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?

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. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Singing among the stars

Sarah Brightman has booked a trip to the International Space Station and hinted at doing a 'space concert.'
Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

West End and Broadway and singing sensation Sarah Brightman is well known for her hit records, starring stage roles, and high profile relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber but she is now embarking on a new adventure - into space!

At a press conference in Moscow, the singing star announced that she had been approved as a space tourist and booked a seat on a Russian Federal Space Agency Rocket to the International Space Station sometime in the next few years, after her 2013 tour.

Since Space Tourist Dennis Tito became the first traveller to pay for a trip into space out of his own pocket in 2001, seven others have followed in his footsteps, including Anousheh Ansari who was the first female private space explorer in 2006 and wrote a blog about her experience in space that is inspiring to any woman aiming for the stars.

Despite the fact that women are not thought of as pioneers of space travel the first Briton, South Korean and Iranian that have gone into space have all been women! 56 Women have gone into space so far and Sarah Brightman seems to be another woman that dreams of the stars: "I think of myself not just as a dreamer, but as a dream chaser," she says. So here's to Sarah and achieving her dream of being able to sing among the stars.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election vs Women's Rights

In 2008, history was made in the United States. For the first time, a black man was elected president of the United States (and in the primaries he fought Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman, and Bill Richardson, a Latino). Not only was Barack Hussein Obama II elected as the 44th President of the United States, but he was elected with a landslide victory, with 365 electoral votes (270 are needed to win the presidency) and 52.9% of the popular vote.

The 2012 election was a little different. Though Willard Mitt Romney has conceded the race to President Obama, votes are still being counted. NBC, CNN, and even FOX News are calling 303 electoral votes for Obama, with seven of the eight battleground states declared for Obama (the eighth, Florida, has not declared a winner yet, though it is leaning toward Obama with 97% of the votes in). Though this election isn't the landslide that it was in 2008, in many ways, the 2012 November elections and ballot measures may be more important to women than they were four years ago.

As an expatriate living in the United Kingdom, I've been blessed in that I haven't faced the deluge of political ads that are so common in election season (though to be fair, my home state of Oregon isn't a battleground state and and thus gets fewer ads anyway). That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't been keeping a close eye on elections and ballot measures throughout the country. More than usual, it seems that this election has been a fight for women's rights and women's bodies, and by extension a fight for the rights of girls. Abortion rights have always been a part of presidential campaigns, but this election cycle has been particularly nasty, filled with hateful and hurtful phrases like "legitimate rape" and implications that rape is "God's will."

For me, the obvious attacks on womens' and girls' rights began just over a year ago, in a September 2011 debate between the Republican candidates for president. Representative Michele Bachmann (Minnesota) made a claim that the HPV vaccination can cause mental retardation, going well beyond the usual claims that vaccinating against the human papillomavirus will encourage promiscuity. In fact, the HPV vaccine is important because there is a direct causal link between HPV and cervical cancer; the fact that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease is secondary.

Shortly thereafter, voters in Mississippi rejected a "personhood" amendment, which would have outlawed abortion, along with many types of birth control and in-vitro fertilization. Thankfully the voters of Mississippi felt that the wording of the constitutional amendment was too vague, but the fact that it made it on the ballot is frightening enough, particularly in a state with such a high number of teen pregnancies--nearly double the national average.

This year, a woman's right to decide if she wants an abortion has been attacked from all angles, but particularly in instances of rape. Missouri Representative Todd Akin (who was defeated by Claire McCaskill last night) said in response to a question about his views on rape and abortion, "First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Not only being far from medically sound--one doctor referred to this theory as "nuts"--the implication that women "cry rape" when they're having a bad day or want to "get even" with someone is nothing less than victim blaming, and in fact comes dangerously close to condoning rape. A few weeks later, Richard Mourdock (apparently not learning from the outcry that surrounded Akin's claims) stated, "I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Although Mourdock went on to clarify his statement and insist that rape wasn't condoned by God (just the unwanted pregnancy), he lost Indiana's Senate race.

Additionally, Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin as it's first female Senator, who is also the first openly gay Senator. California increased the penalties for human trafficking, and Florida voters chose not to further restrict access to abortion. Maine and Maryland both voted to allow same-sex marriages (Washington is still counting ballots, but is currently leaning toward allowing same-sex marriages), while Minnesota rejected defining marriage as between only a man and a woman. Massachusetts is still counting ballots for their "Death with Dignity" act (Oregon was the first state in the nation to pass such a ballot measure in 1994, and though it's been contested, it's never been repealed). Lastly, Oklahoma passed affirmative action legislation.

So what do the results of this election mean for women and girls? It's too early to be certain of anything, of course, but there is hope for four more years of federal funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and reproductive health, sex education, and general health care needs (no federal funding goes to abortions). Hopefully "Obamacare" will expand, ensuring more people get the access they need and deserve to affordable, quality health services. And lastly, maybe we'll see a drawdown in the attacks on women and their right to make decisions regarding their bodies. This culture of legitimizing rape and denying women the choice to decide how they wish to deal with their uterus has gone on long enough. Had the election turned out differently, I shudder to think about the struggles today's girls would face, fighting to regain rights that their mothers had. Thankfully, the clock wasn't turned back.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Carrier of Dreams

Music prodigy Alma Deutscher.
Photo: Jenny Goodall

I can authentically declare myself as a big-time follower of kids that have a particular talent in musical instruments. I had no inclination to playing music whatsoever (sorry grandpa about that broken accordion!), so I always thought it was a hard thing to do and looked up to it. The rational way it works is: the younger the age, the bigger the admiration.

Dubbed as the new Mozart, seven year-old Alma Deutscher is a child prodigy in playing and writing classical music. She comes from Dorking in Surrey, UK and has already the asset of having composed her own opera called The Sweeper of Dreams, with which she competed at the English National Opera contest last year. Although she didn't win, she was highly praised and was brought into public attention hereafter. Alma can play the violin and the piano with remarkable skill, while remaining a really adorable kid. Despite the recognition gained, she is very down to earth and her parents manage her success in a sensible way. Alma's study and practice may take up most of her daily time, but she seems to have a balanced girlhood. Her following words are proof: “I don’t mind if I am famous or not, I just want to be good. I look at other composers but I’m not trying to become exactly like Mozart. Yeah, I like him, but I’m going to be like Alma, not Mozart.”

You can enjoy more of Alma on her YouTube channel.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Riding High

Yacaranday Herrera , 11, (center) looks at Evelin Munoz, 10, (right) as their teacher, Dalila Soracco, (second from right) looks on while experimenting with a super absorbent polymer that is often used in diapers, during the Sally Ride Science Festival at Rice University's Duncan Hall, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, in Houston. The event is aimed towards getting young girls interested in science careers.
Photo: Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle

Last week, many American girls were thinking about their Halloween costumes and trick or treat routes.  Girls in Houston, Texas may also have been thinking about their future career in science after visiting the Sally Ride Science Festival at Rice University on  October 27. The importance of getting girls excited about the STEM  (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects has been in the news a lot lately. When the first International Day of the Girl Child was held on the 11th of October this year by the United Nations, the UN focused on basic rights that girls from around the world are being denied.  Making sure that girls receive equal access to education was one of the key issues of this day.  Even in the developed countries where girls received the best access to education women still lag behind men in receiving degrees and starting careers in the STEM fields.

Besides being the first woman in space, Sally Ride founded the educational company Sally Ride Science in 2001 to promote science, technology, engineering, and math education for all students.  In an interview with Houston radio station KUHF Sally’s sister, Karen Ride shared that  "Sally's vision was to provide opportunities for kids, especially girls, to re-ignite that interest, keep it going, have support among their peers, meet other girls that are really interested in the same things as they are, and to have significant local role models, women scientists, who are having a wonderful exciting life in the science in one aspect or the other." The Sally Ride Science Festivals have been held a few times a year on college campuses  all over the country since 2001.

The festival is open to the public, but it is primarily designed to get 5th through 8th grade girls excited about science. Festivals include food, music, hands-on activities, workshops, and guest speakers.   Speakers include women with a broad range of STEM careers. The keynote speaker for the Houston festival was Wendy Lawrence, an engineer and astronaut, who has been on four space shuttle missions herself.

Karen Ride says the point of the festivals is "to broaden the horizons of kids, and really help them dream of things that they can do in the future, in book or studies, and in their professional life. That they can do whatever they want to. As Sally used to say, 'They can reach for the stars.'"

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Interview with Rebecca Price, founder of Chick History

When Head Girl Ashley Remer told us that she would be doing a podcast for #HerStory, we were all excited. Rebecca Price created Chick History and the #HerStory podcast to celebrate all the women in history who have been overlooked in favor of their male counterparts. This is a cause that's important to all of us here at Girl Museum, and as such, we wanted to highlight Rebecca, who is one of our favorite contemporary women. Rebecca was kind enough to answer some questions about Chick History and #HerStory, as well as her thoughts on the future (so to speak) of history.

Katie: I know you go into this a bit in the "about" section of Chick History, but was there a specific event, woman, or instance that motivated you to start Chick History? Tied into that, was there something specific that sparked the idea for the #HerStory podcast?
Rebecca: I've always been passionate about women's history and material culture, and I'm a museum professional interested in outreach, education, and collaboration. Chick History was a way for me to combine those interests in my own way, and start to explore all the various platforms the Internet provides to network and reach an audience. I think the Internet, how people use it, and social media have created a new world for educational and cultural outreach, and I'm obsessed with exploring and finding new, creative, and forward-thinking ways to use all those tools and resources.
The #HerStory Project is the biggest project I've undertaken so far. A seed of thought was planted in my head from a fellow museum professional (Eloise Batic, who did Mary Pickford in #HerStory #16). She and I were talking about women's history and I was telling her about Chick History and she told me she would love to do something for it. That was that, but the idea stuck in my head for several months. What could she do? What would it look like? Then, one morning, I thought of the idea for #HerStory. What if Eloise could choose someone in history she adored and talk about her on her own terms? Just like I say on the blog, everyone out there has someone they admire and just can’t stop talking about. And #HerStory became that chance for women to share that story. The title obviously references the herstory/history play on words, but it's also possessive. This is Eloise's story, her story of Mary Pickford.
Funny, I don’t think I ever told Eloise that. Even funnier, when we first recorded her episode on Mary Pickford, it was almost an hour because we couldn't stop talking. We had to do a second take for the short format of #HerStory. I still have the long version and plan to put it up at some point.
Katie: If you were to interview yourself, who would your woman in history be?
Rebecca: Actually, I do plan to finish the project with my selection in the final episode. I can't say who it is, but I'll give a hint. It is one of Henry VIII's wives…but not the one you would think!
Katie: Has the #HerStory podcast included any women you had not heard of prior to the interviews?
Rebecca: Absolutely. That is what is great about this project. It demonstrates that women's history has such a depth that you are constantly learning new and fascinating biographies and stories, as well as updating your knowledge on the ones you already know. We don't have to be satisfied with the same canonical women's biographies we were taught in school. Women's history is a very rich and diverse field, and there is more out there to be discovered.
Just some of the brand new women for me, that have already been published, were Kate Warne (#14), Martha Putney (#15), and Hannah Solomon (#24). And of course, there are ones that I know the name but I really learn about her with the project, like Evelyn Nesbit (#5).
Katie: As a woman and a historian, do you think history will continue to be fragmented or will there be an eventual cohesion? Meaning, will we continue to see "black history," "women's history," and all the various "groupings" that can be made, or will history eventually encompass all these things equally?
Rebecca: What I see in the field are a couple of trends. First, the fringe histories as they've been known for the past several decades have become mainstream. Black history, women's history, LGBT history, Asian history, etc., these are now all seen as scholarly disciplines. It sounds patronizing when you put it like that, but the discipline of women's studies has only been around for the last half century or so, and by the 1990s it proved it was a contender in the field of history.
Second, funding for research, conservation, museums, publications - the humanities in general really - has moved towards the fields of social history and conserving the parts of history that have been overlooked until recently. It's very difficult to get a grant to do work on something unless it is somehow related to a previously under-served group.
All that is to say that we are moving in a positive direction for the "idea" of history to be more inclusive. Think about what you most likely learned in high school - the presidents and wars. If you watch the History Channel as your source, then it's mostly the same. Military history and political history have had a monopoly on the idea of history for a very long time, when in fact they are really just disciplines of history as much as women's history or African-American history. I can say that there is a strong effort in K-12 education here in America to try and incorporate more of the other histories into the textbooks, and more than as just sidebars. It's hit or miss with some of them, but Rome wasn't built in a day!
Katie: What kind of feedback have you been getting about the blog and podcasts? If you have been getting non-positive responses, how do you react to those, both internally (personally) and externally (how you respond - or not - on the blog)?
Rebecca: Everyone who has participated has been extremely supportive, and there have been many of the speakers who have gone above and beyond with their help in promotion and getting additional guests to come on board. For me, one of the best comments I received on a post was from another women's history blogger who said I was going to make her go broke with all the book recommendations! Reading is such important part of the project and I was happy to hear that.
In the first podcast, where I introduce the project and in the About section on the blog, I let everyone know this is a different way of learning history. It's not about names or dates, it's about memory and passion, and ultimately about personal connections with the past. That was my number one concern when starting this project, was that feedback would criticize if a guest "left something out." But reaction has proven the opposite. I see things like "Oh, I love Annie Oakley, too!" or "I didn't know that about Eleanor Roosevelt." In the end, it's up to the guest and what is important to them about their particular woman. The way I would tell someone's story is completely different than the way you would tell a story. So it's empowering and shows that there are other ways to look at history.
Katie: Is there anything else you want to share about yourself, Chick History, #Her Story, or history/museums in general?
Rebecca: Edward Ayers, the president of the University of Richmond, told a great story in a speech that I heard last year. When he told his mother that he was going to major in history for his degree, she asked him, "Why? We already know what happened."
This story really gets to the heart of history. I think it is important for people to realize that history is a constantly evolving discipline. Not only are new discoveries made everyday that make historians and professionals reevaluate previous thought, but the theories of history have modernized as well, causing new avenues of interpretation. Twenty years ago, if you mentioned the name Sally Hemmings on the grounds of Monticello it was blasphemy. Now, Annette Gordon-Reeds' impeccable work on Sally Hemmings' and Thomas Jefferson's relationship has become a staple of the museum's new education center and visitor experience.The same goes for museums like Girl Museum. We are expanding our definition of what it means to be a museum and education center, and more importantly, how to reach an audience without the more traditional avenues like a physical space and a collection. I'm a museum person, so I will always believe having objects is a precious thing, but now we are entering the 21st Century where there is room for all kinds of museums. In a way, Chick History is a small part in that dialogue and effort as well.

Thank you, Rebecca, for answering my questions. Chick History is a wonderful, if sadly necessary, reminder that women have always done big things, whether history has decided to remember them or not.

Head Girl Ashley Remer's #HerStory podcast on sculpture Augusta Savage can be found here, all the stories can be found here, and please be sure to visit Chick History

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Igor in the Aisles

Marty Feldman as Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974)

There are countless advantages to being the younger sister, the majority of which may be fodder for future posts. A unique, lesser-known pair of advantages for me was the ill-fitting hand-me-down clothes and trips to the grocery store sans-sister, who was off doing bigger-girl things like softball or camp. An odd combination? Hardly.

Different stores proved suitable for different make-believe. Clothing stores were good for jungle raids, for example, whereas the grocery store—with its long aisles—proved conducive to the painfully slow, drawn-out shuffling of a bug-eyed humpback, missing arm optional. Thus I amused myself while being towed from one errand to another. Mom would be pushing the cart and I’d follow, perhaps mildly interested in the produce on either side of the aisle at first…but that got boring pretty quickly, especially when you consider what’s at eye-level for a 4 year-old. Then Igor would emerge. I’d roll one of my shoulders forward, extend and drag the opposite leg behind me while exaggerating the bend in the other, and, if I were feeling particularly gruesome, I’d tuck one of my little arms inside my generally oversized shirt and wrap it tightly around my torso. I’d follow my mother in this state, hobbling and dragging my limb behind me, a truly pathetic creature. 

But you must understand, this wasn’t just a one-off thing. Grocery shopping day was Igor rehearsal day. And I was committed. It wasn’t just a little hobble in the canned food aisle when Mom was spending too long comparing two brands of unsalted tomato paste. Oh no. This was the artist hard at work, perfecting her craft up and down every single aisle after the cart was procured up until check-out. It’s just too bad nobody really took notice. Or so I thought. For 20-some years I was pretty pleased with myself, thinking I’d gotten away with one of the most embarrassing non-tantrum behaviors a child can inflict on a parent. Turns out Mom knew the whole time. She told me when I was in college that she let me go at it because she didn’t want to stunt my creativity.

Just think of what so many other great things girls all over the world could do—beyond impersonating Igor—if their parents and communities gave them the same chance I had.

-K. Sarah Ostrach
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.