As an art student, Donna Seaman naturally studied artists of the past, thumbing through photographs and reading sketches of their lives and works. It didn’t take her long to figure out there was something wrong with these pictures. In too many, the male artists’ names were proclaimed, but the women, when they did appear, were simply listed as, “Identity Unknown.”
On a mission to make these women and their works known, Seaman did the research on seven whose art and lives were every bit as intriguing as their male counterparts. We meet the provocative sculptor Louise Nevelson, “The Empress of In-Between.” Her medium was wood, and she derived much inspiration from ancient cultures. The essay “Girl Searching” introduces Gertrude Abercrombie, whose specialty was edgy, emotional and autobiographical paintings. She cruised Chicago in her vintage Rolls-Royce and held jam sessions in her three-story Victorian brownstone, earning her title, “Queen of the Bohemian Artists.”
March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting books about women and their roles in history and the world today. Though I hope that young readers are exposed to books about a variety of people and places all year long, the focus of a history month provides an opportunity to pay closer attention to groups of people who have been underrepresented in literature and the study of history. As usual, I had a hard time choosing my favorite books for this theme, so instead I’ve selected titles that exemplify a few of the ways women’s stories can be presented.
Books that contain a collection of profiles or short biographies can be a great way to learn a little bit about several people in a short amount of time and are also helpful in gaining a big-picture view of what that group of people have in common. Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, both by Kate Schatz, present short profiles of women from history and today who have made an impact in their professions, their countries, or the world. Some of the women, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Nellie Bly, and Malala Yousafzai, are fairly well-known, but many are not, a reminder to readers that women have often made significant contributions that have gone unrecognized.
From the Queen of the Pamunkey tribe to Civil War officer and nurse Sally Louisa Tompkins, the Virginia Women presented in Kierner’s and Treadway’s essay collection are well worth knowing about.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History… and Our Future! illustrates the alphabet with 26 rad—as in radical—American women who changed the world.
Instead of “A is for Apple” and “B is for Ball,” author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl give us the activist Angela Davis and tennis pro Billie Jean King. From Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers Association, to the transgender writer and youth advocate Kate Bornstein, each short biography celebrates a woman who made a difference. The book highlights diverse individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and shares the stories how they became fighters and dreamers, the leaders and innovators of American history.