“My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul”: On Shakespeare and Women
In Shakespeare’s will, he left the bulk of his estate to his youngest daughter, Susanna; to his wife of 34 years, the woman who stayed home in Stratford to raise their three children while he went off to London to forge a brilliant career, he left his “second best bed.” Much scholarly ink has been spilled speculating on the meaning of this bequest — did Shakespeare despise her?
How Women Make Capitalism Possible and Other Feminist Shades of Socialism: On Eleanor Marx, Mrs Engels, and the Paris Commune
“Not since Mary Wollstonecraft,” claims Rachel Holmes in her brilliant biography Eleanor Marx: A Life, had “any woman made such a profound, progressive contribution to English political thought — and action.”
A Miniature Model of Modernity: Suite for Barbara Loden
“It seemed simple enough,” writes French author Nathalie Leger in the opening of her extraordinary new book Suite for Barbara Loden — and the reader immediately knows, whatever it will be, it won’t be simple — “all I had to do was write a short entry for a film encyclopaedia.”
Nella Larsen’s Fantastic Motley of Ugliness and Beauty
The story of Nella Larsen’s literary career is one of the great tragedies of American letters. One of the Harlem Renaissance’s most influential and enigmatic writers, she published two novels and several short stories before disappearing into obscurity.
Jumping Into an Orgy While Still Shaving Your Legs: On Women Filmmakers
We’ve all heard the latest appalling statistics regarding women in the film industry: according to a San Diego State University study, only 17% of directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing movies of 2014 were women. Despite the near parity of women and men receiving degrees from film schools, this statistic has remained virtually unchanged since the study began in 1998.
Malinche’s Revenge and Other Chicana Lesbian Feminisms
Malinche, the Nahua slave girl who became mistress of the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés, was also his interpreter, advisor, mother of his children, and a key figure in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. In Mexican popular culture she is perceived as the ultimate traitor, an Eve figure whose evil is located in her sex and sexuality.
The Joans of Arc
Joan of Arc’s life story, seemingly so incredible, so implausible, so full of mystery and the doggedly unknowable, has inspired centuries of artists and writers to retell it in their fashion. Already in Joan’s lifetime, Christine de Pizan seized upon it to write “Song of Joan,” an epic ballad about divinely sanctioned feminine prowess and its possibilities for world peace.
“Great Hera!” “Suffering Sappho!”: The Secret History of Wonder Woman
In 1937, William Moulton Marston, Harvard-trained psychologist, inventor of the lie detector test, and soon-to-be creator of Wonder Woman (first appearing in 1941), earned himself headlines when he declared that women would one day rule the world. In her extraordinary biography of Marston’s female alter ego, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore notes that this prediction was as old as the Amazons.
How did I miss out on the legendary Ellen Willis? I’m embarrassed to admit that before reading this stunning, provocative, erudite, fun, challenging, witty, dire, brave, and above all incisive collection of her journalism and essays, I was unaware of one of the great feminist writers on the politics and culture of our times.
“These Artful Jezebels”: On American Spies
During the American Revolutionary War, women up and down the East Coast spied for the rebels. They also spied for the British. They carried messages across enemy territory and through enemy lines. They reported on gun emplacements and recounted conversations overheard among officers about military strategy. Philadelphia women brought key military intelligence on the British Forces to General George Washington at Valley Forge.