Discover the First Modern Kitchen–the Frankfurt Kitchen–Pioneered by the Architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1926)

Nearly 100 years after it was introduced, architect Margarete (Grete) Schütte-Lihotzky‘s famous Frankfurt Kitchen continues to exert enormous influence on kitchen design.

Schütte-Lihotzky analyzed designs for kitchens in train dining cars and made detailed time-motion studies of housewives’ dinner preparations in her quest to come up with something that would be space saving, efficient, inexpensively pre-fabricated, and easily installed in the new housing springing up in post-WWI Germany.




Schütte-Lihotzky hoped that her design would have a liberating effect, by reducing the time women spent in the kitchen. Nothing is left to chance in these 1.9 by 3.44 meters, with the main emphasis placed on the well-traveled “golden triangle” between worktop, stove, and sink.

The design’s scientific management honored ergonomics and efficiency, initiating a sort of household dance, but as filmmaker Maribeth Romslo, who directed eight dancers on a painstaking facsimile of a Frankfurt Kitchen, below, observes:

…as with any progress, there is friction and pressure. As women gain more rights (then and now), are they really just adding more to their to-do list of responsibilities? Adding to the number of plates they need to spin? They haven’t been excused from domestic duties in order to pursue careers or employment, the new responsibilities are additive.

 

(Note: enter your information to view the film.)

Choreographer Zoé Henrot, who also appears in the film, emphasizes the Frankfurt Kitchen’s design efficiencies and many of its famous features — the drawers for flour and other bulk goods, the adjustable stool, the cutting board with a receptacle for parings and peels.

At the same time, she manages to telegraph some possible Catch-22s.

Its diminutive size dictates that this workplace will be a solitary one — no helpers, guests, or small children.

The built-in expectations regarding uniformity of use leaves little room for culinary experimentation or a loosey goosey approach.

When crushingly repetitive tasks begin to chafe, options for escape are limited (if very well-suited to the expressive possibilities of modern dance).

Interestingly, many assume that a female architect working in 1926 would have brought some personal insights to the task that her male colleagues might have been lacking. Not so, as Schütte-Lihotzky readily admitted:

The truth of the matter was, I’d never run a household before designing the Frankfurt Kitchen, I’d never cooked, and had no idea about cooking.

Singer-songwriter Robert Rotifer is another artist who was moved to pay homage to Schütte-Lihotzky and the Frankfurt Kitchen, a “calculated move” that he describes as something closer to designing a kitchen than “divine inspiration”:

I sat on the train traveling from Canterbury up to London… I was about to record a new album, and I needed one more uptempo song, something driving and rhythmical. While the noisy combination of rickety train and worn-out tracks suggested a beat, I began to think about syncopations and subjects.

I thought about the mundane things nobody usually writes songs about, functional things that defy metaphor—tools, devices, household goods. As I listed some items in my head, I soon realized that kitchen utensils were the way to go. I thought about the mechanics of a kitchen, and that’s when the name of the creator of the famous Frankfurt Kitchen flashed up in my head.

There, in the natural rhythm of her name, was the syncopation I had been looking for: “I sing this out to Grete Schütte-Lihotzky.” Writing the rest of the lyrics was easy. The repetitive element would illustrate the way you keep returning to the same tasks and positions when you are working in a kitchen. In the middle-eight I would also find space for some of the criticisms that have been leveled at Schütte-Lihotzky’s kitchen over the decades, such as the way her design isolated the kitchen worker, i.e. traditionally the woman, from the rest of the family.

Rotifer, who also created the paintings used in the animated music video, gives the architect her due by including accomplishments beyond the Frankfurt Kitchen: her micro-apartment with “a disguised roll-out bed,” her terraced houses at the Werkbundsiedlung, a housing project’s kindergarten, a printing shop, and the Viennese Communist party headquarters.

It’s a lovely tribute to a design pioneer who, reflecting on her long career around the time of her 100th birthday, remarked:

If I had known that everyone would keep talking about nothing else, I would never have built that damned kitchen!

Museums that have acquired a Frankfurt Kitchen include Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and Oslo’s National Museum.

Learn more about the Kitchen Dance Project in this conversation between filmmaker Maribeth Romslo, choreographer Zoé Emilie Henrot, and Minneapolis Institute of Art curator Jennifer Komar Olivarez.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

When Sci-Fi Legend Ursula K. Le Guin Translated the Chinese Classic, the Tao Te Ching

Brenda (laughing): Can you imagine a Taoist advertising agency? “Buy this if you feel like it. If it’s right. You may not need it.”

Ursula: There was an old cartoon in The New Yorker with a guy from an advertising agency showing his ad and the boss is saying “I think you need a little more enthusiasm Jones.” And his ad is saying, “Try our product, it really isn’t bad.”

Perhaps no Chinese text has had more lasting influence in the West than the Tao Te Ching, a work so ingrained in our culture by now, it has become a “changeless constant,” writes Maria Popova. “Every generation of admirers has felt, and continues to feel, a prescience in these ancient teachings so astonishing that they appear to have been written for their own time.” It speaks directly to us, we feel, or at least, that’s how we can feel when we find the right translation.

Admirers of the Taoist classic have included John Cage, Franz Kafka, Bruce Lee, Alan Watts, and Leo Tolstoy, all of whom were deeply affected by the millennia-old philosophical poetry attributed to Lao Tzu. That’s some heavy company for the rest of us to keep, maybe. It’s also a list of famous men. Not every reader of the Tao is male or approaches the text as the utterances of a patriarchal sage. One famous reader had the audacity to spend decades on her own, non-gendered, non-hierarchical translation, even though she didn’t read Chinese.




It’s not quite right to call Ursula Le Guin’s Tao Te Ching a translation, so much as an interpretation, or a “rendition,” as she calls it. “I don’t know Chinese,” she said in an interview with Brenda Peterson, “but I drew upon the Paul Carus translation of 1898 which has Chinese characters followed by a transliteration and a translation.” She used the Carus as a “touchstone for comparing other translations,” and started, in her twenties, “working on these poems. Every decade or so I’d do another chapter. Every reader has to start anew with such an ancient text.”

Le Guin drew out inflections in the text which have been obscured by translations that address the reader as a Ruler, Sage, Master, or King. In her introduction, Le Guin writes, “I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul.” To immediately get a sense of the difference, we might contrast editions of Arthur Waley’s translation, The Way and Its Power: a Study of the Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought, with Le Guin’s Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way.

Waley’s translation “is never going to be equaled for what it does,” serving as a “manual for rulers,” Le Guin says. It was also designed as a guide for scholars, in most editions appending around 100 pages of introduction and 40 pages of opening commentary to the main text. Le Guin, by contrast, reduces her editorial presence to footnotes that never overwhelm, and often don’t appear at all (one note just reads “so much for capitalism”), as well as a few pages of endnotes on sources and variants. “I didn’t figure a whole lot of rulers would be reading it,” she said. “On the other hand, people in positions of responsibility, such as mothers, might be.”

Her version represents a lifelong engagement with a text Le Guin took to heart “as a teenage girl” she says, and found throughout her life that “it obviously is a book that speaks to women.” But her rendering of the poems does not substantially alter the substance. Consider the first two stanzas of her version of Chapter 11 (which she titles “The uses of not”) contrasted with Waley’s CHAPTER XI.

Waley

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the
usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the
usefulness of the vessel depends.

Le Guin

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t
is where is it’s useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
is where it’s useful.

Le Guin renders the lines as delightfully folksy oppositions with rhyme and repetition. Waley piles up argumentative clauses. “One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny,” Le Guin comments in her note,” a quality that doesn’t come through in many other translations. “He’s explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counterintuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe. He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots.”

Such images captivated the earthy anarchist Le Guin. She drew inspiration for the title of her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven from Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu, perhaps showing how she reads her own interests into a text, as all translators and interpreters inevitably do. No translation is definitive. The borrowing turned out to be an example of how even respected Chinese language scholars can misread a text and get it wrong. She found the “lathe of heaven” phrase in James Legge’s translation of Chuang Tzu, and later learned on good authority that there were no lathes in China in Chuang Tzu’s time. “Legge was a bit off on that one,” she writes in her notes.

Scholarly density does not make for perfect accuracy or a readable translation. The versions of Legge and several others were “so obscure as to make me feel the book must be beyond Western comprehension,” writes Le Guin. But as the Tao Te Ching announces at the outset: it offers a Way beyond language. In Legge’s first few lines:

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and
unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and
unchanging name.

Here is how Le Guin welcomes readers to the Tao — noting that “a satisfactory translation of this chapter is, I believe, perfectly impossible — in the first poem she titles “Taoing”:

The way you can go 
isn’t the real way. 
The name you can say 
isn’t the real name.

Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed: 
name’s the mother
of the ten thousand things.

So the unwanting soul 
sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul 
sees only what it wants.

Two things, one origin, 
but different in name, 
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries! 
The door to the hidden.

All images of the text courtesy of Austin Kleon. 

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Little-Known Female Scientists Who Mapped 400,000 Stars Over a Century Ago: An Introduction to the “Harvard Computers”

Image via Wikimedia Commons

As team names go, the Harvard Computers has kind of an oddball ring to it, but it’s far preferable to Pickering’s Harem, as the female scientists brought in under the Harvard Observatory’s male director were collectively referred to early on in their 40-some years of service to the institution.

A possibly apocryphal story has it that Director Edward Pickering was so frustrated by his male assistants’ pokey pace in examining 1000s of photographic plates bearing images of stars spotted by telescopes in Harvard and the southern hemisphere, he declared his maid could do a better job.

If true, it was no idle threat.




In 1881, Pickering did indeed hire his maid, Williamina Fleming, to review the plates with a magnifying glass, cataloguing the brightness of stars that showed up as smudges or grey or black spots. She also calculated—aka computed—their positions, and, when possible, chemical composition, color, and temperature.

The newly single 23-year-old mother was not uneducated. She had served as a teacher for years prior to emigrating from Scotland, but when her husband abandoned her in Boston, she couldn’t afford to be fussy about the kind of employment she sought. Working at the Pickerings meant secure lodging and a small income.

Not that the promotion represented a financial windfall for Fleming and the more than 80 female computers who joined her over the next four decades. They earned between 25 to 50 cents an hour, half of what a man in the same position would have been paid.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

At one point Fleming, who as a single mother was quite aware that she was burdened with “all housekeeping cares …in addition to those of providing the means to meet their expenses,” addressed the matter of her low wages with Pickering, leaving her to vent in her diary:

I am immediately told that I receive an excellent salary as women’s salaries stand.… Does he ever think that I have a home to keep and a family to take care of as well as the men?… And this is considered an enlightened age!

Harvard certainly got its money’s worth from its female workforce when you consider that the classification systems they developed led to identification of nearly 400,000 stars.

Fleming, who became responsible for hiring her coworkers, was the first to discover white dwarfs and the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, in addition to 51 other nebulae, 10 novae, and 310 variable stars.

An impressive achievement, but another diary entry belies any glamour we might be tempted to assign:

From day to day my duties at the Observatory are so nearly alike that there will be little to describe outside ordinary routine work of measurement, examination of photographs, and of work involved in the reduction of these observations.

Pickering believed that the female computers should attend conferences and present papers, but for the most part, they were kept so busy analyzing photographic plates, they had little time left over to explore their own areas of interest, something that might have afforded them work of a more theoretical nature.

Another diary entry finds Fleming yearning to get out from under a mountain of busy work:

Looking after the numerous pieces of routine work which have to be kept progressing, searching for confirmation of objects discovered elsewhere, attending to scientific correspondence, getting material in form for publication, etc, has consumed so much of my time during the past four years that little is left for the particular investigations in which I am especially interested.

And yet the work of Fleming and other notable computers such as Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon is still helping scientists make sense of the heavens, so much so that Harvard is seeking volunteers for Project PHaEDRA, to help transcribe their logbooks and notebooks to make them full-text searchable on the NASA Astrophysics Data System. Learn how you can get involved here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Essential Reads on Feminism: The New York Public Library Creates a Reading List to Honor the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

We may all have the best of intentions when we collect and share reading lists. We buy the books, stack them neatly by the chair or bed, then something happens. Like… literally, every day, something happens…. Let’s cut ourselves some slack. We’ll get to those books, or give them away to people who will read them, which is also a good thing to do.

But even if we can’t keep up, reading lists are still essential educational tools, especially for kids, young adults, and their parents and teachers. As we celebrate the centenary of the 19th Amendment (which fell on August 18th) and talk about its many shortcomings, it may be more important than ever to understand the U.S. history that brought us to the current moment.




This is a history in which—whether rights were guaranteed by the constitution or not—people historically denied suffrage have always had to struggle. Each generation of women, but most especially Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and LGBTQ women, must claim or reclaim basic rights, liberties, and protections. More than ever, feminist reading lists reflect the vast differences in collective and personal experience that fall under the label “Feminist.”

To illustrate the continued critical importance of feminist history, theory, and literature, the New York Public Library published reading lists for adults, kids, and teens on the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary. These books can help create community and solidarity and inspire deep reflection as kids are pushed back into schools and parents and teachers try to help them cope.

The adult list contains 126 books and includes links to the library catalog or e-Book editions. “The titles bridge the past and present of feminist movements, from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Independent Woman (1949) to Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: Essays (2014), and from the earliest manifestos for equality to contemporary writings on intersectionality,” Valentina Di Liscia writes at Hyperallergic.

The lists for kids and teens are of a more manageable length, and “if you’re looking to stock the bookshelves before history class starts this fall,” you can hardly do better than to start with these titles (or just bookmark the lists for now), as Danielle Valente—who helpfully transcribes both lists, below—notes at Time Out New York.

NYPL’s Essential Reads on Feminism: For Kids 

  • Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne
  • Black Women Who Dared by Naomi M. Moyer
  • Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,
  • Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Willis Hudson
  • Delores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren
  • Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport
  • Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen
  • Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
  • The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul
  • Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina
  • Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan
  • I Am Enough by Grace Byers
  • I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  • Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Myers
  • It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn
  • Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Leading the Way: Women in Power by Janet Howell and Theresa Howell
  • Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter
  • Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts by Leah Tinari
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
  • Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza
  • Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
  • Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote by Dean Robbins
  • The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
  • My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner
  • Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  • Rad American Women A–Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History… and Our Future! by Kate Schatz
  • Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan Zimet
  • Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood
  • She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton
  • They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew SG
  • Women Win the Vote!: 19 for the 19th Amendment by Nancy B. Kennedy

 

New York Public Library’s Essential Reads on Feminism: For Teens 

  • Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops
  • Ask a Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life for Girls Who Dig Girls by Lindsay King-Miller
  • Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages by Melissa de la Cruz
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  • Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
  • Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu
  • The Bride Was a Boy by Chii
  • Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism by Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman (eds.)
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Feminism Is… by Alexandra Black, Laura Buller, Emily Hoyle and Dr. Megan Todd
  • Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word by Nadia Abushanab Higgins
  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom
  • Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella
  • Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti
  • Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Girls Resist!: A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution by KaeLyn Rich
  • Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices
  • Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen (ed.)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman In Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchú
  • Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell
  • Modern Herstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History by Blair Imani
  • Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
  • Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
  • #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (eds.)
  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill
  • She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
  • Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
  • Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
  • Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl and Fox Fisher
  • Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne
  • Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling
  • With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum
  • You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent
  • Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall

This is, indeed, an excellent place to start. Given younger generations’ levels of engagement with current events, it’s likely your kids or students are already familiar with many of the newer books on the lists.

And if you, yourself, need some less daunting bibliographies to get you started, you might also check out Emily Temple’s “40 New Feminist Classics” list on LitHub or her (shorter and less diverse) “10 Essential Feminist Books” at The Atlantic, or feminist writer Mona Eltahawy’s list of Black feminist books on Twitter, or former NFL player Wade Davis and Cornell English professor Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s lists for “men who care about feminism.”

If there’s any overarching theme to be found among such a vast and ever-expanding canon of feminist literature, it might be summed up best in the title of a recent Angela Davis book on feminist movements around the world: “Freedom is a constant struggle.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Get the Ancient Roman Look: A Hair & Makeup Video Tutorial

Remember early April, when we threw ourselves into the Getty Challenge, turning ourselves into historic art recreations in lieu of climbing the walls?

Seems like ages ago, doesn’t it, that you wrapped a shower curtain around your head and rifled through the button box, rabid to make yourself into a masterpiece.

While it’s not accurate to say we’ve collectively settled into a new normal, many of us have accepted that certain alterations to our everyday lives will be prolonged if our everyday lives are to proceed.




First it was depressing.

Now it’s just boring (with the occasional thrum of anxiety).

Perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit, and Crows Eye Productions’ tutorial on achieving an Ancient Roman look using modern hair and beauty products, above, is an excellent place to start.

While Crows Eye specializes in building historically accurate period dress from the unmentionable out, it’s worth noting that stylist Liv Free takes a few liberties, adding a bit of mascara and lipstick despite a dearth of evidence that Roman women enhanced their lips or lashes.

She also uses curling irons, ponytail holders, and a hair donut to create a crown of ringlets and braids.

If you’re a stickler for authenticity who won’t be able to live with yourself if you’re not sewn into your hair style with a bone needle, you may be better off consulting the YouTube channel of hair archeologist Janet Stephens.

But, if your goal is merely to wow your co-workers with a full-on Flavian Dynasty look during your next Zoom call, by all means grab some pale lead-free foundation, some expendable Hot Buns, and some light blush.

Don’t worry that you’ll appear too done up. Free notes that Roman women of both high and low birth were devoted to makeup, but in deference to their men, limited themselves to the natural look.

That’s a tad anachronistic, huh?

These days, anyone who wants to remake themselves in the image of Empress Domitia Longina should feel free to take a crack at it, irrespective of gender, race, or extra hands to help with the parts of the hairstyle you can can’t see in the mirror (or a Zoom window).

Once we have mastered our new look, we can see about another museum challenge. Here’s some inspiration to get us started.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Meet the Liverbirds, Britain’s First Female (and Now Forgotten) Rock Band

We never ever got as famous as the Beatles. But we started as friends, and we ended as friends. —Sylvia Saunders, The Liverbirds’ drummer

John Lennon (a member of a band who in a parallel universe might’ve been billed as the male Liverbirds) announced that the all-female quartet would fail, a deeply inaccurate prediction.

The band got a lot of attention, toured with The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, dismissed Brian Epstein when he pooh-poohed their desire to play in Hamburg, rejected an offer to play topless in Las Vegas, and were sought out by Jimi Hendrix, owing to their bassist’s joint-rolling skills.




They also learned how to play the instruments they had optimistically purchased after seeing The Beatles in Liverpool’s famed Cavern Club.

Respect to any grandmother with bragging rights to having seen The Beatles live, but it’s heartening that these 16-year-old girls immediately pictured themselves not so much as fans, but as players.

As bassist and former-aspirant-nun Mary McGlory recalls in Almost Famous: The Other Fab FourBen Proudfoot’s New York Times’ Op-Doc, above:

“Oh my god!” I said to my cousins, “We’re going to be like them. And we’re going to be the first girls to do it.”

Mission accomplished, in trousers and neatly tucked-in shirts, buttoned all the way to their collars.

It’s not terribly hard to guess what put an end to their six-year-run.

Motherly, wifely duties…

Sylvia Saunders, who became drummer by default because sticks were a better fit with her small hands than frets, got pregnant, and recused herself due to complications with that pregnancy.

Valerie Gell, the Liverbirds’ late guitarist and most accomplished musician, married a handsome fan who’d been en route to Hamburg to propose when he was paralyzed in a car accident, devoting herself to his care for 26 years.

The other two members carried on for a bit, playing a Japanese tour with a couple of female musicians they’d met in Hamburg, but the chemistry couldn’t compare.

The dream was over, but fortunately rock and roll stardom was not their only dream.

Unlike the fourth Liverbird, Pam Birch, who descended into addiction after the band broke up, neither Saunders nor McGlory seems angry or regretful over what could have been, smiling as they mention their long, happy marriages, children, and grandchildren.

They were awfully tickled by Girls Don’t Play Guitars, a recent West End musical that tells the story of the Liverbirds.

And McGlory is admirably sanguine about Lennon’s famous diss, revealing to the Liverpool Echo that:

He had a smile on his face when he said it—he wasn’t being malicious. But it would have been nice to have bumped into him a few years later and for him to say, “Well done, you proved me wrong,” which I’m sure he would have been happy to do.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY., playing at The Tank NYC through March 28 Follow her @AyunHalliday.

America’s First Drag Queen Was Also America’s First LGBTQ Activist and a Former Slave

Negro Dive Raided. Thirteen Black Men Dressed as Women Surprised at Supper and Arrested. —The Washington Post, April 13, 1888

Sometimes, when we are engaged as either participant in, or eyewitness to, the making of history, its easy to forget the history-makers who came earlier, who dug the trenches that allow our modern battles to be waged out in the open.

Take America’s first self-appointed “queen of drag” and pioneering LGBTQ activist, William Dorsey Swann, born into slavery around 1858.

30 years later, Swann faced down white officers busting a drag ball in a “quiet-looking house” on Washington, DC’s F street, near 12th.

“You is no gentleman,” Swann allegedly told the arresting officer, while half the guests broke for freedom, correctly surmising that anyone who remained would see their names published in the next day’s newspaper as participants in a bizarre and unseemly ritual.




A lurid Washington Post clipping about the raid caught the eye of writer, historian, and former  Oberlin College Drag Ball queen, Channing Gerard Joseph, who was researching an assignment for a Columbia University graduate level investigative reporting class:

An animated conversation, carried on in effeminate tones, was in progress as the officers approached the door, but when they opened it and the form of Lieut. Amiss was visible to the people in the room a panic ensued. A scramble was made for the windows and doors and some of the people jumped to the roofs of adjoining buildings. Others stripped off their dresses and danced about the room almost in a nude condition, while several, headed by a big negro named Dorsey, who was arrayed in a gorgeous dress of cream-colored satin, rushed towards the officers and tried to prevent their entering.

Joseph’s interest did not flag when his reporting class project was turned in. House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens will be published in 2021.

Meanwhile you can bone up on Swann, Swann’s jail time for running a brothel, and the Washington DC drag scene of the Swann era in Joseph’s essay for The Nation, “The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave.”

Please note that William Dorsey Swann does not appear in the photo at the top of the page. As per Joseph:

The dancers — one in striped pants, the other in a dress — were recorded in France by Louis Lumière. Though their names are lost, they are believed to be American. In the show, they performed a version of the cakewalk, a dance invented by enslaved people, and the precursor to vogueing.

via The Nation

Related Content:

100 Years of Drag Queen Fashion in 4 Minutes: An Aesthetic Journey Moving from the 1920s Through Today

Before Brokeback: The First Same-Sex Kiss in Cinema (1927)

When John Waters Appeared on The Simpsons and Changed America’s LGBTQ Views (1997)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How the Female Scientist Who Discovered the Greenhouse Gas Effect Was Forgotten by History


In the early 19th century, Aristotle’s Meteorologica still guided scientific ideas about the climate. The model “sprang from the ancient Greek concept of klima,” as Ian Beacock writes at The Atlantic, a static scheme that “divided the hemispheres into three fixed climatic bands: polar cold, equatorial heat, and a zone of moderation in the middle.” It wasn’t until the 1850s that the study of climate developed into what historian Deborah Cohen describes as “dynamic climatology.”

Indeed, 120 years before Exxon Mobile learned about—and then seemingly covered up—global warming, pioneering researchers discovered the greenhouse gas effect, the tendency for a closed environment like our atmosphere to heat up when carbon dioxide levels rise. The first person on record to link CO2 and global warming, amateur scientist Eunice Newton Foote, presented her research to the Eight Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1856.




Foote’s paper, “Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays,” was reviewed the following month in the pages of Scientific American, in a column that approved of her “practical experiments” and noted, “this we are happy to say has been done by a lady.” She used an air pump, glass cylinders, and thermometers to compare the effects of sunlight on “carbonic acid gas” (or carbon dioxide) and “common air.” From her rudimentary but effective demonstrations, she concluded:

An atmosphere of that gas [CO2] would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature…must have necessarily resulted.

Unfortunately, her achievement would disappear three years later when Irish physicist John Tyndall, who likely knew nothing of Foote, made the same discovery. With his superior resources and privileges, Tyndall was able to take his research further. “In retrospect,” one climate science database writes, Tyndall has emerged as the founder of climate science, though the view “hides a complex, and in many ways more interesting story.”

Neither Tyndall nor Foote wrote about the effect of human activity on the contemporary climate. It would take until the 1890s for Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius to predict human-caused warming from industrial CO2 emissions. But subsequent developments depended upon their insights. Foote, whose was born 200 years ago this past July, was marginalized almost from the start. “Entirely because she was a woman,” the Public Domain Review points out, “Foote was barred from reading the paper describing her findings.”

Furthermore, Foote “was passed over for publication in the Association’s annual Proceedings.” Her paper was published in The American Journal of Science, but was mostly remarked upon, as in the Scientific American review, for the marvel of such homespun ingenuity from “a lady.” The review, titled “Scientific Ladies—Experiments with Condensed Gas,” opened with the sentence “Some have not only entertained, but expressed the mean idea, that women do not possess the strength of mind necessary for scientific investigation.”

The praise of Foote credits her as a paragon of her gender, while failing to convey the universal importance of her discovery. At the AAAS conference, the Smithsonian’s Joseph Henry praised Foote by declaring that science was “of no country and of no sex,” a statement that has proven time and again to be untrue in practice. The condescension and discrimination Foote endured points to the multiple ways in which she was excluded as a woman—not only from the scientific establishment but from the educational institutions and funding sources that supported it.

Her disappearance, until recently, from the history of science “plays into the Matilda Effect,” Leila McNeill argues at Smithsonian, “the trend of men getting credit for female scientist’s achievements.” In this case, there’s no reason not to credit both scientists, who made original discoveries independently. But Foote got there first. Had she been given the credit she was due at the time—and the institutional support to match—there’s no telling how far her work would have taken her.

Just as Foote’s discovery places her firmly within climate science history, retrospectively, her “place in the scientific community, or lack therof,” writes Amara Huddleston at Climate.gov, “weaves into the broader story of women’s rights.” Foote attended the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, and her name is fifth down on the list of signatories to the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a document demanding full equality in social status, legal rights, and educational, economic, and, Foote would have added, scientific opportunities.

Learn much more about Foote and her fascinating family from her descendent, marine biologist Liz Foote.

via Public Domain Review

Related Content:

Women Scientists Launch a Database Featuring the Work of 9,000 Women Working in the Sciences

“The Matilda Effect”: How Pioneering Women Scientists Have Been Denied Recognition and Written Out of Science History

Marie Curie Became the First Woman to Win a Nobel Prize, the First Person to Win Twice, and the Only Person in History to Win in Two Different Sciences

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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