Big Ideas, Cultural Heritage, Writer's Life

International Women’s Day: Five Great Role Models

Last year, I was privileged to work on several organizational and corporate history projects. I’m looking for more of this kind of work. It’s hard to put into words how satisfying it is to research and bring to life the history of a business that has truly stood the test of time, especially when the client holds the finished, illustrated book in their hands for the first time.

I’ve been involved professionally in the history field since 2000. A few years back, I was developing supplemental materials for a client who ran amazing tours for history buffs (alas, a casualty of the 2008 crash). I got to work directly with the historians to develop reading lists for the tours. But there was one historian who refused to work with me because I’m a woman. He said that a woman couldn’t be a historian. Fortunately, few people share his attitude these days, though there are still too many with unexamined prejudices about what women like to write about.

In that spirit, I wanted to take the occasion of International Women’s Day to salute five amazing women authors who inspire me. I chose these women because I recently purchased their books or have them near the top of my to-be read list!

Candice Millard has authored two of my favorite books of all time: The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey and Destiny of the Republic: Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. She is one of history’s most gifted storytellers—I would read anything she writes! She is a former writer and editor for National Geographic. A mom of three, she writes during school hours. Her new book on my list is Hero of the Empire, the story of Winston Churchill’s daring adventures in South Africa when he was only 24 years old.

Lynne Olson began her career as a journalist, working as a political reporter for AP and the Baltimore Sun and as a foreign correspondent in Moscow. She’s authored seven books of history, most of which focus on World War II politics and diplomacy. There is so much to learn about today’s world by understanding our past. Her book on my list is  Those Angry Days: RooseveltLindbergh and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939–1941. Her next book, Last Hope Island, is about the tide of refugees who poured into Britain fleeing Hitler’s blitzkrieg. It comes out next month.

Mary O. Parker is a freelance writer from right here in Central Texas who writes about travel and nature. Her new book Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide, is original, substantive, and delightfully written.  Her husband Jeff contributed beautiful photography. Living in a big city, it is sometimes difficult to know how to connect with nature. This book does the heavy lifting for you no matter where in Texas your travels take you.

Zoey Goto is a London-based journalist and author who writes about fashion and design. She is also a mother and a banjo player! As an Elvis fan, I often think there is nothing new to learn about The King, but the new book Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits proved me wrong yet again. Full of great photos I had never seen before, this book is all about Elvis’s cultural influence and has many new stories about the wildly original, playful, and creative person he was.

Finally—have you been a witness to history yourself? You don’t have to be a professional journalist, writer, or researcher to share it. Some of my favorite books are behind-the-scenes looks at history written by ordinary people. Peggy Grande was personal assistant to Ronald Reagan for 10 years after he left the White House, until he became too ill from Alzheimer’s to be able to work. Before she went to work for Reagan, Grande was a salesperson at Nordstrom! Grande’s book The President Will See You Now is high on my to-be-read list.In addition to learning more about Reagan, I’m interested in this book because of my own experiences trying to help preserve the independence and dignity of my aging parents.

History is never “over.” It’s full of stories that need to be told—and sometimes it takes a woman to tell them!

Today’s thought:

Photo Feb 28

Today’s links:

What is the Philosophy of Data Science (and Should Data Scientists Care?)
The Nerdy Charm of Artisan, Hand-Drawn Infographics
How to Beat Solopreneur Blues

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