Lorraine Hansberry

30 03 2010

A Women’s Firsts blurb (part of an ongoing series):


The first African American woman to have her play produced on Broadway was Lorraine Hansberry. The production was A Raisin in the Sun and the year was 1959. Written from her own past experiences, the production earned her the New York Drama Critics Circle Award of Best Play for which she was the youngest American playwright to receive the honor, only the fifth woman to do so and the first African American woman.

Hansberry died at the young age of 34. In her short life, she worked not only as a significant playwright but also as an activist. She spoke openly about racism and oppression and pursued Civil Rights for all people, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

Though she was married to a man for part of her adult life, Hansberry also dated women. Her interest in the intersectionality of gay rights and the progression of women’s rights in particular led her to the lesbian organization the Daughters of Bilitis. In a 1957 letter to their publication The Ladder, Hansberry expressed:

“I think it is about time that equipped women began to take on some of the ethical questions which a male-dominated culture has produced and dissect and analyze them quite to pieces in a serious fashion”

She looked specifically at the connections among misogyny and homophobia, going on to write:

“There may be women to emerge who will be able to formulate a new and possible concept that homosexual persecution and condemnation has at its roots not only social ignorance, but a philosophically active anti-feminist dogma.”

The little I’ve learned about Lorraine Hansberry is not enough. I am looking to her for the courage I need when I’m forming my voice.

I plan on reading more about her as soon as I find a good book – if you have any particular recommendations – please let me know in the comments!


Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick

21 03 2010

Last year I picked up a great read at a local used bookstore: Women’s Firsts edited by Caroline Zilboorg and Susan B. Gall. This is a hardback, heavy resource full of all sorts of interesting things women have done throughout global history.

Every once in a while, I will post tidbits of info from this book so check back.

If you know of any women’s firsts – please comment!


Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick

Born in 1893, Broadwick was the first woman to free-fall parachute – she jumped out of a plane at 1000 feet over Los Angeles in 1913 and lived to tell the tale. She eventually made over 1100 jumps, saying:

“I was never afraid. I’d go up any time, any place. The only thing I hated was getting back to earth so quickly.”

In 1914, Broadwick was the first person to demonstrate parachuting to the U.S. Army. Wearing a parachute pack newly designed to fit on a person’s back, she performed several jumps for the military. Through the course of the demonstration, she modified the operation to reduce risk of injury (her line tangled on her 3rd or 4th jump, sources are conflicting). Parachuting jumps previously involved using a static line which ensured parachute deployment upon immediate departure from the aircraft – but being attached to a physical line heightened the risk of injury during the fall. For her fifth jump in front of the military, Broadwick cut the line (allowing her to open the parachute manually) and thus was the first person ever to do a premeditated free fall jump from an airplane!

Totally awesome.

Remembering those I never met, ones who helped many

14 03 2010

Honoring 3 amazing women who lost their lives in the January Haiti earthquake: Myriam Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan. Ambassadors of justice, they were honored on March 8 (International Women’s Day) across the globe, including at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Here’s more info on who they were, how they helped in this world and how they were honored recently:

Madre Press Room: Women Worldwide Will Honor the Lives of Feminist Leaders Who Died in Haiti’s Earthquake

An excerpt from MADRE.ORG:

“All three leaders had a long standing trajectory in feminist activism reforming a judiciary that never took rape seriously, creating organizations and houses to protect girls and women against domestic violence and trafficking, publishing a feminist newspaper, expanding a documentary center and an historical archive, and struggling for the protection of sexual and reproductive rights.”