Elevate Difference

Women of Our Time: 75 Portraits of Remarkable Women

Opening Women of Our Time, I expected to find glossy photos of Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, and other names and faces I recognized. While I found summaries of the lives of Roosevelt and Monroe beside typical portraits, I also found glowing descriptions and realistically unflattering pictures of women whose names I had never heard or whose faces I had never seen. Among the familiar list of names and unfamiliar faces were Margaret Sanger, pioneer of birth control rights; Anne Sexton, a poet who wrote with heart-gripping emotionality; and Pearl S. Buck, whose works I had read in high school with little context. Among the women whose stories had been hidden to me until now were Rosalyn Yalow, a medical physicist who made in-roads into male-dominated fields; Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a post in the U.S. Cabinet; and Zitkala-Sa Bonnin (also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), an author and activist for Native American rights.

As broad and deep as the selection of featured women is, my only complaint is also about the selection. While a number of black, white, Asian and Native American writers, artists, activists, politicians and scientists are featured, nearly all of the subjects whose fame was acquired outside of the arts are white. The inclusion of Congresswoman and lawyer Barbara Jordan and Vietnam War Memorial architect Maya Lin is heartening, but surely a broad survey of ground-breaking women in the 20th century could offer a more inclusive pallet.

Written by: Jaclyn Barbarow, August 31st 2007