I EFFING LOVE HALLOWEEN!
Let’s just make that clear from the get. Ever since I can remember, Halloween has been a SERIOUS holiday in my family. We go ALL out with costumes. We throw the baddest Halloween parties. One year, my aunt teased her hair to stand completely on end and went as the Bride of Frankenstein. My aunts and uncles put on an entire show with the mad scientist, electricity jolting through the stage, and then Frankenstein rising from the dead.
Like them, I take the art of Halloween very seriously. My first year of college I went as Snow White. I’m talking painstakingly-detailed-thrifted-80s-prom-dress-Disneyland-style Snow White. When I arrived at a fraternity party on campus, a girl gave me the side eye and said, “Nice costume…” I turned around and she was dressed like a sexy taco. Ok, lady.
Since I am currently on maternity leave, I’m doing something this month I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do: a costume every day in October
But here’s this twist: they all star my daughter AND they are all strong female role models throughout history!
The idea comes from several places. Halloween costumes have long been stereotyped for girls and women: we can be nurses, but not doctors. We can be princesses, but not warriors. We can be brides, but not scientists. Once you start shopping for women’s costumes, the choices become even more grotesque (and not in the spooky Halloween sense). It’s all sexy this, sexy that. Past the age of 18 you can’t even be a nurse anymore, but a sexy nurse. I’ve also recently noticed people distancing themselves from or outright denouncing feminism. The F-word has become contentious…does it hold any value anymore? I asked and answered that question in this essay then launched the hashtag #DontBeAfraidOfFeminism in conjunction with this 31-day challenge as a reminder that calling yourself a feminist is nothing to be afraid of this Halloween and always!
As for the challenge, I set down a few hard and fast rules:
- I can only use items I already have in my home. Halloween is often derided as just another consumer capitalistic holiday. But, in my family, Halloween was always a chance to get creative. We never outright bought our costumes. Instead, we thrifted, sewed, and recycled items we already owned. Because of this, many of the costumes in this challenge will NOT be historically or culturally accurate. This is in no way an insult to those women, but rather a celebration of them within the constraints of what I have on hand.
- I must choose a diverse group of women throughout history and from many cultures and backgrounds. Another frequent complaint about Halloween is that it mocks peoples that do not fit the Anglo-Saxon view of ‘normal’, thereby turning culture into caricature. While that is a completely valid argument, and there are plenty of instances every year where this happens, my goal with this project is to put REAL women from history into the minds of the young and old alike. Halloween can be a great way to learn about and celebrate them. Instead of the faceless “Indian chief” or the nameless “geisha”, I aim to inspire little girls to learn about real women and to — quite literally — put themselves in her shoes. Additionally, I’ll try not to be “cliché” and obvious with my choices, but some women have left such a badass legacy they simply MUST be represented!
- I can start my research with stereotypical Halloween costume ideas. I thought of all Halloween tropes and discovered there were many historical women who fit the profile I’d never learned about in school. Pirates? We got that! Astronauts? You bet!
- This project is meant to be a FUN experience between my daughter and I. In no way will I push her to take photos if she’s not in the mood. If she doesn’t have a smile on her face, we stop and do something else.
So, let’s get to the costumes!
RUTH BADER GINSBERG
Norah is dressed as Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or as I like to call her “Ruth BABY Ginsberg” ⚖️ Justice Ginsburg is one of four female justices of the Supreme Court and was only the second woman appointed to the court after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Justice Ginsberg was a wife and mother (worth noting because she was demoted from her job at the Social Security Administration after becoming pregnant with her first child) before beginning law school at Harvard where she was only one of nine women in a class of over 500. She then transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated at the top of her class 🤓 Justice Ginsburg is a human rights champion who devotes her life to expanding the definition of “We the People.” 🇺🇸 Justice Ginsberg is especially well-known for her blunt and intellectual dissents, earning her the nickname ‘Notorious RBG’.
Norah is dressed up as the cabaret dancer, Civil Rights activist and French Resistance agent Josephine Baker! She was an American by birth, but French at heart 🇺🇸❤️🇫🇷 Baker sailed to Paris in 1925 where she quickly became a darling of the cabaret scene starring at the Folies Bergère and dancing in her famous banana skirt 🍌 Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw” ✨ During World War II Baker was recruited by French intelligence officers and charmed Nazi officers at parties while gathering intel for the resistance 👊🏼 As an entertainer she had an excuse for traveling around Europe and would transmit messages about Nazi airfields and troop locations to allies written in invisible ink in her sheet music 🎵 During the Civil Rights era in the US she refused to entertain segregated audiences and was the only female speaker at the 1963 March on Washington where she stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr wearing her Free French uniform and Légion d’Honneur medal for her work during World War II 🎖
Norah is dressed as a Suffragette — activist women who fought (and won!) for the right to vote at the turn of the century ✔️ Originally, the term ‘Suffragette’ was used as a derogatory, but the women of the movement turned it on its head by embracing the term and calling themselves ‘SuffraGETtes’ with a hard G to emphasize their willingness to “get” the vote 🗳 British Suffragettes often used militant tactics for the cause, including hunger strikes and arson (proof positive that girls are NOT all ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’) 💅🏼 They frequently targeted ‘Men’s Only’ spaces like race tracks and cricket pitches 🏏🏇🏼 In February 1914 a library in Birmingham was set on fire and gutted. Nearby a parcel was found containing a book by Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement, with a note saying, ‘To start your new library.’ 📚 💁🏻 British women finally earned the right to vote in 1928 🇬🇧 American women earned the right in 1920 (although black women in Southern states were effectively barred until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965) 🇺🇸 French women earned the right in 1944 🇫🇷 And the latest country to allow women the right to vote was Saudi Arabia in 2015! 🇸🇦
Today Norah is dressed as Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei — the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and the first woman to ascend all Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent 🏔 As a child, she was considered frail and weak but soon discovered her love for mountain climbing on a class trip to Mount Nasu 💪🏼 She formed the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan in 1969 as a response to the treatment she received at male-dominated climbing clubs. Some men refused to climb with her, while others accused her of only being interested in the sport as a way to find a husband 🙄 When Tabei decided to tackle Everest she was frequently told by potential sponsors that women “should be raising children instead.” 😤 In 1975, she travelled to Kathmandu with her expedition group. While camping at 6,300 meters an avalanche struck and Tabei was buried under the snow unconscious until her sherpa dug her out ❄️ Twelve days later, on 16 May 1975, Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Everest 🙌🏼
Today Norah is dressed as human rights and education activist Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 17, Malala became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize for her work 🏅 She was born in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where the local Taliban had banned girls from attending school. When the schools were shut down, Malala was educated by her father, himself a poet and educational activist 👊🏼 Her advocacy soon grew into an international movement, making her a target for the Taliban. On October 9 2012, while Malala was on her way home after taking an exam, a Taliban gunman mounted the bus she was riding in and shot her in the head. She recovered and quickly became a symbol of the resilience of young Pakistani women against the subjugation of the Taliban system 🎓💪🏼 On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. She said: “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born”
Malala is currently studying for her Bachelors of Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. 📖
Today Norah is dressed as Sensei Keiko Fukuda, the highest-ranked female judoka in history 🥋 Born on April 12, 1913, in Tokyo, Fukuda at first studied traditional Japanese arts like calligraphy, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony as was typical for a woman in Japan 🇯🇵 🌸🍵 However, she always felt a connection to judo from her grandfather, Fukuda Hachinosuke, who was a samurai and master of Tenjin Shinyō-ryū jujutsu. One day, after attending a judo training session, she decided to pursue judo herself despite opposition from her uncle. At only 4′ 11″ and weighing less than 100 lb. Fukuda was the first woman in the world to be awarded the elusive 10th dan ranking in judo — the highest possible rank 💯 In 1972, she campaigned against a rule prohibiting women from being promoted higher than 5th dan and published an instructional book for women about the kata (patterns) of Kodokan judo to promote participation of women in the sport. She also established the annual Joshi Judo Camp to give female judo practitioners the opportunity to train together ♀️Before passing away at 99 years old, she was still teaching judo three times a week at her dojo 💪 Fukuda’s personal motto was: “Tsuyoku, Yasashiku, Utsukushiku” (Be strong, be gentle, be beautiful, in mind, body, and spirit)
Today Norah is dressed as Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, who is celebrated for her depictions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society 🇲🇽 Kahlo’s art was heavily influenced by personal tragedies. She contracted polio at 6 years old, and was seriously injured in a bus accident at 18. While recovering, she passed the time by painting self-portraits on a specially-made easel that allowed her to paint in bed 🎨 Kahlo was also influenced by the Mexican Revolution and is known for her eccentric personal style: embracing her unibrow and celebrating indigenous Mexican peasant ancestry. She liked to wear long and colourful skirts, shawls, elaborate headdresses, and masses of jewellery. Her style was particularly inspired by the dress of women from Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a Mexican matriarchal society where the women are traders and do little household labor 🤝 Kahlo’s self-portraits deviated from traditional depictions of female beauty in art and instead were raw and honest experiences of womanhood. Her subjects included topics that were, and still are, taboo such as abortion, miscarriage, birth and breastfeeding. Kahlo was married to muralist Diego Rivera, but her own artwork was often overshadowed by his celebrity as a mere ‘hobby’. In 1932, Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural at the Detroit Institute of Art, and she gave an interview to the Detroit News about her own works. When the article came out, it was condescendingly titled “Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art” 🙄 It wasn’t until later in her life, and posthumously that her paintings were revered and she became the first Latin American artist to sell a painting for over 1 million dollars 💵
Today Norah is dressed as Zenobia, a third-century queen of the Palmyrene Empire 👸🏻 Palmyra (now modern-day Syria) was part of the Roman Empire, and an important stopover on the Silk Road 👘 which saw merchants passing to and from the capital 🏛 Zenobia was born into a noble family and showed ambition from an early age. She was placed in charge of the family flocks and shepherds when she was still a young girl which accustomed her to ruling over men 🐑 She married the king of Palmyra, who was eventually assassinated making her Queen Regent 👑 While Rome was facing chaos at home, Zenobia took advantage and began slowly annexing parts of the empire for herself. By 271 CE she ruled over an empire which stretched from modern-day Iraq across Turkey and down through Egypt — a full 1/3 of the Roman Empire! 🗺 Eventually, Roman Emperor Aurelien got his act together and marched the entire Roman army to her door, taking her hostage ⚔️ But, instead of beheading her in front of the Temple of Jupiter like other enemies, he awarded her a villa in Tivoli where she spent the rest of her days living a life of luxury 💅🏼💎
Today Norah is dressed as Annie Oakley — the world-famous sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show 🎯 Oakley is a contentious pick for a feminist icon, as she refused to align herself with the women’s suffrage movement, and considered herself a true “Victorian Lady”. She would only ever ride side-saddle and always wore skirts instead of bloomers 👗 But Oakley also campaigned for equal pay for women; negotiating a higher pay than any other performer in the show, except “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself 🤠 💵 Along with being a sharpshooter, she also took up bicycling, which in Victorian America was considered strictly MEN ONLY 🚲 So while she wasn’t an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she paved the way for women to exist in male-dominated spaces by proving that we can be just as good (if not better!) 💪 Annie performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show for 17 years, travelling to New York, Paris and London 🗽 🇫🇷 💂 She performed for Queen Victoria of the UK and supposedly shot the ashes off a cigarette held by the newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II at his request 🚬 She lived by the motto: Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.
ROSIE THE RIVETER
Today Norah is dressed as Rose Will Monroe, better known as “Rosie the Riveter” 💪🏼 During World War II, when young men were shipped off to war, women around the country stepped in and worked the factories and shipyards producing supplies for the war effort 🇺🇸 Monroe was discovered while working at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan and asked to appear in a promotional film for war bonds 💵 The famous “Rosie” of the “We Can Do It!” poster was already a national phenomena, so a real Rosie the Riveter proved too good for the film’s producers to resist 📽 During the war, she had big dreams of learning to fly and transport aircraft parts, but was passed over because she was a single mom. Nevertheless, she persisted and earned her wings when she was in her 50’s ✈️ There were many other “Rosies” during the war like wealthy Long Island heiress Rosalind Palmer who went directly from days at highschool to a night shift building fighter planes and Italian immigrant Rose Bonavita who set a factory record of 900 drilled holes and 3,300 completed rivets in a Grumman torpedo bomber during a single six-hour shift 👩🏻🔧🔧 Rosie the Riveter represents the thousands of women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow who roll up their sleeves and get to work — a symbol of female economic power.
Today Norah is dressed as American marathoner Kathrine Switzer 🏃🏼♀️ In 1967 she registered for the Boston Marathon under the gender-neutral name “K. V. Switzer”. The marathon was forbidden for women, and her coach insisted it was too difficult for a “fragile woman” and that her uterus would fall out 🙄 During the run, race official Jock Semple tried to stop her from running and attempted to rip her bib (number 261) off 😤 She twirled on that hater and finished the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes 💪🏼 Afterwards, Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney was asked his opinion of Switzer competing in the race and he said “Women can’t run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don’t make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.” (SAY WHAT NOW⁉️) Women were not officially allowed to run the race until 1972. In 1975, she ran the marathon again and placed 2nd at 2:51:37 🥈 In 2017, on the 50th anniversary of her historic marathon, she raced again under her original bib number 261. The marathon retired the bib number in her honor.
Today Norah is dressed as French novelist and memoirist, George Sand 📖 Born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin in Paris, she adopted the pen name “George Sand” as a way to get her writing approved by male publishers who didn’t think the literary world was a place for women 🖊 Sand was known for her audacious tales of love and social class which drew on her own life experiences. She married an illegitimate baron, whom she eventually left and embarked on a bohemian lifestyle 👋🏼Sand wrote strong female characters in her novels who were educated and unafraid to speak their minds 🗣️ In her personal life, she was a trailblazing feminist often stirring controversy in Parisian social circles by wearing men’s clothing, smoking in public and having many affairs – notably with composer Frédéric Chopin 🎩🚬❤️ The Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev once said, “what a brave man she was, and what a good woman”.
Today Norah is dressed as Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut, engineer, and politician 👩🏼🚀 In 1963, she became the first woman in space aboard the Vostok 6 shuttle 🚀 Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a factory worker and amateur skydiver. As the space race heated up between the US and USSR, the Soviet space program chose Tereshkova for the mission from more than 400 other female applicants and five finalists 🙌🏼 She completed 48 orbits of the Earth and spent 3 days in space, logging more flight time in a single mission than all American astronauts who had flown before her COMBINED 😱 Tereshkova’s mission included photographing Earth’s horizon, which later helped scientists identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere 🌅 While she never landed on the Moon, she has a lasting legacy there: “Tereshkova crater” on the far side is named in her honor 🌚 At 80-years-old she’s still seeking thrills and has offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity ever comes up! 👽
LALLA FDHMA N’SOUMER
Today Norah is celebrating her Algerian heritage and is dressed as Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer, an important resistance fighter during the French colonial invasion of Algeria 🇩🇿 She was born in 1830 in Soumer, a Kabyle region of Algeria, the same year French colonialists invaded the country 🥁 She was 16 by the time they occupied Kabylie and she quickly joined the resistance movement ✊🏽 After the leader of the resistance died in fighting, tribal leaders appointed Fadhma to command the army as she was renowned for her wisdom and even a mystic ability to predict the future ✨🔮 She led her armies of both male and female fighters to victory against French soldiers, led by Jaques Louis Randon who was captured but eventually escaped ⛓ Randon later returned with 35,000 soldiers and demanded that Algerian troops surrender Fadhma to him or he would destroy their villages. The villagers refused to give her up and suffered greatly under intense cannon fire 💣 Eventually, the sheer number of French troops proved too much for the resistance fighters and Fadhma was captured. She died in prison at the young age of 33 and became a martyr of the Algerian fight against French colonialism, which lasted until 1962 when the country finally gained independence 🇩🇿
Today Norah is dressed as Ching Shih, the most successful pirate captain in history you’ve never heard of ⚓ In the early 19th century, she commanded a fleet of over 300 ships manned by 40,000 pirates in the China Sea. (In comparison, the famed Blackbeard commanded four measly ships and only 300 pirates within the same century — LAME) 👎🏼Ching Shih was married to the notorious pirate Cheng I. But when he died, she quickly maneuvered herself into a leadership position and grew the fleet 10 fold. For years Ching’s “Red Flag Fleet” sailed up and down the Imperial Chinese coast ransacking towns and collecting port taxes 💰The powerful Qing Dynasty navy tried and tried but could not defeat her. During one particular battle, she captured sixty-three ships from the Chinese Navy and forced all surviving sailors to join her fleet or face death ☠️ Punishments under Ching were swift and gruesome, including beheadings and floggings ⚔️ Finally, in 1810, Ching accepted an offer of amnesty by the Chinese government to all pirates who agreed to surrender. She kept her loot, her freedom and opened a gambling house where she lived out the rest of her days in peace 😎
Today, Norah is dressed as Bessie Coleman, the first woman of color to become an aviator in the United States ✈️ Bessie was one of 13 children born to a Cherokee father and African American mother. She developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans, and women were banned from flight-school opportunities in the United States — the triple-whammy of discrimination 😤 Not one to let go of her dreams, she saved up money and headed to France where there were no restrictions for her to learn. There, she learned to fly a Nieuport 82 biplane from a French Ace pilot at Le Bourget airport just outside Paris 🇫🇷 When she returned stateside in 1921, she was an instant media sensation 📽 She made her first appearance in an American airshow on September 3, 1922, at an event honoring veterans of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I. She showed-off all the daredevil tricks she learned abroad—including figure eights,near-ground dips, and loopty-loops 🌀 Nicknamed “Queen Bess,” she was billed as the “World’s Greatest Woman Flier” 👸🏾 In 1926, she took off on a flight aboard a newly purchased plane, with her mechanic at the controls. Shortly after take-off the plane went into an unexpected dive, and then crashed. Coleman was killed. It was later found that wrench used to service the aircraft was accidentally left inside, jamming the controls ⚙️ While she never lived to fulfil her dream of establishing a school for young black aviators, her pioneering achievements served as an inspiration for a generation of African-American men and women. The Bessie Coleman Aero Club was founded in 1929 in her honor ❤️
Today, Norah is dressed as Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel 🏊🏻♀️ Born in 1905 in New York City, Ederle came of age when competitive swimming was just starting to take off (coinciding with the evolution of the bathing suit which had not YET become an itsy bitsy teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini 👙) In 1919, female swimmers were finally allowed to remove their stockings for competition as long as they quickly put on a robe once they got out of the water 🙄 At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Ederle won a gold medal in the 4×100 meter freestyle team relay and set a new world record of 4:58.8 in the event final. She also brought home 2 bronze medals for the 100-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle races 🥇🥉 🥉 On August 6, 1926, greased up in goose fat for insulation from the frigid sea, Ederle jumped in the water at Cape Gris-Nez, France to begin her swim across the channel 🌊 During her twelfth hour of swimming, her trainer become so worried by the weather he called to her ‘Gertie, you must come out!’ Ederle simply lifted her head from the choppy waters and replied, ‘What for?’ 💅🏼 She came ashore at Kingsdown, Kent after swimming for 14 hours and 34 minutes, beating the world record (held by a man!) by more than 2 HOURS! 💪🏼
SAMPAT PAL DEVI
Today Norah is dressed as Sampat Pal Devi — a social activist and vigilante from Uttar Pradesh, India 👊🏽 Born to a poor family, uneducated and married at 12-years-old, Devi became a mother to five before she was even out of her teens. At 16-years-old, Devi saw her neighbor being abused by her husband, so she gathered up the women of the community and encouraged them to embarrass the man until he made a public apology. He did💥 This inspired her to form the Gulabi Gang, a group of women hellbent on bringing rapists, abusers and corrupt policemen to justice ⚖️ The women wear pink saris (gulab is the word for ‘pink’) and are trained in the art of lathi battle, a traditional Indian fighting stick 🏏👚 The Gulab Gang has grown to tens of thousands of women across Uttar Pradesh who act as a sort of neighbourhood watch, and have carried out raids and, on occasion, beaten the living shit out of corrupt officials and abusers 🤕 The gang’s mission is not to cause violence, but to challenge the caste system, empower women and crusade for the rights of the poor. Devi says, “Society will only change if we eliminate the inherently subordinate role given to women. This is a revolution that has to come from us.” 💪🏼
Today, Norah is dressed as Hatshepsut — the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt 🇪🇬 Women in ancient Egypt had a relatively high status and enjoyed the legal right to own and inherit property, but it was not common for a woman to become pharaoh 👑 When her father Thutmose I died, she took power and reigned for 22 peaceful and profitable years until her death in 1458 BC. Hatshepsut was a great builder, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. She built twin obelisks erected at the entrance of Temple Karnak in Luxor; one of which still stands and is the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth 🏛️ 🏛️ Her architectural accomplishments were so great that later pharaohs would try to claim her projects as their own (men taking credit for a woman’s work is nothing new, I guess) 🙄 Hatshepsut assumed all of the regalia and symbols of the Pharoah including wearing a false beard 👳🏽 Keenly aware of her place in history, Hatshepsut had this inscribed on the obelisks outside her temple: “Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say—those who shall see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done.” ♀️
EUREKA! Today, Norah is dressed as Marie Curie — the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (for Physics), and then another Nobel Prize for Chemistry by discovering two new elements – polonium and radium. ⚗️ Marie was born in what would become modern-day Poland to a modest family. After saving up for years working as a governess, she was finally able to travel to Paris in 1891, at the age of 24, to study at the Sorbonne 🇫🇷 There she met the man who would become her husband and, most important, her lab partner, Pierre 👩🔬👨🔬 Together, they studied the phenomenon of radioactivity (a word she coined) and made the discovery that it came from inside the atoms themselves ⚛️ Marie and Pierre won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for this work. After Pierre’s untimely death, Marie continued her studies and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on her own for discovering the element Radium ☢️ She always hoped to return to her native Poland but was denied a place at Kraków University because she was a woman, so she stayed in Paris. But then, despite winning two Nobel Prizes, the French Academy of Sciences refused to elect her as a member, because she was a woman (are we sensing a pattern here?) 🙄 Eventually, her merits prevailed and she became the first female professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed for her own accomplishments at the Panthéon 🏛 Marie Curie died of leukaemia in 1934 from exposure to radioactivity. Even today, her notebooks remain locked in a lead-lined box and must be handled by using a special safety protocol 📓 As a woman in science, Curie was the OG at “work-life balance” — she birthed 2 daughters, and the family collected a grand total of 5 Nobel Prizes between them 🏅🏅🏅🏅🏅
JOAN OF ARC
Today, Norah is dressed as Joan of Arc — heroine of the French empire ⚜️ She was born a simple peasant girl from Domrémy during the brutal 100 Years War; as the crowns of England and France fought over the succession of rule 👑 She began having visions from God that Dauphin Charles, leader of the Armagnac French, was the true king, and so she arrived at his doorstep one day dressed in men’s clothes with her hair cut short and an offer to lead the French army to victory ⚔️ Charles granted her permission to take an army to the city of Orléans, which had been under English siege for seven months. She lifted the siege in just 9 days 💅🏼 Joan told Charles that God told her it was time to take the French crown back — and in 1429, she and her army led him safely into English territory where he reclaimed the throne 🤴🏼The following year, Joan was captured in battle and swiftly charged and convicted of 70 crimes, including witchcraft and heresy 🦇 On May 30, 1431, having been completely abandoned by Charles and his forces (thanks for nothing, jerks), Joan was burned at the stake by the English 🔥 20 years after her death, she was declared innocent and a martyr by the Catholic Church ⛪️ She was officially canonized as a Saint in 1920 🙏🏼 Her contemporary and fellow protofeminist, writer Christine de Pizan, said that God had given Joan “a heart greater than any man’s” ❤️💪🏼
Today, Norah is dressed as Anna Komnene — a Byzantine princess, scholar, physician, and historian 👸🏻👩🏻🎓👩🏻⚕️🙋🏻 Considered the world’s first female historian, Anna was born to Emporer Alexios I, and wrote the Alexiad — a fifteen-volume account about the years of her father’s reign 📜 The Alexiad remains one of the few and complete sources of Byzantine culture and is a reference for historians today. Anna was highly educated; studying literature, Greek language, rhetoric, and sciences 📖🔱 ⚗️ With this vast knowledge, her father appointed her to manage all the orphanages and hospitals in Constantinople –overseeing some 10,000 patients 🏥She taught medicine at the hospital, and was known as an expert in treating gout, the illness which eventually killed her father in 1118 ☠️ After his death, her brother, John was appointed Emporer. Feeling cheated (it’s been said John stole the Emporer’s ring off her father as he lie on his death bed) Anna plotted to overthrow John and replace him with her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius 👑 Her husband refused to go along with the plot 🚫 When John found out, he was none too pleased and threw Anna, along with her mother, out of court. She spent the rest of her days living alone in a convent where she wrote the Alexiad ✝️ In it, she includes the disgust she feels with her husband’s unwillingness to carry through with the plot and noted that “nature had mistaken their sexes, for he ought to have been the woman.”
Today, Norah is dressed as Elsa Schiaparelli — Italian haute couture designer and rival of Coco Chanel (who once called her “that Italian who makes clothes” OUCH!) 👗 Born in 1890 in Rome, Schiaparelli enjoyed an aristocratic upbringing but was always a bit too wacky for her upper-class contemporaries 😜 After a move to Paris, she frequented the famous restaurant, Le Bœuf sur le Toit, an old haunt of the Parisian smart set. Sure enough, her eccentric style attracted a circle of artist friends like Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton and Salvador Dali 🎨 One day, Elsa accompanied a friend to a fitting at Paul Poiret, the greatest couturier of the time. She tried on a few designs while she was waiting, even though she couldn’t afford to buy for herself. This experience sparked the desire to create, and she opened the House of Schiaparelli at 21 Place Vendôme 💎 Her fanciful imagination coupled with the Dada art movement in Paris led to whimsical designs like surrealist lips and eye jewelled brooches 👁👄 and even a dress embroidered with a lobster! 🦀 In 1933, Salvador Dalí was photographed wearing a slipper balanced on his head at a party. Together with Schiaparelli, they sketched the design for a shoe-shaped hat in 1937, which was featured in her Fall-Winter collection. 👠 It would go on to become one of her most famous designs. Like all couture houses of the time, Schiaparelli closed up shop during World War II, but was unable to adapt to the new post-war trends and closed the Place Vendome atelier for good on December 13, 1954 😢 The archives were purchased by an Italian businessman in 2007, and the Place Vendome haute couture house was opened once more, with an ultra-exclusive clientele 💸
Today, Norah is dressed as Sojourner Truth — orator, abolitionist and women’s rights activist 👊🏿Sojourner Truth was born Isabella (Belle) Baumfree around 1797 in Swartekill, New York (about 95 miles north of New York City). She was born into slavery… YES even northern Yankees believed in slavery⛓ She was bought and sold several times in her life; the first time at auction for $100 and a flock of sheep 😔 In 1799, New York State began the legislative process of abolition, although emancipation would not happen until much later — on July 4, 1827 📜Unwilling to wait for the law to free her, Sojourner freed herself by escaping her enslavers with her infant daughter 🕊Obliged to leave her other children behind, she learned that her 5-year-old son had been sold to a family in Alabama. She took the issue to court and fought to get her son back. Several months later, justice prevailed and Truth was reunited with her son ⚖️ She became the first black woman to go to court against a white man and win the case ✊🏿In 1843, Truth became a devout Methodist and began to travel extensively, preaching abolitionism, women’s rights and pacifism wherever she went 🗣She spoke at the famous Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio where she delivered her iconic “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech 💬 She recruited black soldiers for the Union during the Civil War, tried to secure land grants from the federal government to former enslaved people, was turned away from the voting booth as she pushed for women’s suffrage, and long before Rosa Parks would be arrested in a Birmingham bus, Truth rode streetcars in Washington to force their desegregation 🚃 In addition to her heroic deeds, Truth was also known for her way with words. On her own lack of formal education, she quipped, “I can’t read, but I can read people.” 📖
Today, Norah is dressed as Yayoi Kusama — the Japanese octogenarian psychedelic multimedia artist 💥Her work scandalized conservative Japan in the 1950s, prompting a move to the United States where she exhibited alongside pop art contemporaries like Andy Warhol 🎨 Her strong feminist ideas challenged the notion of society at the time, and much of her work is an opposition to patriarchal dominated systems 👊🏼 Kusama’s art covers everything from large-scale installations, paintings, films, and fashion, to polka dot-themed nude “happenings” and anti-war demonstrations held around New York City in the 1960s ☮️ But she’s mostly known as the “Polka-Dot Princess” for her obsessive, immersive dotty designs 🔴🔴 Since childhood Kusama has suffered from visual and auditory hallucinations of polka dots covering every surface, even herself. She uses art as a therapy to manage her anxiety and mental illness, even going so far as to say: “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago.” 🔴🔴 In fact, her mental illness is so consuming that once she returned to Tokyo from the US in 1973, she checked herself into a hospital for the mentally ill where she still resides today 🏨 Kusama has been named the world’s most famous living artist, and holds the record for the most expensive painting ever sold by a female artist 💵Her strength and resilience in the face of mental illness coupled with her fearless opposition to traditional society makes Kusama a living art icon.
Today, Norah is dressed as Umm Kulthum — Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress 🇪🇬 Umm Kulthum was known for her extraordinary vocal ability and style and was one of the greatest and most influential Arab singers of the 20th century 🎼 Born in a small town along the Nile Delta, her father was an imam at the local mosque, and she learned to sing by listening to him teach her older brother the Quran (as Quranic recitation is done in a sing-songy voice) 🕌 When she was 12 years old, her father noticed her exceptional singing voice and asked her to join the family ensemble. He dressed her as a boy to avoid being publicly scorned for having a girl on stage 🎙️ At the age of 16, she was noticed by singer Mohamed Aboul Ela who taught her the old classical Arab repertoire. In the 1930s, she met Egypt’s most famous poet Ahmad Rami, who introduced her to French and Arabic literature and literary analysis. He wrote 137 songs for her dealing mostly with themes of love, longing and loss 🎶💔 Umm Kulthum’s epic performances lasted over 3 to 4 hours where she would sing two to three operatic-like songs. Instead of hosting private concerts for the elites, her performances were open to the general public which paved the way for popular Arab music 👐 Her music took a political turn in 1967 before and after the Six-Day War, when she sang Hadeeth el Rouh (“The Talk of The Soul”) — a translation from the poet Mohammad Iqbal’s Shikwa. Generals in the audience are said to have been left in tears 😢 Umm Kulthum’s influence goes beyond the Arab World too. Musicians from Bob Dylan to Bono have cited her as influential to their own music 💪🏼 As a performer, Umm Kulthum celebrated the beauty and sensuousness of the female body and voice bringing a liberalizing influence throughout the Arab world.
Today, Norah is dressed as Misty Copeland — the first African American prima ballerina in the history of the American Ballet Theatre 👯 Copeland was a prodigy from the start. She didn’t even begin taking ballet classes until she was 13 years old, but after just three months of study, she was already en pointe 👊🏽 By the age of fourteen she was drawing crowds of thousands as Clara in The Nutcracker💂 However, by the time she reached 19, she began suffering bone fractures, and doctors discovered that she’d never started puberty due to her intensive training regime. She was prescribed birth control pills as treatment and gained 10 pounds in one month. Her flat chest grew to a double D-cup size and none of her leotards fit her anymore. Her changing body brought self-esteem issues, “I became so self-conscious that, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t dance strong. I was too busy trying to hide my breasts.” 😢 Then, the dance company confronted her; pressuring her to conform to the conventional ballet aesthetic. As a result, she developed an eating disorder and considered quitting ballet altogether. Like other art that concentrates on the female form, ballet has long been led by women who are waif-like and white — everything Copeland was not. Ultimately, she was able to overcome the physical and racial discrimination she faced in the traditional ballet world and began receiving positive feedback again ✅ People flocked to her performances which showcased her strong, athletic and graceful dance style 💪🏼 She was promoted to principal dancer, performing such prized roles as Odette in Swan Lake ✨ And turned the industry on its head by challenging the idea of the ‘perfect’ ballerina body. Now, Copeland has helped launch ABT’s Project Plié, on a mission to increase racial and ethnic representation in ballet.
Today, Norah is dressed as Gloria Steinem — American feminist, journalist, and social political activist ♀️✊🏼 Steinem had a relatively normal childhood in Toledo, Ohio, until her mother’s nervous breakdown. Her parents divorced and her mother was never able to hold a job after. Steinem points to this event as a defining moment for her work towards social and political justice for women ⚖️ After graduating from Smith College, Steinem worked as a journalist, writing controversial articles for the time including a critique on how women are forced to choose between a career and marriage 👩🏻🏫👰🏼 If men had periods they would wear it as a badge of honor instead of a source of shame 🔴 and even going undercover as a Playboy Bunny in New York’s Playboy Club exposing the exploitative working conditions of the bunnies 👯In 1972, she co-founded the feminist-themed magazine Ms. which sold 300,000 test copies in eight days 📰 She’s also known for her political activism from marching for Civil Rights, to protesting the Vietnam War and even being arrested outside the South African embassy while protesting their apartheid government ☮️ Her activism touched on topics of female representation in pop culture as well: Steinem grew up a Wonder Woman fan and was a key player in the restoration of Wonder Woman’s powers and traditional costume for the January 1973 edition 💪🏼
BILLIE JEAN KING
Today, Norah is dressed as Billie Jean King — one of the greatest tennis players of all time and all around feminist badass 🎾 King won 39 Grand Slam titles, has been the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, Time Persons of the Year, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award 🏆 In 1971, King pushed for gender equality in the sport and became the first female athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money 💵 But the inequalities continued. She won the US Open in 1972 but received $15,000 less than the men’s champion Ilie Năstase 🙄 She refused to play the following year unless the payouts were equal — and in 1973, the US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women 💪🏼 In the 70s, former No. 1 male tennis player Bobby Riggs was hell-bent on belittling women like King in tennis. He frequently suggested women only belonged in the kitchen or bedroom, that they lacked the character to be athletes, and even went as far as to say that he wanted to “set the women’s lib movement back about another 20 years” 🖕🏼 He challenged King to a winner-takes-all nationally televised match dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes”. 👩🏻 vs👱🏼King entered the court like Cleopatra, carried in on a bed by four bare-chested men. Riggs presented King with a giant Sugar Daddy lollipop, and she responded by giving him a squealing piglet, a symbol of male chauvinism 🐷 30,000 people in the stadium and 90 million Americans at home watched Billie Jean King defeat Riggs in three sets: 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. He reportedly sulked to his hotel room humiliated and didn’t come out again for 4 hours 😂 King continues to fight for equal pay of female sports stars, and is also an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
Today, Norah is dressed as Queen Elizabeth I of England 🇬🇧 Elizabeth served as queen of England and Ireland from November 17, 1558 until 44-years later at her death 👸🏻 She was inarguably the most powerful woman of her time, a time when women’s rights were unheard of and women were seen as mere possessions 💪🏼 On the other hand, she was full of contradiction — and while she can be seen as the world’s first feminist, she was also quite anti-women. She saw herself as a ruler appointed by God and is quoted as saying, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too” 🤔 Perhaps distancing herself from the “feebleness” of her femininity was a way of protecting herself and the throne. Afterall, her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed for not giving husband Henry VIII the son he desperately wanted 😳 Elizabeth knew that under the law a woman became subservient to her husband, and she would be unable to marry if she wished to rule. Many suiters tried to woo her into marriage, but if Elizabeth was a modern millennial on Tinder she would be perpetually swiping left 🙅🏼💍 “Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married”, she once quipped. Elizabeth had her own girl squad too, showing loyalty to the women in her inner circle of advisors 👩👩👧👧 She was also a strong supporter of female artists during the Renaissance 🎨 Elizabeth’s reign left a lasting legacy: the Elizabethan Era is considered to be the golden age in English history and was the height of the Renaissance leaving us with classic poetry, music, literature and theatre — including Shakespeare! 🎭
SURRILDIA MAE STACY
Today, Norah is dressed as Surrildia Mae Stacy, my grandmother who passed away on October 28th at 87 years old 💔 She was born September 13, 1930 in Longbranch, Kentucky in a dirt floor home not far from the coal mines where her father worked ⚒ She was always known as a great beauty with raven hair, and rejected up to 3 marriage proposals before saying ‘yes’ to my grandfather. They were married in 1953 when she was 23 years old — considered practically a spinster in those days 💍 She birthed 8 children and spent her days as a homemaker, becoming the matriarch of a large and loving family of 16 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren ❤️ She was a talented artist who loved to paint, sketch and craft. She taught me how to cross-stitch, and make my imagination run wild with just a few popsicle sticks, googly eyes and glue 🎨 She surprised everyone by getting her driver’s license at the age of 60, and while you’d never catch her speeding down the expressway, she did take me on more than a few trips to the local party store for Flinstone push-ups and Clearly Candian 🚙 Her specialities were butter on bread and dandelion soup 🌼 She loved to garden and eat ‘maters n onions whole 🍅 If you ever needed a safety pin, she’d always have several pinned to her shirts 📎 She once created a startlingly realistic drawing of her home using MSPaint (if you’ve ever tried to draw so much as a straight line in that program than you know what an enormous feat that is!) 🏡 She loved Halloween and always made her costumes from scratch. A recurring character for her was named “Mrs. Boo” who had a friend that was a ghost and handed out prizes for ‘best costume’ 👻 She also loved Christmas and would dress up as Mrs. Claus to give gifts to all the kids (big and small!) in our family on Christmas Eve 🤶🏼 She would handmake every single person a card for every single holiday. I’ve kept them all 💌 She was a lovely woman who will be terribly missed by everyone who knew her. She wasn’t born wealthy but she built a strong family, full of love and left us all with the riches 💎 This is her on her 18th birthday wearing a brand new coat she received as a gift — the first one she ever had.