Tag Archive for: feminism

Women: Not So Mere–by T.K. Thorne

   Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,

       Lover of solitude

          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.


Who knew? The women’s movement to win the vote in America (which didn’t happen until 1920) began with book clubs!

In my life, “feminism” has been a word often expressed with a sneer, the struggle for equality seen as an effort to shed femininity and be man-like. Burn your bra at the peril of rejecting your womanhood. But my role model, my mother, was as feminine as they come and yet stood toe to toe with men in power. She never finished college, having to quit to care for her ill father, but she continued to learn and read and surround herself with other women who used ideas and knowledge to challenge the status quo, a legacy that began long ago.

Despite the pressure on women to focus on family and household matters, women throughout history have organized to read and talk about serious ideas, even in the early colonial days of American history. Anne Hutchinson founded such a group on a ship headed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. Reading circles or societies spread throughout the 1800s, including the African-American Female Intelligence Society organized in Boston and the New York Colored Ladies Literary Society. The first known American club sponsored by a bookstore began in 1840 in a store owned by a woman, Margaret Fuller. In 1866 Sarah Atwater Denman began Friends in Council, the oldest continuous literary club in America. In the South, blacks slaves were punished if they were found even carrying a book, although some surely passed books and abolitionist tracts in secret, despite the terrible risk.

Mandy Shunnarah recently wrote about research she did on this subject in college, sharing how the turn-of-the-century women began with classical ancient history and gradually became informed about political and policy issues of the day. The clubs created opportunities for connection and community and provided a conduit for organization and action. Undoubtedly, progressive organizations like the League of Women Voters, which formed in 1920, were an outgrowth of those clubs.

My mother, Jane Katz, was a longtime League member and a lobbyist for the state League. I have memories of her sitting at her electric Smith-Corona and typing away at tedious lists that tracked status and votes on legislative bills of interest to the League—education, the environment, constitutional reform, judicial reform, ethics reform, home rule.

I remember her taking me to a site to show me what strip mining actually looked like when a coal company was finished ravaging the land. She worked hard for the Equal Rights Amendment, which had as much chance of passing in my state (Alabama) as a law against football. I followed her to the state legislature while she talked to white male senators about why a bill was important and I will never forget how they looked down at her condescendingly. It made me angry, but she just continued to present her points with charm, wit, and irrefutable logic. The experience turned me off to politics, but gave me a deep respect for my mother. I know she would be saddened that many of the issues she fought for have yet to come about, but she would be proud of today’s many strong women’s voices speaking up for the values she so believed in and fought for. She and my grandmother began my love of reading and books. Today, it’s estimated that over 5 million book clubs exist and 70-80% of the members are women.

A special childhood memory of my parents chuckling over a New Yorker cartoon my father cut out and showed to friends—Two stuffy businessmen are talking quietly. One says, “But she is a mere woman!” The other replies, “Haven’t you heard? Women are not so mere anymore.”

I’m not a politician. I’m a writer. My mother died decades ago, and sometimes I feel guilty not following in her footsteps. But I think she would have been proud that the women in my books are not “mere.”

It is a gift and a closing of the circle connecting me with my mother and all her predecessors to know the heritage of feminist activism—the striving for a society where women’s thoughts, ideas, and work are equally respected—began with a group of women, perhaps a cup of tea, and a book.

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. 

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE,
the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham
church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should
Be Reading” list. 

loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She
writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with a dogs and a
cat vying for her lap. 

 More info at TKThorne.com. Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

One More Blog About Twilight

or  I Know, I Can’t Believe We’re Still Talking About It Either
by Bethany Maines
A friend of mine and I were comparing notes on the Twilight
series, which she loved and I mildly enjoyed enough to make it through the
first book and then wikipedia the plots of the others so I could find out what
happened in the end.  Our
discussion centered on the fact that much of the media portrays Bella as a
passive, whiny person who contrasts poorly with the likes of Hermione, Buffy,
Katniss or Leia.  My friend thought
that since Bella didn’t have super powers that she would never compare well in
any competition with Buffy et all. 
I thought that while some of the media interpretation of her whininess
is undeserved, that Bella, super powers or not, just isn’t much of a strong
feminist role model.  The argument
eventually concluded with, “Yeah, well, you know what’s feminist? Writing
whatever you want and not having to censor yourself because feminists won’t
like it.”  Oh, snap. Point and
But I think there’s another reason that Bella isn’t an
apples to apples comparison to Buffy, Hermione, or Leia.  Each of those three happened upon love
while pursuing a greater cause. 
They had epic events with some love.  But Bella flipped that around – she fell in love and then
had a few epic events. And of those two scenario’s, which sounds more likely to
happen to your average teenager?  I
don’t wonder that Bella resonates with a generation ­– falling in love, getting
depressed, getting back together, it’s all part and parcel of being a
But… I just don’t like the decisions that Bella made. As a
kid I thought Eowyn (LoTR), Esther (Bible), and Leia (Star Wars) were
awesome.  Smart, strong, sexy women
with a rebellious streak and a thing for royalty (except for Leia, who of
course, liked scruffy looking nerf herders).  My parents went out of their way to point out good role
models because they wanted me to know that women could do whatever they
wanted.  But what if I had wanted
to be married at 18 to my on-again off-again boyfriend like Bella did?  That would not have gone over well with
anyone in my family except for my really sexist grandmother. If my best friend
in high-school had been Bella, I would have been fairly horrified at her
decision making skills, and chalked it up to an a broken family and low
I know, I know, Twilight is just a fiction novel – not a
how-to manual for life.  It’s a
romantic story that features star-crossed true-love and a happy ending.  But if I ever have any offspring of the
female persuasion I won’t be pointing out Bella; I’ll be pointing at Stephenie
Meyer and saying, “Look how she wrote a book that touched the lives of millions
of people – you can do that to!”  
Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls.  Catch up with her at www.bethanymaines.com or check out the new Carrie Mae youtube video.