#MindforBooksPrompt – March

Women Taking Charge

March is Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is on the 8th so it’s only right that we make this prompt all about women and I’d love to see women who kick ass and take names.

Matriarchal societies, queens and warriors. Women who overcome adversity or non-fiction about or by women who inspire and change the world.

I like to make sure I only read women during the month of March. Now, admittedly that’s not too hard as I read a lot of books written by women, but March is dedicated to women.

Women of Note

1 March 1781 Javiera Carrera born. Known as the ‘Mother of Chile’, she was an important leader in the early struggle for independence during the period known as the Patria Vieja (Old Republic). Credited with sewing the first national Chilean flag. A symbol of a Chilean woman standing up to authority.

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6 March 1937 Valentina Tereshkova born. Politician, engineer and former cosmonaut. The first and youngest woman to have flown in space. Embarked on a solo mission on the Vostok in June 1963, and is still the only woman to have been on a solo space mission. Current member of the national State Duma.

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7 March 1938 Janet Guthrie born. ‘You can go back to antiquity to find women doing extraordinary things, but their history is forgotten. Or denied to have ever existed. So women keep reinventing the wheel. Women have always done these things, and they always will.’ Professional race-car driver, and, in 1977, Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500.

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7 March 1897 Harriet Jacobs dies. ‘The war of my life had begun; and though one of God’s most powerless creatures, I resolved never to be conquered.’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861, was written by Harriet Jacobs, a former slave born in Edenton, North Carolina. It is an American classic. Encouraged by others, Harriet sat down to write her life story but she felt unable. Then in June 1853 she happened to read an article in an old newspaper written by Julia Tyler, wife of former president John Tyler, in which Tyler claimed that household slaves were ‘well clothed and happy’. Harriet sat down and wrote a reply which the New York Tribune published and Harriet’s writing career began. It took four or more years to write her book and more to find anyone who would publish it. It was when Lydia Maria Child agreed to write the preface that at last her work came to print in January 1861. That same year her brother John would also write his own memoir, entitled A True Tale of Slavery. There is so much more to Harriet’s story. It really isn’t mine to tell but please, please go find it for yourself. Read about her work as an activist, a humanitarian and a teacher. It is a story of today. I don’t care how you came to hear this tale. Slavery still needs our attention. It’s still going on. The best guess is that about 40 million people in the world live in such conditions.

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This Harriet Jacobs extract is the tip of the iceberg when it come to her and her life. Definitely check out her Wikipedia and her book.

8 March International Women’s Day Yeah!!! Fireworks!!! We got a whole day!!! The ideal time to celebrate a woman without a specific date attached to her name … Christine de Pizan or Pisan, the Venetian-born poet, author and prominent political thinker at the court of King Charles VI of France. Born in 1364, she was the first professional woman of letters in Europe. She began writing to support her kids when she was widowed and is best remembered for defending women in The Book of the City of Ladies, in which she creates a literary city of famous females from history.

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10 March 1881 – Kate Leigh born. Leigh was a notorious Australian underworld figure known for illegal trade in alcohol and cocaine in Sydney, turf ‘razor’ wars and, by contrast, fantastic philanthropy and patriotism during the Second World War. Check out her twenty-year feud with Tilly Devine, a Sydney madam.

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12 March 1959 Kundeling Kusang, aka Pamo Kunsang, initiates the Tibetan women’s movement for independence. Mother of six. Leader of Tibetan women’s movement united against Chinese occupation of Tibet. This was the spark that initiated the Tibetan women’s movement for independence. On this date thousands of Tibetan women gathered in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. She and other Tibetan women activists were tortured and later executed by China. Also remember her fellow activists: Galing Shar Choe-la, Pekong Penpa Dolma, Tavu Tsang Dolkar, Demo Chime, Tson Khang Meme, Kukar Shar Kelsang, Rizur Yangchen, Tson Khang Tsamla, Ghalingshar Choe-la.

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14 March 1977 Fannie Lou Hamer dies. American voting and women’s rights activist, a leader in the civil rights movement. Born in 1917, she became physically disabled due to polio and a severe beating in a Mississippi jail. In 1961, while having surgery to remove a uterine tumour, she was given a hysterectomy by a white doctor without her consent. The forced sterilisation of black women to reduce the black population was so widespread it was known as a ‘Mississippi appendectomy’. Please read her story. She is a legend.

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15 March 1933 Ruth Bader Ginsburg born. American lawyer, Supreme Court justice. I have socks with her picture on, because she is a hero of mine. She spent her life fighting gender discrimination. At Harvard she was one of nine women in a class of 500 who was chastised by authorities for taking a man’s place.

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19 March 1919 Emma Bell Miles dies. American artist, naturalist and author. Born in 1879 and lived in poverty. Please, please read about her life in the Appalachian wilderness in her journal Once I Too Had Wings. She was one of the early settlers of Signal Mountain in Tennessee and documented her life on Walden’s Ridge through watercolour painting and writing. She could have made a living from her writing but it would have meant living in the city of Chattanooga and her husband refused.

20 March 1915 Sister Rosetta Tharpe aka ‘Godmother of rock and roll’ born. American singer and guitarist. She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and electric guitar that was extremely important to the origins of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences. Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Tharpe’s biographer said in 2018 that “she influenced Elvis Presley, she influenced Johnny Cash, she influenced Little Richard”. When asked about her music and about rock and roll, Tharpe is reported to have said, “Oh, these kids and rock and roll — this is just sped up rhythm and blues. I’ve been doing that forever” In May 2018, Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence

21 March 1838 Wilma Neruda born. Also known as Lady Hallé, Neruda was a Moravian virtuoso violinist, chamber musician, wunderkind and teacher. Her parents wanted her to play piano but she secretly played her brother’s violin and was clearly talented. She performed publicly for the first time when she was six. She became the first woman violinist considered good enough to rank with the greatest male performers and so led the way for female violinists to have a solo career.

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25 March 1931 Ida B. Wells dies. ‘The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.’ Fighter for women’s rights, an investigative journalist and newspaper editor, teacher, and one of the early leaders of the US civil rights movement. During her life she was probably the most famous Black woman in America as she campaigned tirelessly against lynching and fearlessly exposed violence against the Black community. Ida was born into slavery in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and spent a lifetime fighting for equality for African Americans, especially women. In 1884, aged just twenty-two, and seventy years before Claudette Colvin/Rosa Parks refused to give up seats on buses, Ida refused to give up her seat on a train and it took three men to drag her from the carriage. In 1892 she became part-owner of The Memphis Free Speech newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a radical publication in which she printed an article denouncing the lynching of three of her friends. She wrote: ‘Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.’ The offices of the paper were destroyed by an angry mob and she was forced out of town. She spent the rest of her life fighting the good fight. She spoke across the United States and abroad about women’s suffrage and about emancipation of African Americans. She went to Britain twice to solicit support for her campaigns and spoke to thousands of people. She wrote about her journey for a Chicago newspaper, becoming the first African American woman to be a paid correspondent for a mainstream white newspaper. Ida always spoke her mind, to the extent that even some of her fellow activists found her too radical. Many of the press were unkind. The New York Times called her ‘slanderous and nasty-minded’. That’s often what people say when women are right. It would not be until 8 March 2018, eighty-seven years after her death, that the New York Times finally published a belated obituary for Ida B. Wells. It was part of a series entitled ‘Over-looked’ which tried to make up fir the fact that, in 167 years of the paper’s existence, its obituary pages have been dominated by white men, while fabulous women like Ida were overlooked.

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Ida B. Well is covered by Georgia in My Favorite Murder episode 225 & mentioned during Karen’s Bessie Coleman story episode 312.

Non-fiction picks for March is the audiobook Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by Michelle Duster and Crusade for Justice by Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

31 March 1865 Anandibai (Anandi) Gopalrao Joshi born. First Indian female physician. First Indian woman to graduate abroad when she became an MD at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (1886) with the topic of her thesis being ‘Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos’. She became a doctor after she gave birth aged just fourteen to a child who died due to lack of medical care. Her husband, Gopalrao Joshi, was very unusual in his passionate support of her desire for education and deserves credit. She died of tuberculosis, aged twenty-one. She never did practise medicine, but she inspired millions of Indian women.

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