because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Harriet Stanton Blatch

Reading about a protest parade held before the Civil War, Harriet Stanton Blatch (hanging poster left) was inspired to organize the first huge march by women demanding the right to vote in New York City in 1908. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before: thousands of women dressed all in white, carrying banners and marching determinedly in precision down street after street. Equally comfortable with women factory workers and those in the middle and upper classes, Blatch was able to bring them all together to demonstrate that thousands of women in one accord is very in-your-face. Eventually, marches occurred with enough regularity that men started attacking the marchers -- slapping, spitting, tripping, even throwing lit cigars, but it didn’t stop Blatch or the other marchers until they accomplished their objective and won the legal right to vote.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Elizabeth Blackwell

When 26-year-old Elizabeth Blackwell started looking for a medical school that would train her as a doctor in 1847, they all turned her down but one. The Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York, invited their students to decide. Thinking it was a joke, the students voted to endorse her admission. Though the other students were subsequently horrified to discover that she was serious, and tried, along with the teachers and administrators to make things as difficult as possible for her, Blackwell successfully completed her training and showed her fellow students how it’s done by graduating first in her class!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winifred Black

Under the pseudonym “Annie Laurie,” Winifred Black published articles she wrote after conducting undercover investigations for the San Francisco Examiner and other publications in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Willing not only to lie, but to put herself in harm’s way to identify public institutions in need of reform, Black exposed practices in a San Francisco hospital, a Hawaiian leper colony, and even dressed as a boy to sneak through the police cordon and become the only reporter to cover first-hand the Galveston, Texas, flood that was said to claim 7,000 lives in 1900. She tried marriage a couple of times, but being an in-your-face woman -- especially one who’s given to running off in the middle of the night to cover a story -- can make long-term relationships difficult.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is well known as an educator, administrator, and federal government appointee under several Presidents, but she is not always recognized as the in-your-face woman she was. Believing that African-Americans could change things in the U.S. by voting, Bethune went door to door collecting money to pay poll taxes and spent her evenings teaching men and women how to read well enough to pass the literacy exams that were required at that time for people of color to register to vote.

On the night before the election in 1920 in Daytona, Florida, with her efforts having produced one hundred brand new African-American voters, Bethune was approached by no less than eighty Ku Klux Klan members warning her to stay away from the polls. The following day, in open defiance of an organization known to kill, Bethune herself marched her voters to the polls to vote for their very first time -- and the KKK had the common sense not to get in her way.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sarah Bernhardt

Born to a prostitute and a lawyer in France, Sarah Bernhardt turned to prostitution herself from time to time during her early years on the stage, but eventually, she became known throughout Europe and the United States as “The Divine Sarah,” the most famous actress of the 19th century. Multi-talented, besides acting, she painted, sculpted, and wrote for publication all her life, eventually being inducted into the French Legion of Honor in 1914, even though she made no apologies at all for the public nature of her very active sex life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Medea Benjamin

Described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the high profile players in the peace movement," Susan "Medea" Benjamin founded the in-your-face women's organization, Code Pink, in 2002. Code Pink members, in a wry nod to the patriarchy, have worn pink every day since then, while they throw Presidents and Secretaries of Defense and other powerful people into a panic with their bold protests. Highly proficient at sneaking into "serious" governmental meetings and press conferences to heckle speakers, Code Pink members are so good at brainstorming creative, effective forms of protest, they actually make it look fun. One Code Pink member, for example, thrust her red painted hands in the face of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and yelled, "The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands!" (an act that rapidly circled the globe in the international mass media).

Holding all appropriate people responsible for U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, Benjamin protested -- loudly and visibly -- at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2004. She has been deported from Pakistan, was stopped in the process of trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestine, and spent months in the winter of 2011 sleeping in a box in Washington, D.C., to protest the control of U.S. wealth by 1% of its population. As a result of the in-your-face quality of Code Pink tactics, which continue to this day, Benjamin has been arrested multiple times. Like she cares.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn may or may not have been married. Since English law in the 1600’s made life much easier for widows than for single women who insisted on traveling around alone, Behn may have simply spent some time with Mr. Behn and then moved on. In any case, we are certain that she was "a bit of a tart," as they used to say, and a spy for a while during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. And when forced into prison for debt, she simply rose to the occasion and became the first known English woman to earn her living by writing. Her plays and novels put her in Westminster Abbey with the other famous English writers, but her poems about sexual matters -- both male and female -- put her on the historical map as an in-your-face woman.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Isabella Baumfree

After spending the first three decades of her life as a slave, Isabella Baumfree took the youngest of her five children and ran away from her master and the man he had forced her to marry. Then, fifteen years later, Baumfree had a vision, changed her name to “Sojourner Truth,” and became active throughout New England speaking out against slavery and for women’s rights.

In the middle of her most famous speech, still quoted more than 150 years after she delivered it, it’s said that she bared her breasts as she announced that she had worked as hard and suffered more than any man. “And ain’t I a woman?” she cried out to grand applause and much cheering.

Then, calling into question a minister’s statement that women should have less rights because Christ was a man, Truth retorted simply, “And where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him!”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Daisy Gatson Bates

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that racial segregation was unconstitutional, Daisy Gatson Bates (above, with sign) started pressing the school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, to integrate the schools immediately. She started bringing African-American children to the all-White schools, accompanied by news photographers to record the children being refused admission. White people threatened her, rallied, brought legal action, and even perpetrated acts of violence to intimidate her and the children, but Bates kept pushing until President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the Arkansas National Guard and 1,000 paratroopers to ensure her safety and that of the children as they strode -- together -- into Central High School in Little Rock on September 25, 1957. The Little Rock School Board should have known better than to mess with an in-your-face woman!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Madeleine Barot

A member of the French resistance in World War II, Madeleine Barot risked her life to save so many Romani people, Jews, and political activists from the Nazis that the number cannot even be estimated. Many of those she rescued had already been chosen for extermination in the death camps, so her actions were later recognized by a number of governments and organizations. Despite her unwillingness to use violence (as others in the Resistance were doing), Barot went so far as to sign a public statement, with other similarly committed people, that they would oppose the police whenever the lives of Jews were threatened and engage in underground or illegal activities in order to rescue them -- no matter what it cost them. Sometimes an in-your-face woman has to hide her face.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Judi Bari

Eco-feminist and labor leader Judi Bari was so successful in organizing campaigns to stop logging companies from decimating the ancient redwood forests in the northwestern section of the United States that somebody tried to kill her by putting a pipe bomb behind her car seat. The bomb exploded, but it takes more than a pipe bomb to kill an in-your-face woman or even get her to stop doing what she believes in. In fact, it took breast cancer to stop Bari, who was the co-founder of Earth First! Bari got the last word, however, when -- even though she was already dead -- four F.B.I. agents and three Oakland, California, police officers had to fork over $4.4 million to her estate for violating her First Amendment rights, for false arrest, and for unlawful search and seizure. Any in-your-face woman knows: it ain't over till it's over.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Josephine Baker

Josephine McDonald Baker married her second husband at fifteen(!) and then promptly became a hit dancer and comic in vaudeville, on Broadway, and even in Paris. She was given a medal for using her fame and connections to gather intelligence for the French Resistance in World War II, but she was still refused service at the famous Stork Club in New York City because of her race. Furious, she caused a public scene, yelling at columnist Walter Winchell for not coming to her aid. After that, she stopped entertaining in any club or theater that was not racially integrated, causing many to change their policies. Following some years of economic hard times, Baker’s tremendously successful comeback performance at Carnegie Hall when she was sixty-nine proved that an in-your-face woman never loses her touch.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Joan Baez

Facing racist slurs against her Mexican-American heritage as a child, Joan Baez grew up committed to social justice from an early age. Often jailed for her protests, Baez was refused permission in 1967 to perform at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, just as they had refused the great African-American singer Marian Anderson for her heritage nearly thirty years before. “I’ve never had a humble opinion,” Baez was quoted as saying in true in-your-face woman fashion. “If you’ve got an opinion, why be humble about it?”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Frances Baard

Frances Baard, known as “MaBaard” in her homeland of South Africa, went from being a domestic servant and teacher to being a highly respected political organizer who was arrested and prosecuted many times over the course of her activist career. Even after spending twelve months in solitary confinement, upon her release, MaBaard immediately resumed her work with the African National Congress, resulting in her being imprisoned once more -- this time for five years.

Subsequently banned to one area near Pretoria, where her activities could be more effectively restricted and monitored, MaBaard’s work continued with the United Democratic Front until the day that she finally got to see the White oppressors give up control of her nation. An in-your-face woman keeps working until the job is done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jane Goodwin Austin

Expelled from Miss Finch’s Finishing School in New York in the early 1800's for being “an incorrigible tomboy,” Jane Goodwin Austin returned to her parents’ house, had what was reputed to be a wild affair with her cousin (one of the founders of the republic of Texas), gave birth to a baby with no acknowledged father, and spent a decade establishing herself as a popular novelist of the day.

Then, during the war for Texan independence from Mexico, Austin became such a fierce guerrilla leader and adept sharpshooter that she became known as “Calamity Jane,” with the Mexican government placing a $1000 bounty on her head. Asked how many men she had killed, Austin replied “One man and thirty-two boys who thought they were men.”

Austin was killed in 1858 at the age of fifty-seven in a shoot-out with bounty hunters who were trying to relieve her of some escaped African-American slaves she was transporting as an Underground Railroad conductor. She died, as they say, with her boots on. Just as she would have wanted it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hubertine Auclert

In 1880, Hubertine Auclert refused to pay her taxes and, in fact, launched a tax revolt in France based on the idea that women shouldn’t have to pay to support a government they aren’t allowed to help elect. She claimed that it was a matter of “taxation without representation,” which had fueled the revolution against the British and created the United States one hundred years before. Nearly thirty years after she kicked off her tax revolt, Auclert, still an in-your-face woman, smashed a ballet box in Paris and defiantly presented herself as a candidate for the General Assembly -- still thirty-seven years before women in France would be allowed to vote!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Angela DeAngelis Atwood

Sometimes, in-your-face women live what appear after the fact to have been multiple lives. Angela DeAngelis Atwood was one such woman. Starting out as a sorority girl at Indiana University in Bloomington, some said Angela was trained by a C.I.A. think tank and served as part of a “mod-squad” style undercover narcotics unit for a while. In 1973, she turned up in California as one of the members of the Symbionese Liberation Army -- the infamous group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in one of the grandest dramas of that wildly radical period of U.S. history. Angela’s body was found in a house in Los Angeles after a fateful shoot-out with the police. The real story? Who knows? But one thing’s for sure, it’d be all the way in-your-face.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Louise Aston

Revolutionary Louise Aston shocked Berlin in 1848 by wearing pants, smoking cigars, and practicing “free love” (choosing her sexual partners as she saw fit). Declared a “public danger,” she was chased out of city after city, while publishing radical newspapers, participating in political activism, and even fighting on the barricades side-by-side with other young radicals who were seeking to overthrow the government. They ultimately failed in their attempt and Aston was forced into exile, but she was an in-your-face woman, just the same.

Friday, January 13, 2012


The Persian Empire under King Xerxes in the year 480 B.C. was the Superpower of its day, a large confederation of city-states of widely divergent ethnicity. One of them, Halicarnassus, on the west coast of what is now Turkey, was ruled by Artemisia, who was such a canny strategist and so valiant in battle that Xerxes asked her to join his military council. When Xerxes ignored her advice not to engage in an unnecessary naval battle when Persia already had its armies in Greece, the ensuing debacle has gone down in history as one of the most important and decisive naval losses of all time. As Artemisia saw from her ship that the battle, indeed, was lost, she turned to escape and purposely rammed her ship full throttle into the side of one of her enemies’ ships, causing Xerxes to exclaim, “The men behaved like women, and the women like heroes!”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Liv Arnesen & Ann Bancroft

In 1994, Norwegian college professor and coach Liv Arnesen (left), at the age of forty-one, made international headlines by becoming the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole -- a 50-day expedition of 745 miles. Six years later, Arnesen was joined by U.S. polar explorer Ann Bancroft (right) to sail and ski across Antarctica’s entire landmass, this time completing the 1,717-mile trek in 94 bitterly cold days. Golly! Wonder how they did all that without any help from a man?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hannah Arendt

After the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany in the early 1930’s, Hannah Arendt’s apartment in Berlin became a shelter and hiding place for fugitives as they fled Nazi persecution -- even though Hannah herself was a Jew! She kept up her fearless activities for nearly seven years until she herself was finally taken to an infamous internment camp. But, of course, she somehow managed to escape before she could be sent on for "extermination." That’s just the way in-your-face women are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Melchora Aquino

Already 84-years-old at the beginning of the revolution in the Phillipines in 1896, Melchora Aquino turned her store into a refuge for wounded revolutionaries and a secret meeting place where they planned their strategies to overthrow the government. When the authorities found out, of course, they arrested and deported her, but she just waited until the fighting was over, returned to her beloved country, and lived another twenty years just to spite them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Susan B. Anthony

After an hour of debate on November 1, 1872, in a barber shop in Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony bullied three young male election officials into registering her and three other women to vote in a federal election fourteen years before it was legal. She unnerved them by threatening to sue them each personally for great sums of money if she was denied her rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Four days later, Anthony and a small group of other duly registered women voters did, in fact -- illegally -- vote.

Facing arrest later in the week for breaking the law by voting, Anthony refused to go downtown to the prosecutor’s office, as requested, where it could be done quietly, and instead insisted on being arrested at her home, hand-cuffed, and taken downtown to jail “just like a man.” After a trial during which she boldly harangued the Judge until he gave up trying to get a word in edgewise, he sentenced her to a hundred dollar fine, which she flatly told him she would never pay -- and didn’t.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Maya Angelou

At one point or another in her kaleidoscopic life, Maya Angelou has been an unmarried teen-aged mother, a night club dancer, a cable car conductor, a cook, a worker in a car body shop, a madam, a prostitute, a political organizer, a newspaper editor, a director, a producer, a composer, a screenwriter, an actor, a university professor, an author of a whole string of best-selling books -- most of them about her own life, and a poet laureate, not to mention the wife of a handful of men . No wonder one of her books of poetry is called Phenomenal Woman. She’s as in-your-face as they come!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jessie Daniel Ames

Born in Texas in 1883, Jessie Daniel Ames challenged the notion that White women like her needed protection from African-American men. Pointing out that the alleged rapes that supposedly resulted in lynchings virtually never happened and that racial hatred was the real reason why lynchings occurred, she founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching in 1930. Facing down belligerence and threats of all kinds, Ames sent thousands of women into towns throughout the south to educate and organize and even badger sheriffs into signing an oath that they would protect their prisoners from mobs -- no matter what. An in-your-face woman will even get in a sheriff's face.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mary Jobe Akeley

Long before she was married in 1926, Mary Jobe Akeley had led so many expeditions into the wilds of the Canadian northwest that they named a high peak of the Canadian Rockies after her: Mt. Jobe. Then, when her husband died only two years after they were married, leaving her in Africa, she undertook a study of the mountain gorilla; mapped much of Kenya, Tanganyika, and the Congo; and completed a photographic study of the Ugandan pink flamingo. Why not? She was there anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


In a succession of battles in the late 800’s and early 900’s, Aethelflaed, the Anglo-Saxon warrior queen, whipped the legendary Vikings in battle and then went on to capture parts of Wales and Northumbria, as well. Once she was finished beating her enemies senseless, she settled down with all her gold, had the Roman walls re-built, and still had time to devise a street plan that survives today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Polly Adler

Even though she retired at the age of 44 to go to college and write books instead, Polly Adler spent more than two decades running the most luxurious and well-attended brothels in Manhattan. Politicians, writers, gangsters, and the highest of high society rubbed shoulders with each other and with Polly’s "girls" in the wee hours of the morning, but it was said that many came just to talk with “Polly Pal” who was an in-your-face-woman and given to saying things like, “I’m one of those people who just can't help getting a kick out of life -- even when it's a kick in the teeth.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adelaide of Susa

As a youth in the early 1100’s in what eventually became Italy, Adelaide of Susa donned armor and led an army in defense of the lands she was to inherit from her father. Though most people of power and wealth at that time stuck together, Adelaide was known for punishing Bishops and Squires and rewarding even her humblest subjects according to her perception of what was fair and just -- no matter what anybody else thought about it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Abigail Smith Adams

Abigail Smith Adams, in 1791, forced a White school master by bull will to accept a young African-American boy as a student against all local custom. Then, in response to the way men were shutting women out of the democratic process in the newly formed United States, she wrote about herself and other women: “We are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” She was so aggressive while her husband was the second President of the United States that she was called “Her Majesty” behind her back.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bessie Abramowitz

In 1904, at only fifteen years of age, Bessie Abramowitz (left) packed up her clothes and moved all the way from Russia to Chicago, Illinois, rather than marry the man her parents had already arranged for her to wed.

Six years later, not a bit less bull-headed, she talked sixteen other women into marching out of a garment factory with her because their wages had just been cut. Everybody laughed until it turned into a full-scale strike supported by thousands of garment workers all over Chicago.

Several years later, in 1914, the International Ladies' Garment Union proved that she was hardly alone when they published this quote in "The Woman Rebel": "A woman's duty: to look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in the eyes; to have an ideal; to speak and act in defiance of convention."