Monday, March 7, 2011

So Many Women, So Little Time

March 7 - Today's post provided by Tanya Lee Stone

So Many Women, So Little Time

As I thought about which woman to cover in my blog post for Women’s History Month, too many flooded my consciousness. The bookshelves of my house are laden with their names: Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Naomi Wolf, Amelia Earhart, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rosalind Franklin, Judy Blume, Golda Meir, Lillian Hellman, Marge Piercy, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and well, the list truly does go on for days. So how to pick just one? I decided not to, for it is their collective effect that has made me who I am today. Instead I would like to share my thanks for the essence of these women and many more, for the impact they created by living the truths of their lives, for the tides they turned, the boundaries they pushed, the fences they toppled.

Golda Meir
Let me begin with the woman who influenced my earliest girlhood—Golda Meir. She was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. All my 9-year-old self knew about Golda Meir was how impressive it was that a woman was both leading a nation and trying to shape a vision of peace in the Middle East. That was enough to make me empty my stainless steel piggy bank and ask my parents to send her all my money.

Fast forward to college. I went to Oberlin, the first co-educational college in the United States. There I read Ayn Rand, Lillian Hellman, Marge Piercy, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, and Toni Morrison. Outside the classroom, I learned almost by osmosis from students who threw their passions into causes and dedicated themselves to informing their fellow women (and men). Every day brought a new revelation—rallies and petitions and flyers handed to me en route to the mailroom on issues of health care rights, lesbian rights, rights for women in third world nations, oppressed women, women who needed a voice—and women who used their voices in the name of others.

I emerged from this experience with deep-held ideas about women and women’s history, and yet I still balked at the word feminist. A few years later, a dear male friend from Oberlin was visiting who, upon discovering I did not label myself a feminist, became rather annoyed with me. How is that possible with all you believe in, and why do so many women disconnect themselves from that term, he wanted to know—quite rightly. It was a valid question. It is a loaded word. And in fact, it was his supreme irritation that sparked my acute realization that I WAS, and likely had always been, a feminist. I didn’t know then that I would spend a good deal of my writing career telling stories that celebrate women’s history, but looking back, my roots are clearly visible.

Now those roots nurture the directions my own branches stretch. Sometimes it’s deep into our past with women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Addams in the picture books I write. And sometimes it’s the not-so-distant-past with women like the “Mercury 13” who helped break down the gender boundaries in our space program and pave the way for women astronauts. Spending time with many of these women, whose story I told in Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, illustrated the fact that women shape our world in a broad variety of ways. There is no one “type” of feminist and all who strive for change are to be celebrated.

That idea was further cemented as I sat in a room last year filled with hundreds of women, all in attendance to hear Gloria Steinem speak. At the end of her moving lecture—delivered with the ease of a confident soul—she invited anyone to come to the microphone and state her own ideas for change. As the line began to grow and weave around the back of the room, and the ideas began to flow, the realization that women make history in every community, every day, moved me to tears.
Gloria Steinem

The icing on the cake? I met Ms. Steinem afterwards and handed her a copy of Almost Astronauts. She looked at it and said, “Oh! I am so excited that you wrote this story!” I then showed her my source note citing the 1973 article about these women in her Ms. magazine. She smiled and handed me a signed copy of her book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. It wasn’t the torch being handed from one woman to another—it was the acknowledgement that we are all in this feminism and women’s history work together.

I know I am not alone in the fact that many, many women helped shape my own ideals—just as many, many women helped shape theirs. It is this far-reaching, intimate, and intricate sisterhood of the world that I am both fascinated by and grateful for—and so I say to all of you, Happy Women’s History Month!

Editor's Note:
Tanya Lee Stone studied English at Oberlin College and was an editor of children's nonfiction for many years. She also has a Masters Degree.
After many years as an editor, Tanya moved to Vermont and returned to writing. This award-winning author has written titles that include the young adult novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl (Wendy Lamb/Random House), Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald (Viking),  picture books Elizabeth Leads the Way (Holt, April 08), Sandy's Circus (Viking, Sept 08), Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream (Candlewick 09), and The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie (Viking 2010). Forthcoming titles include Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?! (Holt) and Courage Has No Color (Candlewick).

Tanya Lee Stone blogs at


  1. Thanks so much for your post, Tanya. Happy Women's History Month to all of us! We have much to be thankful for, including great writers that remind us of our past. :)

  2. Just wonderful, Tanya. And I love the title!! I am in awe of all of these incredible women who have helped shape our lives. And that includes you!!!

  3. Feeling a little bit in awe right now! You not only listed some great women of history, but it sounds like you're making it yourself! Great story about Gloria Steinem.

  4. Thanks so much for all the great books you've written

    While at work today, I noticed a new title that had me do a serious double take.

    The Vintage Book of American Woman Writers edited by Elaine Showalter. - 350 years of poetry and fiction by American women.

  5. Tanya, thanks so much for your great post. I especially liked your comments about Golda Meir--it turns out you and I are about the same age, and I remember thinking that it was amazing that Israel had a woman president, and one that looked a lot like my grandmother!

  6. HI Tanya--
    Thanks for this great article and also for your fantastic Almost Astronauts, which I've recommended to many librarians during my own school visits. I know we talked about our college years when we did the Teen Voices tour back in Spring 2006 for RH w/Emily Jenkins and Simon Cheshire--but I don't remember anything about our fav. college reads?? Anyway, your list here (esp. Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf and Lorraine Hansberry) is much the same as mine and makes me want to go back now and revisit those ladies! Best wishes for whatever you're working on now and I'll hope to see you
    at a conference this spring or summer. Happy Womens' History month!-Jen B.