The religious passion and antiwoman sentiment of 17th-century colonial North America reached its apogee in Salem, Massachusetts, during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. One victim of the trials, Bridget Playfer Waselby Oliver Bishop, was accused three times of being a witch and was hanged in 1692, the first victim of the Salem hysteria. The vast majority of people executed for witchcraft were women. Eighteen others followed Bishop to the hangman’s noose before the governor put a stop to it a few months later.
Harriet Ann Jacobs was a fugitive slave and abolitionist whose 1861 autobiographical Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published under the name Linda Brent, provided American readers with a rare inside look at the physical and sexual abuse suffered by female slaves. Primarily focused on Jacobs’ journey to freedom and her struggles to obtain that same freedom for her children, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl details the structure of slavery from the rape of female slaves to the institution of the Fugitive Slave Law and its devastating effect on black families even in free states. Her work stands as crucial evidence against the horrors of American slavery.
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In honor of Halloween – and in service to my teaching philosophy —
“Words Matter. Writers Matter. Women Writers Matter.”
I presented this holiday lecture “When Women Write Horror” on Tuesday, October 29th, 2019. Researching the many, many women who have written horror stories – in novels, films and television – brought new names to my attention who I am excited to start reading. I hope you will be, too!
The best horror — and I’m gonna come to some examples as we travel through — is stuff that involves social commentary along with the scare because that’s the stuff that sticks with us. So I think Mary is very important. I made a point to mention I think it’s useful we think about women writing. Back in the day, it wasn’t acceptable for women to READ novels because it would rot their brains. So they certainly couldn’t write them. So you’ll notice when the book was first came out there was no author on the book. Nobody bothered to wonder how come there’s no writer there. It was because she could not admit that she had written it and then when it came so ridiculously famous and so profitable then she was able to say “well I’m cool enough that’s fine I’ll take the ding for doing this,” right? So I think it’s really important to think about what women had to go through just to be writers right?
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Julie Hébert started her creative life as a theater director and playwright (Ruby’s Bucket of Blood). She’s written and directed for the Magic Theater, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, LaMaMa, The Women’s Project, Cornerstone and many more. Her plays were honored twice with the Pen Award for Drama. Moving into television, Julie has written and directed for some of the most respected shows in television including American Crime, The Good Wife, Boss, Numb3rs and The West Wing. Her films have been praised as “intriguingly complex” (Variety) and “pulsing with veracity” (LA Times), with “a raw power that is impossible to dismiss” (Roger Ebert). She blogs occasionally at JulieHébert.com.
“I honor the depth inside and the stories that really want to be told because often in television you can get away with topline chatter, but to really hit on something that has meaning for you, that will have meaning for someone hearing the story, it has to come from a deeper place.”-Julie Hébert
Bradwell v. Illinois (1873) was a landmark Supreme Court case that declared women could not be lawyers. Myra Colby Bradwell, represented in court by Matthew Hale Carpenter, sued the state of Illinois for her right to practice law after she graduated from law school in St. Louis. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Bradwell continued to advocate women’s rights through litigation including lobbying for the right to pursue professional occupations and in support of the suffragist movement.
The first woman to break the sound barrier and the director of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), Cochran was born near Muscogee, Florida, and orphaned as an infant. Raised in northern Florida by a poverty-stricken foster family of migrant sawmill workers, she went to work in the mills early in life.
A freeborn African-American educator and anti-slavery activist, Charlotte Bridges Forten Grimke, was one of the most influential of abolitionists and civil rights activists of the mid-nineteenth century. In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, Forten went to Port Royal, South Carolina, where slaves abandoned by their masters after they fled Union forces, were preparing for life after slavery. Forten established a school for former slaves. Her ultimate goal was to provide her students with the skills to live as free persons. After the war Forten worked for issues such as women’s rights and black civil rights.