Excerpts

Alcott, Louisa May (1832-1888)

Writer of books including the much-beloved Little Women. Alcott based the novel’s headstrong Jo March on herself. In real life, the author’s upbringing was more colorful: her father, Bronson Alcott, was a noted transcendentalist and impractical crank who dragged the family between ill-fated utopian communities and instilled an appreciation for progressive causes. (The Alcotts housed a fugitive slave for week during Louisa’s early adolescence.) It’s no wonder, then, that her narratives championed independent women. One nineteenth-century critic called her oeuvre, which featured freethinkers and early feminist themes, “among the decided ‘signs of the times.'” Alcott’s novels were major bestsellers, yes, but her heroines—including progressive heiress Rose Campbell and independent music teacher Polly Milton—did more than make money: they created a new model for young women. As Alcott famously wrote in her childhood journal, “I want to do something splendid…Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…I think I shall write books.” (Illustration by Sarah Glidden.)

Crotch

Gender-neutral but gross-sounding descriptor for the area where the legs meet the torso. (Illustration by Jen Sorensen.)

Feminazi

Term of endearment initially coined by Rush Limbaugh’s close friend Thomas Hazlett, a former chief economist of the FCC and law professor who has written scholarly papers blaming apartheid on socialism and currently spends most of his time fighting net neutrality regulation. Like a feminist, but also a Nazi! Geddit? Hur. (Illustration by Elizabeth Carey Smith.)

Jemison, Mae (1956-)

Physician. Dancer. Astronaut. Enrolled in Stanford University when she was just sixteen years old, where she received degrees in Afro-American studies and chemical engineering. Her courses in the latter presented a challenge. “Some professors would just pretend I wasn’t there,” she told the New York Times in 2000. “I would ask a question and a professor would act as if it was just so dumb, the dumbest question he had ever heard. Then, when a white guy would ask the same question, the professor would say, ‘That’s a very astute observation.'” In September 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space when she traveled aboard the space shuttle Endeavour as a science mission specialist. (The mission, STS-47, was devoted to experiments in the life and material sciences, including studies of weightlessness and motion sickness.) “I always assumed I’d go into space,” the Arkansas-born Jemison told an audience at Denison University in 2004. Applying to be an astronaut, she once said, was preferable to “waiting around in a cornfield, waiting for ET to pick me up or something.” (Illustration by Sarah Glidden.)

Labor

1. Work. 2. The act of giving birth. You connect the dots. (Illustration by Jen Sorensen.)

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