This Week in Feminist History

Guest Post, · Categories: Feminist History

On September 25th in 1929…

… Mexican actress Elsa Aguirre was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. She was a shy child with several siblings and a father in the military. Her career in cinema began when a local production company discovered her in a beauty contest as a teenager. She and her sister Alma Rosa appeared in the film El sexo fuerte, in 1945. Elsa went on to appear in many films, including Algo flota sobre el agua, her most well-known appearance. The 1947 film featured Alfredo B. Crevenna as director and Arturo de Córdova as her co-star. The theme song of the movie was Flor de azalea, which Zacarías Gómez Urquiza and Manuel Esperón wrote and composed for Elsa. She is also known for appearing in Cuidado con el amor (1954), Vainilla, bronce y morir (Una mujer más) (1956), Pancho Villa y la Valentina (1958), and Ama a tu prójimo (1958). The last film also featured her sister, Alma. Elsa married three times and had one son named Hugo, who unfortunately died when he was 30 years old. Elsa herself is still alive today.

On September 26th in 1865…

Mary Russell, an English aviator and ornithologist, was born in Hampshire, England. Her father was the Anglican Archdeacon of Lahore, and when she was 23 she married Lord Herbrand Russell. A few years later, Lord Herbrand inherited his brother’s titles and Mary became the Duchess of Bedford. As Duchess, her main philanthropic focus was in founding hospitals. She founded four in Woburn and Woburn Abbey; the main one being the Abbey Hospital where she also worked as a radiographer and nurse. On top of her work in nursing, Mary was an ornithologist and a collector of birds. The journal she wrote about her studies on bird migration and bird watching found publication after her death as A Bird-watcher’s Diary. Mary was also a member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, which protested women’s inability to vote by using tax resistance. On top of all her other interests, Mary developed an interest in aviation in later life. On August 2, 1929, she took a record-breaking flight from Lympne Airport to Karachi, and back. It was 10,000 miles in eight days. She made her first solo flight in April of 1930, and a couple days late broke another record by flying from Lympne Airport to Cape Town; 9,000 miles in 91 hours. Mary died in March of 1937, at the age of 71, when her plane crashed into the North Sea. Authorities never found her body.

On September 27th in 1939…

… Professional golfer Kathy Whitworth was born in Monahans, Texas. She began playing golf at 15 and became a professional player at 19 when she joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Kathy won her first tournament, the Kelly Girls Open, in 1962. Over her career, she won six major championships, won the Vare Trophy (for best scoring average) seven times, was LPGA Player of the Year seven times, and joined the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975. Kathy won more than 88 LPGA Tour tournaments, more than any other player has even won in either the LPGA or the PGA Tour. In 1974, Kathy broke another record when she won the Orange Blossom Classic for the fifth time. Only three other LPGA golfers have achieved the same record. Kathy retired from competitive golfing in 2005, at the age of 66. She remains a member of many Halls of Fame, including the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, and it alive today.

On September 28th in 1871…

Grazia Deledda, an Italian author and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy. Inspired by the lives of those on Sardinia, the island where she grew up, Grazia started writing at a young age. She published her first novel, Fiori di Sardegna, in 1892, though she had also published some poetry in magazines. Much of Grazia’s work focused on the harsh lives of peasants and struggling families on the island where she lived. Rather than blaming the victims, she usually tore at society, and the values that of the time. Her first successful novel was Elias Portolu in 1903. She followed it by a slew of other books. In fact, on average, Grazia wrote a novel a year. She wrote daily, fitting it into her schedule for a few hours every evening. After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926, her fame increased, leading to her inviting a number of journalists and photographers into her home. This apparently irritated her pet crow, Checcha, to which Grazia said: “If Checcha has had enough, so have I.” Grazia continued writing into her old age, even as she suffered several painful diseases. She published her final novel, La chiesa della solitudine, in 1936. The novel was semi-autobiographical and told the story of a young Italian woman facing cancer. Grazia herself died of breast cancer that same year, at the age of 64.

On September 29th in 1967…

… American novelist and writer Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, Georgia. As a child, she aspired to be a musician, but put that dream aside after suffering rheumatic fever. In 1934, she traveled to New York City to study at Juilliard. Instead (or as planned, if it was an excuse to move) she focused on her literary career. Carson studied creative writing at Columbia University and New York University while working to support herself. She published her first story, “Wunderkind,” in December 1936, when she was 19. A few years later in 1940, she published The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, her first novel. At the time of its release, Carson was unhappily married. Her marriage caused a lot of issues over the years, as both she and her spouse were heavy drinkers. They divorced at one point, during which time Carson released her second novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye. She followed it with The Ballad of the Sad Cafe in 1943, which she wrote while staying at the Yaddo artists’ colony in New York. Carson and her ex-husband remarried, though their relationship was always tumultuous. Carson herself was bisexual and involved over the years in numerous flirtations with women. According to others, she had trouble finding women who reciprocated her feelings, which lead to a lot of frustration. Carson suffered from depression and attempted suicide once. Her husband also tried to get her to commit suicide with him. She fled, and he killed himself in their hotel in Paris. In her later years, Carson suffered several medical issues, including several strokes. She died from a brain hemorrhage in September of 1967, at the age of 50.

On September 30th in 1814…

Lucinda Hinsdale Stone, an American feminist and educator, was born in Hinesburg, Vermont, the youngest of twelve children. Lucinda attended the Hinesburg Academy and taught summer school when she was only fifteen. After getting frustrated by the limited education available at female seminaries, she returned to Hinesburg Academy and took courses with the male students. Her favorite topics were Greek, Latin, and Literature. After finishing courses—she was unable to attend college due to her gender—Lucinda worked as a governess for children on a plantation, where she quickly became an abolitionist. (Better late than never, I suppose.) After marrying Dr. James Stone (the principal of the Academy she used to attend, yikes), Lucinda moved with him to the Kalamazoo Branch of the University of Michigan. She and her husband helped shape what would become Kalamazoo College. Lucina headed the Ladies Department, but under the oversight of the couple, female students had the same curriculum as male students and could attend classes with them. Unfortunately, their focus on co-education met with criticism and they eventually had to leave the school. After her job there ended, Lucina shifted her focus to organizing clubs and traveling schools. She created the Ladies Library Association, which is the third oldest women’s club in the country. The study club was one of the few, rare places women could find education at the time. Lucinda also involved herself in women’s suffrage, alongside Susan B. Anthony, and helped convince the University of Michigan to hire female faculty and accept its first female student. She died in March of 1900, at the age of 85.

On October 1st in 1862…

… American archaeologist Esther Boise Van Deman  was born in South Salem, Ohio. Esther earned her A.B. and A.M. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She taught at both Bryn Mawr School and Wellesley College, before earning her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. After earning her doctorate, she went on to teach at Mount Holyoke College and Goucher College. Generally, she taught Latin, but also classical archaeology. As a Carnegie Institution fellow, she lived in Rome from 1906 to 1910, before moving back to Washington, D.C., as an associate of Carnegie. Esther’s archaeological focus was on analyzing the chronological construction of ancient sites. This focus began after a lecture where Esther noticed differences in the bricks of a building and those blocking a door in said structure. The difference between materials gave her the idea to find the building chronology for other structures. The Carnegie Institution published her original research as The Atrium Vestae in 1909. She went on to publish “Methods of Determining the Date of Roman Concrete Monuments,” and The Building of the Roman Aqueducts.  Her methods became the standard for Roman archaeology. Esther retired to Rome and died there in May of 1937. Marion Elizabeth Blake completed and published the research she had been working on prior to her death.

Amy is a former literature major with a penchant for the past and a tendency to wonder why popular history involves so many boring white men. She lives in Connecticut where she has too many books, several cats, and lots of tea. She often wishes there was a way to look like snapchat filters in real life.


One Response to “This Week in Feminist History”

  1. Heathered says:

    My shame at being so late to read this is slightly offset by this being a week in which I recognized someone in the photo array before reading! (It was Carson McCullers.)

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