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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Laura Smith Haviland

Laura Smith Haviland, not only established schools where Black and White children studied together in the 1830's and ran a principle stop on the Underground Railroad, but she made one Southern plantation owner so crazy that he wrote her a letter, calling her "a rogue, a damnable thief, a Negro thief, an out-breaker, a criminal in the sight of all honest men" who he was sure would eventually wind up in "the inner temple of hell." She responded with such strong words of her own that he was prompted to distribute flyers describing her, giving her address, and offering a $3000 bounty to anyone who could kidnap or even murder her.

When the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, she could have gone to prison for her abolitionist work. Nevertheless, Haviland went into the South again and again, appearing at plantations in the guise of a cook or a light-skinned free woman of color to spirit away willing souls to the North and on to Canada.

After the Civil War, Haviland became a one-woman cyclone of activity, organizing refugee camps and establishing schools, volunteering as a teacher and a nurse, and giving public lectures during which she displayed instruments of torture used by slave holders to torment those they had held in bondage.

The famed abolitionist and women's rights speaker Isabella Baumfree (who took the name "Sojourner Truth") told a story about trying to climb onto a street car with Laura Haviland once. The conductor told Baumfree to leave the car, but Haviland took her other arm and told him to let her ride. "Does she belong to you?" the conductor asked. "No," replied Haviland firmly, "She belongs to humanity." In-your-face women ride what they want to ride when they want to ride it. In pairs, if they like.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Marian Rice Hart

Marian Rice Hart was 54 years old when she learned to fly in 1945 and 70 when she flew a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza nonstop across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland. Fatigued from the 2,500-mile flight, she walked into the airport lounge upon her arrival, downed a large glass of whisky and said, "Now I feel better."

Though she made her original trans-Atlantic flight with a navigator, Hart subsequently made seven solo flights across the ocean and flew all over the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America to boot. In fact, she flew alone until she was 87, logging more than 5,000 hours in her three decades as an aviator. In 1976, she received the highly prized annual Harmon International Trophy "for her consistently outstanding performance as a private pilot operating small aircraft on a global scale."  Hart wasn't just in-your-face.  She was in the air.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nancy Morgan Hart

Born in the mid-1700's, Nancy Morgan Hart was six feet tall with red hair and a smallpox-scarred face, but she was unconcerned with such unimportant details and, in fact, was better known anyway for her hot temper, fearlessness and commitment to exacting vengeance if you did her -- or her family -- wrong.

After the Revolutionary War broke out, according to one well corroborated tale, five or six British soldiers showed up at the Hart family cabin in Georgia once and when the dust settled, Nancy had shot two of them to death and held the other three until her husband showed up so they could hang the rest.  Other stories suggest she could carry a heavy feed bag for miles, she was such a good shot that she sometimes served as a sniper for the revolutionary forces, and the local Native Americans appear to have called her something that may have translated as "Warrior Woman."

Today, Hart County is the only one of Georgia's 157 counties that's named for a woman.  An in-your-face woman, that is.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rose Harland

In 1876 in New York City, Harry Hill's bar did a booming business with most of the patrons coming to see the boxing matches Hill regularly featured. Always looking for a good opportunity to bring in new customers, Hill occasionally put on matches between women, as well as men. At 5' 7" tall and 164 pounds, Rose Harland (a "variety dancer," by trade) was one of the first to step into the ring to square off with Nelly Saunders (herself a boxer's wife) for a prize of $200 and a silver butter dish.

Both women were trained by male boxers, got into the ring wearing borrowed knickers or trunks, and clearly gave it everything they had, given the extent of their training. By the third and fourth rounds, however, they were slugging it out toe to toe, scoring twenty solid hits apiece in each round. The judge said the fight could have been called a draw, but that Saunders had outscored Harland overall by one point, so Harland only wound up with a consolation prize of $10 collected from the crowd. On the battlefield, on the mountaintop, in the boxing ring -- is there anything an in-your-face woman won't do?
NOTE: While it's doubtful that Saunders checked her shiny nose in a mirror even before she climbed out of the ring, and if the fight outcome was decided by points, nobody got knocked out, the above illustration actually appeared in the Police Gazette after the fight.  Since I couldn't locate a photo of Harland, I opted to post this instead to demonstrate how uncomfortable men are with the idea of in-your-face women.  If the women must get in the ring and if they must duke it out successfully, the guys gotta make it look silly.  Right?  Whatever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Alison Hargreaves

Alison Hargreaves was introduced to mountain climbing at the age of nine and never quit. In 1993, she became the first mountain climber ever to solo (climb alone) the six classic north faces of the Alps in a single season, climbing the deadly Eiger while heavily pregnant. Two years later, she reached the peak of Mount Everest without either sherpas or bottled oxygen, both of which were assumed to be absolutely necessary by most climbers.

It may have been that this sort of behavior contributed to the idea some had that Hargreaves was "too" ambitious. Nevertheless, though she died in a terrible storm when she was only 32 years old, while coming back down after climbing K2 in Pakistan, her favorite saying was, "One day as a tiger is better than a thousand days as a sheep." No in-your-face woman -- and certainly not Hargreaves -- could ever be said to be a sheep.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer spent the 1950's training to be an activist and organizer in the all-Black community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The State of Mississippi paid her back by sterilizing her in 1961 without her knowledge or consent during a state-wide effort to reduce the number of poor, Black people there. So, when a call went out for African-Americans in Mississippi to register to vote, Hamer was the first in line. She later said, "I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a little scared -- but what was the point...? The only thing they could do was kill me and it kinda seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember."

Soon, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee organizer Bob Moses heard about "the lady that sings the hymns" and recruited her to begin traveling throughout the South encouraging others to risk their lives for justice. Jailed on false charges in Winona, Mississippi, Hamer was very nearly beaten to death before she was released. Nevertheless, she went on to organize some of the best known and most effective actions of the voter registration campaign, including "Freedom Summer" in 1964, during which many college students -- both Black and White -- descended on Mississippi to support the struggle in various ways.

That same summer, Hamer spoke to the nation on television when her "Freedom Democrats" challenged the all-White and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention as not representing all Mississippians. "Is this America," she asked boldly, "the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily -- because we want to live as decent human beings?"

Older, overworked, frustrated and unwell, Hamer's famous line "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired" appears on her tombstone. But she maintained until the day she died that "Nobody's free until everybody's free." An in-your-face woman has no quit in her.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Virginia Hall

Even though her left leg had been amputated at the knee and replaced with a wooden leg after a hunting accident, Virginia Hall was still reportedly considered by the German Gestapo in World War II "the most dangerous of all allied spies." Ivy League trained and more or less fluent in French, German and Italian, Hall started out in the United States diplomatic corps, but when the war got heated, she immediately volunteered, wooden leg and all, to join Britain's newly formed Special Operations Executive and slipped back into France in 1941, coordinating the activities of the French underground resistance while pretending to be a New York Post correspondent.

Spending some time in Spain and returning to London for a bit after the Gestapo put her on their "most wanted list," Hall nevertheless limped her way right back into France first chance she got, where she mapped drop zones for supplies and commandos from England, found safe houses, provided a constant stream of valuable reporting, and helped train three battalions of resistance fighters to wage guerrilla warfare against the Germans until the Allied Forces had time to take over France. Hall was the only civilian woman awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in World War II, but that's not really remarkable for an in-your-face woman now, is it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Emily Hahn

By the time Emily Hahn (nicknamed "Mickey" as a child) was twenty-five years old, she had been awarded a degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, driven 2,400 miles around the United States with a woman friend (both dressed as men), worked for the Red Cross in the Belgian Congo, lived with a pygmy tribe for two years, trekked across central Africa on foot alone, and published a satirical book entitled Seductio ad Absurdum: The Principles and Practices of Seduction -- A Beginner's Handbook!

Subsequently, spending six years in China (where she attended high society dinner parties accompanied by a gibbon dressed in a dinner jacket), she became addicted to opium, had a baby out of wedlock, and once, while being held and interrogated by the Japanese in 1942, slapped the Japanese Chief of Intelligence across the face. We know so much about her adventurous life because Hahn somehow found the time to write about her escapades and was still going into her office at The New Yorker until shortly before her death at the age of 92.

Asked repeatedly during her lifetime why she gallivanted around so much, Hahn replied shortly, "Nobody said not to go." Not that in-your-face women listen to what other people say anyway.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nell Gwynne

Nell Gwynne was a beautiful, witty woman who was the mistress of King Charles II of England for nearly twenty years in the late 1600's. Born to an alcoholic mother who ran a brothel, Nell learned prostitution at a young age, serving alcohol to the men in her mother's establishment. But when women began to be allowed to play the women's roles on stage in England (what a concept!), Nell soon showed herself to be a clever comedian indeed, demonstrating particular skill at playing in-your-face women (what a surprise!).

When she caught the eye of Charles II, however, her fate -- and her place in history -- was sealed. She left the theater at the age of 21 (having already produced a son for the king) and moved into a brick townhouse provided by the crown, where a second son was soon born. When the King died fourteen years later, he was very clear in his instructions: "Let not poor Nelly starve." And she continued to live in the manner to which she had become accustomed until she died of syphilis at 37. What made this woman of uncommon good fortune an in-your-face woman? Her witty tongue. Once, when her coachman was fighting with another man who had called Nell Gwynne a whore, Gwynne broke up the fight, saying, "I am a whore. Find something else to fight about." In-your-face women make no apologies for who they are.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mary Louise "Texas" Guinan

In 1917, "Texas" Guinan made her silent movie debut in a film entitled "The Wildcat," but as exciting as that was, it wasn't enough for Guinan. Fortunately, the U.S. Congress passed legislation prohibiting the use of alcohol shortly thereafter and Guinan took the opportunity to open a speakeasy in New York City she called The 300 Club.

Greeting her nightly customers -- who represented New York's wealthiest elite and most interesting and recognizable celebrities -- with the salutation, "Hel-lo, suckers!" Guinan earned $700,000 in only ten months in 1926 while the police were routinely raiding her clubs and arresting her. She always claimed the customers brought the liquor in with them and that the small size of the club was the reason her forty scantily clad dancers were so close to those that had come to be entertained. (*wink!*)

Even Europe, often more open to in-your-face women than the United States, closed every seaport to Guinan when she tried to take her show on the road during the Depression. Nevertheless, she was immortalized twelve years after her death in a Hollywood movie entitled, appropriately enough, "Incendiary Blonde." Which is probably why 7,500 people attended her funeral.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yvette Guilbert

When auburn-haired Yvette Guilbert walked out onto the stages of Paris, France, in the late 1800's, in a trailing yellow dress and long black gloves, she might have been any young songstress about to give a performance. But when she opened her mouth, she revealed that she was, first and foremost, an in-your-face woman. Her songs and patter were unapologetically risque and all the more outrageous because she looked so "sweet" (as ladies of the day were intended to look). Some called her songs "immoral," "raunchy," or "macabre," but Guilbert's presentation of life as it appeared in the streets of Paris (and everywhere else, as well?) included the realities that were usually hidden from view: the pain, the passion and the poverty she grew up with and her listeners understood. In-your-face women can help others look inside themselves and understand that they are not alone.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Veronica Guerin

In 1990, at the age of 32, Dubliner Veronica "Ronnie" Guerin went from being a public relations expert to being an investigative journalist. Her commitment to detail and willingness to cross all lines to get the story soon made it possible for her to build close relationships with both the police and criminals throughout Ireland. When she began to cover the highly volatile world of drug dealing, however, she was warned time and again that she would not be allowed to live if she didn't stop what she was doing. On one occasion, she was even shot at point blank range in the leg at her own front door! But in-your-face woman that she was, she brushed aside the police escorts she was assigned and, on the evening of June 25, 1996, while driving home, she was shot six times by one of two men sitting on a motorcycle. Guerin was killed just two days before she was due to speak at a Freedom Forum conference in London. The title of her presentation? "Dying to Tell the Story: Journalists at Risk."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sarah & Angelina Grimke

In August of 1837, Angelina Grimke (above left) wrote a letter to William Lloyd Garrison's anti-slavery paper, The Liberator. In it, she wrote, "The discussion of the wrongs of slavery has opened the way for the discussion of other rights, and the ultimate result will most certainly be...the letting of the oppressed of every...description go free." Garrison published the letter, vaulting Angelina and her sister Sarah (above right) into the limelight of the abolitionist speaking circuit. The Quaker community to which the sisters belonged immediately demanded that they back up and quieten down or else be disconnected from their spiritual roots. Instead of recanting their views, however, the Grimke sisters got louder.

Starting out in "parlor meetings," which only women attended, men soon began sneaking into the gatherings and eventually the Grimkes were two of the most popular speakers and writers on the topic of oppression in the United States, despite the abuse and ridicule that went with that territory. Sarah wrote: "Men and women were created equal...Whatever is right for a man to do, is right for woman...I seek no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God destined us to occupy."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rose O’Neal Greenhow

After her father was murdered by his slaves in 1817, Rose O'Neal was invited to move to Washington, D.C., to live at her aunt's stylish boarding house. She became an active member of the society circle there, ultimately meeting and marrying a well respected doctor who eventually left her a widow with seven children.

When the Civil War broke out, even though she lived in Washington, the seat of the Union, she was not secretive about her support for the Confederacy, so in fairly short order, she was recruited to be a spy for the South. Along with pro-Confederacy legislators and sympathetic Union officers, Greenhow passed critical information to the armies of The South and was, in fact, credited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis with the Confederate win at the battle of Manassas.

Even after she was placed on house arrest, military maps and other documents were found in her possession, so Greenhow was ultimately incarcerated in the Old Capitol Prison. Still, in-your-face as ever, she continued to pass information in all manner of creative ways, including in the bun of a woman visitor, and went so far as to fly a Confederate flag from the window of her cell! It's easy to see how she got her childhood nickname of "Wild Rose."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Constance Gore-Booth

Born in London in 1868 to a landed Irish family, Constance Gore-Booth rejected the life of the socialite and ran off to Paris to study art as soon as she was old enough and independent enough to do so. One photo of her in her twenties shows her wearing knickerbockers (men's knee-length pants) and smoking a cigarette. In her early thirties, Gore-Booth married another artist who was a wealthy widowed count with whom she had already been having an affair for some time. But by 1908, always committed to the struggle for women's rights and having read publications that promoted an Irish revolution, Gore-Booth (now Markievicz) joined Sein Finn and a women's revolutionary organization founded by Maude Gonne and she never looked back!

She started a Boy Scout type organization that taught young men, among other things, how to shoot. She set up food kitchens and supported education for the poor. And in fact, she impoverished herself caring for those who had nothing. Still, she had time to get herself arrested for attempting to set the Union Jack on fire and became an officer in the Irish Citizens Army, where she distinguished herself as fearless under fire as she fought alongside the men.

Tried and convicted for treason to the crown, Markievicz was incensed when she was not executed with her male comrades because she was a woman. Released from prison during a general amnesty in 1917 and re-imprisoned in 1918 for fear of the power of her popularity and passion for Irish autonomy, the Rebel Countess of Ireland, as she was called, was elected to Parliament anyway, though she refused to take the seat because it would have legitimated British rule over Ireland. Imprisoned once more in 1923, Markievicz went on a hunger strike and, though she was subsequently released to continue her work, she died at 59, much weakened by her ordeals. Still, unrepentent for her life or her choices, she is quoted as saying, "While Ireland is not free I remain a rebel, unconverted and inconvertible." Sounds just like all the other in-your-women, doesn't she?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Isabella Goodwin

When Isabella Goodwin found herself the widow of a police officer with four children to support in 1896, she sought and was given a job as a police matron in one of New York City's jails, receiving only one day off per month for very low pay. In 1912, however, after having successfully helped to solve several other crimes by going undercover, Goodwin dropped out of sight, started hanging out in a bar as a "woman of all work," and took a position as a domestic in a household full of suspected bank robbers who had made fools of New York's finest from coast to coast. Shortly, Goodwin had gotten the evidence needed to arrest the criminals and her reward was to be made New York’s first woman Detective, First Grade at two and one-half times her previous salary. Being an in-your-face woman can really help bring home the bacon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is a news director, investigative reporter, columnist and broadcast journalist whose show, Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report, has been airing continually and around the world since 1996. Beaten severely in Timor after witnessing a mass killing, called "hostile and combative" by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and arrested at the Republican National Convention in 2008, Goodman's mantra seems to be "Who are we not hearing from in the traditional media?" Journalism is a great place for an in-your-face woman, isn't it?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Maud Gonne

Born in England to a Scotch-Irish father and an English mother from a wealthy family and then educated in France, Maud Gonne couldn't help but be a sophisticated viewer of the human condition. A passionately committed revolutionary, Gonne fought for Irish freedom from the English throne and for France to regain Alsace-Lorraine from Germany. There is much made in the historical records of the fact that Gonne drove the well-known Irish poet William Butler Yeats wild with yearning, turning down no fewer than five proposals of marriage, but in typical in-your-face woman fashion, she seemingly felt no remorse for not returning his affections. Indeed, with two children out of wedlock to another man and two failed marriages to other men, Gonne was apparently married to the revolution and traveled widely through Europe and the United States advocating for Irish autonomy. Imprisoned at one point for her politics and her work, Gonne was quoted as saying, "I have always hated war and am by nature and philosophy a pacifist, but it is the English who are forcing war on us, and the first principle of war is to kill the enemy."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Emma Goldman

Turned away from elementary school in Prusssia in the 1880's because she couldn't get a "certificate of good behavior," Emma Goldman frustrated, aggravated, argued with and fought back against authority in all its forms from a very early age until she died in the United States in 1940. Informed by her father that "All a Jewish daughter needs to know is how to prepare gefilte fish, cut noodles fine, and give the man plenty of children," Goldman not only ignored him, but worked to make a different world for women and all others who are oppressed.

Criticized because she had no problem with the idea of fighting violent authority structures with violent resistance, Goldman was repeatedly arrested and incarcerated during her life on charges of "inciting to riot" or disseminating birth control information, considered at the time to be obscene. Called "the high priestess of anarchy" and "the most dangerous woman in America" by her detractors, she was nonetheless called "a modern Joan of Arc" by the very popular New York World reporter Nellie Bly and was once met when she got out of prison by a crowd of nearly three thousand supporters.

In speech after speech before crowds of thousands wherever she went in the United States and Europe, Goldman railed against the U.S. prison system and prejudice against homosexuals, while advocating for access to birth control and a redistribution of wealth to include everyone. The subject of multiple plays, movies, books and articles, Emma Goldman resisted being pigeon-holed even by other anarchists. When some of them criticized her once for dancing because they felt that "agitators shouldn't dance," Goldman fired back that no Cause should expect her to be a nun and that, if it did, she didn't want it. In-your-face, in-your-face, in-your-face!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anita Garibaldi

Brazilian Anita Garibaldi was the comrade-in-arms of her Italian revolutionary husband, Giuseppe in the mid-1800's. A skilled horsewoman and fearless hand-to-hand fighter, especially with a sword, Anita died while in Italy fighting against the restoration of a papal state. She was carrying her fifth child at the time. And years later in Peru, when her husband rode out to celebrate Victor Emanuel II as king of a united Italy, he wore Anita's striped scarf over his gray South American poncho. In-your-face women are hard to forget.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Margaret Fuller

Known in her time for being "overly self-confident" and having a bad temper, Margaret Fuller was a journalist and critic in the mid-1800's whose work pushed for women's rights in general and women's education and access to employment opportunities in particular, as well as for the abolition of slavery and a better perspective on how Native Americans had been ill-used by the European takeover. Reputed to be the "best read person in New England, Fuller was the first woman to be allowed to use the library at Harvard University, the first editor of Henry David Thoreau's trancendentialist journal, The Dial, and the first woman editor of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune.

Writing early "I have not felt that I was born to the common womanly lot" and later "I wish woman to live first for God's sake; then she will not make an imperfect man her god and thus sink to idolatry," she was said to be the inspiration for Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel about a woman with Fuller's personality who becomes a single mother. Indeed, when Fuller was dispatched to Rome by the Tribune in her late thirties, she did, in fact, became embroiled in the Italian revolution, fall in love and have a baby without getting married.

Though considered by many to be brilliant, Fuller was also bitterly criticized -- especially for her unapologetic castigation of men and their power. And after she drowned at the age of forty while returning to the United States from Italy, she was pushed aside and largely buried in the dust of the ages. But her book entitled Woman in the Nineteenth Century was noted by Edgar Allen Poe for its "unmitigated radicalism," originally appeared in serial form as "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women" and inspired many of the earliest feminist thinkers including Susan B. Anthony, who wrote that Fuller "possessed more influence on the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time." In-your-face women are in-your-face, even in obscurity.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mary (“Moll Cutpurse”) Frith

When Mary Frith was just one of the children born into a poverty-stricken English family in the late 1500's, nobody paid much attention. Even when she got arrested for robbing people in crowds by cutting their purses and running away with the contents, she was still only one more thief in a country overrun with struggling poor folks. But when she started dressing in baggy breeches, swearing and smoking a pipe like a man, her behavior was considered scandalous enough to get plays written about her, one of which ("The Roaring Girl") survives today.

Called "dressing indecently," wearing men's clothing, especially while performing music on a stage as Frith liked to do, got her arrested and punished more aggressively than the thievery. After all, women who wore men's clothes in those days were assumed to be "sexually riotous and uncontrolled." Not to mention, in your face.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Abigail Kelley Foster

Unlike some who fought only to abolish slavery in the mid-1800's, Abigail Kelley Foster also supported the rights of full citizenship for African-Americans. And besides being against war, she was openly against all forms of government coercion. In fact, she was so forcefully supportive of all rights for all people in the United States (including women!) that those who followed her example came to be called "Abby Kelleyites."

Speaking to crowds with men and women in attendance (which was considered very in-your-face at that time), Foster was always out ahead of the pack. So she and her radical activist husband refused to pay taxes on their farm because she wasn't allowed to vote. The government responded by seizing the property, which had served as a refuge for weary activists and a stop on the Underground Railroad. Sometimes, in-your-face women pay dearly for their choices.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jane Fonda

The daughter of a well-known U.S. actor and a Canadian socialite, Jane Fonda was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she spit it out young and jumped into acting with both feet before she was out of her teens. Soon an accomplished and respected actor and star, she used her fame and fortune in the 1960's and 1970's to fight injustice against African-Americans and to oppose the war against Vietnam when it could have destroyed her career to do so, even making a trip to North Vietnam at one point to encourage the peace process.

Quoted as saying, "Revolution is an act of love; we are...born to be rebels," Fonda called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense "our revolutionary vanguard," and said "we must support them with love, money, propaganda and risk." An in-your-face woman to the bone.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Thrown out of high school for her socialist politics, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn went on to be a labor leader and activist who played a major role in the Industrial Workers of the World. She helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyers guild committed to the protection of the Constitutional rights of the individual U.S. citizen. Arrested multiple times, Flynn -- for whom folksinger Joe Hill wrote the song "Rebel Girl" -- fought for women to have access to birth control, day care, and equal pay to men, in addition to the vote.

Even after serving two years in federal prison for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, Flynn became the Chairperson of the American Communist Party in 1961 at the age of seventy! When she died several years later in the Soviet Union, more than 25,000 people attended Flynn's funeral before her body was flown back to the United States for burial. Even in death, an in-your-face woman may not sit still.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald

Even as a teenager, Zelda Sayre was in-your-face, smoking and drinking alcohol, dancing the charleston, and wearing a tight flesh-colored bathing suit in 1916 so folks would think she was naked. After her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald, she got even more outrageous. She was thrown out of all the best hotels, jumped into the fountain in Union Square in New York City, and was even reputed to have once taken a ballet leap all the way down a flight of marble stairs at a party when she felt her husband was ignoring her!

When asked to contribute to a book of favorite recipes of famous women, Zelda wrote: "See if there is any bacon, and if there is, ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also, in the case of bacon, do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold or wood will do if handy." The lesson: in-your-face women may not want to do anything that's not in-your-face.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mary Fildes

The population of England in 1819 was restless indeed, with many people -- both men and women -- rising up against the government for one reason or another. On August 16th, a crowd of from 60,000 to 80,000 people gathered at Saint Peter's Field in Manchester to make their demands known. When soldiers on horseback representing the throne stormed the crowd, sabres raised, fifteen of the demonstrators were killed and more than six hundred wounded, a quarter of them women.

One of these women was Mary Fildes, a passionate radical who had been accused of distributing pornography when she handed out material on birth control. One eyewitness described how "Mrs. Fildes, hanging suspended by a nail which had caught her white dress, was slashed across her exposed body by one of the...cavalry." Although badly wounded, Mary Fildes survived and continued her radical political work. That's what in-your-face women always do.
NOTE: The woman in the white dress on the stage in the painting above has been said to be Mary Fildes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vera Nikolayevna Figner

Forbidden by her father to go to medical school, Vera Nikolayevna married, scraped together some money and ran off to Switzerland to become a doctor anyway. While there, she joined a group of radical young Russian women, who were accused at one point of using their medical knowledge to perform abortions on each other.

Her highly committed and highly effective work to overthrow the czarist government of Russia in the late 1870's and early 1880's eventually got Figner arrested and imprisoned for twenty years. When she was finally released and allowed to leave the country, however, she traveled all over Europe working to free her fellow revolutionaries still in prison. Figner's book, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, was translated into many languages and made her an in-your-face woman known around the world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stagecoach Mary Fields

Mary Fields was thirty-three years old before she was freed from slavery in Tennessee in 1865. Heading west as many newly freed African-Americans did, Fields wound up in Montana where, among other things, she spent some years supervising the repair of the buildings at Saint Peter's Mission, a school for Native American girls.

Eventually, being of sturdy stock and very unintimidated by the wild west, Fields was hired as a mail carrier -- despite being more than sixty-years-old -- because she hitched a six-horse team to a wagon faster than any of the other job applicants. From that day forward, Fields ran the mail across Montana without ever missing a day, even when she had to walk the ten miles back to the depot through deep snow. Her reliability won her the nickname, "Stagecoach Mary." But it was the way she held her rifle that won her a slot in this list of in-your-face women!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Phoebe Fairgrave

The "roaring twenties" had just begun when Phoebe Fairgrave graduated from high school and asked an airport manager to let her go up in a plane. It took a while to convince him, but finally, thinking he could scare her off, he sent her up with a pilot who had been instructed to do aerial manuevers until she was sick. Four flights later, she used part of an inheritance to buy her own plane and an aviator was born.

Within a year, she grew bored with "just" flying the two-winged biplanes that were popular at the time and started going up with another pilot at the controls so she could walk on the wings, hang by her teeth from the bottom of the plane, and do the charleston on the top wing. In your face? Absolutely! In the clouds? That too.