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.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Recipes from the Kitchen of Geor­gia O’Keeffe

The Pol­i­tics & Phi­los­o­phy of the Bauhaus Design Move­ment: A Short Intro­duc­tion

Vis­it the Homes That Great Archi­tects Designed for Them­selves: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Cor­busier, Wal­ter Gropius & Frank Gehry

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.


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. 

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Ursu­la K. Le Guin Names the Books She Likes and Wants You to Read

Ursu­la K. Le Guin’s Dai­ly Rou­tine: The Dis­ci­pline That Fueled Her Imag­i­na­tion

Ursu­la K. Le Guin Stamp Get­ting Released by the US Postal Ser­vice

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

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

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

Real Women Talk About Their Careers in Sci­ence

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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

11 Essen­tial Fem­i­nist Books: A New Read­ing List by The New York Pub­lic Library

Down­load All 239 Issues of Land­mark UK Fem­i­nist Mag­a­zine Spare Rib Free Online

103 Essen­tial Films By Female Film­mak­ers: Clue­less, Lost In Trans­la­tion, Ishtar and More

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How a Bal­ti­more Hair­dress­er Became a World-Renowned “Hair Archae­ol­o­gist” of Ancient Rome

Roman Stat­ues Weren’t White; They Were Once Paint­ed in Vivid, Bright Col­ors

How to Bake Ancient Roman Bread Dat­ing Back to 79 AD: A Video Primer

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Web Project Immor­tal­izes the Over­looked Women Who Helped Cre­ate Rock and Roll in the 1950s

Women of Jazz: Stream a Playlist of 91 Record­ings by Great Female Jazz Musi­cians

Ven­er­a­ble Female Artists, Musi­cians & Authors Give Advice to the Young: Pat­ti Smith, Lau­rie Ander­son & More

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, “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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