Archive for the ‘Throwback Thursday’ Category

#ThrowbackThursday: Nellie Bly’s Investigative Journalism

November 14th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, known as “Nellie Bly,” reached international celebrity status when she traveled around the world by ship, train and burro in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes, ahead of the fictional hero of Jules Verne’s popular book “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Her journey began today in 1889.

Bly’s big break, though, came two years before her round-the-world trip, when she faked insanity to study an asylum from the perspective of a patient. After months of rejection from editors on the basis of her sex, Bly received the opportunity to investigate the insane asylum from the New York World. Jean Marie Lutes, a scholar of women journalists, argues that Bly’s success with this story was, in part, due to her “female-ness.” Lutes suggests that because Bly was a woman, and therefore already outside the traditional image of a “reporter” in 1887, she was able to go beyond the limits of traditional reporting for her story:

“Bly’s reportage exulted in the concrete specifics of one individual’s experience and scorned the relative abstraction of disinterested observation. By adopting the hysteric’s hyperfemale, hyperexpressive body, she created her own story and claimed the right to tell it in her own way. Moreover, impersonating insanity allowed her to flaunt the very characteristics that were being used to bar women from city newsrooms: her female-ness, her emotional expressiveness, her physical—even her explicitly sexual—vulnerability.” (1)

On the basis of her diversity—by virtue of being, as a woman, an outsider to the profession—Bly was able to generate huge success. Her success was not just a personal achievement. Bly changed the field of reporting entirely with her innovative investigative techniques, and paved the way for important works of investigative journalism in the early 20th Century: for example, Ida Tarbell’s The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904) and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906). Nellie Bly’s career is a powerful example of how diversity in the workplace can strengthen a business (or, in this case, an entire profession) in unexpected ways.

Click here to read more about Nellie Bly.

(1) Lutes, Jean Marie. “Into the Madhouse with Nellie Bly: Girl Stunt Reporting in Late Nineteenth-Century America.” American Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 2 (June 2002). Page 218. Emphasis added.

#Throwback Thursday: “Peace is a Woman’s Job” and Republican Motherhood

November 7th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

On this day in 1916, Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first U.S. congresswoman. She represented Montana twice: from 1917-1919 and from 1941-1943. In Congress, Rankin was known for her pacifism. She was one of just 50 members of Congress to vote against entry into WWI in 1917, and the only Congressperson to oppose declaring war on Japan in 1941. This gave her the distinction of being the only person in Congress to vote against both world wars.

Rankin was a proponent of female participation in the government and the public sphere. This post will examine how Rankin advocated for this progressive cause by drawing on more conservative rhetoric: in particular, the argument of “Republican Motherhood.”

The phrase “Republican Motherhood” was developed in the late 20th century by historians to name a particular opinion about women’s roles that was influential from the colonial era through the early 20th century. It described the notion that motherhood was a civic duty, and that women’s primary responsibility was to impart ideals of republicanism onto the next generation. It imbued women’s work in the private sphere—childrearing, in particular—with meaning and significance to the nation, thereby rendering women’s political activism and work beyond the home superfluous. Read the rest of this entry »

#Throwback Thursday: The Lizzie Borden Trial of 1892

October 31st, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Happy Halloween from NWHM!

Yearning for a spooky tale from the annals of American women’s history? Look no further than the gruesome (and yet-unsolved!) double homicide that took place at the Borden household in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892. You may have heard of the case through a famous old nursery rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

The rhyme embellishes a bit, but you get the gist. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were found dead in their home, both crushed by the blows of a hatchet, 11 and 19 times respectively.

Andrew Borden’s 32-year-old daughter, Lizzie, was present in the house at the time of the murders. She was arrested a week later. Although Lizzie was acquitted (in fact, Massachusetts eventually elected to not charge anyone with the murders), her name remains inextricably linked to the case, and she lived out the remainder of her life as a shunned member of the Fall River community. Read the rest of this entry »

#Throwback Thursday: Ma Rainey and the blues

October 24th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, 1917

In the early 20th Century, the American working and middle classes began searching for modes of self-identification beyond their occupations, and a burgeoning mass entertainment industry set an example for how to fill this identity void. Performers—of different genders and various races—publicly enacted the identities they wanted, as opposed to the identities they had been given. This new entertainment culture was platform upon which all kinds of Americans reinvented the parameters of their self-expression and reclaimed (if only briefly) ownership of their public identities. A brilliant example of this phenomenon can be found in female blues singers. During its heyday in the 1920s, the blues were a forum in which black women could seize control of their public identity and redefine it on their own terms.

A powerful figure in this movement was Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, one of the earliest professional female blues singers—and one of the first to record. She was known for her deep, raspy voice, and the incredible impression she would make before she even began to sing. Blues women like Ma Rainey seized ownership over the freedom of the black female body: to travel, to be public, to love and lust. These themes—of freedom, mobility, and sexuality, are prominent in Ma Rainey’s blues.

Mobility
During the early 20th Century, the movement of African-Americans to urban spaces in the North was a massive demographic shift that redefined part of the African-American experience. This change was reflected in the blues genre, as women like Ma Rainey sang representations of black displacement and the liberating aspects of a newfound mobility. Female blues singers stressed the different experiences of black men and women, not only in migration, but also in domestic spaces, and in life more generally.
Notable songs: “Traveling Blues,” “Runaway Blues,” and “Lost Wandering Blues”

#ThrowbackThursday: Roseanne Turns 25

October 17th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Roseanne premiered on television on October 18, 1988 – 25 years ago tomorrow.  During its first season, it was second in the ratings behind only The Cosby Show.  By its second season, it was number one.  It spent six of its nine seasons in the top five.  Not bad for a show that told the proverbial sitcom family to shove off.

Roseanne was a groundbreaking sitcom on many levels.  It dealt with issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, birth control, teen pregnancy, drugs, racial prejudice, body image, mental illness, and family dysfunction.  It did so, sometimes for the first time in primetime, in a way that felt real and honest to many viewers.  It had two homosexual regular characters, and was the first show to promote LGBT rights, the first to feature a lesbian kiss (1994) and the first to feature a gay marriage (1995). Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: Post-de Pizan 2013 Edition

October 10th, 2013

By Elissa Blattman: Project Assistant

Yesterday we held our 3rd annual de Pizan Honors!  The event went really well and was a blast!  A special thanks goes out to those of you who attended.  We’re still in the de Pizan mood here at the Museum, so this week’s Throwback Thursday post is all about our honorees.  Below you can find the list of this year’s honorees and the awards they were given, as well as some of our favorite clips that show off their work!

Denyce Graves - Marian Anderson Living Legacy Award
Dr. Etta Pisano - Dr. Helen Taussig Living Legacy Award
Phylicia Rashad - Lena Horne Living Legacy Award
Ken Burns - Henry Blackwell Award

Marian Anderson

Denyce Graves

Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: Mary McLeod Bethune and the Education of Young Black Girls

October 3rd, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was an educator, civil rights activist, and political advisor to multiple US presidents. She became president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1924 and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Her most notable political appointment was as part of President Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” She served as Roosevelt’s Director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs from 1935-43. During her time with the National Youth Administration, she helped to create programs “which prepared [black youth] for skilled, high salaried positions in the labor market, and total equality for Negroes in every facet of the American society,” (Ross, 1975: 6). Bethune worked tirelessly for equal treatment of blacks and their full integration into American life. In particular, she believed economic equality, and the ability to vote and have access to the political process would provide racial uplift for black Americans (McCluskey, 1997; Linsin, 1997). Her efforts “[placed] her within the broad spectrum of the racial uplift ideology that so engaged educated African Americans during the early 1900s,” (McCluskey, 1997: 201).

As an educator, Bethune sought to produce a young generation of New Negro Women. With $1.50, she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida on October 3, 1904. The school would later merge with the all-male Cookman Institute to form what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University. When Bethune’s school first opened, Daytona was a segregated city, where its black citizens had unequal opportunities, especially when it came to education. Black schools had inadequate facilities and resources, black children, if they enrolled in school at all, were in classrooms for less hours of the day than white students, white teachers earned higher salaries than black teachers, and the state spent a fraction of the money they spent on white schools on black schools – all in all, “by 1904 the town of Daytona had no viable school system for blacks,” (1997: 203).
Despite the difficult surrounding environment, Bethune’s school for young girls would soon flourish, promoting the “dual purpose that Bethune envisioned: to teach both academic and practical skills to black girls,” (1997: 206). The school provided girls with domestic science courses, as well as business and liberal arts courses, which would enable students “to support themselves while they simultaneously strove toward better opportunities,” (1997: 209) before and after graduation. As a postsuffrage woman, Bethune encouraged her students and blacks in the Daytona community to “exercise their voting power,” (Linsin, 1997: 26) and “to get involved” with elections and campaigns (McCluskey, 1994: 214). She believed racial uplift started with the education of black girls and the instruction she provided her students with became “a prerequisite for the full participation of black women in public life and for their recognition as worthy women,” (1994: 211).

Audio: MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE: “WHAT DOES AMERICAN DEMOCRACY MEAN TO ME?” AMERICA’S TOWN MEETING OF THE AIR, NEW YORK CITY (1939)

Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below, on Facebook, or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtags #ThrowbackThursday and #TBT.

Sources:

Minnesota Public Radio

Linsin, Christopher E. “Something More than a Creed: Mary McLeod Bethune’s Aim of Integrated Autonomy as Director of Negro Affairs.” The Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 76, No. 1. Florida Historical Society, 1997. 20-41.

McCluskey, Audrey. T. “Multiple consciousness in the leadership of Mary McLeod Bethune.” NWSA Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. 69-81.
Ross, Joyce. “Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Youth Administration: A Case Study of Power Relationships in the Black Cabinet of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The Journal of Negro History. Vol. 60, No. 1. Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc., 1975. 1-28.

#ThrowbackThursday: The Woman Behind the Men

September 26th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Out of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol, only nine are of women.  Most of the statues there and elsewhere in the Capitol are of men who have been deemed great and important enough to be on display in the building that represents our nation.  Though women are underrepresented in the number of statues, there is one woman who is behind the creation of three of those that stand there.

Vinnie Ream was born on September 25, 1847 in Missouri.  As a child, she was taught how to draw and paint by Winnebago Indians.  Her family eventually moved to Washington, DC, where she began to study with DC-based sculptor, Benjamin Paul Akers. During the Civil War, Ream took up other work with the US Postal Service and also volunteered with war relief efforts. In 1863, Missouri Congressman and friend, James Rollins, introduced her to well-known sculptor, Clark Mills, who offered her a job as his apprentice.  Under Mills, Ream flourished and began creating busts of some of Washington’s important people, including Thaddeus Stevens.

In 1964, Ream got James Rollins to ask President Abraham Lincoln’s permission for her to sculpt him while he was working in his office. Lincoln, after learning that she came from a poor background like he did, agreed to let her create a bust of him.  Ream later said of Lincoln, “He had been painted and modeled before, but when he learned that I was poor, he granted me the sittings for no other purpose than that I was a poor girl.  Had I been the greatest sculptor in the world, I am sure he would have refused at that time.”  Ream visited the White House for 30 minutes a day everyday for five months to sit with Lincoln, until he died in April 1865.  She said her time with Lincoln and his death impacted her life. Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: You Don’t Own Me

September 19th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

When 17 year old Lesley Gore reached the top spot on the pop charts with “It’s My Party” in 1963, she instantly became one of the most popular pop acts of the early 1960s.  Her sound was similar to the very successful “girl groups” of the era and her music resonated with high school kids across the country.

In 1964, Gore released “You Don’t Own Me.”  The song keeps the same bubblegum pop sound she became famous for, but the lyrics contain more social commentary that her earlier releases and most of the songs (especially women’s songs) at the time. During the early 1960s, many girl groups and female singers’ songs were about love and devotion to the men in their lives.  For instance, Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” (1963) contains the lyrics, “I will follow him, follow him / Wherever he may go…For nothing can keep me away / He is my destiny,” and  The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” (1962) even seems to condone staying in an abusive relationship with the lines, “He couldn’t stand to hear me say / That I’d been with someone new / And when I told him I had been untrue / He hit me / And it felt like a kiss.”  When “You Don’t Own Me” came out, it turn the role of song’s female protagonists around.  With lyrics such as the following, the song was an early source of the feminist consciousness that was coming to fruition.  “You Don’t Own Me” opened the doors for later women’s liberation songs to have their place in popular music.

“And don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display ’cause

You don’t own me
Don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you”

For the 2012 election, Gore and other celebrities brought “You Don’t Own Me” back when they recorded a music video PSA for the song.

Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below, on Facebook, or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtags #ThrowbackThursday and #TBT.

Sources: Biography, Billboard, History

#ThrowbackThursday: Vintage Educational Videos

September 12th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Have you ever found yourself watching vintage educational videos on YouTube?  Some of them seem quite silly and cheesy today, but they were intended to be serious teaching tools for teenagers and young adults.  Here are five of our favorite ones on the web. Do you remember watching any of these back in the day?

1. On breaking out of a dateless slump: “You know, grooming and cleanliness, and letting the boys know you’re around – those things are all important.  But it’s the friendliness and interest, and helpfulness that really counts.”

2. On dating: “You’re different from other girls…You’re smarter.  You’re almost like a man”

3. On women in the workplace: “You’ve got a new bearings inspector who happens to be a woman.  You need someone and there isn’t a man available.  It seems to me that whether the gal adds up to trouble or not is pretty much up to you.”

Read the rest of this entry »