Category Archives: History

Faye Emerson, first queen of talk shows

fayeemerson1During the Great White Male Host Dance-off of 2014-15, people complained that no women were named as successors to any of the major late-night shows. Now we have Sam Bee and Chelsea Handler, and decades ago we had Joan Rivers, but she wasn’t the first. That crown goes to Faye Emerson, who was more than the first female late-night host; she was the queen of early television.

If you think women aren’t taken seriously as late night candidates now, consider 1950. It was post-war America, the men were home and the women were expected to resume their careers as mothers, housewives, or perhaps teachers and secretaries if they were really bold.

Enter Faye Emerson. Born on July 8, 1917, she was first an actress in war dramas and other hard-boiled movies of the 1930s and 40s. After she married the President’s son, Elliott Roosevelt, she was thrust into publicity opportunities like interviewing Stalin during a trip to the Soviet Union. When she appeared on a game show in 1949 with her husband, she was so smart and witty she felt she had to apologize on-air for upstaging him. Her talent was noticed, however, because she received an offer for her own CBS show later that year. While doing that show, she also signed with NBC for the Faye Emerson Show, making her the first woman with two simultaneous shows on television.  She could talk pearls or politics, and her habit of wearing evening gowns with plunging necklines earned her the tag of “The High I.Q. in the Low-cut Gown.” Her next show would be a travelogue, Faye Emerson’s Wonderful Town, showcasing cities around the country in 1952.

faye2After her divorce from Roosevelt, Emerson announced her upcoming marriage to entertainer Skitch Henderson on-air, something that simply wasn’t done back then. She and her new husband teamed up for their own show, Faye and Skitch, in 1953. Not only did she have her own programs, she was the go-to person for panels and substitute host duties. She occasionally covered for Edward R. Murrow on his show, Person to Person, and for Garry Moore as well.  While she could be the ultimate glamorous TV presenter, she also showed America she had a brain, discussing civil rights, unions, blacklisting and women’s rights, and debating conservative personalities like William F. Buckley. She was so well-known to audiences that she garnered the nickname of “Mrs. Television.”

Emerson’s thoughtful opinions, quick mind and lessening coyness earned her many detractors, who brought up her looks and curves often in an effort to demean her and diminish her role as a social commentator.

As television shifted from talk shows to pure entertainment ,Emerson took her leave from the glowing box in everyone’s living room in the 1960s and spent a well-earned retirement in Europe, where social views were more forgiving. She ended up in Majorca, Spain, where she passed away in 1983. Today her name is largely forgotten, but her legacy lives on in people like Barbara Walters, Lesley Stahl, Rachael Maddow, and Oprah Winfrey, along with so many others. Below is one of the few remaining episodes of Emerson’s show. At the 6:30 mark, she interviews William Cimillo, a bus driver who abandoned his route and drove to Florida, becoming a folk hero along the way. Enjoy.

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Filed under girl power, History, pop culture, Television, women

Star Trek and Wonder Woman join newest girl geek trend in makeup

startrekmac

It all started with Star Wars.

That’s not quite true, but you can’t beat a beginning in a galaxy far, far away. Geek-themed makeup started popping up a few years ago in small boutique-style lines like Doctor Who Nail Polish. The first time geek-themed make-up went mainstream, however, was with the Star Wars Makeup collection by Covergirl, to celebrate the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Now a new force awakens, because the geek makeup trend has stretched to the final frontier and the pages of DC. The Star Trek MAC Collection will debut this summer, inspired by some of the franchise’s most memorable women: Uhura, Deanna Troi, Seven of Nine and Vina the Orion, smart choices that cover the majority of color palettes. The collection includes lip, eye and foundation products, and will be available before the official 50th Anniversary of Trek kicks off in September.

Hitting stores even sooner is a Wonder Woman-themed makeup collection, available in May and exclusively at Walgreens. The colors are brighter and very affordable; in the photo posted at Fashionably Geek, the Strawberry Empower-mint lip balm will go for $2.99 while the bronzer & highlighter will cost approximately $7.

It’s easy to get excited over these products, until you remember the #wheresrey grassroots campaign complaining about the lack of Rey action figures and toys, and wonder if the people in product development thought makeup would be enough to satisfy girl geeks. It’s not, obviously, because we want all kinds of products for all kinds of geek girls. Some wear makeup and cute TARDIS dresses, others wear jeans and roomy graphics tees. But the wide variety has even non-makeup enthusiasts thinking about purchasing a set, especially that oh-so-collectible Wonder Woman makeup bag. Besides, every geek girl is entitled to a bit of color. Even the Night Witches, the feared Russian female pilots who bombed nighttime Germany in World War II, gussied themselves up by using their navigation pencils on their lips.

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Filed under Comics, History, pop culture, women

Woman-themed coloring books for International Women’s Day

colorfulwomeninhistoryWomen’s History Month kicked off with a bang of the gavel, thanks to SheKnows‘ Ruth Bader Ginsburg coloring book. Since today is International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate by highlighting more coloring books fueled by girl power!

Dover Publishing has a fantastic selection of women’s history coloring books. Famous Women Aviators features 44 women of air and space like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride, while Famous African-American Women showcases Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, and more. There’s also Famous American Women, covering Susan B. Anthony to Oprah Winfrey; Famous Women of the Civil War; America’s First Ladies; and, for a bit of swagger,  Pirate Queens: Notorious Women of the Sea. Color in famous female pirates like Huang P’ei-mei,who had a fleet populated with 50,000 plunderers who answered only to her, and you’ll have a sudden urge to wear a sword and an eyepatch to your next office meeting.

On Etsy, you’ll find Coloring Outside the Kitchen,  a hand-created labor of love created by teacher/librarian/artist Casey Landau, which rounds up a host of outstanding women, including Annie Oakley, first African-American female millionaire Madame C.J. Walker, artist Frida Kahlo and many more.

Author and illustrator Lisa Graves has created her own coloring books on Amazon: Colorful Women in History and The Witches. Both celebrate the true stories of women’s triumphs and challenges through the ages. Want something in a different size? Try Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace, a fun, body-positive coloring book by Theo Nicole Lorenz which shows women kicking butt and taking names in the final frontier.

 

 

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Filed under Books, History, pop culture, Space, Uncategorized, women

Celebrating Helen Malsed, toy inventor

slinkydogNo matter what decade you blasted through childhood, you know the work of Helen Herrick Malsed. She was an innovator and inventor with a knack for listening to children, and her work continues to charm the kid in everyone.

The Slinky was already a popular toy in the 1950s, but Helen overheard her young son wondering aloud how it would look with wheels and went to work planning a prototype. She pitched her pull toy idea through the mail to James Industries, who loved it and made the Slinky Dog and the Slinky Train into a reality. After decades as a staple of playrooms across the country, her pull toy doggie achieved animation superstardom when he was included in the “Toy Story” movies. “Slink” was introduced to new generations of kids, making him just as loved by six-year-olds today as he was nearly sixty years ago when he first appeared on the shelves.

malsedpatentMalsed was a college dropout, forced to quit her education when her father went bankrupt during the Great Depression. She had a sharp, creative mind, and even though she followed the traditional path of marriage, children and homemaking in the 1950s, that intellectual talent bubbled forth.

“She was always thinking up things,” her son said in Malsed’s Seattle Times obituary. “She was just exceptionally creative and an incredible speller and grammarian. She read every inch of print, even the classifieds, in both Seattle papers every day.”

In total, Malsed created over two dozen toys and games, including Fisher-Price Snap-Lock Beads and many other toys for different companies. According to varying reports, she earned approximately $1 million from her ideas, was the major reason James Industries expanded operations numerous times, and it all began with an idea in the mail.

Malsed passed away on this day in 1998 at the age of 88, but her legacy lives on.

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Tip of the Hat to James Tiptree, Jr.

tiptreeJames Tiptree Jr. was a science fiction author in the 1960s and 1970s but the author wasn’t a junior, a Tiptree or even a James. That was the male pen name for Alice B. Sheldon, who was born this day in Chicago, 1915. Sheldon was a well-traveled child who, by age seven, racked up a trip to Africa in her life experiences. She went on to write, paint, earn a degree in experimental psychology, conduct photo-intelligence for the Army Air Forces and later join the CIA.

That list alone would make her notable, especially since women’s right to vote was newly awarded in 1920 and society still expected women to stay at home and tend to their families until the labor shortages during World War II.  Sheldon had written columns and reviews occasionally, but she wanted to delve deeper into the science fiction world. That world was mainly written by men. She knew she would face gender bias and she wanted success more than attention, so she picked her new last name from the label on a marmalade jar and constructed her new identity. As Tiptree, she wrote tech-savvy, hard sci-fi short stories, and was seen as a man’s man with a keen sense into the woman’s mind. Since her life thus far had been comprised of typically male experiences like guns, strategy and the military, it was the only way she could follow the old literary axiom, “Write what you know.” She did, with authority and determination, and earned the respect of the science fiction field in the process, producing more than 60 short stories, novellas and novelettes. Her story “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” won a Nebula Award in 1977 and was a co-winner of the Hugo Award that same year.

Her ruse worked until 1976 when she made a comment about the passing of her mother, also a writer, and her true identity was discovered. She continued writing under the Tiptree name and an additional name, Raccoona Sheldon, until her death in 1987. Five years later, the James Tiptree,Jr. Award was created to honor her, and is presented each year for a science fiction or fantasy work that explores how the world understands gender. Although Sheldon became Tiptree because , in her words from an 1983 interview, “I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some **** occupation,” she still managed to make history and break new ground.

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Filed under Books, History, science fiction, women

Baroness de Laroche: They couldn’t take the sky away from her

baronessdelarocheNot only is this International Women’s Day, it’s a day to celebrate Elise Raymonde Deroche, also known as Baroness de Laroche. On this day in 1910, de Laroche was the first woman ever to receive a pilot’s license for an airplane.

Born in 1882 in France, she had an early passion for mechanical things, including motorcycles and cars, and took to the skies as a balloonist before the first planes came along. Her forthright manner and engineering knowledge resulted in others bestowing the title of “Baroness” to her; Baroness de Laroche took the name and flew with it, attending gatherings of aviators in places like Egypt, Hungary and Russia, where she flew in a challenging demonstration on a small aviation ground before the Czar and received his personal congratulations afterward.

“He asked what my feelings had been, and I was able to assure him that his presence in the first place, and the houses and the landing ground, which was only 30 meters wide, in the second, had brought my heart into my mouth,” she later told Colliers magazine.

Although she would later set world records in the air, she was grounded during World War I because the military believed flying was too risky for female pilots. Instead, she became a driver, often transporting officers to and from the battlefield front lines, a job that was only slightly less dangerous than flying.

After the war, de Laroche was again in her favorite place among the clouds as part of her new goal to become the first female test pilot. She died doing what she loved in 1919, when a training flight aboard an experimental craft crashed. Although she never fully realized her last goal, she still has a lofty place in aviation history and a statue in her honor at France’s Le Bourget Airport.

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Filed under aviation, History, Science, women

Dora Dougherty Day

doradoughertyIf you’re delayed in an airport on this busy Thanksgiving weekend, give a thought to Dora Dougherty and the trail she blazed for women in the skies.Born today in 1921, her life path progressed from childhood airplane fanatic to accomplished, record-holding pilot and WWII veteran.

Dougherty learned to fly in a civilian program to increase the number of trained pilots prior to the USA’s entry into World War II. In an era where women pilots were frowned upon, Dougherty took her final flight test from an instructor who wouldn’t speak to her or any female flying a plane. After scoring her license, she applied to serve as a WASP (Women’s Air Service Pilots) and was accepted in 1943; her main duties were flying drones and pulling targets until she and a fellow female pilot were the first to fly the B-29 Bomber. Dougherty was chosen because of her adaptive skills in flying any type of plane, and because most military pilots believed the B-29 would be unreliable and dangerous and men were skittish about flying the massive craft. After proving the B-29 was “so easy to fly even a woman could do it,” she went on to train many male pilots to fly it.

After the war, Dougherty continued to pursue the science behind her passion, earning her PhD in aviation education and psychology. She also saw the future in helicopters, and set two records for helicopter altitude and distance in 1961. Later on, she and her fellow WASPs fought for recognition for their wartime duty, and eventually won their military benefits.

Dougherty passed away last year, but her amazing life and ambition will inspire girls for generations to come, and reminds us all that childhood dreams do matter.

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