The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year from Girl Museum

As 2012 winds to a close (it's already 2013 in Australia), all of us here at Girl Museum are excited for what 2013 brings. This past year has seen new exhibitions, including the 2012 installation of our Heroines Quilt, Home and Away: Girls of the British Empire, Celebrating Girl Up (in partnership with The UN Foundation campaign Girl Up), and our most recent exhibition, Girl Child in India.

We plan to bring more exciting exhibitions in the coming year, always sticking with our mission to celebrate and explore girlhood in its many and varied forms. We're also planning a major website redevelopment, and there's still time to help us reach our goal of $5000 to make that revamp happen.

So from everyone at Girl Museum, we hope you have a happy New Year, and we look forward to sharing our projects with you in 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Finely Drawn

Interested in a place where can you go to see Calamity Jane hang out with Pippi Longstocking, Bessie Coleman, and Athena? 
Stop by the Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis, Minnesota and check out their new show, Girls: Fact + Fiction.

This exhibition consists of artwork from over a hundred different artists depicting over a hundred notable girls and women from either fact (history and contemporary) or fiction (books, movies, television, video games)  The Light Grey Art Lab team, Lindsay Nohl, Francesca Buchko, Chris Hajny, and Jenny Bookler put this show together. Lindsay Nohl, the founder, says "We see this project as a way to educate the viewers [. . .] though many of the subjects are familiar, there will ultimately be a handful of new faces in the mix." 

The show opened on December 7th and runs through January 4th.  If you cannot visit the show in-person, all of the images of these amazing girls can be seen online. Check it out, maybe you will see some of your favorite historical figures or characters, or find some new girls to be inspired by!

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The History of Mrs. Claus

Many people are aware that Santa Claus is based on the historical character of St. Nicholas, who was believed to be born around 270 A.D in the area that is now Turkey, and gained a reputation as an anonymous gift giver. What many do not know however, is how Mrs. Claus came into being.

Mrs. Claus first appears in the 1849 James Rees short story 'A Christmas Legend.' Until the 1800s, Santa had always been a bachelor. After this story she then begins to appear in more and more stories, and in 1889 Mrs. Claus is popularised in a poem by Katherine Lee Bates called 'Goody Santa Claus.' In this poem Santa is referred to as 'Goodman' and his wife as 'Goody;' these are old terms meaning good husband and good wife or mistress of the house.

Most sources agree on the character of Mrs. Claus in that she is a jolly, caring character. Her image is also largely agreed upon; above is one of the earliest illustrations of Mrs. Claus on a postcard from 1919 and her image has hardly wavered since its publication.

Compared to Santa, Mrs. Claus is relatively new to our Christmas stories and an invention of many 19th century writers, but she is now a staple of many Christmas films and she looks set to stay. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays from Girl Museum

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, Festivus, anything else, or nothing at all, everyone here at Girl Museum hopes the holiday season has been treating you well. It's been a busy year for us, but we have one last wish for the year: that girls around the world will be able to realize their full potential in 2013. We'll certainly continue working toward that goal!

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and to everyone, happy holidays. Thanks for being a part of the Girl Museum community. We couldn't do it without you!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The mass-shootings I have known

A memorial to the Aurora victims in Colorado.
Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On May 21st, 1998, I was a senior at North Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, preparing for graduation. During first period I was watching a movie in French class, having already taken the AP exam. Partway through the period an announcement came over the intercom, saying everyone was to stay in their classrooms until further notice (it wouldn't be until about a year later that the word "lockdown" became commonplace). Not long after, our principal came onto the intercom and announced that we were free to leave, but that there had been a shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, approximately 20 minutes away.

Almost exactly three years later, on May 17, 2001, I was a junior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. That afternoon I was in my dorm's lobby, hanging out before going to band rehearsal. Hearing something that sounded like gunshots, we ran for the door, only to be blocked by some (very smart) Resident Assistants. Thwarted, we went to the balcony instead and watched people running toward the always-busy quad between three other dorms. Then we heard the sirens. Two ambulances and a multitude of police cars drove onto campus. One ambulance left within ten minutes, the other much later and slower, well after the helicopters arrived.

The Thurston shootings resulted in four deaths (two students and, the day before, the shooter's parents) and twenty-four injuries. The shooting at PLU resulted in the death of an immensely popular professor and, seven hours later, the shooter, who had turned the gun on himself after placing a suicide note next to his victim.

In a sense, I'm lucky. I wasn't traumatized by either event--though writing about these events brings up very painful memories--not having personally known the victims at Thurston (though I had friends who did). Because of the quick thinking of the RAs in my dorm, I was lucky enough to not see my piano teacher bleeding to death on the ground, shot multiple times and already brain-dead from the shot to his head. Many of my friends from PLU were not so lucky, having either witnessed the shooting firsthand or helped in the rescue efforts of both the victim and shooter. Even now, over a decade on, we don't talk about that day. One friend witnessed the event from her dorm room, her home for the majority of the previous four years. Suddenly her home no longer felt safe, and she had no sanctuary on campus. Another friend, trained in CPR, became a de facto first responder. She, along with much of the nursing faculty and students--all on site before the paramedics arrived--had to make the difficult decision to attempt to save the life of the shooter, knowing that nothing could be done for our professor.

As I say, I'm lucky. Though I'm flooded with sad, terrible memories writing this, the pain is not debilitating, and I do not live in fear. But others are not so lucky, and have horrific images enter their mind, unbidden and uncontrollable. For both incidents I was somewhere between girlhood and adulthood; no longer a child, but not yet a true adult. But I was old enough to understand these actions weren't taken by a healthy person. I was also old enough to understand such actions cannot be avoided by victims or bystanders. I had learned--thankfully--to not live in fear of such things happening, or I would never be able to leave the house.

The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are not so lucky. Twenty of their classmates and six school staff members were killed and two more injured (the shooter killed his mother as well). Even though the killer then turned the gun on himself, some of the children live in fear the shooter will find them. They are not old enough to understand that the shooter was sick. They don't understand that their school and their friends may have been targeted randomly. In time, they will hopefully heal and grow to understand these things, but in the short term, and possibly longer, they live in fear, and many of them may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. What they witnessed and feel is something no child should ever experience.

But Newtown is not the first, and sadly, it is unlikely to be the last.  According to Mother Jones, there have been at least 62 mass shootings in America since 1982. The shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 are amongst the most famous (though the phrase "going postal" predates Columbine by approximately a decade), but in 2012 alone there's been the Oikos University shooting in Oakland, California (April 2nd); the Seattle cafĂ© shootings (May 30th); the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado (July 20th); the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (August 5th); a workplace shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 27th); the Clackamas Town Center mall shooting near Portland, Oregon (December 11th); and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown Connecticut (December 14th).

Though gun control has been at the forefront of conversations about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, there is a second issue being discussed: mental health. Mental health is stigmatized, and yet is not uncommon. Though not every shooter is mentally ill, many are, and if we are to realistically deal with violence, gun or otherwise, a discussion of mental needs to be part of that process. For a compelling, if controversial, look at mental health and violence, read "I am Adam Lanza's Mother."

There are shootings outside the US, but with the exception of war zones, these occur at a lower rate. There have also been mass murders within the US that didn't involve firearms (notably 2012's Ingleside, San Francisco murders) but again, at a lesser rate. Clearly, something needs to change. The specifics of mental health and gun legislation are not things I want to discuss here, but I do want to end with this thought paraphrased from author Joe Hill:

People kill with knives, cars, planes, and guns. One of these, however, has no purpose besides killing.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Girl Child in India

Images from Wiki Commons and Flickr Commons
We are excited to announce our final exhibition for 2012, Girl Child in India. This exhibition is a part of our GirlSpeak series, which means that much of the content has been created specifically for this project. 

We would like to acknowledge artist Anjali Sinha for her participation and generosity with her art works and photography. Also we want to thank Apne Aap for contributing art works and poetry from girls in their programs. 

As a peek into the lives of girls in India, we hope you enjoy the exhibition.

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My baking moments

Artwork from Amelie vintage cafe in Patras, Greece.
Courtesy of the author’s friend Kykeon.

I may not have been the typical "merry" girl, but I recall that the pre-Christmas season was indisputably the most joyous and festive of the year. There was so much action in every home and no time to get bored with all the shopping thrill, the decoration of the Christmas tree, sending cards, taking care of the gift lists, and--last but not least--preparing the sweets. Baking was my favorite thing in the kitchen and I could never get enough of that kind of custom. A few weeks before Christmas my mother and I were fully engrossed in making traditional Greek desserts for the holidays, melomakarona and kourambiedes, which are basically enhanced variations of cookies. The recipes were nearly the same every year, while minor changes were attempted according to the previous year’s degree of success or failure. Most of our attention was given to uniform shaping and the proper baking, as well as the precise immersion in the sweet honey syrup, so that they wouldn’t become too drizzly or too crispy in the end.

Away from my comfort zone and my mother’s brilliance in the kitchen, I still enjoy those baking adventures, even though I now need to take all the blame for any unfortunate creations coming out of the oven. It’s more of a valuable moment of privacy now, when I get the chance to clear my head from the daily worries and slip away to a delicious and odoriferous experience.

This holiday season could serve well as a complete renaissance and a good reason to step into the kitchen and bake, especially with the company of children. Even for the littlest aspiring cooks, the making of cookies is certainly a safe way to start and have fun. If you happen to be fond of honey and cinnamon, take my word and try the recipe for traditional melomakarona sweets. Good luck!

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not-So Top Modelling

Doutzen Kroes, Sara Ziff, Coco Rocha, and Jenna Sauers at the launch party for The Model Alliance.

As someone who not-so-secretly watches America’s Next Top Model, I was interested to listen to Sara Ziff speak on BBC Radio 4's Four Thought show about her work as a model and activist. Sara was scouted at the age of 14 by a photographer in the street. After years of witnessing her friends and peers be subject to systematic abuse, she decided she could no longer remain silent. To that end she spent five years carrying small video cameras on location with her in order to film behind the scenes and document what was happening, eventually giving cameras to other friends and models. Ziff feels that the resulting documentary, Picture Me, was a turning point: "for the first time models were on the other side of the lens sharing our perspectives of an industry that sometimes left us feeling mute."

The stories told by Sara and her peers reveal a darker side to the glossy and glamorous world of fashion that is shown in the Next Top Model shows. Sara's friend and fellow model, Amy Lemons, reveals that at the age of 17, her agent advised her to only eat one rice cake a day. If that didn't work, she should only eat half a rice cake.

What kind of an industry tells a 17 year old girl to be anorexic? Because, let's face it, that’s exactly what this agent's advice was.

Fashion is obsessed with youth and skinniness, but what Ziff's work really shows is that it is obsessed with extreme youth. Most full-grown women do not have the same body shape as a young girl because they have developed hips and breasts. Why is it that we are fascinated with young girls' bodies, to the point where 14 year-olds are used to sell adult clothing or when girl models, on the cusp of becoming women, are told to eat less in order to preserve their childish physique?

Something is very very wrong in both fashion and society at large if that is what we are supposed to aspire to. I hope that individuals like Sara Ziff and organisations such as her Model Alliance will bring about the change that is sorely needed.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Oh, Come All Ye Faithful?

The Rev. Sally Hitchiner, chaplain of Brunel University
Photo: Time World Magazine

On the 20th of November 2012, the General Synod of the Church of England voted against the ordination of women bishops. The debate had been raging for many months, and elicited strong reactions on both sides, however the rejection of allowing high-ranking female clergy still came as a shock to many.

The vote was not unanimous. In fact, it was frustratingly close; falling short by only 6 votes in the House of Laity. The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, expressed his “deep personal sadness” at the outcome and his soon to be successor, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, named it a “grim day.”

Despite not being a member of the Anglican congregation, I was hugely disappointed by this blatant endorsement of inequality within a leading Christian organisation. Several weeks on, and with hymns and cards declaring the celebration of Christ’s birth everywhere in the run up to Christmas, I find that my disappointment has turned to anger. In declaring women unfit to hold the post of bishop, the church is effectively sending the message that women are less spiritual, less faithful, and less worthy of God’s love. So how do you explain to a girl at Christmas time that God loves her, but not enough to grant her permission to spread his message or lead her fellow men (and women) of faith?

A Christian child cannot even turn to scripture for comfort. The apostle Paul declares “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (Corinthians 14:34-35) and that we should “not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (Timothy 2:12). Add to this the stories of Eve, Salome, the miscasting of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, and numerous other examples, the child is left with a clear view that in the Christian world, women are second-class citizens.

I know that none of this is news to those who have long campaigned for equality. I believe that this perspective does not reflect the true message of God. The Bible, viewed as an historical artifact, was written by men and reflects the male-centric society of the time. In modern times, however, when we speak of “mankind” we don’t refer only to the male population of our globe. It is time for the church to stop taking the Bible so literally and to embrace the true message of love and equality:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Builders and Babes in Toy Land, Part 2

A baby doll for learning about breastfeeding can be seen as either innovative or creepy.

I'm a fan of breastfeeding. I think it's rolled up with the other gender-based issues in our society. Toy stores and many parents groom girls to be perfect little mommies by creating every type of doll imaginable, but then society says "eww" when Mom tries to feed her child naturally. Breastfeeding is a natural and necessary part of life. Yes, there are formula and pumps, but sometimes a kid is hungry and all you have is what's on you. Literally. And yet we hide it. We avert our eyes when we see it, mothers wrestle with nursing blankets to hide it, and people make hurtful and inappropriate jokes about it. A woman recently returned from maternity leave came into work with a damp mark over her breast (having experienced a leak) only for a coworker to ask, "Anybody thirsty?" Wow. 

Finally though, breastfeeding is saved from social damnation by The Breast Milk Baby!  It's a baby that makes suckling noises when a little girl dons a flowery halter top with sensors in place of nipples and holds the doll up to her pre-pubescent chest. There's even fussing and burping involved. There's also the usual array of responses: positive (because it promotes breastfeeding), pro-idea but anti-doll, and against because it's creepy/gross/sexualizing children.

My gut reaction is "eww." I don't like that the sensors on the halter top are emphasized to make the floral nipples stand out. Granted, there's no breastfeeding without nipples, but this mimics nipples while still shaming them. That said, I certainly don't want a halter top with realistic nipples.

Mom and blogger Theresa Walsh Giarrusso addresses this doll, saying that, ultimately, she's for it because it promotes girls learning about nursing and increases the probability they will do it for their own children someday. But she ends with the point that, in my opinion, makes the doll entirely moot: "I think kids can play nurse with a regular doll too and pretend the baby is suckling. I remember Rose play nursing probably because she was seeing me nurse Walsh all the time!...I loved seeing her do that."

That's just it: toys are often for learning through play, imitating life without recreating it. Advancing technology is blurring the lines, though. Perhaps I'm just sad that this toy has a great message but contributes to the obsolescence of imagination. It could also be counter-productive, as parents might feel compelled to prohibit the doll from social activities where other dolls would be acceptable. But perhaps this doll SHOULD be acceptable alongside other dolls.

I found other toys that address breast-feeding, and even more intense stuff like vaginal and cesarean births, by MamAmor. I think I like them better. They educate children about the realities of birth and child-rearing (placenta included!) in a way that doesn't get involved with the sexual maturity of the child. There's a time and a place for girls to make the connection between their own bodies and the biological details of "where babies come from," and while I won't comment on when and where that is, the MamAmor dolls make defining that method fun, interesting, beautiful, and flexible. A Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) doll is a great example. It takes a real, often dangerous situation and crafts it into a beautiful doll that allows children to learn about the whats and hows of birth--and even breastfeeding (sans sound effects)--in a safe way and non-scary way (unlike my introduction to cesareans on The Learning Channel). Ultimately, you have girls that learn about their bodies and motherhood in stages, getting to high school health class without confusion. I think that's safer for everyone.

I think the MamAmor dolls are a better idea than strapping on flower nipples and listening to a robot suckle. If a girl wants to play nursing, let her play--with her own imagination. And if she wants to pretend to nurse in public, that's fine, too. If she wants a doll with a cesarean scar like her mother's, that's great because she can begin learning about physical realities. Either way, and with either toy, there needs to be parental guidance in explaining what's happening and why. I love the idea of little girls knowing their own bodies and how they will change as they grow up; at age three I happily told my grandmother I would have my own baby one day and it would come out of my vagina...she wasn't thrilled, but at least I knew the reality. But I don't like the idea of technological advances replacing good parenting, creativity, and imagination in tackling life's lessons.

-K. Sarah Ostrach
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Builders and Babes in Toy Land

Goldie Blox brings engineering to girls’ playtime

I haven't been this excited for a new toy in over a decade. Adults get excited about their toys, too—an iPod, a new camera with more megapixels, or gaming headsets—but this is different. This is picking up a big wrapped mystery box and hearing 2,500 beads for stringing and weaving and losing rolling around. Call it a quarter-life crisis if you want to, but I am psyched for the new Goldie Blox book and building set.

Goldie Blox is a little girl who loves building different contraptions to solve problems with her colorful array of friends. Sure, there's pink involved. But there are gears and blocks, and books, too! That's the great thing about this new toy. Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineer, didn't like that girls didn't have any building toys--unless you count Lincoln Logs pink edition (at least this set still uses wood logs!). But what Debbie has done is really smart: she's used the same ideas that make Lincoln Logs, Legos, and K’NEX popular, but added a reading component to make it especially attractive to girls. Studies have shown that girls overwhelmingly like reading whereas boys overwhelmingly pass over the pages to get to the project. Well, now we can combine the two with a great role model who straps on a tool belt and figures things out!

The video got me excited about the toy, but also for what it promotes: introducing girls to engineering. The best part is that we don't have to give up dressing-up, princesses, pink, Barbie, or any other stereotypical girl-toy that, despite all the flack, many of us still love.

After I calmed down from my toy-shopping high, I thought about why I am so passionate about Goldie Blox. A male family member who is an acclaimed engineer in his late 80s wasn’t as impressed with the toy. He got to where he is with no help at home or at school, and even had to fight against overt discrimination trying to keep him from doing what he wanted. But I think more people, including Debbie Sterling, are recognizing that we don't have to do things the way they've always been done, we can expand kids' minds about who they can be and what they can accomplish. This is especially important as the boundaries of what people can do are being actively debated and expanded here and now. After all, whether or not a girl ends up an engineer doesn't mean Goldie Blox or toys like it can't add to her intellectual development and problem-solving skills! Nor does playing with Barbies mean you'll grow up to be a fashionista;  even if you do, there's nothing wrong in that.

But as with all things, we can't rely on the tool to do all the work. Goldie Blox doesn't fill the necessity of parents talking to their kids about what they are capable of and (hopefully) challenging preconceptions of the same. I played with Barbies galore (though pink was more my sister's thing) and loved the Disney princesses. But I also had access to toys like Lincoln Logs and a sizable car collection. Additionally, our parents made sure I knew that Barbie wasn't real, (nor was my zucchini ballerina toy), and that the Disney princesses are pretty and smart, but they got married far too young. Most importantly, they taught me that I can do whatever I want, with dresses or books or logs or cars, as long as I try hard and respect the choices of others to follow their own passions. So let’s build a belt drive with Goldie Blox and then celebrate our success with a tea party!

-K. Sarah Ostrach
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Girls Mean Business

While browsing the Internet for holiday gift ideas, I ran across several online shops that belong to young girls. My first discovery was on Etsy, a site dedicated to very small businesses selling handmade or vintage items. First, I came across some adorable “Bug Catcher” necklaces (which are now sold out!).  The seller, WHIMSYlove, and one of her daughters came up with the idea a few years ago.  Now the 7 and 9 year-old girls make the necklaces, while mom helps with the hard parts and sells their crafts online. Another shop, TrinketsBaublesChibis features art and handmade goods created by three home-schooled siblings for a school project. The two sisters and their brother make jewelry, sculptures, and drawings to be sold on Etsy.

After finding these small online businesses run by girls, I became curious about other girl-made businesses. With a quick online search, I found an interesting story about a 10 year-old girl who has become a successful fashion designer. Cecilia Cassini has been designing and sewing since age 6. She now has her own online shop and sells her clothes in two California boutiques.

All of these young girls started their businesses by doing something that they enjoy, what a positive message! I think that young girls starting their own business, no matter how small, is an important part of growing up. I know I gained some valuable skills selling Girl Scout Cookies and running my own lemonade stand. At the time, it just seems like a fun way to earn a little money for a new bike, but the money management and people skills that are learned last forever. 

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Science, we don’t have a problem!

America’s Top Young Scientist at the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Deepika Kurup.

The days when brainiacs were strictly associated with the male gender are long gone. Girls not only take up math and science, but excel in what were once considered "mannish" fields. It is a certainty that genius girls existed in the past, but they didn't get the acknowledgement they deserved. Nowadays female intelligence is embraced and encouraged at any age. Need I mention the press coverage that four year-old Heidi Hankins received for her IQ score of 159, only one point away from that of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking? Although science verges on becoming a "girl thing," there is still plenty of room for involvement. And guess what? Research indicates that the greater the female participation, the bigger the team intelligence.

This last October, a girl from Nashua, New Hampshire was named America's Top Young Scientist at the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Fourteen year-old Deepika Kurup's idea of a photo-catalytic rod for green and sustainable water purification won her the prize of $25,000 in the competition that was originally about inventing prototypes to solve an everyday problem. Deepika's innovation concentrated on the usage of solar energy to disinfect drinking water thus making it possible, in the most eco-friendly way, for millions more people to have access to clean drinking water. What a noble purpose and an ingenious invention! As long as "girlie" brains persist in engaging with science to a larger degree, it seems we will increasingly have fewer issues to worry about.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A safe walk from school

Mark McCullough, 32, walking Isabelle from the school bus across the road in Glentham, Lincolnshire.

This week a man was charged with the rape of an eleven year-old girl on her way home from school as she took a busy shortcut in North London. The girl was dressed in her school uniform and had tried to shake off her attacker by crossing the road several times on the journey; despite this she was still brutally attacked.

Such horrific stories bring up the question of whether girls should be left to walk to and from school by themselves, or even left to walk to and from the school bus alone. In another case recently parents in Lincolnshire were warned by the council that action would be taken if they did not escort their seven year-old girl to and from the school bus–even though the bus stop is mere yards from their family home. I can immediately see the differences in these cases–the age of the children (even though only a few years) is a large gap in streetwise knowledge, and the distance the girls are walking from school to home is something that ought to be considered as well. These are just some of the points being discussed on

For some parts of the UK recommended distances and ages from which children should be able to walk alone to school are given: ½ a mile for primary school pupils (5-10), 1 mile for middle school pupils (10 -13), and 1¼ miles (14-16) for secondary school pupils. I remember everyone from the age of 11 walking to and from school by themselves, or they caught a bus, or parents would drive them. The grey area seems to be if the child catches a bus, after leaving the bus whose responsibility is it to make sure the route they take is safe enough for them to do alone? Ultimately it is down to parental judgement but if you can see the bus stop or they then walk with friends and the distance isn’t great, let’s hope that in this day and age this at least is still considered "safe." 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Scrapbook Ritual

Page of a 70s scrapbook in Greek, asking for the participants’ hobbies.

Did you use to keep a scrapbook as a teenager? In my school days back in the early 90s, it was a pretty serious occupation. So much creativity and consideration was enclosed in building the proper scrapbook that would impress the class by the end of the school year. It should contain all of the tricky questions and be embellished with ‘funky’ images.  Famous actors, singers, groups and all-time favourites were hosted in its blank pages.

Now that I come to think about it, the content was quite sarcastic. With rhetorical questions, such as “What does a scrapbook/man/woman/love/friendship mean for you?” or more personal inquiries like “Who is your best friend?/What is your zodiac sign?/What do you think of the owner?”, there was a deliberate intention to provoke intimacy and straightness. Tradition had it that the contributors used a nickname as a mask throughout the whole course and did not give away their identity until the last page.

What I remember most vividly is the fact that we hid it away with due reverence from parents and teachers - anyone who wouldn’t catch its meaning actually - as if it were a treasure. Perhaps that had to do with the revealed secrets and sometimes the naughty remarks. Although there was a flair of innocence and poetic feeling still in those ages, we felt that we would likely end up grounded if the scrapbook were discovered by our parents. I haven’t looked for my scrapbook as a grown-up, but I will give it a try next time I dig into my old stuff. I bet that I will run into many typos and the feedback, called for back then, will now seem extra cute and funny. How about yours?

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Girl Guides take a feminist stance

The way we were: English Girl Guides in Hertfordshire in 1950.

Over the last ten years I feel Girl Guides have been forgotten about; for instance, my village no longer has a Girl Guides group and most young girls now join the Scouts, but the Guides are now fighting back.

The new chief executive of the Girl Guides, Julie Bentley, certainly has strong opinions on women's rights and it is hoped that her appointment will lead to the modernisation of the organisation.

Julie, who has previously been Chief Executive of the Family Planning Association and a campaigner supporting abortion rights has called the Guides 'the ultimate feminist organisation.' She states, 'Girls today face real and unique challenges as they grow up. I want our programme to continue responding to those changes, so that we always offer girls what they really need. And I want us to give girls an even louder voice on the issues that matter to them now – so they can help build a society they want to live in. One where they truly have the chance to be everything they can be.'

Recent figures now suggest that despite competition from the Scouts to win new members, the economic downturn seems to be benefiting the Girl Guides, with almost one girl an hour joining up last year and it is hoped that with Julie’s insights into modern girls' issues these numbers will continue to grow. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Trick or Talent? It’s just a show!

Ella Henderson, 16.

With Ella Henderson out of the game that is UK's The X Factor, my never-ending disbelief in talent shows is on the table. Who (and I am referring to the production team) thinks that it is considered a wise move to put a young girl in such a test in the first place? Even professional singers cannot always tackle the pressure of negativism and critique. How can a teenager get out of all this exposure safe and unharmed?

Sixteen year old Ella initially impressed the judges while performing one of her own songs at the first audition and became the youngest finalist to compete in such a reality show. There is no question that she is truly talented with a splendid voice. She left the game having collected rave comments and unexpected fans. In the wake of her exit, she was shortly given the chance to perform live at the Amy Winehouse Foundation Ball. But Ella spoke frankly about the struggles to keep up with the standards of the music industry. For over a year she tottered between being too skinny or too chubby in trying to shape the ideal figure of a pop icon. Not only did she come to terms with her silhouette, but she fought for her principles over the spectacle’s typical counter-demands.

Here’s what she learned on the way:

  • "If someone told me to lose weight now, I’d take no notice. My music isn’t going to sound any different whether I look like a bean pole or Mr Blobby."
  • "I love doing my hair and make-up and trying out quirky styles, but on a programme like The X Factor they want to do everything to the extreme and break boundaries."
  • "Sometimes I have to rein it in a bit. I’ve sat down at a table with them and said, 'OK, I wouldn’t be comfortable on national television wearing a crop top and a pair of hotpants.' That’s not the kind of image I want to portray simply because of the way that I am." (in reference to producer suggestions on The X Factor)

If anything, this is the only way that girls should shine; as being themselves. 

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, November 26, 2012

If She Can Do It...

Pro Riders at Sugar Showdown 2012 at Duthie Hill in Issaquah, WA, USA

Like any typical young girl growing up in the UK, I had a bike. Mine wasn’t pink with flowers, though: it was luminous yellow with bees on it and a bell which sounded like a doorbell ringing. I got off to a shaky start but once I got the stabilisers off, I was quite content to while away a long afternoon cycling in concentric circles round our cul-de-sac with the other local kids.

It’s probably a familiar story to many of us: the wobbly experience of riding our first proper bike. My problem is that I never really got far past that initial “Yay, I can go all by myself” stage. My family didn’t really do bike rides and the one attempt I made at going down a proper hill I remember starting with a thrill and ending with a lot of mud, blood, and scolding from the lady whose prized flowerbeds I had just destroyed.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m in a long term relationship with a man who is, quite simply, mad about bikes. Our small flat plays host to on average 4 or 5 bicycles (not counting the big boxes of bike bits which are apparently essential and follow us wherever we go). I have cringed my way through countless mountain bike films and can now identify the forks, headset, and derailleur on each of the aforementioned bi-wheeled contraptions. He races, builds, and works with bikes. So you can imagine his horror when on our first summer holiday together he found me nervously edging my way down the smooth road of the giant Alpine mountain instead of his chosen “easy trail” over rocks, tree roots, jumps, and drops.

Since then, my long suffering partner has made it his slow, seemingly impossible mission to convince me that mountain biking is not just for idiot boys who like to throw themselves wheels-first off of cliffs for fun. I haven’t been the best student, but I’ve appreciated each beautiful hand-built bike and have tried my best not to fall off. There have been arguments, huffs, and laughs as I’ve pushed up mud slicks and whimpered taking downhill corners at “speed.” Slow progress.

I’m still happier on the flat, but recently I’ve been inspired by a group of American riders who are claiming the mountains for us girls. The competitors at the Sugar Showdown event in Washington this summer were treated to a two-day all female competition and coaching clinic. The event was hosted by Sweetlines and was captured on film. Now a documentary, If She Can Do It premiered on Thursday, 15th November. 

Sweetlines founder Kat Sweet sums up the importance of films like this in encouraging girls to have a go: “The significance of this film is enormous for the women of freeride...This demographic has been largely overlooked by the bike industry for a long time, and people want to see women riding bikes, supporting and pushing each other, but keeping it fun.”

Watching the trailer, I have to admit that those big hills look like a lot of fun. Hopefully, seeing strong women take on these bike trails will inspire a whole new generation of little girls to get out and have a go. As for me, I’m now harbouring a secret desire to fly off the edge of a drop and plunge down a mountain over rocks and through the trees. Just whatever you do, don’t tell my partner . . . yet. I’ve got some slight inclines to conquer first!

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Do we need a female Sonic?

A selection of text modified to address Mike Hoye's daughter.

I recently read about Mike Hoye, a father who became concerned that even though you can change the name of the main character in the game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the character continues to be addressed as though they were male. He and his three year old daughter have been playing the game together, with Hoye reading the text out as though it referred to a female character. To make this easier on himself in the long run, he reprogrammed his copy of the game so that the text referred to the main character as a girl.

I love the fact that this father was so concerned about giving his daughter good role models that he want to all that trouble; many games aimed at young girls tend to focus on princesses or puppies or pink or presumably other things beginning with the letter P.

When I was a girl, the games I loved didn’t feature girls much either. One of my favourite Christmas gifts was my Sega Mega Drive complete with a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. Along with Sonic, my other favourite game was ToeJam & Earl. Everyone knows Sonic, but ToeJam & Earl are a little less known, I think. All three of these characters are male, but I’m not certain I really registered that fact as a girl. It was far more noticeable to me that the characters I was having so much fun playing were a blue hedgehog with red shoes, a three-legged red alien, and a fat orange alien.

Do I feel that I missed out on having positive female role models in games? Not really, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need them – it can hardly be said that I speak for all girls. But the reason we love games, as children and adults, is that we connect with them in some way. It doesn’t have to be a deep connection – it can be as shallow as thinking that red running shoes are awesome. What Mike Hoye has done by creating a female Link especially for his little girl is not only create a positive and proactive female hero for her to admire and enjoy, but forge a stronger and deeper link (pun not intended) between himself and his daughter. I hope they continue to play games together in the future – and that Hoye doesn’t have to resort to such drastic measures to find suitable role models.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jenny, the self-published author

Jenny Grierson next to her book.

Every so often stories of thriving girls come to light that make you want to chase your dreams even harder. Jenny Grierson is a 12 year old girl residing in Suffolk, UK and an ordinary student at Newmarket’s St Felix Middle School. And she has recently published her first novel called Reaching for the Rocking Horse. Jenny started working on this book in 2010 with the aid of a publishing website and Tim, her older brother, contributed to the illustrations. 

The siblings toured around the regional bookstores and managed to have the book stocked at Heffers bookshop in Cambridge. There was even a proper book-signing event at the National Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket, where, as a real pro, Jenny sold eight copies of her book.

The novel is intended for children aged eight to fourteen years old and is categorised in fiction tales. It narrates the story of Tom who is found in a state of dream and experiences magical moments, after receiving a wooden rocking horse as a birthday gift from his aunt. Jenny has always aspired to become a famous author and we can only wish her the very best in her future writing. This is clearly a success story that does justice to all passionate dreamers. As Jenny points out, “I think you can do amazing things at any age if you want to.”

If you've read the book, feel free to share your review and see it published on our Girls Book Blog.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Voyeurism or art?

Photo: AP

A sushi restaurant in Vienna has recently become the focus of a new so called "art project" created by the Austrian artist Alexander Riegler. The art installation is in effect a one-way mirror that allows men to peer from their restroom into that of the ladies. Women first became aware that they were being spied upon when a local paper ran a piece on the mirror, leading to many complaints and the restaurant having to put up a sign warning women about the mirror upon entry to the restroom.

Why should we be taken aback by such a mirror that allows men a glimpse of the sink area of the women's restroom? The women's toilets have always been a place of sanctuary, a place to retouch make-up, bond over the lack of toilet roll, and share of feminine products in the case of an emergency–why should men be allowed such surveillance over this area of our lives?

The artist's intentions for the piece were to spark a discussion of "voyeurism and surveillance" but by first not informing the subjects of the project seems to be a large intrusion of privacy. Then, by putting up a sign warning of it, the unconscious behaviours exhibited by the women are removed, therefore nullifying the project altogether.

The future intention of the project is that the mirror will be flipped so that women will be able to peer into the men’s bathroom. With men’s urinals present however, this would surely push the project further into voyeurism and further from the realms of art. The case for the project is perhaps showing an increasingly open society in which more and more aspects of the different genders' habits are to be shared, but there are some things in life that should surely be kept behind the stall door.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Annie Moore: Ellis Island’s first immigrant

Annie Moore's 1892 Passenger Arrival List

On November 12th in 1954, Ellis Island in New York was officially closed as an immigration inspection station. Since it had opened  in 1892, more than 12 million immigrants had passed through into the United States of America. The first of these many immigrants to pass through Ellis Island was a 15-year-old girl, Annie Moore

Annie Moore was traveling with her two younger brothers from Cork, Ireland to meet their parents in New York. They had ridden in steerage class on the steamship Nevada for twelve days before arriving on January 1, 1892.  

For years it was thought that Annie Moore lived out the rest of her American dream by going west to Texas, where she married and lived until she was accidentally killed by a stagecoach at age 46. As the New York Times reported in 2006, professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak discovered through extensive research that the famous Ellis Island Annie Moore actually stayed in New York. Further research also indicates that Annie Moore was already 17 when she landed at Ellis Island. Annie lived the typically rough life of an immigrant on the Lower East Side at that time. She married and had eleven children.

Today, the many living descendants of the original Ellis Island Annie Moore have an ancestry that includes other immigrants from all over the world, and Annie herself is depicted in statues on Ellis Island and in Ireland. Whatever her exact age or where she lived, Annie Moore was a girl who still serves as a powerful symbol of the millions of brave immigrants willing to risk the journey to America for a new life. 

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Help Girl Museum Grow

Girls are everywhere making a difference in the world. From Malala's amazing sacrifice for girls' education to the thousands of girls who are standing up every day for a better future, we celebrate them all.

Girl Museum was founded 3.5 years ago in order to bring the lives of girls to the fore, to value their struggles, achievements and daily lives through our exhibitions. Now we need more room to grow. Luckily for us, that means getting a fresh 'big girl' website. You can be part of the 'code and mortar' of our new virtual museum by giving to the Website Fund

Our target is to raise at least $5000 for this project by December 14, 2012. Because of our global reach, we accept donations in 15 currencies.

Your contribution goes directly to the development and creation of a website that will support our expanding programs, innovative exhibitions, our Girl Culture Archive, and an online Girlhood Resource Center, as well as cool interactive art history and girl culture games for young and old!

When you donate as an individual, your name will go on our Patrons' Roll of Honor and we will invite you to submit a photo of a girl in your family to become part of the Girl Museum collage showcasing the beautiful faces that make up our online community. 

If you make an organizational donation, we can add your logo as well.

Every bit helps, so please spare a thought, and a coin, for girls of today and tomorrow to help Girl Museum raise the bar for online museums everywhere.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Growing up in the White House

US President Barack Obama with his daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Last week the US presidential elections captured most of the global interest. Besides having been elected to a second term as President, Barack Obama is also the father of two brilliant girls; Malia, 14 and Sasha, 11. With so  public attention centered on the first daughters, one questions whether they enjoyed a normal childhood so far and whether they will experience a balanced adulthood in the years to come. How demanding is it to be the President’s kid? On the outside looking in, it doesn't strike me as an easy task for sure.

Malia and Sasha Obama were literally raised in the White House, after Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 US elections and the family’s subsequent establishment in the presidential premises. Sasha, who was 7 years old at that time, became the youngest child to reside in the White House after John F. Kennedy, Jr. who arrived as an infant in 1961. Until 2009, their activities in Chicago included soccer, dance, and drama for Malia, gymnastics and tap for Sasha, with piano and tennis for both. Soon after moving in the White House, the family obtained a puppy named Bo for the Obama girls. Another instant change in their lives was the shift from the private University of Chicago Laboratory School to the private Sidwell Friends School, known as "the Harvard of Washington's private schools," which is a common choice for Presidential offspring.

The proud father recently stated that the girls will still be able to do normal things like go to the movies and even date. He made a new promise to his daughter Malia that she will be given the opportunity to learn how to drive. Perhaps the Obamas have figured out a way to accomplish a form of regularity in their everyday routine and managed to convert the White House into a cozy home. A few days before his inauguration on January 20, 2009, President Obama published an open letter to his daughters in Parade magazine, describing at large his aspirations for every child in America. In the final lines he mentions: "These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have.” 

There's a long of way to go until we get there, so we shall all seek to do our part in making this a universal reality for every girl.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Am Malala

A few weeks ago we talked about Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani 14 year old blogger who was shot by the Taliban for the "crime" of being an educated, outspoken and brave girl. Thankfully, she is now reportedly making good progress after emergency surgery in the UK. Her father, Ziauddin, has spoken of her recovery and how she is "grateful and amazed" at the outpouring of support from all over the world. "They have helped her survive and stay strong," he continued.

A month on from the attack, support for Malala is still strong. Today has been declared a day of global action in Malala's name to ensure that her struggle to improve girls access to education continues. 34 million adolescent girls around the world are still not attending school. This has to change. It has been demonstrated time and time again that educating girls not only improves their opportunities for a better life, but enriches their communities too. Empowering girls empowers everyone. This is the reason that Malala and other girls, campaigners, and especially girl campaigners like her are so important.

Across the world, tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for Malala to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Shahida Choudhary, who began the petition on is one of them, explaining that "Malala doesn't just represent one young woman, she speaks out for all those who are denied an education purely on the basis of their gender. There are girls like Malala in the UK and across the world. I was one of them."

What has happened to Malala is appalling, as is the fact that it took the shooting of three innocent school girls to push this issue to the front pages of the news. However, there is a lot to be hopeful here. The Taliban hoped to silence a young girl's cries for equality and peace. Instead that message has been amplified around the world.

If you’d like to join in the campaign for girls' education and take up Malala's cause, you can sign the petition to nominate her for the Nobel Peace Prize. You can find out about what’s happening today  and how to show your support online here, or just search using the hashtag #IamMalala. More importantly, you can sign the "I am Malala" petition, calling on Pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education to all children, all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls, and international organisations to ensure that all 61 million children currently not in school are in education by the end of 2015.

These are big goals, and I’ve no doubt that they will be difficult to accomplish. However, as Whitney Houston told us, "I believe the children are the future." This isn't an issue we can brush under the carpet anymore. We need to empower girls – and we need to do it now.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Amelia Earhart: 75 Years of Mystery and Inspiration

This 1937 photo was analyzed by experts to reveal an object in the water, not easily visible at this scale, showing what might be the landing gear and a wheel from an aircraft. The possible debris is at the left, just below the island.
Photo: The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery

Many girls look up to famous women from history. They are usually women who have done something to inspire girls, or who have worked to make the world a better place. One of my favorite historical heroines is Amelia Earhart. I discovered her story for the first time in my school’s library as a second grader, and immediately became interested in her mysterious disappearance. She is a great role model for girls because she was not afraid to try new things, and to challenge what was expected of her. And who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery?

Throughout her life she received an education, excelled in science, and spent time volunteering as a nurse during World War I, not to mention her accomplishments as a female aviator. After setting out on an attempt to fly around the world in the summer of 1937, Amelia was never seen again. In October 1937 a photograph was taken which may show possible debris from her tragic airplane crash. 75 years later, people are still trying to figure out what happened to Amelia. Even with forensic evidence and dozens of scientists investigating the case, we might never know the truth.

It is important for girls to have someone like Amelia Earhart to look up to. Even though her tale ended tragically, the fact that so many people still care about that story all these decades later says something. Sure, you can admire a celebrity, but will people remember who they were or what they did 75 years after their death? It is unlikely. 

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.