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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sarah Emma Edmonds

When Sarah Emma Edmonds read a book as a young girl about a woman who became a pirate after dressing as a man, she decided that adventures await in-your-face women you can't have any other way. So, when the Civil War broke out in the United States in the mid-1800's, Edmonds didn't let a little thing like the fact that she was born in Canada make her miss out on the fun. Enlisting in the U.S. military under the name "Franklin Flint Thompson," Edmonds lied her way into serving as a spy and once even darkened her skin with silver nitrate and put on a wig to enter a Confederate camp as a Black man.

Unfortunately, when she contracted malaria and had to duck out to recuperate in a civilian hospital so the fact that she was a woman wouldn't be discovered, "Franklin Flint Thompson" was reported as a deserter, so she laid that identity to rest. Later, when her fellow soldiers learned who she really was, they reported that, regardless of her gender, Edmonds/Thompson was a "frank and fearless" soldier, always ready to "take down the enemy" in every battle her company faced. In 1897, she became the only woman admitted to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War Union Army veterans' organization. And her memoirs about her experiences in the military sold 175,000 copies. Seems strange we never hear about these women, doesn't it?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Isabelle Eberhardt

Isabelle Eberhardt was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1877 to a wealthy widow and her children's tutor, an Armenian anarchist, ex-priest and convert to the Islamic faith. Well-educated and fluent in multiple languages, including Arabic, Eberhardt -- in-your-face woman that she was -- started dressing as a man at an early age because it offered her increased freedom and independence.

Calling herself Si Mahmoud Essadi, Eberhardt joined the Islamic faith herself and then became a member of a secret Sufi brotherhood. Very nearly losing her arm while fighting against colonial rule, Essadi/Eberhardt wrote novels and short stories while she wasn't serving as a war reporter or exploring the deserts she loved in northern Algeria and Tunisia. Even in death she was an in-your-face woman, saving her husband's life before she lost her own in a flash flood when she was only twenty-seven. That was a lot of life she packed into only twenty-seven years!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Amelia Earhart

When Amelia Earhart was a child in Kansas in the early 1900's, she climbed trees, hunted rats with a rifle, belly-slammed her sled down snowy hills, and even "flew" a wooden box off a ramp on a toolshed roof -- with her in it! So it was hardly a surprise to anyone that, when she grew up, she bought a leather jacket, cut off her hair and took flying lessons.

Then, in 1932, at the age of 34, Earhart became the first woman ever to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo, for which she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover. But this is not why she made the cut as an in-your-face woman. That came as a result of her writing to her husband-to-be on her wedding day, "I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly." Uh-huh!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mary Barrett Dyer

When Mary Barrett Dyer heard in 1652 that Quakers believe God speaks directly to individuals rather than just through the clergy, she found this to be in agreement with what she had herself believed for quite some time. Unfortunately, the Puritan powers-that-be in Massachusetts did not agree with this. So, when Dyer moved to the Colonies from England in 1657, she headed straight for Massachusetts -- in-your-face woman style -- to protest the law and challenge them to rescind it.

She was sent packing, banned from the state, and even threatened with execution, but she kept returning over and over until they finally sentenced her to death once more. Offered the option of "repenting" and being banned again, Dyer said, "Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent." And she was hanged.

It was said, "She did hang as a flag for others to take example by." Even today, perhaps?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hannah Emerson Duston

When Hannah Emerson Duston was taken captive with her infant daughter and a nurse by Native Americans from the Abenaki tribe in Massachusetts in 1697, one might have thought it was over for her, but Duston was an in-your-face woman. In fact, six weeks later, at the mouth of the Contoocook River, Duston waited for her captors to go to sleep and then led the nurse and a fourteen-year-old boy who had also been captured, in killing or running off everyone in the party, including some children, taking scalps in order to collect a bounty.

Whatever we might think of this story today, Duston was certainly an in-your-face woman who went on to live forty more years during which, I would assume, nobody messed with her!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marie Duplessis

Though she died of tuberculosis when she was only twenty-three, Marie Duplessis (born Alphonsine Rose Plessis in Normandy, France, in 1824) has a novel (La Dame aux le Camelias by Alexander Dumas), an opera (La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi), and several movies (named "Camille") written about her. Discovering at age sixteen that wealthy and prominant men were willing to give her money and gifts to spend time with her, she was soon the toast of Paris. In-your-face women, however, rarely give less than their best. So Duplessis learned to read and write, stayed current on what was happening in the world, and hosted a popular salon where famous politicians, writers, and artists regularly gathered for stimulating conversation and socializing. When she died, not one, but two of her former lovers were holding her hands and hundreds came to her funeral. Not bad for one so young.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Isadora Duncan

Obviously finding her in-your-face-ness early in life, Isadora Duncan quit school in San Francisco at a young age because it "constricted her individuality." Growing up poor, she eventually moved to New York City where she began to develop her skill as a dancer, but she didn't think much of the strict rules of posture and form that classical ballet requires. So she took her free spirited "modern" approach to the dance and went to Europe where she found a greater appreciation for her style both on stage and off.

Duncan was notorious for her financial woes, scandalous bisexual lovelife and public drunkeness, even while she was held in great esteem for her stunning and sometimes outrageous contributions to modern dance. It was said that she was occasionally given to dancing nude, which seems reasonable enough for an in-your-face woman, don't you think?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bernardine Dohrn

Bernardine Dohrn could have taken her over the top intelligence and law degree in 1967 and moved right into polite society as the upper middle class woman she was raised and expected to be. But Dohrn is an in-your-face woman and that would have bored her to tears. So instead, she helped to co-found the Revolutionary Youth Movement, a radical wing of the Students for a Democratic Society (already itself an organization that worked for social change).

Eventually, Dohrn and the other members of RYM took over the SDS, issued a sixteen-thousand word manifesto, changed their faction name to the Weathermen (after Bob Dylan's famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues" line: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows") and then went underground to begin blowing things up in protest against the Vietnam War, among other things.

Taking a public stand against the oppression of African-Americans, Dorhn once told reporters, ""The best thing that we can be doing for ourselves, as well as for the [Black] Panthers and the revolutionary Black liberation struggle, is to build a fucking white revolutionary movement."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Marlene Dietrich

Some people think Marlene Dietrich was only "in-your-face" because she was an international film star in the 1920's and 1930's. After all, movie stars have to be "in-your-face," don't they? But Dietrich -- glamorous though she was -- also lived her bi-sexual life (married or unmarried) to suit herself and regardless of what anybody thought about it. In fact, in 1930, when her career was just getting off the ground and every decision could make or break her career, she boldly played a scene as a cabaret singer in a movie entitled "Morocco" wherein she not only wore a man's tuxedo, but she kissed a woman passionately and full on the mouth. For all the world to see.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mildred "Babe" Didrickson

Mildred “Babe” Didrikson (Zaharias) was a basketball All-American who won two gold medals in track at the 1932 Olympics and then went on to establish herself as a professional athlete extraordinaire in swimming, tennis, baseball, and even billiards. (She once said that she got her nick-name by hitting five home runs in one baseball game.) But it’s as a golfer that she’s remembered best, winning 82 tournaments in twenty years.

“The Babe is here. Who's coming in second?” this in-your-face woman used to say as she walked up to the first tee or onto the court or out to the diamond or up to the table...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bernadette Devlin

In 1969, the year she was twenty-one, Irish woman Bernadette Devlin (McAliskey) was elected to the British Parliament, authored a book on discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland, and was convicted of inciting a riot, for which she served a short jail sentence. Fortunately, this did not keep her from being re-elected the next year. Unfortunately, however, she was suspended shortly thereafter for punching the Home Department Secretary of State for reporting that the British Army only shot and killed thirteen Irish demonstrators in self-defense on a day that has since come to be called “Bloody Sunday.” Fortunately, Devlin went on to serve another three years as an elected official. Unfortunately, she was eventually the victim of a brutal attempted murder when she was shot multiple times, including in the head -- apparently for her radical activism. Fortunately, in-your-face woman that she is, she lived through it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mary Ware Dennett

When women won the right to vote in the United States, Mary Ware Dennett moved on to champion another of her favorite causes: the right to educate people (and even adolescents) about their sexuality. Her arrest in 1928 for sending obscenity through the mail in the form of a pamphlet describing sex as a joyful and natural part of life disregarded the fact that the essay it contained was originally printed in a medical periodical. Nevertheless, her subsequent conviction roused great public outrage and the ACLU got her conviction overturned on appeal. So we can thank an in-your-face woman for access to sex education. Hardly surprising.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Anne "Ninon" de L'enclos

Determined to remain unmarried and independent, Anne “Ninon” de L’enclos was such an unmitigated pleasure-seeker that at one point in 1656, she was locked up in a convent as punishment for the way she was living her life. Quoted as saying “Much more genius is needed to make love than to command armies,” de L’enclos, who was known for both her great beauty and her many lovers, once wrote a book that maintained the possibility of living a good life, even if one was not religious (which she most certainly was not). Later in her life, she switched from entertaining well-known lovers to holding well-respected literary salons. Not a difficult jump for an in-your-face woman.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Andree "Dedee" de Jongh

During World War II, Andree “Dedee” de Jongh was an elegant 24-year-old Belgian Red Cross volunteer and ambulance driver who masterminded the Comet escape line, extending from Belgium into Holland, Luxembourg, France, the Basque territories, and Spain. Set up to save allied pilots left behind enemy lines, the Comet line had more than 1,500 members and supporters operating between 1941 and 1944 and saved 770 pilots. Arrested in 1943 on her 19th crossing into Spain, de Jongh, known to her admirers as “the little cyclone,” survived not only German interrogation, but years of forced labor at the Ravensbruck concentration camp until she was liberated at the end of the war. Tough, huh?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Catalina de Erauso

When she was taken to a convent at the age of four in 1596, it was assumed that Catalina de Erauso would lead a quiet life of religious contemplation, but after she was beaten there at the age of fifteen, de Erauso (who had never even seen a street up to this point), left the convent and leapt unapologetically into the rest of her life as an in-your-face woman. Using names like Francisco de Loyola and Alonso Diaz Ramirez de Guzman, she traveled back and forth across the ocean at will, enlisting here and there as a soldier and nearly dying of her wounds on at least one occasion in New Spain, on the west coast of what is now South America.

Tall, handsome, talkative and typically carrying a sword, de Erauso became so famous for her in-your-faceness that even after it became public knowledge that she was a woman, Pope Urban VIII gave her a special dispensation to wear the men's clothing that she insisted on wearing in any case. She spent the last years of her life as a mule driver on the road to Veracruz using the name Antonio de Erauso. Maybe she needed so many names because one name just wouldn't have done justice to someone with as big a personality as de Erauso apparently had.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lili de Alvarez

By the time she was nineteen-years-old, Lili de Alvarez had distinguished herself as a champion ice skater, tennis player, alpine skier, equestrian, and race car driver! But it was being willing to shock the world in 1931 by marching out onto the court at Wimbledon in a divided tennis skirt (the forerunner of shorts) that established her position in history as an in-your-face woman. Wonder what she’d think of spandex or Daisy Dukes? She’d probably be first in line...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dorothy Day

Usually, most people think of a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church as being sexually pure, humble, and out of the public eye. Dorothy Day, on the other hand, who established the Catholic Worker movement and was declared a Servant of God by Pope John II, had an illegal abortion in the 1920’s, bore a child out of wedlock to an anarchist lover, and was arrested many times as an anti-war, pro-union, pro-civil rights activist.

Arrested the first time in 1917 for demonstrating for women’s suffrage, Day was still being arrested in 1973 (at the age of 75) when she participated in banned picketing in support of the United Farm Workers. That’s more than fifty years of being willing to go to jail for her well as more than fifty years of incarcerating a woman who may well wind up being recognized as a Catholic Saint one day. Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Emily Davison

British citizen Emily Davison gave up her post as a teacher in 1909 to devote herself to organizing with the Women’s Social and Political Union. Subsequently, she was in and out of jail frequently for such "crimes" as trying to hand a petition to the British Prime Minister or throwing stones at the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrapped in notes that read “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”

Routinely creating problems in jail by going on hunger strikes, Davison once barricaded her cell door to prevent herself from being forcefed, so her jailers tried to fill the cell with water by putting a hose through the window. Being that she was an in-your-face woman, though, Davison sued them in a court of law and not only won, but was awarded damages, too.

Militant to the end, Davison jumped in front of the King of England's horse while he was racing at Epsom Derby in 1913, sustaining injuries that ultimately killed her four days later. Some think she was trying to attach a WSPU flag to the horse so that when it won, it would be advertising the struggle for women's suffrage. Regardless, there's nothing more in-your-face than sacrificing your life (even by accident) for what you believe in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Angela Davis

Implicated in a failed attempt to assist in the escape of a prisoner from a California courtroom, African-American activist, philosopher, and college lecturer Angela Davis made the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted List in 1970 before she was arrested, tried, and found innocent by an all-White jury. Enraged, the Governor of California at the time swore she would never teach again in that state. Nevertheless, Davis was eventually named a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz (in 1991) and then awarded a Presidential chair at that institution in 1995. Not bad, when you consider that she ran for Vice President of the United States in 1980 -- on the Communist ticket. In-your-face women are typically very, very good at what they do, even when what they do is considered irritating to many.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sonia Butt D'Artois

Sonia Butt D’Artois was just a teen-ager studying at a private school in the south of France when World War II broke out, so her parents had her return to Great Britain, but she was still in her teens when she joined the Special Operations Executive (the British secret service). Newly married, fluent in French because of her earlier years in that country, and highly trained in the use of British, American, and German weapons and explosives, D’Artois parachuted into France where she trained members of the French resistance by day and blew things up by night.

After D-Day, she began joining the resistance fighters in bigger military actions and when the U.S. command offered her the opportunity to go home, D’Artois refused, continuing to criss-cross the battle lines for information until the Germans were defeated. Aware that many of the women she had trained and served with had already been captured, imprisoned, or even executed, “Tony,” as she has always been called, chose to keep going until the bitter end. In-your-face-women stop when they're ready.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lydia Darragh

When the British redcoats forced Philadelphia Quaker housewife Lydia Darragh to allow them to use a room in her house to hold high level logistical meetings in 1777, they didn’t realize that they were pressuring an in-your-face woman. Darragh hid in a closet to listen to their plans and then sneaked back to bed before being caught.

Pretending she needed to travel to get flour, Darragh got the information about troop movements to Washington’s headquarters and then lied to the Brits when they came back around trying to see who might have sold them out. Being a "housewife" can be such a demanding job!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Anne Seymour Damer

Despite being married to a British Lord, Anne Seymour Damer, a widely respected sculptor in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, preferred wearing men’s clothing and keeping a woman lover. After the death of her husband, Damer moved into a house and lived a long and productive public life with her mate, Mary Berry.

Best known for the heads of the river gods, Isis and Thame, which she sculpted for the bridge at Henley-on-Thame, Oxon (in Great Britain), Damer received commissions from King George III and Napoleon and asked to be buried with her sculpting tools. A small bronze bust of Berry sculpted by Damer turned up at Christie’s famed auction house in recent times and was considered so fine a piece of art that it sold for the equivilent of about $100,000. Apparently, in-your-face women pass the test of time.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Apache woman warrior Dahteste (pronounced Tah-des-te), who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was considered by her people to be such a great hunter and warrior and so skillful at communication in English that Geronomo selected her -- among all those he could have chosen -- to speak for him to the U.S. Cavalry. Imprisoned with Geronimo and other Apaches for nearly two decades after they were tricked and captured by the U.S. government, Dahteste lived through it all to re-join her people before she died, a highly repected warrior and in-your-face woman.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Prudence Crandall

When Prudence Crandall admitted an African-American girl to her Quaker school in Canterbury, Connecticut, in the early 1830’s, there was so much protest that she decided -- in-your-face-woman-style -- to devote the entire school to African-Americans. Horrified, the state legislature enacted a law (called the “Black Law”) just to keep the school from operating. Arrested and tried for her villainy, Crandell originally lost the case, but then won her appeal and left for the mid-west on a search to find a place more to her liking.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rachel Corrie

Some in-your-face women take on their families. Some take on an empire. Twenty-three-year-old Rachel Corrie took on an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer on March 16, 2003, and lost her life. As a member of the International Solidarity Movement, Corrie had come to Rafah in the Gaza Strip to initiate a sister city project between Rafah and her home town of Olympia, Washington. Trained as non-violent resisters, she and others from the United States and Great Britain had been occupying areas around local wells and serving as human shields to protect Palestinians and their houses from military action.

On the day in question, Corrie positioned herself in front of the bulldozer which then rolled over her body, killing her. Stories contradict each other as to whether or not her death was intentional or accidental, but either way, Corrie’s courage as she took a stand for peace has made her a martyr and a hero to many and an example of an in-your-face woman to us all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Charlotte Corday

Horrified and unconvinced that the Reign of Terror Jean-Paul Marat helped to launch in France in the early 1790’s was a good thing for either the French people or the revolution, Charlotte Corday talked her way into his private quarters on July 13, 1793, where she stabbed to death the man she once called a monster. Four days later, Corday, described as “exceptionally beautiful” and “so calm one would have said she was a statue,” went to her death under the guillotine, having testified that she “killed one man to save 100,000,” and complaining only that “There are so few patriots who know how to die for their country. Everything is egoism. What a sorry people to found a Republic!”

Monday, March 5, 2012

Margaret Cochran Corbin

When Margaret Cochran Corbin’s husband joined the Continental forces to fight against the British in the American Revolution, she went, too, which was not uncommon for women at the time. Traveling with the troops, they would cook for their husbands, do their laundry, and serve as nurses to the wounded, as well. But Margaret Corbin went further. In fact, when her husband died while shooting a cannon, she stepped in without hesitation, loading and firing the cannon by herself (a task that usually required an assistant) until she herself was so badly wounded that she permanently lost the use of her left arm.

Reported by soldiers who witnessed her deadly aim and accuracy that November 16th of 1776, Cordin was subsequently awarded a soldier’s pension for her “distinguished bravery” which allowed her to live out the rest of her life as the hard-drinking, pipe-smoking veteran she was. In 1926, out of respect for her historical importance as the “first American woman to take a soldier’s part in the war for liberty,” her body was moved from an obscure grave to one in the soldiers’ cemetery behind the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point beside those of the men she lived, fought, and died with.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Claudette Colvin

In 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks’ much more famous arrest for the same thing, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was placed in handcuffs, arrested, and booked for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a White person. Colvin belonged to Parks’ NAACP youth group and fully intended that her action should be the basis for a legal battle against segregation, but this was not to be. Colvin wasn’t middle class, got pregnant out of wedlock, and had a tendency sometimes to get loud, so she wasn’t deemed to be the best choice for a long, rigorous -- and highly crucial -- legal process. Maybe not, but she gets a nod on this blog, nonetheless, for being in-your-face at a very young age and with much at stake.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kit Coleman

Born Kathleen Blake in Ireland in 1864, Kit Coleman became a widely read newspaper journalist in Canada in the 1880’s and 1890’s, without for some time advising her readers as to her gender. By the time she was known, however, even the nation’s Prime Minister was counted among her staunchly supportive readers. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, “Kit of the (Toronto) Mail” took her place instantly beside the soldiers without a backward glance, daring, as it were, anyone to deny her the right to her place as a war correspondent for any reason -- gender notwithstanding.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bessie Coleman

Even though she was born before airplanes were developed as we know them today, Bessie Coleman wanted to fly. Not allowed into U.S. flight schools because she was African-American and a woman, Coleman didn’t let that stop her. She just learned French and went to Paris in 1921, where she was allowed to receive the necessary training. Despite the dangerous nature of flying at a time when planes were often cobbled together and highly unreliable, Coleman was soon granted her pilot’s license and returned to the U.S. as a popular folk hero.

Though she performed many air shows and was interviewed numerous times, Coleman unfortunately failed to reach her goal of opening a flight school for African-Americans before she was killed in a plane crash when she was only 34. Still, her drive to overcome all obstacles and be her in-your-face self resulted in her being honored by her image appearing on a U.S. stamp in 1995.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Elizabeth Cochran

Elizabeth Cochran bulled her way into her first job as a newspaper writer at the age of twenty-one in 1885. When her editor wouldn’t give her the kind of assignments she was seeking, however, she left Pennsylvania and signed on with Joseph Pulitzer’s sensationalistic New York World, where she soon introduced and perfected the art of undercover reporting. Under the pseudonym “Nellie Bly,” Cochran became famous for her inside investigations of such wildly different (and often dangerous) settings as an insane asylum, a sweatshop, a petty crime ring, and a ballet corps. And her articles on poverty and political corruption in Mexico got her thrown out of that country. But it was her madcap trip around the world in just over 72 days -- beginning in 1889 and unaccompanied by male companionship, of course -- that sealed down her status as a historical figure who just happened to be a woman who just happened to love living on the edge.