Tag Archives: Women

Romantic or racist? Perceptions shift on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

13 Jul

In Minnesota, Waziyatawin’s daughter came home from school one afternoon shaken and deeply disturbed by that day’s read-along.

The book? “Little House on the Prairie.” Her mom says the then-8-year-old was upset by hearing her teacher deliver the novel’s phrase, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” When Dr. Waziyatawin, a Dakota historian with a doctorate in American history from Cornell University, petitioned the Yellow Medicine East District in 1998 to stop teaching the book in third grade, her request was rejected.

In Kansas, Laura McLemore, who was named after the Little House series’ author Laura Ingalls Wilder, dedicates herself to preserving the legacy of the author, dressing up as the fictionalized Laura character to make the pioneer-era books come alive for school kids.

In Boston, when James Noonan, a research affiliate at Harvard Graduate School of Education, read the book to his 3-year-old daughter last year, he says he struggled to find a “middle path,” pointing out racism and talking about the perspectives of the Native characters not included in the series. “I’m not trying to censor it. I’m trying to ask important questions about it and not let Ma’s perspective speak for itself,” says Dr. Noonan.

These divergent responses reflect a still-unsettled struggle over how society should deal with books – especially ones long revered as classics – that contain racism. The “Little House on the Prairie” ​series, ​which follows the fictionalized Ingalls family as they settle in Kansas, ​has for decades been a third-grade reading staple, translated into more than 40 languages a​s well as adapted ​for TV.

So begins Rebecca Asoulin’s report on differing ways of dealing with how Native Americans are regarded in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic books. You may read the entire story at the Christian Science Monitor here.

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Ice Cream Saloons?

27 Jun

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On August 28, 1900, Rebecca Israel decided to treat herself to dinner at Cafe Boulevard, a fashionable restaurant in the heart of Manhattan’s Jewish theater district. Despite being polite and well-dressed, Rebecca was refused a table and asked to leave. The restaurant’s owner, Igantz Rosenfeld, had a strict policy against serving women who were unaccompanied by men. Rebecca sued him for discrimination, but the case was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in 1903.

Throughout the 19th century, restaurants catered to a predominately male clientele. Much like taverns and gentlemen’s clubs, they were places where men went to socialize, discuss business, and otherwise escape the responsibilities of work and home. It was considered inappropriate for women to dine alone, and those who did were assumed to be prostitutes. Given this association, unescorted women were banned from most high-end restaurants and generally did not patronize taverns, chophouses, and other masculine haunts.

As American cities continued to expand, it became increasingly inconvenient for women to return home for midday meals. The growing demand for ladies’ lunch spots inspired the creation of an entirely new restaurant: the ice-cream saloon. At a time when respectable women were excluded from much of public life, these decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk.

You may read the rest of Jessica Gingrich’s fascinating historical piece at Atlas Obscura here.

The Woman Who Transformed How We Teach Geography

14 May

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

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On the morning of October 30, 1916, Zonia Baber stood in front of four hundred government officials and leaders in the arts and sciences and told them to go to hell.

As a representative of the University of Chicago, where she taught geography, Baber was testifying in court on behalf of the Sand Dunes of Indiana, which she argued were deserving of National Park status. She concluded by saying: “I can truthfully say that I should like to believe in the old orthodox Hades for the people who will not save the dunes now for the people who are to come.” Today, the sand dunes are part of the protected Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

So begins Leila McNeill’s concise account of Zonia Baber’s contributions to the field of geography. You may read the rest of her Smithsonian.com post here.

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Women at Work in the 1950s

27 Mar

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In celebration of Women’s History Month and with the rousing collective movement for women’s rights and empowerment which has been reignited over the last year, it seems fitting to look back on past recognition of women for their achievements as both a mark of progress and means of appreciation for those that worked to pave a path toward equality and justice.

So begins Laney Stevenson’s post of National Archives photographs of women at work in the 1950s. For the entire post, see here.

Rare Photo of Harriet Tubman Preserved for Future Generations

6 Mar

A remarkable photo album brought two major institutions together to restore and preserve an important piece of American history. Today, the album is available for the first time online.

The small, leather-bound album shows the signs of its age: broken in places, barely holding together in others, scuffed but somehow still elegant after a century and a half of use.

If time has taken a toll on the album, the photographs inside—placed there by a school teacher so long ago—are timeless and extraordinary.

Tucked into the album’s last page is a previously unknown photo of one of American history’s great figures: abolitionist Harriet Tubman, in what’s believed to be the earliest photo of her in existence.

Turning back a dozen pages reveals another treasure: the only known photo of John Willis Menard, the first African-American elected to Congress.

The album, and the one-of-a-kind photos it holds, were jointly acquired last year by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in a most-unusual collaboration between two public institutions. Together, they worked to conserve the album for future generations and make it accessible to the public.

So begins Mark Hartsell’s post at the Library of Congress. You may read the rest of the post, with its illustrations, here.

How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Helped Advance Women’s Rights

3 Mar

More women than men were left standing after the war and pandemic.

One hundred years ago, a powerful strain of the flu swept the globe, infecting one third of the world’s population. The aftermath of this disaster, too, led to unexpected social changes, opening up new opportunities for women and in the process irreversibly transforming life in the United States.

The virus disproportionately affected young men, which in combination with World War I, created a shortage of labor. This gap enabled women to play a new and indispensible role in the workforce during the crucial period just before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage in the United States two years later.

So begins a fascinating post by three academics at Texas A & M. You may read the rest of their post at Smithsonian.com here.

A Walk in Willa Cather’s Prairie

26 Sep

Alex Ross provides a wonderful report-essay in the New Yorker on Willa Cather and the new National Willa Cather Center: A Walk in Willa Cather’s Prairie | The New Yorker

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