If it’s March, the spotlight shifts from Black History Month to Women’s History Month. I happen to think that the history of all people is best learned all year ’round, but still I welcome the opportunity to focus on those of us who have been overlooked. So, in the spirit of Women’s History Month, I direct your attention to this excellent site:


Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month is a blog founded by two librarians, and it brings together authors and illustrators of books related to women’s history with librarians and bloggers from across North America. Contributors for 2013 include Tanya Anderson, Michelle Markel, Sy Montgomery, Tanya Lee Stone, Roger Sutton, and Jane Yolen. There’s a new post every day. Enjoy!


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In Blue Thread, Miriam goes to a Halloween party dressed as Marie Antoinette. Her mother, Lillian Josefsohn, gives her a pearl necklace to wear. Later,

Mama came to the front hall. She insisted that Mrs. Steinbacher’s chauffeur drive Charity and me to the railroad depot. Sure enough, a few minutes later the Packard was once again in front of our house. I feared for a moment that Mama would come with us, but she didn’t. Instead, she gave me the pearl necklace I’d worn as Marie Antoinette.

This pearl necklace will show up about fifty years later in a companion novel to Blue Thread. More about that later. For now, let’s focus on those pearls.

The first cultured pearls were developed in about 1916, and Blue Thread takes place in 1912. Clearly Mama’s pearls were wrested from the sea, and, in my story, most likely by the Ama, Japanese women divers. […]

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Here, cribbed in its entirety, is an article from Willamette University. You still have time to see this play. Go for it!

WU Theatre Presents “Brightly Dawning Day” in February

The battle for women’s voting rights in Oregon was hard-fought and hard-won, taking place in parlors, public squares and print media.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Oregon, Willamette University Theatre presents “Brightly Dawning Day,” opening Feb. 15 at Willamette’s Pelton Theatre.

“This is a group-written and composed romp through suffragist songs, speeches and poems of the period,” says director Jon Cole. “It centers on Abigail Scott Duniway’s life, viewed through a contemporary lens,”

The production was inspired by English professor Mike Chasar, who brought a collection of suffragist poems to the theatre department with the idea of making a new play from it, Cole says. After reading the poems, Cole and others were motivated to create an original ensemble play about the struggle for suffrage in Oregon. […]

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Blue Thread and Downton Abbey? As I was watching a recent episode of this popular TV series, I was struck by how much the two stories have in common.

Time period for one. Both works are set in 1912. Blue Thread mentions the sinking of the Titanic only briefly, with Lillian worrying about taking a vacation in Europe. In Downton Abbey, the ocean liner’s demise is linked to the fate of the manor house and its owners, the Earl and Countess of Grantham.

Then there’s the loss of a male heir. In Blue Thread, Miriam’s brother, Danny, has died, and her father refuses to leave the family print shop to her. Ownership of the shop will go to Miriam’s two younger male cousins. The family in Downton Abbey faces a larger problem. The estate and title of the fictitious Earldom of Grantham is entailed, meaning that it passes to the closest male heir. […]

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I am honored to announce that the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer Project lists Blue Thread among its 2013 “best feminist books” for young readers.

Here is a list of all the ABP books in the young adult category for both fiction and nonfiction. I’m currently reading Eight Girls Taking Pictures, which I’d recommend for older teens and adults. Enjoy! By the way, did Amelia really design bloomers? Check out last month’s post on bicycling clothes.

Bickle, Laura. The Hallowed Ones. 2012. 311p. Graphia, $8.99 (978-0-54785-926-2). Gr.9-up. Catastrophic events in the outside world prevent Katie from leaving her Amish village for Rumspringa. She defies the commands of the Elders to protect the village and determine her own future.

Cremer, Andrea. Rift. 2012. 430p. Philomel, $18.99 (978-0-3992-5613-4). Gr.9-up. Ember escapes an arranged marriage to pursue her destiny as a warrior.

Feldman, Ruth Tenzer. Blue Thread. 2012. 302p. Ooligan Press, $12.95 (978-1-9320-1041-1). […]

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Thanks to the meticulous savers at the Library of Congress, I can bring you this cover of Puck magazine from December 27, 1911. The caption reads: “LOOK WHO’S HERE!” Father Time is ushering out 1911, who appears to be startled, aghast, and amazed at the new year 1912. Instead of the usual chubby baby boy (for the literary-minded a “putto”) 1911 sees a tiny woman in hat, furs, and a sign that reads:

Happy New Year Votes for Women

Now it’s 2013, a year and a century later. Oregon women did get the right to vote in 1912, as I’m sure you know if you are reading this blog. Many other women did not. A lot has changed since Louis Glackens drew this illustration. A lot has not. Let’s take a look at 2013 and resolve to make a change for the better!


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Clara Munson; OHS photo 012974

This isn’t a centennial celebration, but almost. On December 18, 1913, the residents of Warrenton, Oregon, a small town near the northwest tip of the state, chose Clara Cynthia Munson to be their next mayor. Someone had nominated her earlier that year, and a Mr. Dietrich decided to run as well, to protect the good citizens of Warrenton from a woman calling the shots. The finally tally: Munson, 38; Dietrich, 22. Clara Munson (1861-1938) grew up in the lighthouses her father managed. Born in Oysterville, Washington, she studied teaching in Portland and moved to Warrenton in 1900. Munson served as a school clerk and in the post office. According to the on-line Oregon History Project,

Interestingly, she stated soon after her election that she was ‘not very much in favor of woman suffrage,’ but since women had gained the vote the previous year, it was their responsibility to ‘take an active interest in political affairs and show they are able to make good use of a ballot.’”

The Oregonian had this to report in an article on December 20, 1913:

Once mayor, Munson abolished the positions of police chief and city attorney, and used their salaries to improve Warrenton’s infrastructure, including sidewalks. […]

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Amelia Bloomer didn't design bloomers!

Last week we looked at tops that women cyclists might have worn a hundred years ago. Today we get to the bottom…which in the late 1800s and early 1900s were often bloomers. Bloomers–those baggy pants usually gathered at the bottom–are associated with Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894). Bloomer edited The Lily, what’s believed to be the first newspaper in the United States directed at women. The Lily grew out of the temperance movement (educating the public on the evils of alcoholic beverages) and expanded to include other issues important to women, including the right to vote. Among the contributors to The Lily was a person who signed her articles “Sunflower”–suffrage activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Courtesy Library of Congress

Stanton and Bloomer became friends and allies in the fight for women’s rights. They both began to wear the knee-length dress and pants that Stanton’s cousin, Elizabeth Smith Miller, designed. […]

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Blue Thread didn’t have any scenes of Miriam riding her bicycle, but in her life beyond the story (and characters do have lives that don’t fit into the book) she loved to ride around her neighborhood on her bike. She was among many teen girls and women who did. Cycling was so popular in Portland and in other cities by the early 1900s that fashion designers had special clothes for the two-wheeled set. You’ve likely heard of bloomers (and I’ll take that up in a separate post). Here’s an ad for “Two Pretty Bicycle Blouses from the Sunday Oregonian on May 20, 1900. Bikes were made in Portland, too. You can still see evidence of that in the Pearl District, which used to be part of the Northwest Industrial District and before that Couch’s Addition. The Ballou & Wright Company building that now houses Hanna Andersson was originally a bicycle factory. […]

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Our fictional Miriam Josefsohn was 16 years old in 1912. Now, a hundred years later, most girls Miriam’s age in the U.S. wear lipstick—or not—and no one bats an eyelash. But back then it was a different story.

Levy Tube, circa 1915. Note the slide on the side.

First off, there was no such thing as “lipstick” in 1912. Women—and men in some eras—had been reddening their lips for thousands of years with home-brewed concoctions. Maurice Levy, of the Scovil Manufacturing Company in Waterbury, Connecticut, designed and produced the first tube of lipstick in 1915. It looked like a rather large bullet case with red gunk inside. A common recipe for American lipstick was beeswax, olive oil, and crushed insects.

Second, in 19th century America, polite and proper women didn’t wear lip rouge. They might bite their lips to make them red, or run dampened red paper over their lips, but that was as far as they’d go. […]

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