of philosopher William Godwin, and unrequited lover of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Fanny was always on the periphery surrounded by her family’s difficult relationships and romantic turbulence. This is her story, from her unconventional childhood and the unwelcome discovery of her illegitimate birth to the conflicting emotional tug-of-war within her adopted family as well as the emotional triangle of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, and her step-sister Claire Clairmont (lover of poet Lord Byron). Fanny was the innocent bystander among people of unconventional ways; she felt like she never fit in.

Source: Wikipedia

Hadley: the First Mrs. Hemingway by Alice Sokoloff. I feel sorry for all of the Hemingway women, but never more so than for his first wife. Older than her husband by eight years, plain-looking and soft spoken, Hadley just wanted a husband who would love her and give her a home and family. But it wasn’t enough for her ambitious, trying-to-find-success husband. If you enjoy this, you might also want to check out the wonderfully-inspired novel by Paula McLain, The Paris Wife, reviewed excellently here.

 Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. I truly enjoyed this look at the women who were part of the founding of our country as we know it today. Roberts highlights the fascinating and colorful lives of independent-minded women such as Eliza Pinckney, Abigail Adams, and Martha Washington, among others. A must-read for history buffs.

First Ladies Fact Book: The Stories of the Women of the White House from Martha Washington to Laura Bush by Bill Harris. Not an inspired title in the least, but this book is actually very well written and concise. What I appreciated most was learning about the unknown (or little known) first ladies such as Grace Coolidge and Jane Pierce. Of course, such a grand book is bound to make you all confused as to remembering who’s who. But it’s still fun reading.


*We all have our specialities; mine is Jane Austen.



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Funny Ladies

This past weekend I took a break from my movie marathon and went to see Frankly Scarlett, a new Pittsburgh comedy troupe whose side-splitting mix of skits, improv games, short video clips, and musical interludes was more than worth the price of admission.  Satirical scenes about dating, pregnancy, and catty female behavior were mixed in with good-natured jabs at homeschooling, vegetarianism, pop culture, and other topics for a solid hour of hilarity.  I’m actually still giggling over some of the jokes, and hoping that they will not only have another show soon, but also make a t-shirt I can buy and wear proudly.

Afterwards, my friends and I were discussing the relative lack of women in comedy; I say “relative” because, at first blush, it seems to me like there ARE a lot of funny ladies out there, as well as a long tradition of grand dames from which they sprung.  Five minutes thought brings plenty of names to mind:  Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Totie Fields, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Roseanne Barr, Wanda Sykes, and Margaret Cho are just the tip of the iceberg…aren’t they? Clearly, further research was required.

A little catalog sleuthing turned up a great book called Funny Women: American Comediennes 1860-1985, which contains brief biographies of some of the most amusing women you might never have heard of, including May Irwin, Trixie Friganza, Sally Marr, and Jean Carroll.  I slapped my forehead when I saw how many greats had somehow slipped my mind, famous names like Lily Tomlin(!), Imogene Coca(!!), Martha Raye(!!!), and, of course, Carol Burnett (!!!!!).  The book also has chapters called “Funny Women of Radio” (which reminded me that I’d completely forgotten about the hilarious Gracie Allen) and “Writers and Directors,” which pays tribute to women who were as witty with the pen as in person (including Selma Diamond, for whom Night Court was just one in a series of comedic achievements).  Between this book and the world wide web, you can get a gold mine of information on some of the most snickerworthy sisters to strut the stage.  And if you’re looking for more, well, we have a few more resources up our sleeves here at the library.

So is it that there aren’t a lot of women in comedy, or just that we don’t know much about some of them, and take for granted the ones we do know? Who do you personally find hilarious, and did I mention her? Why do you suppose more women aren’t drawn to comedy as a pursuit?  And, most importantly, who’s coming with me to the next Frankly Scarlett show?

Leigh Anne

who gives a damn


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Crazed Men with Battery Powered Drills: The Slumber Party Massacre Movies

A couple weeks ago, a group of smart-ass friends and I watched all three Slumber Party Massacre movies in one night.  Should you do the same?

Reviewers often mention that the screenplay for the first Slumber Party Massacre was written by lesbian activist Rita Mae Brown who wrote the classic Rubyfruit Jungle before writing lots of mysteries with cats on the cover and bad puns in the titles.

Brown’s one authored screenplay that was produced is considered by some an embarrassment to the lesbian movement, as it is in the super-sexist genre of horror flick. Brown explains that the all-female cast save themselves from the electric-driller killer without male intervention, but she bemoans the fact that, in Hollywood, “to assume that a screenwriter has any power over the process of filming is naive in the extreme.”

“Rita Mae Brown.” Gay & Lesbian Biography. Ed. Michael J. Tyrkus and Michael Bronski. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 2 Sep. 2011.

Indeed, all three of the Slumber Party movies were written and directed by women, but are somewhat indistinguishable from other male-created slasher flicks of the 80s.

Slumber Party Massacre I

The template is set here: high school girls have a slumber party, voyeuristic boys hover around and prank them, but the true danger is a psychopathic killer who wields an enormous battery-powered drill.  Men, his drill is probably bigger than yours and one friend commented that he looks like Rahm Emanuel.  My favorite moment is when after the pizza man is killed, one girl still wants to eat the pizza.  This movie is worth seeing for horror movie fans.

Slumber Party Massacre II

A survivor (played by a different actor, Crystal Bernard, before she achieved fame with the sitcom Wings) is haunted by nightmares and memories of the carnage from the previous movie.  Yet she still agrees to go to a slumber party with her girl-group band mates.  But this time around, the killer that haunts her is now a leather-clad, dancing rocker with a pompadour!  And his battery-powered drill is refashioned as a guitar!!   Other reas0ns that I enjoyed this movie:

  • One of the girl’s boyfriends has a voice that’s so California surfer that it makes Keanu Reeves sound like Laurence Olivier.
  • The protagonist’s hallucinations make a zit on her band mate’s face look grotesquely enormous and then, of course, it pops.  Great make-up and special effects on this scene!
  • You could make a drinking game for every time a character says “weird.”  (“I had the weirdest dream,” “I feel weird,” etc.)  One fellow watcher exclaimed, “Buy a %$#@ thesaurus!”

Slumber Party Massacre III

I figured that we’d already watched I and II in a row, why not go for III?  Not a good idea.  The formula was tired even though the filmmakers tried two new things.  One, they actually tried to conceal the killer’s identity for more than 10 minutes.  Okay.  Two, they tried to give him a back story and reveal his motivation.  Trouble is, character development doesn’t work so well when an actor is terrible at acting.  Watch I and II.  Skip III, unless you really want to complain about how inept the victims are at operating doors and windows to escape the killer.

Organize your own slumber party and enjoy watching or enjoy criticizing these movies.

— Tim


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Women and the Sciences

Last week the New York Times reported on a study by the National Science Foundation which found that women still face significant bias in the sciences.  In addition to this report, several books on the subject have been written recently, such as The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls, which examines a few different theories about why women remain so underrepresented in the sciences.  One argument asserts that biological gender differences give men and women different abilities in math and science, and the book Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps- And What We Can Do About It takes a closer look at that theory. Other books, such as Removing Barriers: Women in Academic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics look at other reasons why there is a gender gap in the sciences, and ways to remove that gap. 

Books like Scientific Pioneers: Women Succeeding in Science look at the women who have already made huge strides in the sciences, and we have many more books on the subject of women in the sciences as well. And of course, we have lots of books for both women and men on different fields of science.


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Every Month Could Be Black History Month…

LAV has declared that 2010 is “The Year of the Database.”  This is the first in a series of posts about the extensive suite of electronic resources available to Carnegie Library cardholders.  We hope the resources explored in this series will enrich and enhance your library experience.

Did you know that your library card grants you an all-access, year-round pass to information about black history and culture?  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh users can read, print, or e-mail materials from The African American Experience, one of the many subscription databases we offer for your recreational and research needs.

Why a subscription database, you ask?  Good question.  The free web does have many credible resources, and it’s getting better all the time.  However, subscription databases contain information a Google search won’t turn up, written and published by companies with high standards for accuracy.  And when you’re trying to learn–especially when you’re pressed for time–do you really want to sacrifice quality for quantity?

Not that The African American Experience skimps on either aspect:  you could spend days browsing the subject headings, which include:

  • Arts and Media
  • Civil Rights
  • Children and Families
  • Literature
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Slavery
  • War and Military Service
  • Women

The database also bundles information into monthly featured topics like “Jazz Music” and “The Great Migration.”  These spotlight bundles include slideshows, timelines, key works, and links to other resources, so that you can explore a new topic every month with ease.

Other treasures in The African American Experience include:

  • Audio samples of historical African American music
  • Interviews with key historical figures
  • More than 5,000 primary sources, including full-text speeches
  • 4,000+ WPA interviews with former slaves
  • Over 2,500 photographs, illustrations and maps
  • Lesson plans and classroom guides
  • A writing/research skills center for students

The very best part of The African American Experience is, however, the fact that you can use it from any computer that has internet access, provided you have your Carnegie Library card handy.  Whenever possible, we provide 24/7/365 access to our digital resources, so that even when the physical library is closed, you still have access to the very best information.

Think outside the month.  Take a look at The African American Experience and consider making 2010 your own personal Black History Year.

–Leigh Anne

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“Bad” Girls Go Everywhere

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“When I’m good, I’m very good.  When I’m bad, I’m better.” —Mae West

Consider the so-called “bad” girl.  Playing by the rules and coloring within the lines are all well and good, to a certain extent.  But what if your dreams and desires just can’t be confined by the contours of a “good girl” life?  What if your vision of the world is bigger than what the world currently has to offer?  What if you just don’t fit into any of the roles society has deemed acceptable for you? 

The “bad” girl shrugs her shoulders and cha-chas forward.  She breaks rules with impunity, fights for what she believes in, and pursues her dreams, no matter what the cost.  She stands up, speaks out, and tears down anything that stands in her way.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many of the women history remembers fondly today were considered “bad girls” in their time?  Here are just a few of the courageous women who pushed buttons and limits, and left a legacy any aspiring “bad” girl can be proud of.

Edith Wharton bit the hand that fed her in the daintiest way possible by satiring the old New York society in which she was raised. Novels like The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence questioned long-held assumptions about love, marriage, divorce, and women’s rights.  In a time when such things just weren’t done, Wharton rejected her own loveless union  for a life of greater social freedom in Paris.  She was also the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

Dorothy Day turned Catholicism on its ear by co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement. After reading Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, Day started questioning the social conditions around her and the political structure she believed contributed to them. Day’s long life of activism included housing and feeding the poor, standing up for labor rights, and publicly protesting, an activity for which she served jail time.  In recognition of her efforts to demonstrate that sincere faith and social action are not mutually exclusive, a movement is afoot to have her canonized.

Although Josephine Baker is most frequently remembered for her scandalous singing and dancing career, she also gained fame and renown as a political activist, both in the United States and Europe. During World War II she smuggled intelligence for the French resistance, passing information to the resistance in Portugal via coded messages in her sheet music. She also persuaded officials in Spanish Morocco to issue visas and passports for Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. For an explanation of these and many more colorful stories and actions, check out one of the many biographies written about Baker.

These women’s stories are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.  For books, videos, and more information on more notable women, ask a librarian.  Oh, and don’t forget to nurture your own unique gifts and abilities, gentle readers. Once you go “bad,” you never go back…and the world is a much better place for it.

–Leigh Anne


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