“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell barring Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking
Lee & Low Books is proud to publish stories of women who refused to be silenced.
March is Women’s History Month! It’s never a bad time to learn about the contributions that women have made and continue to make. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve put together a list that features some of our favorite historical ladies and great fiction for children and older readers!
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
I entered the education field to broaden the minds of a new generation and teach the truths that I felt I had missed or was denied in my own education. Indeed, I was not alone in those motivations. According to the Primary Sources project by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of the more than 20,000 public school classroom teachers polled, 85% of teachers say they chose the profession in order to make a difference in children’s lives.
Despite my righteous ambitions, once in the classroom, I was hesitant to broach the conversation about gender with a mixed class of boys and girls. So many of my own college classes that focused on social justice and equality issues were almost entirely women.
Acutely aware of my students’ fragile perception of themselves, I was intimidated by the prospect of guiding the discussion. When I was leading a classroom of my own, it was often easier to concentrate on the benign world of synonyms, dictionary skills, main idea, and genre features than push my students to think about what role gender plays in achievement, history, and identity.
I wondered: How do we teach about women’s history and contributions without alienating boys? Will boys disengage if a girl or woman is on the cover or is the main character? In this day and age, do girls still need explicit attention drawn to high-achievers that share their gender?
Leading up to my first month of March as a teacher, I thought I would “just” read more books with women as the central figures during Women’s History Month, but not explicitly point out that these were all women so as not to freak out boys and hope the girls would pick up on my subliminal messages of empowerment….
Insert face palm here.
This thinking was a huge disservice to ALL of my students’ educations. As I introduced books with prominent women historic figures or girl characters, I realized if the books were about gender, we would discuss identity and tolerance. Other times if the story just happened to have a girl character, but gender wasn’t a central feature of the story, my scholars just wanted to focus on the great story and how the universal lessons applied to their lives.
Continuing our entries for Women’s History Month, we asked the talented writer and producer Paula Yoo (author of Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story) about whether women of color in Hollywood still face the same challenges that Anna May Wong once did. Here’s what she had to say:
“It’s a pretty sad situation to be rejected by [the] Chinese because I’m ‘too American’ and by American producers because they prefer other races to act Chinese parts.”— Anna May Wong, quoted from James Parish and William Leonard’s Hollywood Players: The Thirties (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers, 1976, pp. 532–538)
Anna May Wong dreamed of becoming a famous movie star in Hollywood. As a child working in her family’s laundry in downtown Los Angeles, Anna was often distracted by movies being filmed on location. While dropping off her customers’ clean laundry, Anna would hover nearby on the sidewalk to observe the actors, directors, and camera crews.
Anna, however, had no idea that she would also become a pioneer for actors of color, thanks to her determination to overcome the discrimination she faced in the 1930s as one of the few actresses of color in the industry. Like many struggling actors, Anna was forced to accept certain roles she found demeaning (and even racist) because the competition was so fierce in Hollywood.
Since it’s Women’s History Month and baseball season is right around the corner (!), we asked our favorite sports expert, author Crystal Hubbard, whether she thought women should be allowed to play professional baseball. Here’s what she had to say:
Pitcher Jackie Mitchell signed a contract to play for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a Southern Association minor league team, in 1931. This deal differed from most because Mitchell wasn’t like the other boys. She wasn’t a boy at all. She was a woman, one of the very few to play professional baseball on all-male teams. Although Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an April 2, 1931 exhibition game against the New York Yankees soon after signing with the Lookouts, baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis canceled Mitchell’s contract, claiming that baseball was too strenuous for women. Commissioner Ford Frick, on June 21, 1952, officially banned women from professional baseball.