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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Judy Clark

Along with Kathy Boudin (see February 9th), Judy Clark was active in the 1960’s as a member of the Weather Underground, a branch of Students for a Democratic Society, an organization that first formed out of the belief that the U.S. government acted criminally in sending the military into Vietnam. Striking out against what she saw as institutionalized oppression against people of color in the U.S. and abroad in 1981, Clark joined Boudin and members of the Black Liberation Army in the robbery of a Brinks truck, during which several people were killed.

Clark is currently serving 75 years in the New York Department of Corrections. Because her actions were motivated by her political views, Clark is considered by many to be a political prisoner. It’s hard sometimes for the members of a society to understand and accept someone as committed to social change as Clark has been, but in-your-face women put their words and actions where their beliefs are, whatever the location, whatever the time period, whatever the cost.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conchita Cintron

Hailed around the world as “the blond goddess of bullfighting,” Conchita Cintron, born to a Peruvian father and an Irish mother in 1922, fought her first bull in Lima, Peru, at twelve-years-old and killed her first at fifteen. Only wounded once (receiving a 5-inch long gash from a bull’s horn) though she took all the celebrated risks the crowds expected, Cintron is touted to have slain at least 800 bulls (including the one that wounded her) in her thirteen year career, which took her to arenas all over the world.

Demonstrating her forceful mastery of a practice so male-dominated that she was actually arrested in France because it was not legal there for women to fight bulls, Cintron’s text-book precision on horseback and with the tools of her trade made crowds go from screaming to breathless. At the finish of her last performance, Cintron very dramatically threw down her sword -- refusing to kill her last “opponent” (which was against both law and tradition) -- proving once again that in-your-face women make up their own rules.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Margaret Cho

The 2000 film version of Margaret Cho’s one-woman show, “I’m the One That I Want,” deals in graphic and sometimes garish detail with her sexuality, her ethnicity as a Korean-American woman, and her difficulties related to weight. Still, it grossed nearly a million and one-half dollars from only nine prints, making it the highest grossing film in history in proportion to its availability. Her comedy shows -- with titles such as "Revolution" and "Assassin" -- unapologetically feature aggressive commentary on conservative politicians, bold statements on women's beauty and sexuality, and open promotion of gay marriage as a right, getting her much attention, both negative and positive. But her latest book declares on its cover, I Have Chosen To Stay And Fight, so it looks like Cho -- whose image appears on red t-shirts as a take-off on Che Guevara -- is going nowhere but where she wants to go.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shirley Chisholm

After becoming the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. congress in 1968, Shirley Chisholm stunned her fellow lawmakers when she declared that her placement on the House Forestry Committee was a waste of her time and demanded that she be reassigned, which she was. The following year, she helped to found the Congressional Black Caucus. And in 1972, she made a bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, garnering more than 150 delegate votes, and announcing that she had run “in spite of hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.” Her book, published in 1970, was entitled, appropriately enough, Unbought and Unbossed.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ching Shih

Ching Shih (also known as Zheng Yi Sao) was a prostitute in a small brothel in Canton, China, when she was kidnapped (and subsequently married) by the notorious Chinese pirate Zheng Yi in 1801. By the time her husband died in a tsunami six years later, though, she was ready to take over his position in command of The Red Flag Fleet, an amalgam of hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of pirates, terrorizing all who traveled on the China Sea or lived along its coasts.

From the first moment she took over, Ching Shih soundly defeated all comers, including British and Portuguese warships called in by the Chinese for help. A fearless leader, she maintained strict discipline among her followers using violence with wild abandon and even castrated rapists whenever they were caught. In fact, her reputation was such that, at one point, the Admiral of the Chinese navy killed himself rather than be taken alive by her forces.

Finally, China admitted to itself that the commander of the Red Flag Fleet was unbeatable. So, in 1810, they offered amnesty to all pirates, at which point Ching Shih gathered up her loot, married her lieutenant, and settled down to run a gambling house and brothel for the rest of her life, making her one of the few pirates ever to retire undefeated -- not to mention alive. In-your-face-women know when to fight and when to walk away and they do what suits them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deborah Champion

Everyone knows the story of Paul Revere, but five months after his historic ride, a 22-year-old woman by the name of Deborah Champion rode her horse all the way from New London, Connecticut, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the Army's payroll and dispatches for General George Washington himself. Little is known about her ride, except that she wore a scarlet cape and hid her face at one point from a British soldier so he’d think she was an old woman and let her pass, which he did. Not even Paul Revere had to worry about being accosted by the enemy, but then, he wasn’t an in-your-face woman.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cassie Chadwick

Cassie Chadwick broke so many laws in her life that she had to die young just to get some rest. A forger, “fortune teller,” and prostitute, she charmed one of her rich older husbands into marrying her after assuring him that she was only in the bordello where she met him to teach the young women there the essential principles of etiquette. An elaborate scam that involved her claiming to be Andrew Carnegie’s daughter apparently kept her in fine fashion -- even being called “the Queen of Ohio” -- for seven years, while she borrowed against forged promissory notes attributed to the famous millionaire. But ultimately, she was found out, prosecuted, and incarcerated, where her health quickly failed and she died. An in-your-face woman’s life doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Catharine the Great

One of the stories told about Catharine the Great, Empress of Russia, was that, when a gentleman caught her eye, she would have Countess Proskovya Bruce try him out first, resulting in Bruce’s becoming nicknamed “L'Eprouveuse” (“The Tester”). Some now think that this is just a story to discredit the famous Empress, but why would someone with “the Great” attached to their name want to be bothered with less than exemplary services? Such a practice wouldn’t discredit a man ruler, now would it? The Countess was probably just being helpful...and...well...being an in-your-face woman. Just like her mistress, Catharine the Great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lillian Carter

As a public health nurse in Georgia in the 1930’s, the mother of President Jimmy Carter, “Miz Lillian” Carter crossed segregationist barriers to treat and train African-Americans regardless of what her neighbors thought about it. Then, at 68-years-old, she startled even her own family by deciding to join the Peace Corps and serve two years in India. Queried as to whether or not she thought it was wise for an elderly person to be gallivanting around that way, Miz Lillian replied with a smile, “I don't think about risks much. I just do what I want to do. If you gotta go, you gotta go,” proving once again that in-your-face women do…what…they…want.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Martha "Calamity Jane" Cannary

At thirteen-years-old, Martha Jane Cannary already rode horseback, cursed like a trail boss, and had a taste for whiskey. So, when her parents died while she was still a teenager, she just headed west, eventually becoming a military scout in Arizona where she took to wearing men’s clothes, not only because it was more practical, but because it was better accepted in her line of work.

Creating a “ruckus” everywhere she went, she soon got the nickname “Calamity Jane,” not unlike Jane Austin who lived before her and in that same neck of the woods. A friend of both “Buffalo Bill” Cody and “Wild Bill” Hickok, Cannary traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show until her drinking and fighting got in the way. It was said that she swore never to go to bed with “a nickel in her pocket or sober,” and from all accounts, she stuck to her resolve.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Queen Candace

When Alexander the Great arrived in ancient Egypt with his armies in 332 B.C., it is said that he stopped short at the border of Ethiopia because Queen Candace, the Empress of that land, was such an accomplished and renowned military tactician and field commander that he didn’t want to risk being beaten at that juncture of his rampage. When he learned that this in-your-face woman was in personal command of her troops, he took his unbroken record of victories and went elsewhere. Smart man.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Louise Bryant

Louise Bryant was a bohemian artist and writer who left Portland, Oregon, in 1914 and moved to New York City, where she wrote for the revolutionary publication, “The Masses.” She covered World War I in France and then returned to the United States only to leave again almost immediately for Russia, which was about to erupt in revolution.

Boldly maintaining that no social or political change was worth anything if it did not free women entirely, Bryant spent part of 1917 and 1918 in Russia, where she wrote a book about how it felt to be part of the excitement of what she saw at the time as a true revolution.

Subsequently, as a news correspondent, Bryant reported the first non-Italian interview with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, as well as delivering a ground-breaking story on the Turkish leader, Inver Pasha. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with in-your-face women, Bryant was, and often still is, over-shadowed by her better known lover, communist writer and activist John Reed. But not on this blog.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Margaret "Molly" Brown

Not only did passenger Margaret “Molly” Brown, not go down with the Titanic when it sunk, but she used her knowledge of languages to help create survivor lists for release to the media and even managed to collect more than $10,000 to help poor survivors before the rescue ship reached shore! Then, when she was not allowed to testify at the U.S. Congressional investigative hearings on the sinking because she was a woman, she simply had her testimony published in newspapers around the world. Known as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, this in-your-face woman wouldn’t let a little thing like the U.S. Congress get in her way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown

When Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl hit the bookstores in 1962, the shockwaves could be felt around the world. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Brown took over Cosmopolitan magazine and made it a monthly primer to turn in-your-face women into “Cosmo Girls.” Convinced that women could have love, sex, money, and independence, Brown was one of the mid-wives that birthed what became known as “the sexual revolution.” Of course, she was only inviting women to do what many in-your-face women had been doing all along.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Erin Brockovich

In 1999, Erin Brockovich had a hit movie made about her with Julia Roberts playing the starring role and the title being her name -- all because she’s an in-your-face woman. With three small children to support and only two years of college, Brockovich wheedled her way into a job filing in a lawyer’s office. Ultimately, though, she accomplished such wonders with her aggressive and uncompromising research tactics that Pacific Gas and Electric Company wound up paying out $333 million to an entire community of people who had been contaminated by toxic chemicals as a result of the company’s practices. This represented the largest toxic tort settlement in U.S. history and one can only imagine how much the company might have lost if they had tried to stay in the game against their unapologetic -- and victorious -- opponent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Julia Brier

In an attempt to avoid being snowed-in somewhere in the mountains on their way to the gold fields of California in 1849, Julia Brier’s family decided to follow a group of 34 men straight into what has since been named Death Valley. Even when hunger and dehydration had reduced her to 75 pounds, Brier took care of her sick husband and children, packed and unpacked the oxen daily, and set up camp every night, where she cooked for them all before going to sleep. The whole trip took 134 days and proved that even Death Valley can’t whip an in-your-face woman.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lucy Brewer

Just having left the farm of her childhood and determined to avoid becoming a prostitute in Boston, Lucy Brewer, instead, donned the clothing of a man and signed up with the Marine Corps using the name “George Baker.” The War of 1812 was raging, so Brewer (as “Baker”) was assigned to the guard on the U.S.S. Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides.” Three years later, she published her escapades, writing about her role as a marksman with a musket during the bloodiest battles of the war. Originally claiming that her writings were fabrication, the Marine Corps finally admitted in 2001 that she did what she said she did. Of course!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Belle Boyd

On the other side of the Civil War struggle, Belle Boyd was made a captain and honorary aide-de-camp by Confederate General Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson for providing valuable information as a spy operating out of her father’s hotel in Front Royal, West Virginia. Betrayed by her lover in 1862, Boyd spent the rest of the war being arrested, imprisoned, exchanged, and re-arrested, after which she was released for having contracted typhoid fever while in prison.

Proceeding to Europe to recuperate, Boyd made fast work of that and promptly sought passage on a blockade runner out of England in an attempt to return to the South. When the ship was captured by Union forces, she simply beguiled a young officer into helping her escape into Canada. In-your-face women sometimes have to make up their plan as they go along.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mary Elizabeth Bowser

Described by the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame as “one of the highest placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War,” Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a freed slave from Richmond, Virginia, who got herself hired on as a servant in Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ household. For the duration of the war, Bowser fed to a Union spymaster everything she heard or read about troop strategy, movements, or plans while never losing her nerve or giving away her identity as a gushing leak of crucial information. It’s clear that Davis’ and his other military leaders held a perspective that underestimated African-American capabilities. And underestimating an in-your-face woman can lose the war for you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Margaret Bourke-White

A photograph by Margaret Bourke-White was on the cover of the very first issue of the famous Life magazine in 1935 and, for a number of years, she served as one of the staff photographers for that publication, the most prestigious news and culture magazine of all time. A forerunner in the newly emerging field of photojournalism, Bourke-White was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union after the revolution, a war correspondent who routinely went into combat zones, and one of the first photographers into the German death camps after the defeat of Hitler in World War II. Famous for her willingness to go anywhere or do anything to complete an assignment, she once hung off a flag pole high up on a skyscraper to get just the photo she wanted, and was quoted as saying, “I want to be alive when I die.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kathy Boudin

During the 1960’s, an organization called Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.) formed in U.S. colleges and universities to fight against racism, inequality, and the war in Vietnam. One of the most militant factions of this organization was the “Weathermen,” who took their name from a Bob Dylan song, a line of which went, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” While the Weathermen did not believe in killing people, they claimed responsibility for exploding bombs in at least sixteen government and corporate buildings, and thus became “The Weather Underground,” in hiding for twelve years. Kathy Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground, ultimately wound up serving more than twenty years in prison for her role in a Brinks truck robbery. Whatever you think of her politics, she most certainly was an in-your-face woman, willing to sacrifice her own peace and comfort in the attempt to bring what she saw as necessary, positive changes to her nation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Twenty years after the Romans had  overcome the Iceni Celts on the island of Britain in 43 A.D., the Celtic king died and Queen Boudicca (from the Celtic word for “victory”) -- described by one Roman writer as very tall with fierce eyes and red hair to her knees -- got into an argument with her captors.  Ill advisedly, some Roman soldiers, thinking they could teach her a lesson, beat her up and raped her two daughters. So Boudicca (who the Romans called “Boadicea," from which we get the word "bodacious" for brazen) returned the favor.

Amassing a force of warriors to attack and very nearly defeat the Roman army, Boudicca and her troops razed London to the ground and held the Romans at bay for six months -- longer than any other military leader ever -- pillaging the Roman settlements mercilessly for the duration, and leaving, it is said, as many as 70,000 bodies in their wake.

Celtic women always fought side by side with their men anyway, using swords and axes and renowned for their terrifying battle-cries. But in this case, the force was led by a woman, making the whole thing particularly embarrassing for the Romans, who were supposed to be the greatest fighting force in the world at that time. Somebody should have warned them she was an in-your-face woman.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Laskarina Bouboulina

With her own little fleet of warships, including the Agamemnon, a corvette with eighteen heavy cannons, Laskarina Bouboulina was a rich widow who loved the sea and is sometimes called a “pirate queen.” The only woman member of the underground revolutionary organization that overthrew the Turks' Ottoman Empire, Bouboulina was the one who raised the rebel flag on March 13, 1821, to signal the beginning of the revolt that ultimately freed the Greeks for the first time in seven centuries. Attacking the impregnable fort at Nafplion, through a rain of bullets, her solders fell back at one point only to hear her shout, “Are you women, then, and not men? Forward!" And they pressed on.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ila Borders

If there’s a young woman out there who wants to be the first female pitcher in a men’s professional baseball league in the U.S., it’s too late. Ila Borders started out in college ball in California, where she had to deal with slashed tires, rude name-calling, and even attempts to hit her with the ball when she wasn’t looking. Nevertheless, Borders kept at it and eventually worked her way up to playing in the independent Northern League (equivalent to Class AA teams) for three years beginning in 1997, before retiring in 2000 from the Zion Pioneerz. A left-hander with a fast ball clocked in the low 80’s alongside a big curve and screwball, Borders won games and gave it her best shot despite all distractions -- which is what in-your-face women always do.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dee Booher

Born in California in 1938, much bigger than the average woman and even bigger than many men, Dee Booher discovered the sport of wrestling while she was a student at El Camino College and rapidly became their star. Winning 75% of her matches in the 200-pound class -- all against male wrestlers -- Booher helped to propel the team to the state championship and the school was too happy about winning to care how they did it. Turning her collegiate success into a career in professional wrestling, Booher earned great respect coast-to-coast as “Queen Kong” and “Matilda the Hun.” How in-your-face is that?!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur, the famous 19th century realist painter, wore men’s clothing, including pants, when she worked because she specialized in painting animals and found it more convenient, much to the horror of those who saw her dressed that way. “I was forced to recognize that the clothing of my sex was a constant bother,” she was quoted as saying, “But the suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else. The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me.” In-your-face women tend to be busy -- very, very busy -- and far too busy to care what somebody else thinks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Micheline Blum-Picard

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids. By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went. Now, that’s an in-your-face woman!

NOTE: The women pictured here are unnamed women of the French Resistance. Micheline Blum-Picard Glover may or may not be one of these particular women.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ella Reeve Bloor

Ella Reeve Bloor was married three times, but none of her husbands was named Bloor. Nevertheless, while organizing workers in Chicago as a socialist, she assumed the name “Mrs. Richard Bloor” and spent the rest of her life being affectionately called “Mother Bloor.” Thrown out of the socialist party for being too radical even for them, she served on the Central Committee of the Communist Party for twelve years and even ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 1938 as a Communist candidate. An in-your-face woman to the end, “Mother Bloor” pointed proudly to her hundreds of arrests for labor organizing, the last of which was in 1936 in Nebraska at the age of seventy-four!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Denise Bloch

Unlike most of the women of the British Special Operations units who sneaked into France during World War II, Denise Bloch already had extensive experience in the French Resistance when she turned up in London after escaping France one step ahead of the German authorities. Despite the fact that she was a Jew and repeatedly warned that the Gestapo probably already knew who she was, Bloch was adamant about returning to France to undermine the German occupation.

So, in the spring of 1944, she re-entered France as an operative, fully trained to collect, code, and transmit information, but with orders, as well, to cut the railway and telephone lines just before the U.S. troop invasion on D-Day. Successfully fulfilling her mission threw the Germans into great confusion as they tried to communicate with their command headquarters while under the massive and unexpected attack. Bloch and the other Special Ops women were crucial to the war effort in Europe, receiving multiple medals, most of them (including Bloch) having been captured and executed -- in their twenties -- for their heroism.