Freedom! (History not about/by dead white men?)

I was in Boston this week for the Popular Culture Association national conference. It’s a really fun event that I think is kind of DisneyLand for academics (instead of rides we have panels. Ooooh!) It was also great to pal around with some friends from my Master’s cohort and PhD friends I don’t get to see enough.

Anyway, although the trip was very short, just two nights, I was excited to visit a richly historical city where I had never been before. My friends and I had a fun time going on historical field trips (see photos below). We walked the Freedom Trail, which I think is an idea genius in its simplicity. The thing is, though, I can’t remember a single woman on the trail. Not a one.

On that note, I want to plug the website Young and Brave: Girls Changing History which is supported by Girls Learn International, Inc. and the National Women’s History Museum, an online effort to record women’s history and to get a physical museum built on the National Mall. Meryl Streep is the spokeswoman (read the Streep Vogue profile). How could you go wrong? I think it’s only a matter of time before she just does a one-woman show depicting all the significant women in history. Right?

Anyway, this site houses biographies of girls who made an impact on U.S. history. And even better, the biographies are written by girls and prefaced with reactions from girls about the stories. It’s pretty outstanding.

For example, the biography of Sarah Remond was written by a 16 year-old from New Hampshire. Remond was an abolitionist from Salem, MA who started fighting for civil rights before the Civil War. She made her first speech against slavery at just 16 years old. She also sued a Boston cop and won $500 (the jerk pushed her down some stairs). She was hired by the American Anti-Slavery Association to tour the country giving speeches and was later made more famous when the American Embassy in London denied her a passport to France. She also got a college education in London, returning to the U.S. in 1867 “and participated in an attempt to remove references to white males in New York’s state constitution, which would have expanded rights to blacks and women” (Maisha H).

According to biographer Maisha:
“Reading and learning about Sarah Remond has further shown me that a strong sense of self, together with education, is very empowering. It is a way to be proud of yourself and inspire others to do the same.” – Maisha H.

Pretty darn cool!

Also, Stephanie got a Rosie the Riveter beer stein, which is awesome.*

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The picture where I’m shaking my fist is of the Old Corner Bookstore, opened in 1728 and once home of literary Boston’s Emerson, Longfellow, Wadsworth, Holmes, and others. Now home to Chipotle. In a city that takes such good care of our heritage in other ways, this just seems outrageous and insulting. On behalf of literature majors everywhere, I had a little fit. Put a freakin’ bookstore there. Sell tea and sweets named after poets. Give me a break.

*Plus, we were looking at vintage recruitment posters (like this one) in the U.S.S. Constitution gift shop and I explained my excitement to the sales clerk by mentioning that I research girlhood and nationalism and we both got a teacher’s discount. Way to go, Boston Parks!

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