Since March was Women’s History month both Hannah and I decided to focus our reading on ‘women’ throughout the month. For me that meant reading books written by women, about women and can I say, “women are just amazing!”
One of the many reasons I chose to study history was to uncover the lives of those who don’t make the history books. In academic parlance, this is called ‘subaltern history,’ but basically it means finding the voices of the other 99% and all too often, it means finding the stories of women. After watching the movie “Hidden Figures” I decided to focus some of my reading on ‘women in science’ and the essential roles women played (play) in advancing our scientific knowledge while also facing (and overcoming) sexism in all of it’s ugly, unjust, and bigoted forms.
The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel is the history of the women who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the late 19th-early 20th century, observing the night skies and analyzing glass plates (similar to photos) of those skies. These women contributed vast amounts of knowledge about star clusters, nebulas, asteroids, galaxies, etc. to the field of astronomy. It is interesting (frustrating, actually) to note that while I did not recognize any of the women’s names, I frequently recognized the names of the men working in the field at the same time. I also read, Marie Curie by Susan Quinn in which, Quinn did an excellent job of presenting Marie Curie as a whole person not simply an archetype for the “strong, resilient” scientific woman. I will admit that at times I got a bit lost in the scientific jargon, but I still found both very readable for the histories they tell and the women’s voices they bring to the forefront of the expansion of scientific knowledge.
I also read Angela Davis,’ Women, Race, and Class, which I cannot recommend highly enough to absolutely everyone who is or knows a woman!! While this book was originally published in the 1980’s, the themes and ideas are 100% relevant today. (Sad actually). I recommend reading this book one chapter at a time so you can sit with it, think about it, and process the knowledge before moving on to the next chapter because everything she says is that freaking important! *Note: written in a very readable (not academic) style.
Last, but not least, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is a classic novel about a black woman, Janie Crawford, living in mid-century Florida written by one of the great writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston was a trained anthropologist/historian and she captures the lives of the people she knew (real and fictional) in her writing.
Next up…what I’m reading for The 2nd Annual National Antiracist Book Festival!!
Read on my friends!