Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rose Cecil O’Neill

Born this day in 1874: Rose Cecil O’Neill (1874–1944), magazine illustrator, writer, and businesswoman who created the Kewpies.

O’Neill was a popular magazine illustrator. Her greatest fame, however—and most of her wealth—came from the creation of the enormously popular Kewpies. Kewpies began as illustrations in the Ladies’ Home Journal. In a blaze of merchandizing Kewpies subsequently appeared as items such as figurines, salt and pepper shakers, inkwells, and on fabric, greeting cards, stationery, and, of course, as dolls. Kewpie dolls were first manufactured in 1913 and netted O’Neill royalties of $1.5 million. The wealth from marketing Kewpies allowed O’Neill to indulge in more serious (and much darker) art, including monumental sculpture, painting, and novel and poetry writing.

Various manufacturers have been churning out Kewpie dolls almost continuously since 1913.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Agnes Nestor

Born this day in 1880: Agnes Nestor (1880–1948), labor leader and social reformer.

Nestor was known especially for her role in unionizing women workers. She founded the International Glove Workers Union of America and served as its president from 1913 to 1916 and its vice president from 1916 to 1939. She led strikes resulting in higher wages and better working conditions and the organization of the Chicago Women’s Trade Union League, which she led from 1913 to 1948. She played a leading role in the passage of an Illinois law limiting women’s working hours to 10 hours per day. She developed worker education programs and helped write the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, which provided the first federal aid for vocational education. She is also remembered for her work in child-labor, minimum wage, maternity health, and woman suffrage legislation.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Born this day in 1811: Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896), author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe also wrote a social satire on marriage and femininity—Pink and White Tyranny. To download it or read it on line, go here. To download or read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, go here.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Djuna Barnes

Born this day in 1892: Djuna Barnes (1892–1982), journalist, illustrator, and avante garde writer of drama, fiction, and poetry. Barnes was a well-respected member of the Paris literary scene of the 1920s and 1930s. She is remembered especially for her poetry collection The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings and the novel Nightwood.

A sampling:

From Fifth Avenue Up

SOMEDAY beneath some hard
Capricious star—
Spreading its light a little
Over far,
We'll know you for the woman
That you are.

For though one took you, hurled you
Out of space,
With your legs half strangled
In your lace,
You'd lip the world to madness
On your face.

We'd see your body in the grass
With cool pale eyes.
We'd strain to touch those lang'rous
Length of thighs,
And hear your short sharp modern
Babylonic cries.

It wouldn't go. We'd feel you
Coil in fear
Leaning across the fertile
Fields to leer
As you urged some bitter secret
Through the ear.

We see your arms grow humid
In the heat;
We see your damp chemise lie
Pulsing in the beat
Of the over-hearts left oozing
At your feet.

See you sagging down with bulging
Hair to sip,
The dappled damp from some vague
Under lip,
Your soft saliva, loosed
With orgy, drip.

Once we'd not have called this
Woman you—
When leaning above your mother's
Spleen you drew
Your mouth across her breast as
Trick musicians do.

Plunging grandly out to fall
Upon your face.
In grimace,
With your belly bulging stately
Into space.


Corpse A

THEY brought her in, a shattered small
With a little bruised body like
A startled moon;
And all the subtle symphonies of her
A twilight rune.

Corpse B

THEY gave her hurried shoves this way
And that.
Her body shock-abbreviated
As a city cat.
She lay out listlessly like some small mug
Of beer gone flat.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mary Jane Rathbun

Born this day in 1860: Mary Jane Rathbun, (1860–1943), eminent marine zoologist, known for establishing the basic taxonomic information on Crustacea.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Rathbun’s formal education ended with high school. But, her own keen mind, curiosity, and passion for zoology engendered a self-education that would make her preeminent in her field.
Her interest in sea life began when her brother, who shared her childhood passion for zoology and who at the time worked at the U.S. Fish Commission, asked her to volunteer at the Woods Hole Marine Research Center. She was later hired by Spencer Baird, head of the Fish Commission, where she organized and catalogued the commission’s vast collection held at the National Museum’s Division of Marine Invertabrates in Washington, D.C., and served as defacto head of the department. She was officially named assistant curator in 1907.
Over a career that spanned more than five decades, she published 158 scientific studies, describing and classifying both fossil and living marine life (Crustacea) and establishing a fixed nomenclature. Her work has been indispensible to ecologists and zoologists.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Sally J. Priesand

Born this day in 1946: Sally J. Priesand (b. 1946), the first woman in the U.S. to be ordained a rabbi. Now retired, Priesand enjoys being Rabbi Emierita of the Monmouth Reform Temple in Trinton Falls, New Jersey.

“I decided I wanted to be a rabbi in 1962 at the age of 16. Fortunately, my parents gave me one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child: the courage to dare and to dream. With their encouragement, I was able to remain focused on my goal, relatively unconcerned that no woman had ever been ordained rabbi by a theological seminary and determined to succeed despite the doubts I heard expressed in the organized Jewish community.… When I decided to study for the rabbinate, I never thought much about being a pioneer, nor was it my intention to champion the rights of women. I just wanted to be a rabbi.”

 —Rabbi Sally Priesand

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