Ladd Girl

  She seems so happy. Both of them do, actually. They look like any two schoolgirls, having a laugh in the hallway. But that’s not just any school. The young girl in this photograph was a member of the Ladd School for the Retarded in the 1980s. She was mentally handicapped in some way, though we don’t know her name or her full story. She represents a history of young girls with mental or physical disabilities whose stories go back thousands of years, yet remain silent and hidden. The first mention of intellectual disabilities dates to 1552 BCE, when the Egyptians noted that they left...

read more

Girls’ Circumcision Headdress

  This headdress was worn by a Maasai girl less than fifty years ago. Native to southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, the Maasai are a semi-nomadic people, known for living alongside animals and an aversion to eating game and birds. Because of their lifestyle, East Africa is now home to some of the continent’s finest game areas and wildlife refuges. The Maasai are also a strong patriarchal culture, led by a group of elder men and a full body of oral law. Their lives center on cattle, which are their primary food and currency, and they – unlike many other Africans – have...

read more

Pants for Protest

    For centuries, it was a taboo for European and American girls and women to wear pants – until the 1970s. Crocheting, knitting, sewing – the art of crafting your own clothes goes back ages and was very common during most of the 20th century. Most girls learned about needlework since they were little. For them, it was no big deal to sew a dress or crochet a bonnet – a typical day’s work. So it was probably not a big challenge for a girl to create these beautiful bright colored pants in the 1970s in Europe. She used different types of yarn and wool to create her pants; she was...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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,...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest