Tag Archives: women’s history month

March Recap

March contains some great celebrations: It’s Women’s History Month, there’s St. Patrick’s Day and International Women’s Day, March Madness, spring flowers start blooming and, of course, all the great posts we put up here on Eleventh Stack!

Cover of All About Love by bell hooksFor Women’s History Month, Natalie looked at women in the workplace and guest blogger Adina wrote about Emma Watson’s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf.

Ginny highlighted the many wonderful volunteers and organizations that were nominated for our Community Advocate and Outstanding Partner Award and shared resources that helped her become a better mentor. Guest blogger Ian shared his experiences running and how you can help raise money for the Library with the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Amy E. reviewed The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher, and explored America’s flirtations with spiritualism in the 1920s, while Scott M. explored popular philosophy and Suzy shared some silly picture books.

We didn’t write about basketball at all, but Abbey covered The Tournament of Books, and Jess continued her reading challenge with the third title in the Red Rising trilogy.

bookcoverOn the literary front, Leigh Anne wrote about accomplished female poet C.D. Wright, Kayla questioned Tessa Hadley’s The Past and enjoyed The Girl in the Red Coat. Melissa remembered the late novelist Pat Conroy.

Ross really appreciated actress Brie Larson in her many roles, and looked at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and geeked out over Batman v. Superman. Joelle gave props to character actors, Whitney recommended the television show Outlander, and Tara explored the world of foreign TV.

Megan shared her love for cooking, and Ginny updated us on her 50 cakes project.

Happy Spring!

-Team Eleventh Stack

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The Difference: Thoughts during Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and I have been reflecting on the long history of women’s issues, especially in the workplace where woman have historically had to deal with lower pay, sexual harassment and other types of discrimination. Over the years I have tailored my own actions as a woman in the workplace based on my experiences and the fear that I would appear less than equal to my male co-workers.


Click for a list of books on back pain available through the Library.

In the last month I had two medical issues to deal with. The most recent happened when I managed to slip while hiking  and wretched my back. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on the couch with a heating pad and letting the kids destroy the house. It wasn’t until Monday morning when I dropped like a sack of potatoes trying to stand up that I realized I may have done a little more than pulled a muscle. Turns out I am the new owner of a bulging disc. Not a slipped or herniated disc, just one that is bulging, and I have been told this is better, less painful.

The whole scenario was pretty funny and offered some excellent stories for me to tell. In less than 48 hours I over-shared this whole experience with co-workers and my poor boss … texting him at 6 am to tell him I wasn’t going to come in to work and explaining the why and the how. I am sure he was beyond thrilled to be woken up at 6 in the morning to me explaining that my left leg was numb and asking about back injuries.

The other medical issue? Well, it was a miscarriage. This, dear reader, is difficult to discuss. I like to share funny stories, but emotions? Not so much.  It happened in the middle of February and began at work. I had to ask to leave. I spent the rest of the day on the couch experiencing intense symptoms and eventually had to go to the ER. I was then sore, tired and overall pretty off for a few days. I had gone in to work, though, and assumed I would be fine, but it turned out I just wasn’t. Yet I was loath to tell my boss; I needed to explain to him that I was not well and needed to leave, that I had pushed myself too hard but it hadn’t worked. What was the difference? I told him every sordid detail of my back escapades, why didn’t I share this medical emergency too?

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Click for a list of books on handling miscarriage and infertility.

Partially it was because it wasn’t funny. I like to make people laugh, and letting them laugh at my own misfortune is fine, but this went beyond misfortune to misery. The other reason, I think, is because it can’t happen to him, at least to his person. Anyone can have back issues, and it didn’t make me feel weak or “less than” to share that experience, but I was afraid to talk about my miscarriage. I was afraid that it would look bad to discuss a woman’s issue in the workplace and to use it as a reason for missing work.

Of course, this was my own inner projection. My boss is a lovely, caring soul who could not have been more understanding and accepting. The difference though, was my own experience of how it would be perceived. As a younger woman in the workplace I heard the grumbles from co-workers about the moms who would leave early to get a sick child. At the time, I vowed never to be that woman. Then I had kids of my own, and I have left on many occasions for lots of issues, all the while hoping that my co-workers understood.

The experience of women in the work place isn’t something that is the same across the board. It is as different as each person in the work place. We all have our share of obstacles and difficulties, and my recent experiences serve as a reminder to me that we should support each other, because you just don’t know what might be going on behind the scenes. I am lucky to have experienced such support at work, but realize this isn’t the case with every, or possibly most, women in the workplace.

This is a huge issue, and thankfully, the Library has plenty of resources where you can learn more about women’s issues in the workplace:

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The Wright Stuff

I poetry. I write it, study it, read it, edit it, publish it, teach it. … Sometimes I weary of it. I could not live without it. Not in this world. Not in my lifetime.

C.D. Wright in Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil, qtd. in The New York Times.

Photograph of C.D. Wright by Blue Flower Arts - all rights reserved to same. Click through for source page.

Photograph of C.D. Wright by Blue Flower Arts – all rights reserved to same. Click through for source page.

She didn’t have to. When Wright passed away unexpectedly in January, she left behind one final, magnificent collection of poems with a title Fiona Apple would envy: The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All. Even that mouthful—to which I’m going to refer as The Poet for clarity’s sake—doesn’t do justice to the scope of the work, which resembles the Doctor’s TARDIS:  it’s much, much bigger on the inside.

One blog post can’t do justice to all the goodness in this volume, but there are recurring themes a reader can latch on to and explore. One of these is Wright’s joy in words, which circles back around again and again in a series of poems called “In a Word, a World” which appear at intervals throughout The Poet. We know this sequence is important because Wright uses its first poem to kick off the volume:

I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satcheful can land you a job, a well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate a stampede… (3).

This intimate sense of relationship mirrors John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word,” and infuses The Poet with a joyful sense of the sacred right off the bat. Subsequent poems in this cycle make similar confessions about Wright’s close relationship to words in language this is often passionate, but never merely sentimental:

I love the nouns of a time in a place, where a sack once was a poke and native skag was junk glass not junk and junk was just junk not smack and smack entailed eating with your mouth open… (72).

Other sequences include “Hold Still, Lion,” in which Wright reminisces about Robert Creeley; “Jean Valentine, Abridged,” which examines her fellow poet’s aesthetics and body of work; “Spring and All,” a close reading of William Carlos Williams’s first foray into poetry; and “Purgatorio,” a study of the first volume of Chilean poet Raúl Zurita’s epic trilogy. That these sequences don’t appear in order, but are instead wound in and around each other, encourages the reader to make connections between these—and other—poetic sets, and to the stand-alone poems that separate them. It’s all good, Wright seems to be saying. It’s all connected. Check it out.

The value of poetry in our contemporary world is something else Wright muses on at length in The Poet. Musings like “A Plague of Poets,” “The not knowing whether what you’ve set down is any good,” and “If one were to try to describe the heed that poetry requires” interrogate the writer, the writing process, the reader, and the world that creates the reader (even as the reader her/himself creates the world). The best of these is “Concerning Why Poetry Offers a Better Deal Than the World’s Biggest Retailer,” a long piece that begs to be read out loud and contains wry observations like, “…what if this is just middle capitalism?” (32). Dry humor aside, however, the author has some definite goals that poems should achieve if poets want to stay relevant:

That they enlarge the circle.

That they awaken the dreamer. That they awaken the schemer.

That they rectify the names.

That they draw not conclusions but further qualify doubt.

That they avail themselves of the shrapnel of everything: the disappearance of cork trees and coral, the destroyed center of Ramadi, the shape of buildings to come, the pearness of pears.

That they clear the air (39).

The Poet is knocking me out with its obvious deep joy, its loving acknowledgment of the long, global poetic tradition in which it’s situated, and the touches of snark that surface here and there like the fish at Pymatuming hustling for tourist breadcrumbs. If it sounds a bit too much like a book for seasoned poetry veterans only, I’ve done my job wrong; The Poet is more like a block party to which everybody’s invited, whether you’ve lived in the neighborhood forever or just moved in yesterday. My only regret is that I came to the party so late, after the hostess had quietly slipped away.

Click here to get to know The Poet, and let us know in the comments section whether you’re a poetry lifer, a curious bystander or something else altogether. All voices are welcome, and needed, for the party to be a success.

–Leigh Anne

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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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And the Ladies Have It

Welcome spring, and welcome Suzy–please enjoy the first blog post from our newest contributor, who will be joining us monthly in the writing staff rotation.

For Women’s History Month I wanted to honor the “bad” girls of history. Then I got hung up on the definition of “bad” in this case. Do I mean bad like Nell Gwyn, orange-seller, comedienne and long-time mistress of King Charles II of England? Or bad like Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, one of the most prolific serial killers of all time and fan of bathing in virgin blood? Both ladies are fascinating, but there are degrees of bad. I think Gwyn’s amorous misdemeanors sort of pale in comparison to murdering 600 people. But I’m judgy like that.

So, being the scientific chick that I am, I chose my favorites.  Without further ado, my top 10 bad girls of history:

 Nell Gwyn –Reputed to have told her coachman fighting for her honor, “I am a whore. Find something else to fight about.” Gwyn’s feisty wit and lusty personality are the reason King Charles II, on his deathbed, begged his brother, “Let not poor Nelly starve.” And she didn’t.

Cleopatra–Sure, she was an amazing administrator and Egypt’s culture and economy flourished under her reign. But she murdered her own brother and sister to become the Queen of Egypt! She was the mistress of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony! She swallowed a priceless pearl to demonstrate her wealth!

 Elizabeth Bathory–As mentioned above, killed 600 people in pretty gruesome fashion. 600 PEOPLE. That’d be like killing all of my Facebook friends. Twice.

Bonnie Parker–I freak out if I get pulled over for speeding. Parker was involved in at least one hundred felony criminal actions during her two-year career in crime. This includes, but is not limited to, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery and one major jail break. She also chain-smoked Camels.

Mae West–The very first play she wrote (“Sex”) got her convicted on a morals charge. But the lady who said, “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often,” was an instant success and never looked back.

Marie Antoinette–Hopefully we all know by now that Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” But she wasn’t that into helping the starving masses either. And she really, really, really, really liked clothes.

Margaret Sanger–Considering the current controversy over birth control and woman’s health, we ladies may need to channel the spirit of Sanger in 2012. She promoted the pill before the pill existed. And got tossed in the clink for it.

Anne Boleyn–Did she sleep with her brother? And a poet? And a groom? Did she really commit treason?  I don’t know, but she had six fingers and a killer sense of style.

Lucretzia Borgia–Again with the incest. But also a poisoner!

Wallis Simpson–King Edward VII of the United Kingdom abdicated his throne to marry her. Enough said.

Your turn–who’s your favorite “bad” girl? 



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“Your Dark Dust Will Know”: Leonora Speyer

I know that there are lots of people who suspect that folks who work in the library have some of the best jobs in the world.  Frequently, people will inquire to that effect and, sometimes, I simply demur with a knowing smile and at other times, I’m ebullient.

Be forewarned: this is one of the latter times.

When you are surrounded by over 3 million items, it is a rare day, indeed, when something entirely new doesn’t present itself for your inspection and approval.  If you don’t allow yourself to glaze over and you pay close attention, you can learn more by osmosis in a week than you might in a month of concentrated study in your field of choice.

About a week ago, a book came my way, as do many of its mates, because of its poor condition.  When this happens, a decision needs to be  made and a number of factors considered to arrive at a satisfactory outcome.   Is the item of any value, is it of interest, is it outdated, is it readily available elsewhere, particularly locally?  If it has no intrinsic value and/or is of no interest or is outdated (i.e. bad medical info, superseded legal info etc.), it’s sayonara.  Often, however, a little legwork needs to be done to determine if any of these factors apply.  An item may, in fact, be either valuable, relevant, timeless, or unavailable anywhere, particularly locally.

The book that presented itself to me that particular morning was a slim volume of poetry from the 1920s entitled Fiddler’s Farewell, by Leonora SpeyerI had heard of neither the book nor the author.  That’s not particularly surprising; though I’ve been in the book business, in one form or another, for well over 30 years, and poetry is my specialty, my base of knowledge is not nearly as overwhelming as it might be.  See 3 million items above.

Did I mention that librarianship can be a very humbling profession?

The very first bit of information I found on Leonora Speyer set me back on my heels mightily.  It was a painting:

Lady Speyer by John Singer Sargent

After I caught my breath, I quickly began to read that Leonora Speyer was a renowned violinist (hence the John Singer Sargent portrait) who studied music in Europe, attended the Brussels Conservatory (where she won first prize at the young age of 16) and debuted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1890, later appearing as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic.

Oh, and in 1926, she won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for that slim little volume entitled Fiddler’s Farewell.

It is appropriate that this forgotten book should resurface, particularly during the month we celebrate Women’s History.   It is difficult to imagine some of the obstacles she must have encountered in the late 19th century worlds of music and literature.  Though a woman of independent means, still, the challenges must have been formidable and the battles, it would seem, hard fought.

I looked to the poetry to see if it still spoke to the modern reader; after all, today’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry doesn’t much resemble your great-grandmother’s Pulitzer Prize.  And though it is decidedly tougher to measure relevance in art as one does in medical and legal subjects, still, I wondered, would there be any relevance at all?

Indeed, there is; here’s a glimpse at the poet and the woman and, if you listen closely, the musician: Leonora Speyer.

Lordly amid the rotting houses of the street,
It lifts a marble scorn, while at its carven feet
They crowd in ancient filth. It does not look at them,
These crumbling beggars catching at its stone hem.

Here, the poet captures a moment in contrast: she sees and highlights what many a tourist chooses to ignore. In fact the famed Palace of Naples itself, in the poem, chooses not to look upon beggars clutching at “its stone hem.”

Next is a poem of transcendence:

Of Mountains
. . . Then I rose up
And swept the dust of planets from my eyes,
And wandered shouting down that shouting hour,
Pausing to pluck a mountain like a flower
That grew against the skies.

This reminded me of something very modern, indeed.  Such a cosmic perspective certainly was not an everyday occurrence in early 20th century poetry, particularly early women’s 20th century poetry.

And here is one final poem, which also seems very modern in tone and approach:

I’ll be your Epitaph
Over your dear dead heart I’ll lift
As blithely as a bough,
Saying, “Here lies the cruel song,
Cruelly quiet now.”

I’ll say, “Here lies the lying sword,
Still dripping with my truth;
Here lies the woven sheath I made,
Embroidered with my youth.”

I’ll sing, “Here lies, here lies, here lies-”
Ah, rust in peace below!
Passers will wonder at my words,
But your dark dust will know.

The modern book I thought of was the first book of poetry I remember ever buying for myself, the book that started me on a 40 year pursuit of lyrical truth. Here is the title poem and foreword from that volume, ever so sweetly entitled Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch (selections from which may be found in this book).

It would seem that sisters, over the span of half a century, are like-minded, indeed.

– Don


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Women and Medicine

March is Women’s History Month, and while we usually think of women’s history in terms of major figures and events, the medical history of women is an equally fascinating topic. Two recently published books delve into some of the biological mystery and history of women’s bodies and childbirth:

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas, by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton: Since before the Ancient Greeks decided that hysteria was caused by problems with the uterus, science has been trying to make sense of women’s bodies.  Interestingly enough, things like menstruation and ovulation are still confounding modern science.  This book examines several aspects of women’s bodies that appear to have no clear rhyme or reason for working the way they do, at least from the standpoint of evolutionary biology.  Why women menstruate monthly (most other animals don’t) and why ovulation is hidden in humans (most animals have obvious signals) are among the questions addressed in this book.  There are no answers to these questions, but theories abound, and anyone with an interest in the science of women’s bodies will find this to be an engaging read.

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, by Randi Hutter Epstein: With a focus on childbirth from ancient times to the present, this book was by turns entertaining and horrifying.  The history of childbirth is a messy one, and attempts to understand it and to make the process easier and safer have often had tragic results.  However, for every gruesome tale there was a hilarious counterpart.  (For instance, aren’t you glad that we no longer live in a time when drinking horse urine was thought to help conception?!)  The author manages to entertain even while bringing to light the often disturbing history of childbirth in medicine.


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Hey, Ladies

12 angry women. First all woman jury in California, Nov. 2, 1911.  Photograph from the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

12 angry women. First all woman jury in California, Nov. 2, 1911. Photograph from the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

 In 1978, women’s history was celebrated over the course of one week.  After getting hip to the events of ladies’ place in history, in 1987 the National Women’s History Project convinced Congress to legally change the celebration to an entire month.  Here at the library, we’re celebrating the accomplishments of women with a three part Women’s History Month Series.  All events take place in Quiet Reading Room

Part I – Raging Grannies                                                                                  
Wednesday, March 4
6:30 to 7:30pm
In the tradition of wise women elders, the Pittsburgh Raging Grannies raise public awareness through song and humor. In this program they share personal and group history along with their homespun peace- and justice-focused tunes.

Thursday, March 12
6:30 to 7:30pm
The ladies of the founding chapter of LUPEC will grace us with an interactive presentation on local women’s history.  May involve a game show and general unruliness.

Part III – Julia Warhola – Andy’s Mother
Thursday, March 26
6:30 to 7:30pm
Andy Warhol’s mother Julia was an artist herself. Come learn about her life, visual artwork and singing from Warhol Museum teaching artists.

– Lisa

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