History is full of stories of women who have made the world a better place, but their contributions are unknown at worst or trivialized at best.
Pamela Nadell would like to change that narrative. Her new book, America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, is the story of Jewish women from the earliest days of the American colonies to our modern era. Over the course of the book, she examines the lives and experiences of notable women such as Abigail Franks, Emma Lazarus, Fania Cohn and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This book is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. It is dynamic, easy to read, exciting to read and educating the reader without hitting them over the head.
I recommend it.
When it comes to war and women, the general image that comes to mind is not the warrior on the battlefield. At best she the wife, the sweetheart or the mother doing her part on the home front while the men are fighting for their country. At worst, she is the victim of rape, enslavement or of a massacre.
Pamela D. Toler’s new book proves otherwise. Entitled Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, the book examines how women throughout history have taken up arms to protect their nation and their people. Jumping throughout time and different parts of the world, Dr. Toler examines the reasons why these women went to battle and the challenges they faced both as women and warriors.
I found this book to be fascinating. I loved that instead of focusing on one area of the world or one specific part of human history, the book spans the gamut from ancient times to the 20th century. My only warning is that some readers might consider the book to be a little too academic for their taste.
I recommend it.
When we think of Marilyn Monroe, we do not think of feminism. We think of the blonde bombshell, the Hollywood icon, the sex symbol.
In her 2018 non-fiction book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, writer Michelle Morgan introduces another side of the icon: feminist.
In Marilyn’s time, sexism was accepted. Pigeonholed into the ditzy and attractive blonde by the studio, Monroe wanted to prove that as an actress, she was much more than the dumb blonde. After making The Seven Year Itch (1955), she was eager to spread her professional wings. The success of the film and her campaign for the role gave Monroe the confidence to fight for her career, to earn her place in Hollywood and become the performer that she wanted to be.
I was surprised about this book. I knew that for many, she represents old Hollywood. I had heard of the acting classes she took and I knew of the two tumultuous marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller that ended in divorce. But I didn’t know that she fought for her later roles and fought to be seen as a real actress, not just a 2D caricature. Though the book is a little slow, it is still a good read and reminder of the power of women when we fight for what we want.
I recommend it.
Like any social or cultural movement, Feminism is has multiple layers and multiple points of view. But where all of these layers and points of view come together is the absolute need for equality.
The Feminism Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained was published earlier this year. Written by DK Publishing and containing a forward by Lucy Mangan, the book covers every aspect of feminism, past and present. The book starts with the origins of Feminism, moves through the various phases of the movement and ends at the present day. Containing pictures, info-graphics, flow charts and profiles of famous women, this book explains Feminism in such a way that anyone can understand it.
I loved this book. It teaches without hitting the reader over the head or sounding like a dry academic textbook. I also appreciated the publisher included chapters about women of color and female members of the LGBTQ movement. When it comes to Feminism, these women are often set aside for cisgender White women who define themselves as upper class or middle class. If we are to succeed and achieve true equality, we cannot only focus on one group of women.
I absolutely recommend it.
I’m not particularly religious, but as I get older, I realize that the stories in the Bible can still speak to us many generations after they were written.
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. It is the story of Esther. To make a long story short, Esther hides her Jewish identity while entered in a beauty contest to see who will become the next Queen of Shushan (modern-day Iran). When she is chosen to be the next Queen, she is faced with an impossible task: save her people from Haman’s wrath while risking her own life in the process.
Looking at the story of Purim through the lens of 2019, I feel like it still speaks to us. It speaks to us because of the growing intolerance that has become acceptable once more in our world.
It also speaks to us because Esther and her predecessor, Vashti, are also two of the strongest women in the Bible. When the King calls for Vashti to appear for all of his guests wearing only her crown (aka walking into a room full of strange, drunk men in her birthday suit), she says no and is sent away. This opens the door for Esther to become Queen and using what little power she has to stop Haman. Esther knows that her husband could easily send her away, or worse, send her to the executioner. But she is brave and knows that the only way to save herself and her people is to reveal who she really is.
The message I get from Purim is that it is possible to be ourselves and stand up to intolerance and hatred. We only need the guts to do so.
It is sometimes said that certain people come into your life at a certain time for a reason. In the early years of the 20th century, feminist activist Alice Paul and President Woodrow Wilson came into each other’s political lives and ended up changing the course of American history.
The new book, How Long Must We Wait? : Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and the Fight for the Right to Vote, by Tina Cassidy, brings together the lives and political stories of two giants of American history: 1st wave feminist Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. President Wilson was polite to the women who came to him, asking for his assistance in securing the right to vote, but did not follow-up with lawmakers. Feeling frustrated with the lack of action, Alice went via the route of picketing and hunger strikes in prison until President Wilson had no choice but to act.
I really loved this book. While it may seem a little to Academic, it is actually an invigorating read. Both Paul and President Wilson are brought to life with vivid imagery and an almost cinematic retelling of their personal and political histories. The book makes these historical figures seem alive, vibrant and relevant a century after their political battle.
I recommend it.
Today is International Women’s Day.
Instead of writing about women that we all know about, I want to talk about the women who I have come from.
My mother, coming of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As an adult, she balanced work, marriage and motherhood. Granted, it was a not easy at times, but to watch my mother do it all was and still is awe-inspiring.
My grandmothers, first generation Americans and members of the Greatest Generation. Born during WWI, growing up during the Great Depression and coming of age during World War II, they understand perseverance in the face of hardship.
My great-grandmothers, born in the shtetls and towns of Eastern Europe. They faced poverty and discrimination at every turn. They came to America, looking for the freedom and opportunities that did not exist in the lands of their birth. They worked in sweatshops and lived in crowded tenement buildings. They fought for their rights as women and workers. It was not paradise, but their fortitude and courage paved the way for future generations.
I am proud to have these women in my family tree.
Happy International Women’s Day!
This morning, another name was added to the list of nominees for the 2020 Presidential election: Kamala Harris.
Senator Harris (D-California), from my perspective, is the ideal candidate to go up against you know who. She represents everything that this country stands for and what is represents. She is the daughter of two immigrants, a woman of color, a litigator whose career has been focused on fighting for injustice and fighting for the underdog.
Looking back, I can see why Hillary Clinton alienated certain voters during the 2016 Presidential election. There is nothing worse than an unlikable woman, especially in the arena of politics. It taints the idea that a woman can succeed in the political arena. Senator Harris is professional, intelligent, well spoken, but also warm and easy to talk to. She understands the struggles of the average American.
It makes sense that Senator Harris would make her announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While only time will tell who goes up against you know who next fall, I hope that come 2020, I will be able to refer to Senator Harris as Madam President.
To be an American these days is not easy. Our country and our culture are backed by the idea that all citizens, regardless of identity or labels are equal. But the reality is that inequality based on identity has existed since the early days of the Republic. That does not mean, however, that we can live up to the ideals the built our country.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) is one of the most prominent Democrats in the Senate. She recently published a book entitled The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. Senator Harris’s politics and view of the world were formed at an early age. She was born in 1964 to immigrant parents. Her father is originally from Jamaica and her mother is from India. After her parents divorced, she and her younger sister spent most of their time with their mother, who worked as a scientist. As a young girl of color in the 1960’s and 1970’s, she grew up in a country where what it meant to be a person of color was changing. As an adult, she pursued a career in law before getting into politics. Her cumulative experience, both personal and professional, allows her to be both personal in her politics and bold enough to move this country into a better direction than we are now.
I really enjoyed this book. Part autobiography and part political manifesto, I believe that every American who truly believes in the ideals of country should read this book. Senator Harris is exactly what we need in this country right now and represents everything that the American dream stands for.
I recommend it.
Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about why I was questioning whether I would be attending the woman’s march today. I could not support a movement and a leadership that when asked about antisemitism, could not state clearly that they condemn discrimination against those of the Jewish faith.
I felt uneasy just staying home and doing nothing. Stating that I am feminist while not doing something today to support my brothers and sisters in arms felt like a betrayal of everything that I believe and stand for.
Yesterday, I found out that Rise and Resist, was holding a rally at Grand Central Station this afternoon. The rally, entitled “Non-March For Disabled Women” was to support marginalized women whose voices are usually not heard.
Feminism, like all movements, is not perfect. The movement has its issues, especially when it comes to whose voices are heard and whose are ignored. I left the rally knowing that I did my part. It was also nice to be inside, given that NYC is currently experiencing a severe cold snap.
I’m glad I did my part today. I maybe one person, but sometimes it only takes one person to change the world for the better.