A Postcard from OTMA

  The Romanov princesses referred to themselves as OTMA, the first letters of each of their names. Their mother did her best to treat them and make them appear as a oneness — a group of girls, rather than individuals. They were dressed alike and often even referred to by their names. This postcard shows how close they were. In the hopes for a boy, the four princesses were born in quick succession. The girls were the most photographed princesses in the world and a major public and private disappointment. They grew up in opulence and extravagance that is almost unrivaled. Yet there...

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Tattoo Comb

    There are traditions of tattooing women and girls all over the world. Usually, tattoos mark the time of transition from girlhood to womanhood, just after puberty. And for females, it seems that the placement of the tattoos are in very visible and sensitive parts of the body: the chin, lips, forehead, fingers and abdomen. One of the largest and most intense is the malu from Samoa. The malu covers the legs from just under the bottom to the tops of the knees. This traditional tattooing comb was made in Samoa by an unknown tufuga tatatau (tattooing expert). Tattooing in Samoa is...

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Suffragettes Defaced Penny

  When you think of suffragettes, what comes to mind? Women picketing in front of the white house, holding signs and wearing purple sashes. A young woman stepping in front of a horse, willingly sacrificing herself in order to bring attention to the cause. Defacing cultural sites, such as The Rokeby Venus (a painting in the National Gallery) or a mummy case in teh British Museum. Secret meetings, whispered rumors, and late night speeches hurriedly delivered before the police could arrive. Scenes from a movie, to be sure. Yet the true power of suffragettes wasn’t their most public...

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30 August 2017: Cowards All

“If you see something, say something.” This phrase has been plastered all over subways, busses, airports, and other public places around the world since September 11, 2001. We see it so often, we have become numb to it. Because we see things everyday that are outrageous, intolerable, and demanding action, it has become the norm, and most people do nothing. Oh, yeah, we do something—we get out our phones. Not to make a phone call to the police or security or emergency services, but to record. We have become a society of documentarians rather than humanitarians. It fulfills the social...

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Less than a micromini: Cache-sexe Zulu

  What if you could tell your gender age and marital status just from your clothes? Well, in most cultures, you can. What we wear tells the rest of our communities what our exactly place is within it. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, modesty norms are very different to those prescribed to Western cultures. Wearing next to nothing in such a hot climate is not a sign of promiscuity, but garments like the cache-sexe or ‘modesty belt’ say a lot about the wearer’s culture. The term cache-sexe was used by the French, so it comes up in those areas of Africa colonized by the French. There are...

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Letter from the Editor XVII

Dear Reader, We live in a world of extremes. On one side, a young girl bows to thank a stranger for a kindness, and on the other she is raped, refused an abortion, and gives birth at the age of 10. The depravity and degradation of the negative acts seem to grow each day, as do the generosity and compassion of the positive ones. This issue will find you wondering why girls continue to be the targets of such extremes of human behavior. Let us hope there is a middle path. With Strength and Hope, -Ashley E Remer Editor Girl News International To view the latest issue of Girl News International,...

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A Postcard from Tubo’u

  Postcards were popular ways for photographers to share images of Empire back to the home country. The cabinet card style of portraiture became fashionable from about 1870. Images of colonized landscapes and people helped those back home to take ownership and believe they had a bit of understanding of faraway places and cultures. Very often, it was young women or girls who were photographed to demonstrate the perceived vulnerability and exotic, coquettish ways of the colonies. These females become unknown symbols of submission. But least we know her name—Tubo’u. Here, she is...

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School Rewards

  In the Victorian period boys were more important than girls, were taught different lessons and so achieved more. Or did they? Before camera phones, Instagram, and snapchat having your photograph taken was a big deal. You would have visited a professional photographer’s studio, worn your best clothes and stood completely still for the long minutes it took for a photograph to be taken in the 1800’s. Photographs were very expensive to have taken and so you would only have had one done for a special occasion such as a marriage, christening, or to celebrate an achievement. This photograph...

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Fashion for Young Ladies in 1883

  Flipping through the pages of a magazine in the grocery check-out line, you would expect to see a variety of articles, including pages about the latest fashion trends. With summer vacation coming to an end in many parts of the world, magazines for teenage girls are filled with tips for putting together back-to-school outfits. Even in the 1880s, girls sought out magazines for fashion advice. This print is from an 1883 edition of the Young Ladies’ Journal, on loan to the Rijksmuseum from the M.A. Ghering-van Ierlant Collection. The girls in the image are showing off a variety of...

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Arab Girls Carrying Water

  Hidden away in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is this photograph of three young Arab girls carrying water jugs. Taken sometime in the 1880s, we don’t know who made it, where it was taken, or who these girls are. Yet it says so much, both of these girls and their descendants. Victorian era Westerners had a fascination with new cultures. As technology and transportation advanced, access to cultures like those of the Middle East was growing. It was easier to travel and explore the world, and photography ensured that you could document your travels and those you...

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Cotton Picking Girls

  One day, Winslow Homer visited Petersburg, Virginia, and decided to study the life of rural African Americans. At a time when the South was still recovering from the Civil War, and the legacy of slavery was fresh in everyone’s minds, Homer sought to portray African Americans as heroic survivors looking forward to a full life of hope and success. Boy, was he wrong. Critics look at this painting and praise it. They hail Homer – a white American painter – as “the first artist to have seen the possibilities of this untapped subject matter.” Even LACMA, where the painting is...

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Apache Doll

  Getting your first period is a big deal for girls. Imagine if your entire community knew about it? Some of us grew up in a world of privacy and shame around menstruation and puberty in general, while others celebrate this life-changing event with friends and family. This relatively simple doll, made of cotton and dressed in buckskin and beads, was used by the Apache to teach girls about the rite of passage to womanhood. This is typically marked by a celebration the summer after a girl’s first period. Called the Na’ii’ees, or the Sunrise Ceremony, girls go through a rigorous four day...

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Geisha Netsuke

  Did you know it takes years of training to be a geisha? And that geisha means artist? Geisha and their world are very mysterious. That is part of the charm. However, it’s complicated and somewhat confused history means that geisha are quite misunderstood. This female dominated industry does provide means for women to achieve great wealth and independence. And in some instances and eras, their role was highly valued. As professional entertainers though, their role was often conflated with courtesans and prostitutes. And part of their training was to be seen and not heard....

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Margaret and the Curious Case of the Doll House Contract

  This has to be one of the most unusual dollhouse artifacts I have ever seen. You read me right. This rather unusual document is about a girl and her dollhouse. Written in 1837, it is a contract between Mr. Thomas Massa Alsager, a journalist from Queen’s Square in London, and his eldest daughter, Margaret, who was then just 12 years old. The contract details the care of Margaret’s doll house, and places it firmly in the family’s parlour – one of the most public rooms of the house. It suggests that not only was Margaret’s dollhouse actively played with, it was displayed for all of...

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Rebekah’s Sampler

  For decades, young girls created a sampler to show their skills and knowledge. This particular sampler features a variety of scenes, decorative elements, and text embroidered onto the fabric. A product like this was equivalent to today’s final exam or essay at the end of a school year. What does this sampler tell us about Rebeckah Munro, and other girls who grew up during the late 18th century? Rebekah was 11 years old when she completed this embroidery project. The verses that Rebekah chose to include on her sampler indicate that she, and likely her parents, valued education. It...

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Qing Girls

  A young girl made of bronze, holding an object we can’t identify, pleading with us to call her by name. That seems to be the story of so many girls in Qing China, the last imperial dynasty of an ancient land. The Qing dynasty lasted from 1644 until 1912, becoming known as a multicultural empire that formed the basis for modern China. Yet it was a rigid society, known for its strict class hierarchy and the oppression of women. Like this nameless girl, many girls in the Qing dynasty were expected to be silent. Though educated, it was only so that they could take their place as teachers...

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Mughal Album Leaf: A Heroine Unnamed

  Look at this girl. What is she doing? Riding away from the wind? Calling it to follow her? This girl, like many in Mughal India, is a heroine. She is calling to quicksilver, a precious metal in the Mughal empire, and using her beauty to draw it out into the world. Her pose and gesture are dynamic and assertive, something we don’t typically associate with women of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is wearing a multicolored sari, known as a chunris. Yet beneath this image are mysteries. Who is she, and why was she so powerful that she could call quicksilver? And why would she be calling...

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The First Day of School

  Many of us have a memory of a first day of school. Whether donning a backpack filled with crayons and glue for preschool, hopping on the bus for the first time as a kindergarten student, or entering the intimidating halls of high school as a 9th grader, the first day of school can be a big deal! How do we hold on to those memories? In my experience, my mom often snapped a photo to commemorate the first day of school – something that we could look back on to see how much I grew from year to year, or to laugh at the 1990s fashion. What was the first day of school like before there...

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The Marriage of Mary Stuart

  The bride shown here is only 9 years old. Her name is Mary Stuart. Born in November of 1631, Mary was the eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. At the age of 9, she married William II, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the United Provinces. Mary and her mother moved to the Dutch Republic, where she was taught the ways of Dutch court. It’s clear that Mary and Charles did not have a sexual relationship until late in their marriage. Just before William’s death in 1650, they had an infant son. Mary shared...

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A Virginal and a Queen

  Do you play the piano? What about the harpsichord? Have you heard of a virginal before? If you haven’t, you’re not alone, but virginals used to be common household instruments, and anyone who was anyone had one. Virginals are in the same family of instruments as the harpsichord. And though harpsichords look very similar to pianos and are played in the same way, the way they make sounds are different. While pianos produce sound by striking the strings with a hammer, the strings in harpsichords and virginals are plucked. The placement of the keyboard determines where the...

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Sofonisba’s Self-Portrait

  When you think of Renaissance painters, who do you name? Probably Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci…all men. Yet women were a huge part of the Renaissance – and traditional art history has yet to do them justice. During the Renaissance, art was a social necessity. It helped to guide a largely illiterate population with spiritual guidance and new ideas. One of the painters who used art to educate was Sofonisba Anguissola – a woman. Sofonisba was born in Cremona, Italy, in 1532. Her father was a minor noble, and encouraged her to develop her talents in the arts....

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Lover’s Cassone

  Made between 1345 and 1354, a cassone, or marriage chest, was an important part of a girl’s bedroom. Telling a story of romance and beautifully decorated, this cassone was a high status symbol for rich merchants and aristocrats in Italy. It was also one of the most important pieces of furniture on display in the home, typically in the bridal suite. A girl was given the cassone during her wedding, as a gift from her parents. Since it was for marriage, the cassoni was decorated with painted panels commemorating marriage or allegorically referring to love. The one shown here was most...

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Mexica Chicomecoatl and the Maiden

  The Aztecs are famous for the human sacrifices…and these included girls. Every autumnal equinox, a young girl was chosen to personify the maize goddess. She was sacrificed by the Mexica priests, who decapitated her, collected her blood, and poured it over a figurine of the goddess. This object is the maize goddess, called Chicomecoatl, and was likely used in such ceremonies. She is the spirit of corn and sustenance, and was the most revered deity in Central Mexico. Chicomecoatl wears a feathered headdress, and her body and clothing are painted red – or, perhaps, stained...

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The Tale of Sumiyoshi

  From rom coms to stacks of romantic paperbacks, we love a good love story. For many, our first experience with a love story may have been the story of Cinderella. But the Cinderella-style story has been around since long before Disney released their famous animated version in 1950. Cinderella stories were very popular in the Heian and Kamakura periods in Japan. This artifact is an example of that – a thirteenth century illustration telling The Tale of Sumiyoshi on a beautifully drawn handscroll. The story was likely created in the tenth century by an anonymous author. The piece...

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The Lewis Chessman…and the Woman who Created Them

  The Lewis Chessmen are one of the most famous sets of chess pieces in the world. Prominently displayed at The British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, these pieces have been publicized as being made in Norway by men. But that’s probably not the truth. The Lewis Chessmen are 93 gaming pieces found in the vicinity of Uig on the Isle of Lewis around 1831. The pieces include 78 chessmen, 14 tables-men, and a buckle to secure a bag. All are made of elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales’ teeth to form the shapes of kings, queens, bishops, knights on their mounts, standing...

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