I, Activist.

Last month, I spent a few weeks in Belize, doing all sorts of things. Randomly on one of the last days, I was introduced to the concept of an Earth Ship. It’s nothing to do with aliens but rather a home that is completely created from recycled materials, self-sufficient, and totally off grid. And across one of the walls was this quote from Rigoberta Menchu:

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BrownEyedJude and I have discussed Ms. Menchu a few times because she’s the classic definition of a woman who felt compelled to stand up against injustice. You might have seen her book, My Name is Rigoberta Menchú, on pretty much every lists of social justice books.  (Book Nerd Alert: The book is often mistakenly filed under memoir/autobiography but was actually created around a series of interviews done by a Venezuelan author. She had only been speaking Spanish for 3 years by the time she had the interview. I doubt she used Duolingo to learn it.)

Rigoberta grew up in a activist family, with her father being a member of one of the guerrilla groups in Guatemala, but she used her own voice to resist the oppression of the Guatemalan government and to bring to the international community the reality of the civil war in her country. She amplified the voices of the Maya Indian community in Latin America and she was run out of her own country. She still finds it difficult to return due to the frequent death threats.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. I’m not sure what an UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador has to do but it seems pretty cool. She elevated her Nobel Prize experience and formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative with the other five female Peace Prize winners. The idea behind the Initiative is to support women’s groups around the world in promoting peace and justice.

My “favorite” [insert sarcasm font] part of her story is the mansplaining that a historian tried to do on her book. He went back and interviewed many of her friends and family and tried to prove that everything she said was false and tried to get the Nobel Prize people to take back the prize. Rude. Years later, he said in ONE interview that she was actually pretty accurate in the book but he refused to change his book or apologize. Dude. Not Cool.

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Should’ve worn goggles

Katherine Hepburn and I have a lot in common. Not only do our names have some of the same letters in them, we also both almost went blind while acting. She famously fell into a Venice canal multiple times for a shoot, which caused a series eye infection that she struggled with for the rest of her life. I was randomly in a transportation commercial a few weekends ago when I was visiting BrownEyedJude and somehow managed to hurt my eye, leading to a swollen eye requiring antibiotics and 2 days of a weird puffy eye. See? Totally the same. I will take anything that puts Katherine Hepburn and I in the same category.

Growing up, like any good theater kid, I was obsessed with old movies (shocking, right?). Of course I had no context so I didn’t realize that the strong, independent women that I gravitated towards in these movies were an anomaly. Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn frequently played women who were not stereotypical. They wore pants (GASP), smoked cigarettes (gross but still mindblowing for the time), and generally did what they wanted.

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You could be asking why I am featuring yet another actress in our public service ladies blog. For me, groundbreaking actresses portraying independent women who refuse the “traditional” gender roles have an enormous impact in changing people’s ideas and open doors for women to express themselves in their own fields. Not only that but Ms. Hepburn openly supported access to birth control and abortions when birth control was frowned upon and abortions were illegal.

In addition, most people don’t realize that she was aggressively opposed to the McCarthyism that swept Hollywood in the 1940s. She was active in the Committee for the First Amendment, a group that supported the Hollywood Ten, ten individuals who were cited for contempt by Congress after refusing to answer questions about their supposed involvement with the Communist Party.

If you aren’t already a fan, I encourage you to watch Katherine in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” or “The African Queen” or “The Philadelphia Story”. You’ll feel empowered and inspired.

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The Day After Tomorrow

I’ve been circling the idea of writing about Margaret Atwood for a while. An amazing author, a fascinating personality, lover of comics and social media…she’s a symbol of female empowerment for me. I mean, she says things like this:

“’Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine.
“’They are afraid women will laugh at them’, he said, ‘undercut their world view.’
“Then I asked some women students, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ”’They are afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

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Everyone knows her as an author. After all, my favorite novel of hers is being shown on Hulu right now, with the insanely talented Elisabeth Moss as Offred. Other books of hers (Alias Grace and the Maddam series) are being developed for our viewing pleasure. She even collaborates on a graphic novel series, Angel CatBird. She writes real good. You should always start with Handmaid’s Tale but if you like her, go with Cat’s Eye (reflection of an artist’s childhood), Blind Assassin (a story within a story, fascinating), or Oryx and Crake (another dystopian and first of the MaddAddam series). Her books tend to focus on a woman or women finding their strength and exposing secrets. They are usually oppressed by men as well.

But Margaret Atwood is prolific outside of the written page too. She’s a huge animal advocate and her Angel Catbird graphic novels are intended to educate about the perils facing cats and bird. She partnered with Nature Canada, encouraging owners to keep their domestic cats from roaming and protecting the environment’s natural ecosystem.

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She’s a frequent political commentator. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, you really should. She isn’t afraid to share her opinion and is a strong feminist (no matter what people try to say about her). Even though she’s a hardcore Canadian, her commentary on the recent U.S. election gave me LIFE.

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She’s also an inventor. Since she’s always on book tours, she came up with the brilliant idea to create the LongPen. It allows authors to sign books even if they aren’t there. People who show up for a signing can even talk to the author through the pen. Sounds randomly weird but I can see other uses. It’s still in its early stages so I’m excited to see all the uses. As I see how it could be used for evil, I hope it remains a positive invention.

Margaret Atwood refuses to be boxed in and remains using her voice to amplify issues and use fiction as a form of educational tool. I think, at minimum, we should require a deep dive into the Handmaid’s Tale but we can all learn from her and her life. As she says:

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Ice, Ice Baby…too cold, too cold

If you’ve been wondering why you’ve only seen posts from QueenJules, it’s because BrowneyedJude has been on an adventure on another continent. She returns today, bleary-eyed and inspired. Before she takes a well-deserved nap and returns to our blog, let’s throw out all the blueberry kombucha (so gross) and learn a little more about some of my favorite lady adventurers. I have a soft spot for lady travelers. I posted about one of the most famous ones in an earlier post, Nelly Bly, and I follow a few current bloggers that focus on solo women traveling. My interest stems from my own wanderlust (which BrowneyedJude also shares). I can’t wait to see all of the big 7s: continents, seas, and wonders.*

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My interest in Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft comes from my deep desire to visit Antarctica. I know they would totally understand this desire since they were the first women to ski and sail across the entirety of Antarctica’s land mass in 2001. In case you aren’t up on your geography, that’s 1,717 miles. They completed it in 94 days. As many can tell you, I complain about a flight of stairs. 1700 miles is almost unfathomable to me especially when you consider that Antarctica isn’t an easy place to take a stroll. Individually, these ladies are pretty amazing already but together, they are just beyond words.

1200px-Liv_Arnesen_Portrait.jpgBorn in Norway, Liv Arnesen had been breaking records before she strolled across Antarctica with Ann Bancroft. In 1992, she was part of the first women’s only team to make an unsupported crossing of Greenland’s icecap. In 1994, she walked solo to the South Pole (half of her trek with Bancroft. For giggles, she hangs out in the Arctic Circle. On her website, Ms. Arnesen says she is a keen outdoor enthusiast but she isn’t fanatical. If she isn’t fanatical, who is?

246a0d015901306313dfb6c8b3fbeaa3_f244Ann Bancroft (I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t the actress, right?) also was super impressive before she started hanging out with Liv Arnesen. In 1986, as part of a 6 person team, she was the first woman to reach the North Pole with a dogsled, without being resupplied. She also crossed Greenland’s icecap and both polar icecaps to reach the North and South Pole. These days, Ms. Bancroft also advocates for same sex marriage in her home state of Minnesota.

After crossing the Antarctica, they started an exploration company together and can often be found leading expeditions to highlight the devastating effects of climate change on the polar icecaps. They work with schools around the world, teaching kids about the Poles, the environment, outdoor activities, and climate change.

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It’s not hard to admire these ladies. They push themselves physically regularly and care deeply about the world they traverse. They get to put “Explorer” on any forms that require you to fill out your occupation. When I do that, people think I’m ridiculous. Someday it would be awesome to hang out with Liv and Ann although I imagine it will be somewhere pretty chilly. I better wear nine sweaters.

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*Occasionally I run across someone that maintains that there are 5 continents. Weirdos.

**Grammar note: I have no idea whether “ice cap” or “icecap” is correct. Google is not helping resolve this issue.

Sending you a texty text

I love text messages. I love apps that have texts like WhatsApp, SnapChat, etc. I once had 2000 texts in one month between me and one another person. Do the math on that. Other math that is cool? Text messages are opened by people 99-100% of the time. In 2014, 561 billion texts were sent EVERY month. 4.2 billion+ people text every day. 97% of Americans text weekly (my mother is in the 3%). 50% of adults from 18-24 say texts are just as meaningful as a call. (If you need the sources, let me know) Texts are obviously pretty powerful and in my opinion, vastly underutilized as a tool for change. My public service crush, Nancy Lublin, totally agrees with me. She hasn’t told me that directly but based on her career, I think she is down.

I am not inspired by helping you find Chinese food at 2am in Dallas, or swipe right to get laid. I want to use tech and data to make the world a better place.”* Nancy Lublin

Ms. Lublin has dedicated her professional life to supporting people, starting with an organization called Dress for Success. She started D4S in the mid-90s with a 5k inheritance and a few nuns as partners and it continues to this day by providing professional attire and development skills around the world. The entire organization is founded on the dream that every woman can achieve her full potential and full financial independence. As anyone can tell you, when you look good, you feel good. You feel good – it’s amazing what you can accomplish.
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Once D4S was standing on its own, Ms. Lublin moved on to DoSomething.org. Started in the early 90s by one of my favorite Melrose Place actors (hello, Andrew Shue), DoSomething focuses on empowering young people to make positive change in their communities. Some of my favorite programs include Diversify my Emoji (to get Apple to create non-white emojis), Nude Awakening (to convince Merriam-Webster and other dictionaries to create a more inclusive definition of “nude”) and Teens for Jeans (a nationwide jeans drive to provide jeans to homeless youth). I enjoy the play on words for most of the programs and their commitment to try and reach young’uns where they are at.

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During one of their programs, DoSomething used a text blast. One of the responses shook Ms. Lublin so badly, she started Crisis Text Line in her spare time. I can’t do justice to the story so you can check out her TedTalk. Designed to be an anonymous, free, text line to provide support when anyone is in a crisis. It’s not designed to be a long term solution but helps people talk through their problems, reach out for help, and brainstorm ideas for support.  It’s a great solution, using a method that has such an incredibly high response rate. It allows people to reach out by texting 741741 or through Facebook, no matter what their situation. I don’t have any jokes about this. This organization is awesome. I even volunteer for it as a crisis counselor. Ms. Lublin left DoSomething to focus on CTL because the organization grew so quickly. It really addressed a need that no one else had noticed.

That’s the common theme for Nancy Lublin. She sees a need that seems to have gone unnoticed and designs something to address it. As for her being my public service crush, she regularly gets on the platform and she once messaged me individually to thank me for helping out. I legit squealed IRL. I once met a friend of a friend of hers and was not articulate once he started talking about her. I almost fear what happens if I ever meet her in person. It won’t be pretty. Probably similar to how I would react when/if I ever meet any of the badass ladies we feature on this blog.

*Pretty sure this should be a t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme More

If you don’t watch the news, I’m not sure why you read this blog. If you haven’t been paying close attention, you might have missed some of the fierceness that a couple of our previously featured ladies have unleashed on the world in the past week or so.

Representative Maxine Waters

Sometimes the only positive thing about the past few months is the increase of coverage of Marvelous Maxine. Last week, Bill O’Reilly decided to comment on Rep. Waters’ hair rather than the truth-to-power statements she has been making on the House floor. Just like every bully, O’Reilly tried to take away from the power of what she was saying by focusing on her appearance. This kind of ridiculousness even has a specific name – misogynoir – a form of misogny specifically focused on African American women. But in grand Maxine Waters fashion, she was not letting his obnoxious comments get to her.

I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I am not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork – Representative Maxine Waters

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Sally Yates

You’d think people should know better than trying to silence Sally Yates. I mean, even from our short profile on her, it’s abundantly clear that she does not take BS from anyone. The recent attempt to keep her from testifying about the possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials are almost laughable. SHE’S SMARTER THAN YOU, YA’LL!

Trying to say that anything she might know would be covered by privilege is ridiculous. Even I know that wasn’t going to work because I watched West Wing and I will never forget Oliver Platt telling Allison Janney that he wasn’t her lawyer and nothing she said was covered by client-attorney privilege. Granted, WW is fictional and Oliver Platt was technically White House Counsel but still. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Yates and her band of lawyers clapped back with actual law and informed them how dumb they were (actual lawyer speak). In response, they cancelled the hearing. They were so afraid of Sally Yates that they cancelled the meeting.

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All in a name

Until someone pointed it out to me a few years ago, I honestly hadn’t noticed that there were no women on U.S. currency (I know. MAJOR OVERSIGHT). I’m the kind of person who likes to organize her cash by amount, direction, and letter. It’s something I’ve done for years but apparently I’ve never paid attention to the actual people on the bills. I mean, it’s not like their faces aren’t enormous. I seriously doubt Franklin would be pleased with how blown up his face is on the $100 bill. It’s not flattering. I’m always surprised by how little people know about the money in their pocket. I think we’ve all heard that a strong majority of all bills have a trace of cocaine on it, not to mention fecal matter. Other fun facts: paper money can hold the flu virus for two weeks, the average lifespan of a dollar bill is around 2 years, almost 50% of bills printed are $1 bills. Contrary to popular belief, there has been a woman on paper currency before (Martha Washington), however, there has never been a minority. There have been signatures of five African Americans over the years who served as Registrars of the Treasury or Treasurer of the U.S. (this fact I did have to google) but no portraits. One of the best museum tours I ever took was to the U.S. Treasury in D.C. You can imagine my glee when my mother bought me a pen that was stuffed with shredded old dollars (I still have it in storage after 20 years).   All this to say, when I heard about the vote to put a woman on the $20 bill, I was INTO IT. I was delighted with the options too: Harriet Tubman (who ultimately was chosen), Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller. I knew the first three pretty well but I was only familiar with Chief Mankiller’s name so I immediately googled her. I wanted to make sure I made a conscientious choice before I started pushing for one candidate over another.

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Every single article about Wilma Mankiller starts with a variation of the same sentence: Wilma Mankiller was the first woman principal chief for the Cherokee Nation. I don’t blame them. That is a helluva sentence. It’s not exactly correct but it is amazing that a woman led one of the largest tribes in the country.

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Chief Wilma Mankiller’s family moved to San Francisco during WW2 when the U.S. Army wanted to expand their base in Oklahoma. In case you are curious, her last name represents a traditional Cherokee military rank. Chief Mankiller got involved in activism during the Occupation of Alcatraz, when 89 American Indians tried to reclaim the island (this is a fascinating story that deserves a movie). She also volunteered with the Pit River Tribe. She moved back to Oklahoma in 1977 with her daughters in order to work with her own tribe. ((Fun fact: she went to graduate school at the University of Arkansas! Woo pig!)

Once she returned to Oklahoma, she started working for the tribe as a tribal program developer. She ran and won for deputy Chief in 1983. When the principal Chief left to become the Assistant Secretary of US Bureau of Indian Affairs, she was named the first female Chief. If that wasn’t awesome enough, she ran and won in two subsequent elections. As Chief, she increased the Cherokee population from 55,000 to 165,000, encouraged community development including tribally-established businesses, improving infrastructure, and building a hydroelectric facility, several homes, health centers, and children’s programs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. She won SO many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Elizabeth Blackwell Award.

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If she had been chosen to grace the $20, she wouldn’t have been the first Native American woman on the U.S. currency. That honor went to Sacagawea on the gold dollar but if Chief Mankiller had been on the $20, she would replaced the President who signed and passed the 1830 Removal Act, which inevitable caused the Trail of Tears (which her great-grandfather walked). President Jackson sent troops to force almost 20,000 Cherokee to walk over 1,000 miles to migrate to Oklahoma area designated for them with very few supplies, clothes, or food, resulting in over 4,000 deaths of starvation, disease, and exposure to extreme weather. Chief Mankiller replacing President Jackson would have felt just.

I’ll admit it. I voted for all four women. At least once. Maybe 10 times. Maybe more. How could I help myself? These ladies were awesome.

Grand Design

I have a confession: I am addicted to binging shows. Ok, it’s not that big of a confession since almost everyone does it but I tend to binge on shows that I have no practical purpose for watching. I don’t cook or plan to ever own a home but I’m obsessed with Top Chef, The Great British BakeOff, and Grand Design. I almost cried when Brooke Williamson won TC:Charleston and I have been found laughing hysterically at Mel&Sue. Grand Design is actually a recent binge and leads me to think of Zaha Hadid. I actually squealed when they made a reference to her and I knew who they were talking about!

My personal introduction to Ms. Hadid was two years ago in Glasgow. We visited the Riverside Museum (which houses the Museum of Transportation) and I was in love. The picture below illustrates a characteristic of Hadid design’s: when you look from different perspectives, the building looks completely different. How could I not love a building that was essentially messing with people’s heads?

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Her typical style usually involves modern materials, some kind of curves or waves, geometrical elements, unusual placement of entrances, and (my favorite) NO 90 degree angles. The closest you get is 89 degrees but she repeatedly chose to ignore traditional angles and just do what she wanted. SHE IS LITERALLY A GROUNDBREAKER! OK, maybe not literally but still, there’s a pun there.

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I think her background had a lot to do with her refusal to color in the lines. Born in Baghdad, she studied mathematics before studying architecture. Even though her parents were liberals in Iraq (her father was the founder of National Democratic Party of Iraq and her mother was an artist), studying math and architecture as a woman anywhere in the 1970s was extraordinary, much less as an Arab woman studying in the Middle East and Europe. She opened her own firm in 1980 which still produces some of the most breathtaking designs in the world. As she started raking in the prizes, she became a role model for women architects. She was the first woman to win the Pritzer Architecture Prize in its 25 year history. She won the Stirling Prize twice. Queen Elizabeth even made her a Dame.  She taught at all the fancy schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cambridge, Fancy University, Tres Fancy University. I can only imagine how high her RateMyProfessor scores were.

I mean, look at the pretty buildings:

I want to be clear, when I say that she was a pioneer for women in architecture, she was still breaking glass ceilings until she died. To illustrate, I can use a 2014 survey done by one of those architecture weekly magazines that stated 2/3 of women architects don’t feel like they are taken seriously by the building industry. That’s not just architects. That’s everyone involved in the entire industry of making buildings. There are stories of women architects that weren’t allowed in actual boys clubs that they had designed proposals for because of their gender. These aren’t old stories. These are the past-five-years stories. Couples who win awards have mysteriously had the wife’s name left off. A study in 2014 UK’s Office of Stats&Things (not real office name) showed that women architects make between 17-25% less than their male colleagues. It’s a man’s world and Zaha Hadid made it fit her.

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Zaha Hadid was a legend in architecture. She was a legend even before she died last year. Her style is completely unclassifiable (totally a word). She didn’t just confine her artistry to buildings either but also designed bridges, shoes, jewelry, furniture…you name it, she probably made something of it. She created art everywhere. She paved the way for other female architects and challenged all architects to think outside the box. I’m kind of hoping I can move into the Hadid-designed NYC residential building that will open this year. I can only dream.

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*Do you see all the beautiful puns in this post? Shout out to Tiffany.

Truth Hunter

A few weeks ago, I attended an awesome conference and heard Amy Hunter speak on a panel of powerful women, talking about Ferguson, MO. Her words have been bouncing around in my head since and I’ve been struggling with whether to feature her on the blog. What if I don’t do her justice? What if you reading this don’t get the same mind twist that I got? But in the end, she’s too awesome not to talk about.

In the summer of 2014, Ms. Hunter was the Director of Racial Diversity of the YWCA. She was already spending her days trying to live the mission of the YWCA – to eliminate racism and empower women. Before the YWCA, she had worked in corporate America, trying to address racism in human resource practices.  When Michael Brown was murdered, she attended his memorial and the protests that followed.

After the protests, she spoke frequently about the racism inherent in our infrastructure and helped foster a YWCA program called Witnessing Whiteness, which aims to create a community of allies and anti-racist supporters. At the conference, she discussed the benefits and consequences of calling out versus calling in someone with racist or sexist viewpoints. I will tell you that I immediately googled the YWCA program (none around me…boo) and sat rapt during the spirited discussion between her and another panelist about which is better: calling out or calling in.

I also spent some googly time on her. She has SOO many short, teaser articles about her but I would loved MORE. I am so needy with information about people I admire. I did find a powerful TedTalk that I think everyone should watch called Lucky Zip Codes, which focuses on St Louis but could be about any major city. As a Kansas Citian, I know it’s true there.

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I’m still too much in awe to be able to be fully clever about her. Tell me what you think of her after you watch the video. I’m pretty sure you are going to love her too. I’ll fully down to run towards her and work together to create the community we all envision.

Shine a light on it, Part 2

Do you have the Batdance stuck in your head yet? I still do. Vicki Vale…Vicki Vale… If you know of any other songs about female journalists, send me a comment. I’m pretty desperate to get a new song in my noggin. I’m ok with still having female groundbreaking journalists on my mind though. I keep finding more to read about but you really can’t beat the founding sisters of print. I shared just a little about Ida B. Wells-Barnett last time (I’ve already learned more about her since – she was remarkable). Another great kick ass lady journalist was Nellie Bly. While Ida focused on shining a light on race, prejudice, and inequities, Nellie was about fighting against men telling women what they could do.

I have to admit that my introduction to Nellie Bly was SUPER late. I think I heard the name in high school but it wasn’t until Abby Bartlett schooled her husband, President Jed Barlett, on one of the BEST SHOWS EVER, West Wing, that I learned about Nellie. I wasn’t sure if she was real or if she was a brainstorm of the immensely talented show writers so I googled (I’m looking at you, Qumar and the Republic of Equatorial Kundu). Or rather I did the paper version of Google – I encyclopediaed (not sure that’s a word).

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At 16, Nellie (born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) was irritated by a column titled “What Girls Are Good For”. I’m annoyed by the title so I can imagine how Nellie felt. She wrote the editor and after a few steps, she received a column of her own. Her pseudonym became “Nellie Bly”, thus the name change. She focused on working women and their daily lives. Unfortunately sexism reared its ugly head again and she was pressured to write about “lady” issues. She wasn’t having it and left to become a foreign correspondent. She returned to the States after being threatened by the Mexican dictator. At 23, she convinced The New York World newspaper to let her go undercover at a women’s asylum. She spent 10 days in and her resulting report highlighted the mistreatment and the frequent misdiagnosis of the other inmates (including herself). It led to a grand jury investigation which called for an increased $850,000 increase in budget for the asylum.

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After her reporting of the insane asylum, Ms. Bly decided to travel the world in less than 80 days, to prove the Jules Verne plot could be achieved. She beat the record and the book’s plot by 8 days. There had been another reporter chasing the same dream but she beat them too.

She retired for a while from journalism at 31 when she married a millionaire 42 years her senior. She started inventing things including a milk can and a stacking garbage can. She returned to the written word by reporting on the front lines of WW1 and the Women’s Suffrage March of 1913. She also accurately predicted that women wouldn’t gain the vote until 1920. I tried to find more on that story because that’s some eerie predicting but there’s very little about it.

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