Kickass Women

History is filled with women doing all kinds of kickass stuff.

Smart Girls

Watch these girls... they're going places!

Inspiration

Need a dose of inspiration? Here you go.

SRPS Entertainment

Some of my entertainment recommendations with awesome female characters and stars.

She's Crafty!

Some of the awesome items made by kickass women!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Claire Smith - Honoring a pioneering reporter and inspiration

Last night, at the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) dinner and awards ceremony, a new record was set as Claire Smith, longtime sports writer and coordinating editor of ESPN's news group, accepted the prestigious J. G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest award given sports reporting.

According to the ESPN news story about the event, she was given "a standing ovation when her election was announced, and she asked the other half dozen women in the room to stand alongside her as she spoke."

In her acceptance speech, she thanked "the guys that stood up to the athletes and teams and said that we are your peers and we deserve to be treated like you."

"I want to thank you as well as the women who walked the walk and fought the battles and got all of us to this point. No one does this by themselves.''

I heard this evening's PBS Newshour segment interviewing her, and I was filled with renewed inspiration to continue sharing the stories of trailblazers in every field, but especially in sports where it seems women continue to be left behind.



Her inspiration for writing comes from her love of the game and her passion for telling stories, but also her connection to the story of Jackie Robinson. "This sport taught this country how to grow up... it integrated 20-some years before [the rest of] the United States of America."

But while Major League Baseball may have been more accepting of people of color, it was much more difficult for her to work as a female reporter. "It was no contest, it was harder because of gender than race." Fortunately for Claire Smith, working with the Yankees, she was protected by their aggressive stance for diversity in the clubhouse, giving her easier access to do her job than women in other cities may have faced.

Her most dramatic instance of overt sexism came after the World Series playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres, when she went to enter the visiting team's locker room at Wrigley Field, and was denied entry because of a sexist policy by the Padres prohibiting women access to the clubhouse. This was a watershed moment, with the players and reporters standing behind her. The very next day, the brand new Commissioner of Baseball Peter Ueberroth set down the law giving equal access to all reporters with the proper credentials regardless of gender.

As someone who grew up watching baseball and loving the game, I have long been fascinated by the ways we talk about this sport and how it has influenced our understanding of larger social issues. I'm absolutely thrilled Claire Smith is getting the recognition she so richly deserves. She truly is an amazing role model for young women, and especially young women of color, to pursue their passions despite challenges they may face. Her strength of character and her courage to continue doing her job in the face of sexism and racism serve as an excellent example of what a true self-rescuing princess is capable of.

Brava Claire Smith!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Katya Budanova - brave young role model


Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yekaterina "Katya" Budanova, one of the remarkable Soviet female fighter aces from World War II. For all of the terrible faults of the Soviet Union, one cannot find much to complain about when it came to offering opportunities for women outside of traditional gender roles. Katya's life, even before she took to the skies as a fighter pilot, is a testament to that.

Katya was born into a peasant family in rural western Russia. She was a bright girl who did quite well in school, graduating elementary school with the highest grades. Unfortunately, after the death of her father, she was forced to leave school to earn money to help support her family. She worked as a nanny for several years until, at the age of 13, her mother sent her to live with her sister in Moscow. It was there, working as a carpenter in an aircraft factory, where she began to show an interest in flying.

The factory had an aeroclub, and Katya, always the brave one, joined the parachute team. In 1934, at the age 18, she earned her flying license, and in 1937, she graduated to flight instructor. She was hooked! She would regularly volunteer to join air shows and "flying parades," taking to the skies in the single-seater Yakovlev UT-1.

When Hitler's forces attacked the USSR, like many of her compatriots, she rushed to enlist in the military. She was assigned to the all-female 586th Fighter Regiment, led by the infamous Marina Raskova. With the war raging all along the western border, her regiment was called in to take the place of male fighters. In May 1942, they were sent to defend the rail-lines near Saratov. Katya flew her first combat missions, each one spectacularly successful. In fact, the Soviet Commanders were so impressed with the women pilots the began to mix them in with male squads.

In September 1942, Katya was assigned to the same mission as fellow flying aces Lydia Litvyak, Maria M. Kuznetsova and Raisa Beliaeva. While flying together, they showed exceptional skill at combining forces to bring down enemy fighters. They were equally impressive during their solo missions. Over the course of the next year, Katya showed extreme bravery and skill, defending her country by shooting down enemy planes of all types, earning the Order of the Red Star, the Order of the Patriotic War, and the title of Hero of the Russian Federation (posthumously).

On July 19, 1943, she took off from Novokrasnovka as part of an escort mission. Doing her job, when she spotted three enemy fighters attacking a group of Soviet bombers, she attempted to draw them off. She managed to destroy one, and send another limping away, but in the process her own plane had been badly damaged and was on fire. She managed to extinguish the fire and land her plane safely in a field, but by the time the local farmers reached she was dead.

What I find the most interesting about her story is not that she was a pilot, but that she was a fighter pilot, who willingly put herself in danger to protect and defend her country. Typically this type of wartime hero story is limited to the patriotism and bravery of men. The stories of women's efforts in fighting are too often forgotten after the battles are done and everyone goes back to "normal."

It's as if societies need to believe that women only fight when they're threatened individually, never as an expression of their love of country. And that's a shame. We need female heroes like Katya Budanova -- roles models of bravery in the fight for the greater good, despite immediate personal danger. Women have always fought. Isn't it about time we started to tell their stories as well?

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots


I picked up Tomorrow There Will be Apricots by Jessica Soffer on a whim, intrigued by the cover. I know it's a cliche, but I just couldn't put it down once I had it in my hands.

Despite its gorgeous design, the cover did not adequately prepare me for the level of absolutely heart-breaking beauty I found inside this book. Jessica Soffer has created an emotional punch of a novel filled with longing for love — Lorca's longing for the love she never received; Victoria's longing for the love she lost or denied herself — and the kind of strange miracles that can happen when you finally open your heart to the right person.

Lorca is the daughter of an emotionally unavailable mother. Victoria is a recent widow looking back over her life and the connections she kept at arms length. Both are desperately looking for some reason to keep going.

Lorca, as children are wont to do, blames herself for her mother's inattention, and clings to the childish hope that if she were a more perfect daughter, her mother would magically change into a more loving and nurturing being. Victoria, suddenly unmoored by the death of her husband, lights on the idea of locating the daughter she gave up years ago.

The two meet during Lorca's search for the recipe to a dish her mother enjoyed years ago at the restaurant own by by Victoria and her husband Joseph. Lorca is convinced that by cooking the most perfect plate of masgouf for her it would magically break open her mother's shell, revealing her real mother inside — the one who can provide the emotional connection she so desperately needs.

Victoria is pushed to offer cooking classes in her home by Dottie, the eccentric friend of her husband who lives in the apartment above her, as a way of busying herself after his death. Upon meeting Lorca, she begins to suspect they may have a stronger connection than simply the love of good food.

The ending is deeply satisfying, in a way I couldn't have imagined while reading. It renewed my sense of hope for humanity and my faith in the curative powers of love. I cannot recommend Tomorrow There Will be Apricots strongly enough. Both Lorca and Victoria are wonderfully complex characters who remind us that sometimes being a self-rescuing princess includes finding the right person to help us when we cannot do it all ourselves.

[CN: this books contains scenes of self-harm.]

[Note: I have included Amazon Affiliate links in this post. I am exploring options for increasing my income from this blog to help me to continue to bring you the important stories of kickass women and girls. While I will always work to tell these stories, I have bills to pay. By all means feel free to look for these books elsewhere if you prefer. If you want to help support the work I do here, please consider using these links to shop.]

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Girls Can! Crate: How to empower your self-rescuing princess!






A while ago I received a Girls Can! Crate and OMG y'all! This thing is so cool! It's full of color and mysterious packets and and ideas to make amazing things! I would have loved something like this when I was a kid!

I was a crafty kid. I grew up living pretty close to my cousins who were my same age, and we spent a lot of time together. But I also have a lot of happy memories spending hours playing in my room by myself. It seems my introvert tendencies started early. I was pretty much always making thing -- coloring, painting, cutting up construction paper and gluing it together in weird shapes, crocheting clothes for my dolls.

If was wasn't making something I was reading. Sometimes fiction, but a lot of times history. Or the encyclopedia. I always loved diving into the encyclopedia. It had so much precious information in there!

When this box arrived, my inner 6 year old was ecstatic! First of all, the outside of the box is adorable and I had so much fun just trying to guess what was inside. Of course, I immediately dumped all my boring grown-up mail on the table and squeeed like a little girl as I opened it!

What I found inside was practically magical! A box full of colorful paper with mysterious items nestled in with markers, blocks, pipe cleaners, scissors, tissue paper, glue and so many other wonderful crafty necessities! As I pulled each item out, it felt like I was unpacking a wonderful present that just kept on getting better.

Friday, November 25, 2016

An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win

A couple of months ago I saw an article or two about the newest American Girl doll, Melody, and the excitement over a second African American girl in the series. Honestly, I didn't think too much about it other than it seemed like a positive step toward inclusivity, which is always cause to celebrate, and to be happy that her story was set in the 1960s in Detroit -- an era and location I've long been interested in. I only knew about the American Girl phenomenon by hearing people talk about getting things for their kids or grandkids. Part of me was curious to know more about what attracted girls to the dolls and their stories. But I hadn't had an opportunity to really explore it myself.

So when An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win came up as a recommendation after I finished watching Just Add Magic, I was intrigued. I added it to my queue for some rainy day when watching my usual shows wouldn't quite cut it. I'd never seen or read any of the American Girl stories, but figured if they're geared for the same audience they market their dolls to, it might be a nice change of pace. One day last week, when it was cold and gray and I needed something optimistic, I decided to give it a try. I snuggled up with a comfy blanket, a cup of tea, and some delicious cookies and let this be my introduction to the whole American Girl phenomenon.

And you know what? It was quite enjoyable. And educational. I don't know what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was drawn into Melody's story. She is the heroine of the film, as she begins the exciting and sometimes painful process of growing up in troubled times.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Amazing Grace Hopper: life advice from a remarkable woman


One of the reasons I enjoy researching the lives of women in history is the sense of perspective I get on my own life and the problems I face. There are so many amazing women who've led fascinating lives, overcome tremendous obstacles, and made a positive and lasting impact on the world around them. Grace Hopper is certainly counted among them.

As the inventor the first computer compiler and one of the developers of COBOL, she's been a source of inspiration for folks working in computer science for decades. As one of the most prominent women founders of what is still largely a male field, she has become an important role model for women and girls striving to break down their own gender barriers, no matter what field they pursue.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Congratulations Cicely Tyson!

I was so excited when I learned it was announced today that Cicely Tyson will be given a Presidential Medal of Freedom! Honestly, I can't believe she hadn't already received one.

The announcement from the White House included this statement from President Obama on the importance of recognizing the work done by civilians to make our country better.
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."
Cicely Tyson's entire life has been the embodiment of pushing American forward. Throughout her career she has worked to promote diversity and equality in Hollywood, and to act as a positive role model for the many young people who look up to her.

"In my early years, there were a number of experiences that made me decide I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress. There were a number of issues I wanted to address. And I wanted to use my career as a platform."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nobel Women - Physiology or Medicine



In honor of the 2016 Nobel Prizes announced recently, this post is the third in my series of Nobel Women, highlighting the women who've won a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. You can also read my previous posts about the women who've won a Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry.

There have been significantly more Nobel Prizes awarded to women for their work in physiology and medicine than for physics or chemistry combined -- 12 in total. Perhaps this has something to do with more women being able to enter the world of medicine and medical research than in other scientific fields. Or perhaps it is simply a matter of there having been more scientist overall working on understanding physiological mechanisms and searching for answers to medicine's biggest questions.

What I found most interesting while researching the work of these women is how each scientist's discovery laid the foundation for the next scientist's research, and that there is a clear line of women standing on the shoulders of their female predecessors in the quest for scientific knowledge.

Who were these women and what made their research noteworthy to the Nobel Committee?