Marina Raskova

Within a year of earning her pilot’s license, the Russian aviatrix Marina Raskova, took part in two record-breaking flights. Raskova was content to continue breaking flight records until, in 1941, Hitler’s army was just 19 miles away from Moscow and Raskova managed to convince Stalin to enlist women aviators in the fight against Hitler. With 1,200 women making up the entire crew of aviators, mechanics, officers, and ground crew, this group was divided into regiments of night flyers who would greatly cripple Hitler’s attack on Russia. By 1942, Hiter’s troops were referring to these dangerous night flyers as nachthexen (night witches) because the night flyers were so deadly. Raskova commanded the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment, a regiment that was given the best of the Soviet bombers, the Petlyakov Pe-2, which is a point that did not settle well with her male counterparts who were flying less desirable aircraft. In 1938 She and two others were the first women to be awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union Award.  The 125th Guards flew over 1,134 missions. Raskova died in combat on January 4th, 1943.

Cai Yan 170-249

Cai Yan

The Han Dynasty was a time of great development in China. 206 BC-226 AD was a 400 year period in which roads and canals were expanded, the Great Wall was extended, paper was invented, the scholar class was instituted as a way to train and select government workers, and the territory was increased through the execution of many wars. With the ratio of women to men so unbalanced due to the Han’s building projects which cost many lives and with the many wars they fought, men at all levels of society were taking many wives and concubines. It was one tenet of the Confucian structure of the Han Dynasty that each and every female was subordinate to a male, be it her father, brother, husband, or uncle. Any female alive would have a male master. Females in Confucius theory were considered as property, to be laborers for their male masters.

Though an exact date is not certain, between 174 and 178 AD Cai Yan was born in present-day Qi District, Henan Province to the renowned literary, mathematics, astronomy, and history scholar, Cai Yong (133-192) who was also a gifted musician and calligrapher.

The family was a fairly well to do family, and even though it was not a customary practice to educate girls, the more wealthy families tended to educate their daughters. This was very fortunate for Cai Yan, who was very bright and learned her subjects with speed and efficiency. She also had an ear for music, making her the consummate Renaissance person much like her father.

The legend of Cai Yan’s astute abilities in music begins with her father playing the gu qin in another room. Although Cai Yan was only six years old, when the string broke she came into the room and pronounced to her father that he had broken the second string. Cai Yong had no way of knowing if Cai Yan had merely guessed correctly at which string was broken on the zither-like seven-stringed instrument or if she really had that precise of an ear for music. To find out for sure, he broke another string and Cai Yan correctly told him that it was the fourth string. Finding that his daughter could judge pitch and tone quality perfectly, Cai Yong encouraged her to pursue her musical interests.

When Cai Yan was 16 years old she married, but her husband died within two years and they had no children. She moved back home, where she found that her father had passed away while in prison, where he had been sent for offending an official. The Xiongnu (the Huns) began to invade parts of Northern China, kidnapping slaves and stealing valuables. Cai Yan was taken captive and married to a tribal chief in modern day Inner Mongolia. She gave birth to two children while married to the chief.

Cai Yan was not only an adept musician, calligrapher, and historian; she was also an accomplished poet. Away from her Han home as a captor of the Huns for twelve years, she wrote poetry to express her longings. One such poem, “Indignant Grief,” or “Poem of Affliction,” shows this ability:

Frost and snow covered the ground all over,

The wind howls even in the summer,

With a puff it blows up my fur,

The rustling sound came to my ear,

Missing my parents, endless sighs I heave,

Hearing visitors come, great delight filled me,

But none sees how disappointed I feel,

Knowing he wasn’t from my home.

The last emperor of the Han Dynasty, Cao Cao, realized that the great work of Cai Yong, The Xu Han Shu (The History of the Later Han Dynasty), needed to be completed. In order for this history to be written, Cao Cao needed Cai Yan’s help, for committed to her memory were hundreds of her father’s books and she was a great historian in her own right. This story is written down in “Xu Han Shu”:

Cao Cao asked her: “I have heard, Madam, that in your home there used to be a great many books: do you still remember them?” Cai Yan replied: “The books bequeathed by my late father totaled some four thousand juan, but they have been scattered and ruined, none are left. Those that I can recite from memory number only a little more than four hundred.” Cao Cao then said: “I will now order ten clerks to go to your residence, Madam, to write them down.” Cai Yan said: “I have heard that propriety requires men and women to be separate, without handing things to each other. I beg to be given paper and brushes so that I can write them down, either in standard script or in cursive script, as you may command.” Subsequently she wrote out the texts and presented them, and no words were missing or incorrect. *

Cao Cao ransomed Cai Yan back from the Xiongnu with much gold and jade, but Cai Yan’s children were not allowed to come with her, as the tribe insisted that the children stay with their father. The act of leaving her children behind caused Cai Yan tremendous grief and sorrow which she laments in her poem, “Poem of Affliction”:

Desolute, I faced my orphan shadow;

Grief and anger swelled in my entrails,

I climbed a hill to look off into the distance,

And my spirit seemed suddenly to fly from me;

Cai Yan married a third time when she rejoined her people, then she set to work in the Imperial library rewriting her father’s articles, or books, which had been either lost or destroyed during the preceding wars. Through the terrible heartache of having an “orphan shadow,” Cai Yan was able to reproduce 400 pieces of her father’s work in beautiful calligraphy.

Being a historian and poet in her own right, Cai Yan put her own work to paper as well, though only three such pieces survive today and only one of those poems is agreed upon by present-day historians as rightly being attributed to her; “Poem of Affliction” is a narrative poem of 108 lines with five characters on each line. It is a poem which shows all these centuries later a lady of great courage and tenacity as she faced terrible hardships and yet through the pain was able to accomplish the enormous deed of setting her people’s history down for future generations.

The fame of Cai Yan’s musical, literary, and artistic ability was passed along from generation to generation in Chinese lore, as demonstrated by a series of poems by Liu Shang, a Tang Dynasty poet and by musicians of that same dynasty. In Liu Shang’s Cai Yan poems, he writes Cai Yan’s story in first person, but signs the poem with his own name. Though historians have often written and spoken of not only Cai Yan’s immorality in marrying a barbarian, but also her shame in failing her first husband by not achieving her duty of bearing him a son, the triumph of her spirit still holds true. Perhaps it is because she was forced against her will to marry the barbarian, perhaps it was because her first husband died so soon after being wed, whatever the case, Cai Yan was soon endowed with the courtesy name of Cai Wenji, which is translated as “Lady of Literary Refinement.”

YENNENGA

Yennenga, 12th century Founding mother of burkina faso

The Dagomba tribe of Northern Ghana in West Africa has a longstanding tradition of oral histories. Often these exciting tales of heroes and heroines are told against the backdrop of pounding drums and dancing revelers, galvanizing the story within the hearts of all who hear it. One such narrative record is the tale of Yennenga, founding mother of Burkina Faso.

In the land now known as Northern Ghana, there once lived a great king of the Dagomba tribe who had a daughter with unmatched beauty, skills, and knowledge. As was always the case with ruling a kingdom, wars were inevitable as rivals would always seek better land for crops, or to force their ways upon another tribe. King Nedega soon found his multi-talented, fourteen-year-old daughter, Yennenga, joining his troops against the neighboring Malinkes. The Malinke, or Mandinkos, repeatedly made war against the Dagomba tribe in attempts to convert them to the Islam religion sweeping through Africa.

Yennenga’s skill with the javelin, and bow, as well as her grand horsemanship abilities, were the talk of all the kingdom and it was not long before she was in charge of her own battalion of men. But being great at everything apparently has its drawbacks. Yennenga’s father revered her so much for her skills and knowledge in protecting the kingdom from its neighbors that when she reached marrying age and informed him of her desire to marry and have children, his immediate response was a resounding NO. He refused to arrange a husband as was the tradition of their tribe.

Yennenga’s courageous heart led her to retaliate against the King’s oppression of her dreams. She grew a beautiful field of wheat and showed it proudly to her father. He was pleased without measure to see another thing touched by his lovely daughter become golden; his good fortune had no end when it came to her. Yennenga abandoned the wheat and let it rot. When her father saw the ugly decay, he was enraged. He demanded she explain her neglect of the field and why she left it to rot. Yennenga told him she was the same as the golden field left to decompose because he would not allow her to marry and have a child.

King Nadega was furious at his daughter’s impertinence and had Yennenga locked away in prison.

With a history of fighting many battles beside the king’s warriors and developing a comradeship with them, Yennenga had many friends among the king’s forces. One night, one such friend helped her escape. He brought her some men’s clothing for disguise her stallion to ride, and they sped away. The Malinke tribe north of the Dagomba region attacked Yennanga and her fellow rider. Although she managed to get away, her companion was killed in the skirmish.

Yennanga continued to ride her steady and swift stallion northward. When she came to a river with strong currents, she guided the horse across and emerged on the other side totally exhausted. Her faithful equine carried her into a lush forest where she met an elephant hunter by the name of Riale who saw through her disguise as a man and they immediately fell in love.

The elephant hunter Riale and the Princess Yannenga were married straight away and before long had a son they named Ouedraogo (O-a-dray-goo), which translates to stallion. Ouedraogo is to this day a common name in the Mossi kingdom.

When he was grown, Ouedraogo visited his grandfather, the king of Dagomba, who was very happy to finally hear of his daughter’s good health and success. He showered his grandson with many gifts which Ouedraogo would use to establish the Mossi kingdom in the land now known as Burkina Faso, West Africa. Because of this, Yenninga is celebrated as the founding Queen Mother of Burkina Faso. There are statues of her in the capital city of Ouagadougou (Wagoo-Do-goo), many roads named in her honor, and a football team named The Stallions, after her strong and swift horse.

Ghana Ethnic Groups : Dagomba, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/tribes/dagomba.php.

History, HomeTeam. “The Legend of Princess Yennenga.” Https://Www.patreon.com/HomeTeamHistory, HomeTeam, 11 May 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIlav-cyTUw&feature=youtu.be.

House, Stephen and Cathi. “VIRTUAL: VILLAGES OF WEST AFRICA.” Center, http://www.centersf.org/virtual-villages-of-west-africa?pgid=k8573t1r-db90f514-db44-4fe5-a8f4-bdee31cb6f46.

Nduta Waweru | Contributor “Yennenga, the Dagomba Warrior Princess Whose Son Founded the Mossi Kingdom of West Africa.” Face2Face Africa, 7 July 2018, face2faceafrica.com/article/yennenga-the-dagomba-warrior-princess-whose-son-founded-the-mossi-kingdom-of-west-africa.

Porath, Jason. Rejected Princesses. Harper Collins 2016, pp. 39-40.

“Yennega: Women.” Yennega | Women, en.unesco.org/womeninafrica/yennega. Last vistited 9/5/2020

Pruitt, Sarah. “Who Are the Mandinka?” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Apr. 2016, http://www.history.com/news/who-are-the-mandinka.

Click to access Yennega%2C%20Princess%20of%20Gambaga_Women%20in%20African%20History_Comic%20Strip.pdf

Tschannen, Rafiq A., and Rafiq A. Tschannen says: “Islam in West Africa. Introduction, Spread and Effects.” The Muslim Times, 26 Aug. 2020, themuslimtimes.info/2020/08/26/islam-in-west-africa-introduction-spread-and-effects/.

Lin Siniang

Lin Siniang 1629-1644(approx.)

In 1629 china was entangled in a war with nature and men. Between fighting with Mongolia, Korea, and Japan, the military stretched the country’s budget to bursting. When China was hit with the longer, colder winters caused by falling average temperatures of the coming “little ice age”, famine exploded all over the north. It was not possible to grow enough crops to provide food and many of China’s starving soldiers banned together in gangs who ravaged the countryside. 1629 is also the year Lin Siniang (Lean Shinjang) was born to a struggling military family.

Lin Siniang’s family may have been poor, but her father made sure to give her proper instruction in the use of sword, spear, and the martial arts. She was so adept that even at the age of six, people were astounded by her expertise.

When Lin Siniang was a teenager, her parents were killed and she was left with no family to care for her. She became a prostitute, working all day by the Qinhuai River, near modern day Nanjing. Lin never stopped honing her fighting skills every chance she got. One day as she was improving on her martial arts down by the river,

16th Century China
Modern China

King Zhu Changshu (Chew Chunjoe) happened by and fell deeply in love at the first sight of her. He asked her to come away with him to the palace. Not long after they were married, the king asked Lin Siniang to teach her fighting skills to all the royal concubines. The women enjoyed the fighting and defending so much that they stuck with it and became an all female army.

A terrible drought and famine in the North brought rebels from the Shaanxi (Sha-she) and Shanxi (Shon-She) provinces in search of food. King Zhu failed to take the threats as seriously as he should have and he was taken hostage by the rebels while at his mountain retreat.

Lin Siniang heard of the king’s capture and responded immediately by rallying her army of concubine soldiers together and leading an attack on the rebel army. At first the enemy was confused at being confronted by women and Lin’s army was quite successful at taking out a large number of the rebels. The women managed to free the king from captivity but the rebel army eventually overpowered the female military until Lin was the only one who remained alive. She fought off every punch, kick, sword, and spear until she could stand no longer and was struck down by the blow that would take her life.

It would not take long to share the story of Lin Siniang, perhaps a minute or maybe two, but sometimes it is the smaller things in life that can make the biggest impact. Lin Siniang was only fifteen years old when she died leading her self-trained army in a battle to save the king. Such a great conquest on the heals of living as a peasant, a prostitute, and a princess.

(First published on Amazing Women in History.

Further Reading

Ancient China, Ming Dynasty

Culture Trip

Famous Chinese Women

Ladies of Chinese History

Women of China

Biblio

My compelling exploration of Biblio in its entirety:

I believe if we’re not actively encouraging a love of reading in our children, we’re enforcing a subtle ban.

The Bibliophile —Book lover—

We live for books. Umberto Eco

Some people read cereal boxes, encyclopedia entries, shampoo bottles, recipes, discographies, filmographies, and nearly every genre of recorded fiction and nonfiction imaginable. Old books, new books, hardback or paper. They read novels and the specs of engineering and mechanical marvels such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the amazing steam engines that once pulled mile-long locomotives or powered industrial sized manufacturing plants. Some don’t take notes on file cards as those with an insatiable thirst for knowledge might do, or scribble in the margins creating a missive to revisit later or highlight interesting facts and ideas or dog-ear favorite pages. Instead, they let the words lounge in the perch of their mind before the infused essence slowly trickles into their hands then down through the very fingers actively underscoring words on the page, leaving behind the fullness of one who’s been intimately involved with the marriage of knowledge and wonder and was able to set it free.

Every day, people carry remnants of all they’ve read and what they’ve forgotten along with them wherever they go, the aggregate of all they’ve read a tender and solid part of them. In a strange twist of imagination, they are also a part of everything they’ve ever read. Not that they are the Golden Gate Bridge, of course, but having read about it, having run their fingers over the 10 point pica, the descriptors becoming blood-kin or ink-siblings, they have a relationship of respect with it, a deep connection to it and should they place their hand upon the great span over the bay, surely a spark of recognition would trill their arm.

To nearly every conversation which readers such as these have with people, they can invariably add the words, “Like in the book…” These book lovers are known as bibliophiles. Being a booklover is difficult to describe to someone who has never lived it for themselves. Perhaps what makes the experience altogether magical is the allusionary description, or maybe it’s a literary love affair because of a soul-deep kinship with character, condition, or culture. Whatever the case, it can be difficult if not seemingly impossible to explain the love of reading to someone who has not experienced it, especially if they hate reading, which is said much more often than book lovers care to hear and is a phrase which makes writers break out in hives.

The Logophile —Word lover—

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation, they deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird.”

Writers are up against great obstacles in trying to get to their readers. Flashy screens, beeping “in”-boxes, and easily digested two-hundred word news blurbs as they swipe left and right, all vie for the attention of current and future book readers. The competition for the reader’s attention is electric, but logophiles and bibliophiles alike have a deep desire for all to know the kinship, the blood relationship, of ink, be it virtual or tactile.

Book lovers the world over have been known to spend hours searching store shelves for a specific title or a general idea that grabs onto their imagination and won’t let go. They are dedicated browsers at used bookstores, new bookstores, thrift stores, libraries, and e-book retailers all over the world. Though their walls at home may be supporting shelves stacked and weighted past safe load-bearing specifications, the hunt in the paper (or digital) jungle goes on and on.

How do they know when they’ve found the book they need?

The rush. The bibliophiles browsing bookshelves are often in it for the rush. Not the hurried, but the sublime. Much like gold miners who dig through thick overburden to uncover the gold rich gravel underneath, the book lover will browse beyond rational human endurance until maybe they see a light blue cover with a splash of burgundy on the spine and get a tingle on the back of their neck. Upon lifting the book from the shelf, where it’s perhaps been leaning sideways for some time, they read the end flap to find a story of a war hero’s painful homecoming to an empty house, or a tale of a marathoner’s triumphant race against cancer, or how Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla were involved in a convoluted and sometimes much-heated partnership/rivalry/three-way business relationship. The tingle becomes more powerful, gains momentum and travels down their spine, racing to knock against the backs of their knees, and the reader makes an effort to steady themselves against their failing balance.

That reaction, or one similar, is what writers dream their readers have when picking up a book they’ve written.

It is most likely that writers began their logophile life first as bibliophiles and have experienced endless joys of reader-word connections from that point of view. Also likely is that the reader who one day picked up a pen to write a poem for a class at school, or perhaps a note in their diary, was shocked to experience a sensation at the back of their throat very similar to the reading sensation, yet contrary. The location was different. The sensation was stronger and subtler, alive and still. Hiding behind corners, lurking in secret chambers and peeking from dark shadows. Forever present then and always, it was awakened by the sound of a pen scratching across paper.

The obsession of the writer began with the search for the right word. The word announcing itself with the thunder of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the grit of a cat’s tongue waking them from sleep. They add and add and add to that word and the next like a bull rider at the rodeo until not one more second, not one more letter could be coaxed from the mysterious hidden places, fingers racing over the keyboard, the writer’s growling stomach long neglected, and their throat tight with thirst.

Spent, staring with wonder at the words on the computer screen pulsing with life, the writer is elated and hopeful that one day a reader will know the excitement, the utter joy he or she felt while chasing after those words. The dedication it took to throw open the shutters and draw them from the back corners and deep chambers, the light of hope exposing everything that lay in the dark shadows.

The Bibliopole —Buyer/seller of books, especially rare ones—

And you read your Emily Dickinson, And I my Robert Frost,

And we note our place with book markers That measure what we’ve lost.

Simon and Garfunkel, “The Dangling Conversation.”

Ideas, drama, information, instructions, and the like can all be found in places other than inside the pages of books, but nothing is experienced in the same way as books are. Every time the reader opens one, then turns first one page, then another, head bent in rapt posture, there’s a good chance they’ll find something nothing else offers; themselves. There is a phrase which ascertains that the reader has their head in a book when enthralled in such a way, but maybe, just maybe the book is in their head. Whether traveling to different worlds, a foreign country or a fantastical one, learning the role of floor space when decorating the living room, or finding out what happened when God gave the people the king they’d demanded, the turning of the pages or the swiping left on the e-reader signify a rapture unparalleled.

Readers have found books they never knew existed while browsing book stores. Have discovered ideas they never thought to think or ever saw put into words before. Readers have run across tomes that put their own thoughts into plain language for them and gained serendipitous knowledge. To run their hand along the spines, to open them up and breathe the scent of the inky pages, and to run their fingers across the name of the genius who brought characters, imagined and real, to life is one of the pleasures of book browsing all made possible by the bookseller, a person who has most likely read more material than anyone who has ever entered through the book shop’s doors.

The curator of the bookshop has probably at least touched, if not actually read from, every one of the thousands of books on the shelves. This trusted keeper of words also knows how to recommend the book most likely to attract the attention of almost any reader. The keeper of the books sees their function as a feeder of souls and therefore sees a book as a table set for a savory feast with all the hors d’oeuvres and entrees anyone could possibly need all served up with relish and flamboyant flair. Book sellers know that anyone can unexpectedly fall in love with a book. From babies who turn the hard pages of board books about cute puppies to people in their 90’s bent contentedly over the large print book of the month, no one is immune to the spark, the connection, the bond, that can unexpectedly peak their interest. From Dr. Seuss to Charlotte Bronte’, to J.R.R Tolkien, the possibilities are as diverse as people themselves. The book written by an impassioned writer who hopes to touch someone with kindness and inspiration is deeply indebted to the bibliopole, the Golden Gate Bridge between writer and reader, who knows when the right connection between person and tome are made by the trill of recognition trebling along his arm.

is

Beverly Cleary

A biography about Beverly Cleary I wrote for the Literary Ladies Guide.

Beverly Cleary (1916 – 2021)

How does a person go from living on a humble little farm in an obscure town in the Pacific Northwest to someone who is undeniably the leader in creating and perfecting books children love to read? By deciding to, some might say.

Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on April 12th 1916 in McMinnville Oregon and until she was six years old lived on the family’s farm in Yamhill just a few miles from her birthplace. Although an only child, Beverly loved roaming freely about on the farm, tripping up chickens with a pole (something she did when her mother wasn’t looking, as she told Beverly it was mean. Beverly thought tripping the chickens was not mean compared to when her father took an ax to their neck), eating apples in the shade of the apple tree, juice streaming down her chin, watching her father milk the cow and the farmhands thresh the wheat, helping her mother bring in the cow, and gathering wildflowers, some which smelled so strong they stayed out on the porch!

When Yamhill lacked a much needed library, Mrs. Bunn solicited funds, acquired some borrowed space in a building downtown, organized fund raisers, and procured children’s books from the state library in Salem in order to build Yamhill’s first library. Beverly loved the books being read to her, the pictures in the stories, listening to the tales. There were so many children’s books available at the Yamhill library now, Mrs. Bunn begged Beverly to let her teach her to read, but Beverly wanted to wait and learn to read in school with the other children, not in her mother’s kitchen.

By the time Beverly was six years old, the family farm grew more and more in debt. The Bunns moved to Portland where Beverly’s father got a job at a federal reserve bank as a night guard. First grade was going along well for Beverly until she contracted chicken pox and missed at least a week of school. Upon her return, not only did she fail to receive any more of the gold stars she was used to getting for her schoolwork, she began to fail miserably at reading and her teacher was becoming mean enough to make her afraid to go to school. Beverly caught smallpox from a neighbor, missed even more school, and grew terribly hopeless at reading. Her mother continued to read aloud to her and encouraged Beverly to choose which stories she’d like to hear.

Beverly disliked reading and it wasn’t until the third grade when she “picked up The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins planning to look at the pictures and I discovered that I was reading and enjoying what I read! It was a miracle. I was happy in a way I had not been happy since starting school. I read all afternoon until I had finished the book. Then I read The Swiss Twins. For once mother postponed bed time, until I finished the book.”¹

From that point on, Beverly Bunn read countless books for pleasure, to combat boredom, for escape, to kill time while waiting for the rain to cease, and to learn about all manner of things from animals to people and everything in between. Over the next decade or so, some of her favorite stories would be, Les’ Miserables as it was told to her 7th grade healthy living class by a teacher apparently bored with the standard curriculum, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, and Jane Eyre.

Also in seventh grade, Beverly had a reading teacher who would inspire her to become a librarian and a writer². Miss Smith was the first teacher to allow the students to read for enjoyment (without answering questions about the books, etc.) and a kind librarian who let Beverly into the library first on the daysSt. Nicholas Magazine³was delivered.

When the great depression hit upon the Bunn family of Portland, Oregon, adjustments and sacrifices were made by all, much like most families all over the world. Beverly’s father lost his job, her mother picked up work cold calling from their living room, they had to sell their car, the tension was thick and laughter was a memory⁴, yet they muddled through.

When Beverly was 18 in 1934, she moved to California to live with her mother’s cousin and attend Chaffey Junior College, a free community college where she earned her associates of arts degree before going on to complete her masters degree in Berkeley. She studied, worked her way through college, and began to date the man who would become her husband, Clarence Cleary. Although it was a tradition for women to attend college in order to catch a man, it was not Beverly’s motivation for getting an education. She wanted to be able to stand on her own two feet. She wanted to accomplish her dual goals; earning a librarianship degree and writing books. Catching a man was left to nature, as it were. Her plan was to work for a year after college before getting married.

After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree, Beverly attended the school of librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle and upon graduation took a job as a children’s librarian in Yakima. She soon discovered the local boys were not interested in reading the books available to them, as they often asked her where to find the books about kids like us, something she made as a sort of personal quest. She spent hours memorizing stories from books for a lively retelling during story hour in the library and, during the summer, in the park. All told, Beverly memorized a total of sixty-two stories during her time in Yakima. The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop was the most popular of these stories.

Finally having an income, Beverly bought a portable typewriter, but she had no time to write.

On October sixth 1940, almost one year to the day after beginning her job in Yakima, Beverly Bunn headed to California to marry Clarence Cleary. When she left Yakima, the head librarian commented that she didn’t understand why the children liked her so much: she treated them just like she treated the adults.

Beverly Cleary embraced her role as a housewife, and spent the holiday season working at a bookstore. With the murmur of war on everyone’s lips, the Cleary’s decided against starting a family, as Clarence could be drafted despite his high draft notice number. Beverly began a library position for the Army, which she held until the end of the war.

After the war, the Cleary’s moved to Berkeley and Beverly found herself staring at her typewriter with nothing to say. She’d always known she wanted to be a writer. She’d always known that someday she’d have all of life’s necessities taken care of and this opportunity to write would finally present itself. The problem was, she didn’t know what to write.

Thank goodness Beverly Cleary had a great imagination! After waiting and planning for the time to write for nearly 20 years, without ever having written a word of fiction, at the age of 33, she began to imagine the children in the Yakima library who wanted to read stories about kids like us, and she thought about the kids on her street in Portland riding skates and playing along Klickitat Street. Thank goodness that though Beverly Cleary was not sure how to begin writing, she knew exactly how to tell an interesting story. The world of Henry Huggins was born! Thanks to her imagination, her dreams, her goals, when it came time to write, the stories and new characters such as Ramona, Beezus and more, poured from her creativity with such perfection she never received a single rejection letter!

For more than three generations, Beverly Cleary’s books have been enjoyed by countless children. She wrote books children wanted to read, which is precisely the point of writing them she would likely quip if she were here. She passed away in March of 2021 at the age of 104. Beverly Cleary’s books have been translated into twenty-nine languages, sold over 91 million copies and received a long list of awards including the prestigious John Newberry Award in 1984 for her book, Dear Mr. Henshaw.

¹ Cleary, B. (2016). In A girl from Yamhill (p118). essay, HarperCollins Children’s Books.

² ibid (pp. 174–178)

³ St. Nicholas Magazine was published in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was full of stories, illustrations, and information of interest to children of all ages. To get an idea of what inspired Beverly Bunn, open the link below, click on the thumbnail, select “images” above Material Information, browse through page numbers.

https://ufdc.ufl.edu/collections/nick/results?page=1

⁴ Cleary, B. (1999). In My own two feet: A memoir (p.51). essay, Avon Books.

https://www.opb.org/article/2021/03/26/beverly-cleary-has-died-oregon-author/ 26:10

“It’s wonderful books that inspire children to be readers.”

beverlycleary

Annie Lock

Annie Lock was a woman of many strengths, possibly less than an average amount of human flaws, and a personality most peers found too abrasive to work with, but her commitment to God and her zeal for humanity’s salvation was never in doubt.

Lock was born on August 1st 1876 in Rhynie, South Australia, the seventh child of Ann and Walter Lock. Until 1901 she worked as a dressmaker before enrolling in Angas College in Adelaide where she was trained to be a missionary. She joined the New South Wales Aborigines Mission (later turned Australian Aborigines Mission, then United Aborigines Mission) in 1903 and thus began her mission work among the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Sending a single woman to the missions field was becoming an ordinary practice of the missions board and feeling called to the field, Lock had no qualms about aiding and ministering to the less sought after aboriginal people who were spoken of as being “too dirty and nobody can do much with them,” (Bishop, 1991). She spent the next 34 years cooking, cleaning, nursing, and protecting the people she felt called to evangelize. In that time, Lock lived in 10 different mission camps in four states.

When it was reported to her that there were children being neglected, she would bring the news to the attention of the mission and would likely soon have new children to care for. (Bishop. Appendix E; Locks letters, Oct. 5 1910). Lock requested food and clothing for the people in her care, and gave ample thanks in her letters for both prayers and provisions. Sometimes, as when natives came from other areas for a meeting (letters; Sept. 7 1914), Lock “gave out 80 lb. of flour, 12 Sugar, oatmeal & rice from my own stores so as to prevent them begging too much in the town.” She referred to her living quarters on the reservation as “home” and wrote of many touching moments with the children; “It was getting quite dusk when we turned homeward, and the thought just came to me to wonder whether the child would be frightened in the darkening shadows. In answer to my thought a little hand stole into mine, and a little voice appealed to me – ‘God will take care of us, won’t He Miss-?’ So we hummed the comforting chorus for the remainder of our walk” (letters; 02/28/1910).

Annie Lock image from Women’s Museum of Australia and Old Gaol Alice Springs.

34 years is a long time to camp in the Australian bush and would require a colossal commitment to one’s belief in one’s work. Those responsible for inquiring into the Coniston Massacre labelled her ‘a woman missionary living amongst naked blacks thus lowering their respect for white people’, possibly due to her role in helping to publicize the massacre. She also made no friends when she stood up against the abuses the whites inflicted upon the Aboriginal women. The whites brow beat her for letting the native children sit on her lap, and for sharing so intimately with the native people as to even drink from the same cup. Lock endured it all until she found love in 1937 and at the age of 60 married for the first time. They retired to Eyre Peninsula and six years later she died of Pneumonia.

Catherine Bishop’s 1991 Master’s Theses on Annie Lock

Catherine Bishop Postdoctoral Fellow. (2021, October 20). Hidden women of history: Annie Lock was a Bolshie, outspoken Australian missionary, full of contradictions. The Conversation. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/hidden-women-of-history-annie-lock-was-a-bolshie-outspoken-australian-missionary-full-of-contradictions-167781

Herstory. Women’s Museum of Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://wmoa.com.au/herstory-archive/lock

Juana Azurduy de Padilla

Bolivia, South America

Juana Azurduy de Padilla was a leader of the Bolivian revolution in the 19th century. She fought for freedom from Spain’s rule with such vigor as to attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

This is her story.

According to Professor Catherine Davies on the University of Nottingham’s website, Juana Azurduy was born on March 8th 1781 in Chuquisaca, Upper Peru (modern day Sucre, Bolivia). Other sources give July 12th 1780 as Juana’s birth date.

Juana’s mother was part indigenous and her father was Spanish, making Juana a mestiza. She grew up speaking not only Spanish but two of the local native tongues of Quechua and Aymara as well. After the death of her mother in 1787, Juana spent all of her time with her father, working alongside him and the native laborers learning to shoot, ride horseback, and farm as well as or even better than any of the men. Working so close beside the indigenous people, Juana developed a deep appreciation for them and saw the way the Spaniards cruelly enslaved them; taking and gaining at their expense.

During most of the Spanish Colonial rule, Bolivia was known as Upper Peru. Chuquisaca was an important town as a leading provider of silver from the mines in neighboring Potosi for the Spanish empire, a flourishing agricultural hub, and home to the second oldest university in the America’s; Royal and Pontifical Higher University of San Francisco Xavier of Chuquisaca. It was a town which fed the empire great amounts of produce and precious metals while also nurturing the minds who would study the works of such renowned thinkers and individualists as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, John Locke, Denis Diderot and others, and discuss not only philosophy, but also independence from Spain.

Juana Azurduy

When Juana was twelve her father died. She moved into the Santa Teresa convent where at the age of seventeen she became a nun and spent the next few years serving at the convent.

In 1805 Juana married her childhood friend, Manuel Ascencio Padilla who was a law student at the university and fellow sympathizer of the indigenous people. Not long after the independence struggle against Spain began in 1810, Azurduy and Padilla joined the revolutionary forces, often fighting side by side. Unfortunately, their four sons were killed in these battles.

Azurduy de Padilla fought in approximately twenty-three battles from 1810 to 1817, she was greatly accomplished at recruiting many patriots to join the battle and even led her own cavalry of women known as Amazonas and her own battalion of male soldiers, Los Leales. Until 1816 her husband continued to fight along with her, until he was killed at the battle of La Laguna, the same battle she returned to after giving birth to their daughter. On March 3, 1816 she led a force of 30 cavalry, including a number of Amazonas and defeated the forces of the Spanish general La Hera.

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Azurduy de Padilla received an officer’s appointment of Lieutenant Colonel for her part in the 1816 battle of Cerro Rico of Potosi where she led bravely and captured the enemy flag. General Belgrano gave her an officer’s sword to emphasize the gravity of her accomplishments.

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She retired to Salta to raise her daughter and returned to Chuquisaca in 1825, the year Bolivia declared its independence from Spain. The government of Salta gave her four mules and 50 pecos for her journey. She lived in Chuquisaca until the age of 82 in 1862 whereupon she was buried in a communal grave.

Juana Azurduy de Padilla

Azurduy de Padilla’s heroic deeds have been resurrected from obscurity in recent years. Her remains have been moved to a mausoleum in Sucre. In 2015 a 52 foot tall statue erected in her honor in Buenes Aires, in 2009 she was posthumously given the rank of General, Azurduy de Padilla is a national hero in both Argentina and Bolivia where her birthday is celebrated every year, and Sucre’s international airport is named after her.

Hazel Hall

Literary Ladies Guide has been kind enough to reprint my piece on Hazel Hall  in its entirety.

(February 7, 1886 – May 11, 1924)

THREE GIRLS

Three school girls pass this way each day,

Two of them go in the fluttery way

Of girls, with all that girlhood buys:

But one goes with a dream in her eyes.

Two of them have the eyes of girls

Whose hair is learning scorn of curls,

But the eyes of one are like wide doors

Opening out on misted shores,

And they will go as they go today

On to the end of life’s short way;

Two will have what living buys,

And one will have the dream in her eyes.

Two will die as many must,

and fitly dust will welcome dust;

But dust has nothing to do with one—

She dies as soon as her dream is don (sic)

By 1910, the city of Portland Oregon was becoming a lively city of commerce and community. A bustling population of well over 207,000 established it as the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. From the port side along the Ocean-accessible Columbia River to the West Bank of the roaring Willamette, people spent their days working in factories, window-shopping, strolling hand-in-hand, riding trolleys, and bustling about in all the ways that folks of large cities do.

Though Portland was host to much lively activity and trade, young Hazel Hall could not take part in any of it. Being confined to a wheelchair since she was 12, she sat in the upper room of her home watching life in its myriad of shapes and sizes parade before her. Having limited mobility, Hazel could not stand up to peer out her window so she fashioned a hand-mirror in such a way as to be able to view the streets below in the reflection of the glass.

Hazel Hall was born on February 7, 1886 in St. Paul Minnesota to Montgomery and Mary Garland Hall. She had two sisters, Ruth and Lulu. The family moved to Portland, Oregon when Hazel was yet a toddler. Though young, Hazel romped and played just as exuberantly as any other child until the age of 12 when she fell ill with scarlet fever and was stricken lame ever afterward, binding her to a wheelchair. Not to be discouraged by her strict confinement, Hazel spent her days under the light of her window sewing and adorning fine linens and bridal robes, baby clothes, lingerie, Bishop’s cuffs, and christening gowns. These items were so beautifully embroidered that she became one of the favorite seamstresses of many of Portland’s social elite in the West Hills, bringing her money enough for her to earn her keep.

Hazel’s sister, Ruth, a librarian in the Portland School District, borrowed numerous books for Hazel to read. From classics to science, Hazel read everything that her sister brought home for her, but developed a particular interest in poetry. Emily Dickinson, who passed away the same year of Hazel’s birth, was counted among her favorite poets, along with Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Hazel had always occupied herself by writing and by the age of 30 she accomplished being published in the Boston Evening Transcript. Her poem, To An English Sparrow is a musical piece of rhyme and meter and deep in feeling. The life of the poem resembles the life of a sewing needle, which Hall knew the ins and outs of very well.

`TO AN ENGLISH SPARROW

(excerpt)

Little feathered tufts of gray,

Skipping blithely through the day —

Never resting,

Yet protesting

In your querulous, quick way —

Little sparrow;

You who would the woodland spurn —

Bird-prized haunts of leaf and fern —

Ever grace the crowded street,Seeking man’s companionship

With your chippy-chip chip chirp—

On your wing or tripping feet —

Ever lightly

Always sprightly

Comes your note so nearly sweet,

English sparrow

Following her success of having a poem published in The Boston Evening Transcript, Hazel Hall’s poems appeared in such prestigious magazines as The Century Magazine, Harpers Magazine, The New Republic, The Nation, Yale Review, and Literary Review. In 1920 her poem, Three Girls, was chosen as one of the five best poems of the year by critic William Stanley Braithwaite.

Acquiring only a fifth grade education before becoming fettered to a wheelchair failed to prevent Hazel Hall from reaching out to a world that she could not fully take part in. With her poetry she managed to inspire not only poetic appreciation, but also admiration for the simpler things that life brings one’s way. Her interest in philosophy inspired her to think deeply about humanity and helped her to resist the temptation to become overwhelmed by her circumstances. In many ways it was her circumstances which she considered to be advantageous to writing poetry, for the solitude that she experienced aided in not only thinking through iambs and meters, but also in creating artistic presentations of the seemingly routine.

Many of her poems were included in numerous anthologies, gaining her popularity even in England. Her first book, Curtains, was published in 1921, her second book, Walkers, in 1923, and in 1928 her third book, Cry of Time, was published posthumously by her sister, Ruth. A group of her needlework poems within the pages of Curtains gained Hall the Young Poets Prize from Poetry magazine.

When Hall’s eyesight began to fail her, she no longer wrote poetry about sewing, such as in Curtains, but instead began to write more about the things she spied from the confines of her room. Thus, Walkers, came to be. The editors of The Bookman literary journal gave Hall’s newest book much praise within its pages of the August 1923 issue, calling the poems “genuine, individual, and very lovely,” including in their review a quote from her poem, Protection:

I have envied, I have pitied,Wrapped their sorrows over me

Like a shawl, to keep from knowing

Cold that is colder than the sea.

At the age of 38, Hall succumbed to an illness and passed away in the family home. Within eight short years, from 1916 to 1924, she had managed to touch the hearts of many readers with her poems. Upon her death on May 11, 1924, her obituary was on the front page of the Oregonian newspaper with the headline: “SWEET VOICE OF HAZEL HALL IS HUSHED BY DEATH.”

Yet, it was not hushed for long, thanks to John Witte, English Professor at the University of Oregon. In 2000, Witte collected all three of Hazel Hall’s books into one volume and published (Northwest Readers) The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall, making it possible for Hall’s voice to continue ringing out loud, strong, and sweet, teaching us all how to live life as fully as we are able.

The Oregon Book Award for poetry is named for Hazel Hall and William Stafford (the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry). The award’s sponsor, LITERARY ARTS, refers to Hall as “The Emily Dickinson of Oregon.” Hall’s home at 106 NW 22nd Place in Portland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hazel Hall House. In 1995 the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission built a memorial park, or poetry garden, next to the Hazel Hall House. The park is home to three of Hall’s poems carved in granite; Light Sleep, Things That Grow, and The Listening Macaws.

Hall

Guest Blog Post: Amazing Women in History

Guest Blog Post at Amazing Women in History

In 1629, China was entangled in a war with nature and men. Between fighting with Mongolia, Korea, and Japan, the military stretched the country’s budget to bursting. When China was hit with the longer, colder winters caused by falling average temperatures, famine exploded all over the north. Not enough crops could be grown to provide food and many of the starving soldiers banned together in gangs who ravaged the countryside.

1629 is also the year Lin Siniang (Lean Shinjang) was born to a struggling military family.

Lin Siniang’s family may have been poor, but her father made sure to give her proper instruction in the use of sword, spear, and the martial arts. She was so adept that even at the age of six, people were astounded by her expertise.

When Lin Siniang was a teenager, her parents were killed and she was left with no family to care for her. She became a prostitute, working all day by the Qinhuai River, near modern day Nanjing.

Lin never stopped honing her fighting skills every chance she got. One day as she was improving on her martial arts down by the river, King Zhu Changshu (Chew Chunjoe) happened by and fell deeply in love at the first sight of her. He asked her to come away with him to the palace.

Not long after they were married, the king asked Lin Siniang to teach her fighting skills to all the royal concubines. The women enjoyed the fighting and defending so much that they stuck with it and became an all female army.

A terrible drought and famine in the North brought rebels from the Shaanxi (Sha-she) and Shanxi (Shon-She) provinces in search of food. King Zhu failed to take the threats as seriously as he should have and he was taken hostage by the rebels while at his mountain retreat.

Lin Siniang heard of the king’s capture and responded immediately by rallying her army of concubine soldiers together and leading an attack on the rebel army. At first the enemy was confused at being confronted by women and Lin’s army was quite successful at taking out a large number of the rebels.

The women managed to free the king from captivity but the rebel army eventually overpowered the female military until Lin was the only one who remained alive.

She fought off every punch, kick, sword, and spear until she could stand no longer and was struck down by the blow that would take her life.

It would not take long to share the story of Lin Siniang, perhaps a minute or maybe two, but sometimes it is the smaller things in life that can make the biggest impact. Lin Siniang was only fifteen years old when she died leading her self-trained army in a battle to save the king. Such a great conquest on the heals of living as a peasant, a prostitute, and a princess.

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