Ankle Bracelet

    It’s pretty, this little bracelet. Looks like many bangles I see young girls wearing. Would you want to wear it? You only have to sign away your life. This ankle bracelet was worn by a girl slave in Niger. And she lived within your lifetime. Originally collected by Anti-Slavery International, it belonged to one of the girls they interviewed. Of those girls, 43% were sold between the ages of 9 and 11. 83% were slaves before their 15th birthday. Though slavery is banned in Niger, it continues due to a lack of political and legal enforcement against human trafficking. The girl was probably...

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Ana Sandoval

  Can you imagine being in high school and discovering that a mining company is coming to destroy your home? That’s what happened to Ana Sandoval, a young land rights defender in Guatemala, who dared to stand up and protect her community. As a teenager, Ana co-founded Communities in Peaceful Resistance, “La Puya,” an organization that defends indigenous land in Guatemala from US-based mining companies. When big corporations take land from indigenous people, like the land Ana and her family live on, these communities often face environmental and economic harm. So in 2012, knowing the kind of...

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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 babies...

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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 never...

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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 probably...

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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 plot,...

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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, a...

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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 children...

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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 the...

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