Shards of Stained Glass

  These pieces of stained glass are so small, you would think that their story was just as small. But it isn’t. It started like any other day. September 15, 1963, dawned clear and bright on the town of Birmingham, Alabama. A racially divided town known for violent resistance to segregation, it was a God-fearing southern place. Folks got up and dressed for Sunday service, heading to the churches that were the pillars of their community. At one Baptist church on 16th Street, young girls gathered for Sunday school. Four of the girls gathered in the ladies’ lounge in the basement. They were...

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Molly Grows Up, and other awkward discussions of puberty

  Do you know why women menstruate? Do you know what the word menstruation means? If your primary source of sex education came from American “educational” films from the 1940s-1960s, you probably have only a vague idea about most things related to sex and puberty. Released in 1953, the short film Molly Grows Up is one such video. While it may or may not have been designed to put young girls’ minds at ease regarding their first period, it is lacking much in the way of medical facts. Molly’s story is told by the school nurse (who also might be a family friend–the...

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Liberated Lesbians: Ruth Mountaingrove

  Look at her. I wonder if she’s smiling behind the camera. If she burst out laughing with her companion after they snapped photos of one another. I wonder what her name is, and whether this was where she called her true home. She was probably a lesbian. Though we don’t know who she or the artist of this photo was, this image comes to us from the Ruth Mountaingrove papers held by the University of Oregon. And that origin says a lot. Ruth Mountaingrove (1923 – 2016) was a photographer, writer, poet, and artist who moved to Oregon in 1971. She joined the community of Mountain Grove,...

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Rucksack to Freedom

  Despite seeing images all over the news of refugee children, it is still very hard for us imagine what it would be like to have to leave your home, your family, your country. To get on a train or a boat, not knowing where you are going but suspecting that you may never see your family again. This was the situation for thousands of Jewish children who left central Europe before the start of WWII. This was called the Kindertransport. There have been many occurrences of unaccompanied minors being sent away from conflict zones for their own good, to save their lives. Around 10,000...

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BDM Girls

  Before it became law in 1939, there were tens of thousands of girls signed up to the Hitler Youth organisations. The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel [BDM]) was the female section of the Hitler Youth founded in 1930. The purpose of BDM was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime. This was a clever government program to create generations of girls dedicated to Nazism, being dutiful housewives, whose primary purpose within society was to become a mother. The roles of girls and the women they would become was completely designed and proscribed by...

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Marina Ginestà on a Rooftop

  In July 1936, a young woman stood on the roof of the Placa de Catalunya hotel in Barcelona, Spain. She was just 17, yet the rifle she carried and the defiantly optimistic look on her face would ensure her name went down in history. The young woman was Marina Ginestà. She was born in Toulouse, France, to a working class family, and moved to Spain at the age of 11. Sometime in the next six years, she joined the Unified Socialist Party, a communist political party that wanted to defend the middle classes against land seizures. When civil war broke out in Spain, Marina served as a...

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Binding Girls

  Girls have literally always been under the control of their parents, extended families, communities, and governments. Their minds and bodies being policed at all times. The most extreme example of this is the Chinese practice of foot binding. Thought to have begun around 900 CE, the earliest evidence of footbinding comes from around 1240 and it persisted until the early 20th century, despite being made illegal in the 17th. The most shocking aspect of foot binding, beyond the horrific images of actual bound feet, is the devotion chinese women had to continuing the practice that hobbled...

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Child Labor in Baltimore, Maryland, 1909

  Barefoot children sitting on crates or standing in the dirt. Young boys and girls together, some smiling, some not even looking at the camera. In this written description, different images might come to mind. Some people might picture a group of kids playing a game in the backyard during the summer break from school. The photograph above tells a very different story, yet still fits the description. Following the industrial revolution, factories began popping up in cities throughout the United States and Europe. These factories required laborers and factory owners did not want to pay...

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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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