Women’s History [NOT 17/3/23]

Nellie Bly
Detail from: Nellie Bly / Myers, N.Y. / ca. 1890 / source: https://www.loc.gov/item/89711960

Who Do You Look Up To?

March is Women’s History Month, so let’s talk about women who made history, to counteract how much men dominate the rest of the year.

For example, Elizabeth Cochran Seamn, better known by her pen name Nellie Bly.

She came to fame for her undercover investigation of the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island for The NY World, getting herself committed so that she could see what patients experience. She then wrote Ten Days in a Mad-House to tell more of the story of what she saw, and the outrage led to some notable reforms, although obviously limited in scope.

Bly later set out to duplicate the fictional feat of Phileas Fogg by going around the world in 80 days, and managed the trip in 72 days. The World published her stories and promoted her with games like this:

Nellie Bly Around the World Game
Round the world with Nellie Bly –The World’s globe circler/ NY Sunday World / Jan. 26 1890 /
source: https://www.loc.gov/item/2002716792

But possibly most importantly, Bly broke a lot of stereotypes of what women journalists were capable of doing. Overwhelmingly the few jobs for women in newspapers were writing about subjects like sewing and cooking, and often articles appearing under the byline of women were actually written by men.

Let’s Talk Noteworthy Women

So let’s talk, Deadsplinterers, about women who make history. World history, national history, or local history. Women in your family history who made things work when nobody else could. Politics, arts, sports, you name it. Ursula Le Guin, Hildegard von Bingen, Shirley Chisholm, Emily Dickinson, Buddug, your great aunt who ran a grocery chain in Kansas City, or anyone else you think has the 200 percent necessary to get half the attention of a less worthy guy.



  1. Two off the top of my head…

    Rosalind Franklin who helped Crick and Watson unravel DNA’s double helix shape and was shunted/ignored because she was a woman.

    DC Fontana who used an androgynous name to hide her identity and she wrote most of the Vulcan backstory for Star Trek.

  2. …too many to count

    …but…assuming someone else will be along in a minute to shout out hedy lamarr…or the hidden figures crew…or the ladies of bletchley park

    …off the top of my head?

    aphra behn for one

    …&…let’s say ada lovelace

    …I’d go on…but I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on more than enough for one day as it is?

  3. *googles most famous woman*

    mary mother of jesus?

    fuck you google

    i bet you at least as many people have heard of anne frank….and we actually know for shury sure she was real

    granted i wouldnt say i look up to her exactly… she was just a girl caught up in some real shit times and didnt make it out of them..

    but coz she liked to write shes famous now.

    ugh..sorry..wasnt expecting fucking mary….kinda threw me

    i’ll go with michele mouton

  4. How when most people think of who created science fiction, they think of men like HG Wells and Jules Verne, despite the fact that Mary Shelley was the first modern era author to write scifi basically because she was stuck in a house with Byron and was like fuck these loser writers, I’m writing it better.

    And before her, you had Margaret Cavendish writing the first scifi novel in 1666.

  5. my mom, harriet tubman, nellie mcclung, and katherine johnson (and someone none of you would know) are the first – and in that order – that popped in my mind the minute i read this post.

  6. i don’t want to take away from women’s night or anything but meg played me like a fiddle and i have to do the dot tomorrow so…do any of you want to do the dot tomorrow or at least help me out with what to put in it?

    otherwise…it might be incoherent?

  7. Two greats from aviation:

    Jackie Cochran – the first woman to break the sound barrier and numerous speed records.

    Lydia Litvyak – the first female ace during the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War (aka WW2.)

  8. I was just talking to someone the other day about Joan Vollmer. I can’t say I admire her, there’s so little known about her other than her being married to William S Burroughs and dying by his hand. But I read this article about her when it came out and it makes we think about all the “women behind the men”, and what their contributions really were. And what they could have accomplished in a different time or place.

        • If you Google her it’s like all she did was host parties. Burroughs called her the smartest person he ever met so I call bullshit that she was merely a hostess! That’s all they, and history,  has let her be.

        • Yeah, I think they were pretty bad. Maybe no worse than the rest of the era — I’ve read some creepy stuff about some of the stuffed shirts at The New Yorker. But on a par with the Rat Pack for sure.

  9. It’s also one of those things where we’ll never fucking know how many situations happened where an artist or writer or researcher was a woman/transwoman/enby with a dude for the front role who pretended to be the brains.

    Courtney Milan had a great romance novel “The Countess Conspiracy” and that was premise – a woman was doing plant research on inheritance and a man she knew pretended to be the author because there was no way she could publish under her own name.

      • Right! Even when I was in grad school, sometimes I’d see footnotes or dedication pages from stuff published up through the 1960s where it would be like “and my dearest wife, (name), who transcribed all my notes, edited this book, and made the site maps and artifact illustrations.” Like okay buddy, so how much of that work was actually done by you?

Leave a Reply