Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women Writers

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Beginning as simply a “Women’s History Week” the week of March 7th, 1982, a celebration of women and their accomplishments and contributions developed over 5 years into an annually declared “Women’s History Month” that we honor today. It is a time of the year where women are acknowledged for their political, social, economical, and cultural impacts that may be overlooked in other months. The story of America is one involving every gender, race, and social class. From Sacagawea to Joan of Arc to Susan B Anthony to Florence Nightingale to Harriet Tubman to Annie Oakley to Marie Curie to Georgia O’Keefe to Mother Theresa to Gloria Steinem to Vera Wang to Oprah Winfrey, women from every nook and cranny of the world have been leaders, innovators, challengers to social norms, and more.

This month is not just for the suffragists, the angry feminists who set their undergarments ablaze, the first female politicians to take a particular office, or the pioneering women figures who resisted the patriarch by choosing career paths in typically male-centric fields. This month is just as much for those women whose part in history was to care for men in battle, to raise their children to be upstanding human beings, and to explore the depths of culture through art, music, theatre, and literature. All of these things have had and will continue to have radical impacts on our society today.

Within the library, located by the vending machines, is a display put together of novels written by women authors. While normally seen as just an entertaining pastime, some of these writers have helped question social morality issues and change the world of writing as a whole. Women have been writing since some of the earliest parts of history; for example, Sappho, an Ancient Greek female poet, and Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval mystic and author in a convent.

Then there are early modern authors like Jane Austen whose work combined romantic novels with social realism; Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that openly supported the anti-slavery campaign; Emily Dickinson whose poetry influences modern poetics to this day; Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who invented the literary genre of science fiction at the young age of 21 years old; Anne Frank whose use of a diary enlightened the world to the reality of hiding from the Gestapo; and Maya Angelou who was one of the first African American women to publicly discuss her personal life in her own published writing.

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In today’s culture, readers can become immersed in popular culture reading such as the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and Sarah Dessen’s numerous YA love stories. Or they can choose to read books to help bring about social change such as Jodi Picoult’s novels that question our judicial system and bring LGBT issues into the spotlight; Kathryn Stockett’s The Help that exposed the trials African American women had to overcome during the Civil Rights Movement period; and Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist that contains a series of essays on how she is an imperfect supporter of equality between the genders and how that’s okay.

In recent literary anthologies, 1 female writer is included for every 6 male writers. Reading women writers’ work is useful for everyone, not just to support them, but to understand how women characters in their books and poems actually tell the real story of what it means to be a woman. These characters can directly interact with the reality of womanhood, are simply smart and capable women like Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, and Jo March, or reveal that women are flawed human beings through characters like Amazing Amy in Gone Girl who proves that likable women choose not to always do the right thing. Women writers, past and present, are able to provide readers with dynamic, three-dimensional, and true female characters that can influence how women are depicted in any form of writing by any gender. Of course, female authors are not limited to challenging the gender definitions, but can make other significant contributions too like pushing the limits of narrative as Virginia Woolf does with her nonlinear approach. More and more women have become storytellers, poets and prophets, the authors of dreams and ideas–the voices to whom we listen. Female authors are important simply because women’s voices are integral to the human experience.

This month we commemorate and revere the works of all women writer’s across the span of time. Women have been granted the right to an education, gained the right to vote, entered into the world of sports, served as heads of state, made important scientific discoveries, taken to the skies, outnumbered men in college, and changed the world through their literary voice. All women from each of these categories and others are threads that make up an intricate pattern of history for the world. Be sure to check out the display to find out for yourself.

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Links:

BANC (Library Catlogue) to search for books by or about women writers: http://libraryguides.berea.edu/

For more information about Women’s History Month:

Reference Book of the Week: Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature

March is Women’s History Month, so we continue highlighting some reference items related to women and women’s studies on the blog this month. This week we are looking at the Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature. This is an A to Z guide to feminist literature. Entries cover important feminist writers such as Aphra Behn, Jane Austen, Anaïs Nin, Sandra Cisnerors, and more much more. It also covers influential works, literary theories, motifs, issues, philosophical and literary developments, sources, women’s history, literary history, genres, themes, characters, and literary conventions.

The work is arranged in more than 500 entries in alphabetical order. It draws on the expertise of a diverse group of scholars. In addition, topics are drawn from “a close examination of the syllabi of women’s studies, literature, and social issues classes, as well as the contents of current textbooks, supplemental reading lists, and notable projects and seminars that have drawn together teachers, students, writers, activists, and authorities on feminist concerns” (vii).

Each entry includes a short bibliography for further reading. Entries also include cross-references (indicated by names in full caps in an entry). In addition to the entries, the volume also features:

  • An introductory essay for the volume that provides an overview of feminist literature and writers.
  • A list of authors by genre. For example, get a list of feminist writers who write drama.
  • A list of major feminist authors and their works.
  • A timeline of major works in feminist literature.
  • A primary sources bibliography listing print works and electronic texts.
  • A secondary sources bibliography for works about the writers and feminist literature.
  • A small list of relevant films.
  • An index, where boldfaced terms indicate main entries.

For students in literary studies, classes with literature elements, and WGS (women and gender studies), this can be a volume of interest. Whether you need to find a specific term or idea, such as “letter writing,” look up an author like Amy Tan, or get a quick overview of a work, say Life in the Iron Mills, this is the book for you. If you are starting to do research on feminist literature, fiction or nonfiction, this is book is an excellent starting point.

You can find it in the library’s Second Floor Reference Collection under the call number R 809.892 S673e 2006.

 

Reference Book of the Week: Women in Developing Countries

March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting some reference items related to women and women’s studies on the blog. This week I am featuring Women in Developing Countries: A Reference Handbook (link to library catalog). This is part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary World Issues series. The books in this series are designed, according to the publisher, to provide accurate, unbiased information on major topics. Books in this series are designed to be good research starting points for students, scholars, general readers, activists, legislators, and others.

“The purpose of the book is to provide a survey of the literature and other resources on the topic of women in developing countries and to provide sources for further research” (xv).

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Preface gives readers a brief description of the book’s scope and content.
  • The book includes a lists of developing countries; this helps define the book’s scope.
  • Chapter 1 provides background and historical information. Basic concepts are defined and discussed. We get a look at women’s status and experiences around the world, in a broad way, covering topics such as education, health care, and employment.
  • Chapter 2 goes over important specific issues and controversies.
  • Chapter 3 focuses on issues of concern in the United States.
  • Chapter 4 provides a chronology of key events in recent history of women in developing countries.
  • Chapter 5 offers a set of biographical sketches. These are short biographies of women who have played major roles in areas related to the subject ranging from politics to social activism and from local and international figures.
  • Chapter 6 is the statistics and data chapter. It also includes some texts and summaries of relevant U.N. conventions.
  • Chapter 7 is a listing of organizations, mostly NGO’s, government agencies, and government-affiliated organizations.
  • Note that Chapters 1-6 do include a list of references, which researchers can find useful for further reading.
  • Chapter 8 is an annotated bibliography of books and other materials related to women in developing countries.
  • There is also a glossary of terms, and the book includes an alphabetical index.

Students doing research on women’s issues, in the U.S. and abroad, with an interest in developing countries will find the book useful. The book provides an overview of topics, and it helps the reader find ways to expand research. In addition, as other reference books do, this book provides vocabulary, which can be used then in article database searching. Finally, students can use the bibliography to find additional sources of information. This is overall a nice volume that packs a lot of value and information for the researcher needing a starting point on this topic.

The book is located in the 2nd Floor Reference Collection of the library under call number 305.409 K557w 2011.

Celebrating Women Writers

In recognition of Women’s History Month, a new display has been erected which celebrates a variety of women writers, ranging from the likes of Bell Hooks to Margaret Atwood to Nora Roberts. The titles chosen cross many genres, from popular fiction to biography to cultural criticism and even include film adaptations. In honor of the cultural and artistic contributions that women writers have made to humanity, the display will remain up for the entire month of March.

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ImageDid you know?

“Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.”  Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.”  In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.”  Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month.” – source: http://womenshistorymonth.gov/about.html