Whistling Women

How a young New York society matron named Alice Shaw dazzled English royalty with her extraordinary embouchure

Whistling women and crowing hens Always come to some bad ends. —American folk-saying Read more »

The Best Girl Scout Of The Mall

How Juliette “Daisy” Low, an unwanted child, a miserable wife, a lonely widow, finally found happiness as the founder of the Girl Scouts of America

In 1911 Juliette “Daisy” Low taught her first seven female Girl Guides to raise chickens and to spin wool. Now their 2,500,000 descendants, called Scouts, can learn to change the washer on a faucet, rewire a lamp, style hair, take a photograph, clean and set the gap on a lawn-mower spark plug, or recaulk a window. They learn to “relate to others,” participate in groups in a “personalized way,” and “work through tensions.” Gone is the loyal, honorable, obedient, thrifty, pure, courteous friend to all and to animals.Read more »

Southern Women & The Indispensable Myth

How the mistress of the plantation became a slave

“WE’RE USED to living around ‘em. You Northerners aren’t. You don’t know anything about ‘em.” This is or was the allpurpose utterance of white Southerners about blacks. Everybody from Jefferson Davis to Strom Thurmond has said it, in some version, at one time or another. Turned on its obverse, the old saw means, “You can’t know how bad they are.Read more »

History And The Imagination

As three recent films show—one on the atomic bomb, one on women defense workers during the Second World War, one on the government arts projects of the thirties —this history of our times offers film makers arresting opportunities. Footage shot on the spot supplies a measure of raw actuality, and survivors are still available for interview. The real problem is to give abundant but diffuse materials a shape and structure. This is not, however, a problem that automatically solves itself. Read more »

The Mosher Report

The sexual habits of American women, examined half a century before Kinsey

The nineteenth century was, according to the stereotype, ashamed and fearful of all things sexual. It was an era when, as one visitor to America swore, teachers put “modest little trousers with frills at the bottom” over the “limbs” of their pianos. The Victorian woman’s lack of passion was proverbial, her frigidity extolled by the popular hygiene books and marriage manuals of the day. Read more »

She Had To Die!

One of Ruth Snyder’s Crimes Was Murder

In 1925 a woman named Ruth Snyder too up with a salesman—a corset and brassiere salesman to be exact—and together on March 20, 1927, they murdered her husband in his bed. Months later, they were both electrocuted. To the public Judd Gray was just another murderer, but the crime of Ruth Snyder was as subversive to American domesticity as the anarchism of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti was to the American political and economic order. Like Sacco and Vanzetti, Ruth Snyder died in the electric chair while the whole country watched the clock.Read more »

The Philadelphia Ladies Association

Although it has been disparaged as “General Washington’s Sewing Circle,” this venture was the first nationwide female organization in America

When news that the British had taken Charleston, South Carolina, reached Philadelphia in May of 1780, merchants and government officials reacted to the disaster by taking steps to support the inflated Pennsylvania currency and solicit funds to pay new army recruits. And in a totally unexpected move, the women of Philadelphia emerged from their usual domestic roles to announce their intention of founding the first large-scale women’s association in American history.Read more »

Mary Baker Eddy

Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith

Mary Baker Eddy was, against all odds, one of the most influential women of her age. Born into unpromising circumstances, she never mastered the limited education that was available to her. She lacked literary talent and any real vocation for family life. She struggled against a social order and a century which permitted women only the narrowest range of life choices.Read more »

The Story Of The Pill

How a Crash Program Developed an Efficient Oral Contraceptive in Less Than a Decade

A good beginning for this story is a meeting in early 1951 of three remarkable people—the greatest feminist of our age, a great philanthropist who was as notably eccentric as she was fantastically wealthy, and a biological scientist whose subsequent world fame was achieved in large part because of this meeting. Would that it could be described in circumstantial detail and invested with the drama it should have in view of what followed from it. Read more »

Books We Think You’ll Like

Ernest Hemingway and His World

by Anthony Burgess Charles Scribner’s Sons, 144 pages, photographs, $10.95 Read more »