Daughters Who Make the First Ladies Proud

| By Debra Kirby |

Mother’s Day is less than a month away.  Talking with a colleague and fellow mother recently, we both made the observation that the occasion has become less about honoring our own mothers (who are no longer with us), but about our daughters. Neither of us can recall when that focus changed for us, but we both agreed that we are happy to be mothers of beautiful, accomplished, caring daughters and that we survived the often challenging and sometimes turbulent teen years.

This conversation was fresh in my mind when I volunteered to review and update the overview article for Chelsea Clinton in Gale’s Biography In Context, which naturally led to thoughts of how much more challenging it would be to raise a daughter amidst the often unrelenting coverage of the presidential family. Former First Ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama all successfully raised daughters under these conditions. Here are just a few examples that would make any mother proud:

  • In 2009, outgoing twin first daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote a charming letter to the incoming Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, with heartfelt advice about living in the White House fishbowl.  Eight years later, they wrote a second letter about adjusting to a post-White House life. [Read the article]
  • Chelsea Clinton’s touching speech introducing her mother as the Democratic Presidential candidate at the DNC last summer is high on my list of favorite first daughter examples, but there are many more such moments and accomplishments from which to choose, including her advocacy work on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and other organizations and causes, and of course becoming a parent herself! [View all of the Chelsea Clinton resources available through Biography In Context]

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Running Like a Girl

| By Debra Kirby |

Anyone remember when phrases like “You run like a girl!” were considered insults? Not anymore! I love when power is claimed by turning what is meant to be a negative into a positive. Two recent events are inspiring me right now:

  • My 9-year-old granddaughter has joined her school’s Girls on the Run program, which will culminate in a 5K Run (“Not a race, Nana” says Grace) in June.
  • Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon 50 years ago, ran it again this year – at the age of 70!

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The Greatest Resistance Stories

| By Debra Kirby |

In honor of Holocaust Month, which is observed in the United States in April, I’m sharing a few of my current reads and older favorites related to World War II resistance groups and individuals. With a background like mine—a lifelong interest in World War II history, French and Polish grandparents, and a tendency toward activism—stories about WWII resistance in Europe have long attracted my interest. Below are a few of my current and longtime favorites, as well as recommendations on which Gale databases you can visit to learn more about WWII resistance.

 Recent Nonfiction Favorites:

The Resistance, 1940: An Anthology of Writings from the French Underground translated and annotated by Charles B. Potter (2016). This fascinating first person accounting of four French Resistance fighters, including national heroes Jean Moulin and Germaine Tillion, would make an excellent primary source student resource.

The Zoo Keeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (2007) chronicles the experiences of Polish citizens Antonina and Jan Zabinski and their sheltering of Jews on the grounds of the Warsaw Zoo. A movie based on the book and starring Jessica Chastain premiered in Warsaw in early March.

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WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

| By Traci Cothran |

How wonderful is it that following the release of the movie “Hidden Figures,” the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson are now known by millions?  Their collective story is an impressive and important one, yet it’s a part of our history that’s been concealed for decades.

What other significant contributions by women are also shielded from view?  It’s a joy to uncover these gems, and allow them to inspire other women and girls today.  To me, that’s what Women’s History Month is all about—shining a light on the often overlooked contributions made by women throughout history.

Here are just a few, randomly chosen women from today and yesterday whose work and lives are notable.  You’ll find them all in Biography In Context, among other Gale resources.  As you read about them, you’re bound to discover other interesting women, too!

Maria Tallchief – (1925-2013) Tallchief was the first American-born woman to achieve prima ballerina status at a major dance company; she was also a member of the Osage Nation.  She’s featured this month in Research In Context.

Zora Neale Hurston – (1891-1960) A writer and major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston is a favorite of mine, for both her wonderful writing and her ability to live an unconventional life for women of her era.

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Wosets, Wockets and Waskets

The wild, wacky and wonderful world of Dr. Seuss has been the salvation of many an exhausted parent who, ready to call it a night, succumbs to their child’s plaintive cry for just one more bedtime story. The easy rhyming flow in Dr. Seuss stories always made it easy for me to read just a little longer.  There’s a Wocket in my Pocket was a favorite of both my daughters, who could recite word for word, page by page well before they were able to read – providing an opportunity for a little fun with unsuspecting relatives and friends who were amazed at how advanced my 3-year-old girls were.

I’ve been fortunate enough to continue to enjoy Dr. Seuss through my grandchildren and various mentoring programs through the years. The student I’m currently mentoring is a second grader who says Dr. Seuss is her favorite author, and Green Eggs and Ham her favorite book, though we recently both found Fox in Sox a little trying.

In honor of the National Education Association’s Read Across America, which kicks off on March 2, and is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I decided to learn a little more about the Pulitzer Prize winning author, whose real name was Theodor Geisel. There are many interesting and some surprising facts to be found in Gale databases. Here are a few:

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Marching into History

By Debra Kirby

I have always admired the brave men and women who, throughout history, have taken a stand for their rights and the rights of others, often at significant inconvenience and sometimes risking their lives. Saturday, January 21, I had a chance to be part of history by participating in the Woman’s March on Washington. Fortunately, the inconvenience for me was not significant, nor was there any risk to my life. It was an exhilarating experience to be among so many people who took the time and traveled from sometimes great distances – including other countries – to stand up for the rights of women, minorities, and the environment. Here are a few of my observations on the experience:

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Hidden No Longer

By Debra Kirby

Sometimes it takes a critically acclaimed movie to shine a light on extraordinary achievements. This has proved to be especially true when the subjects of those achievements are women or members of minorities. The movie Hidden Figures, based on a book of the same name, has recently generated interest in three African American women who played important roles in the U.S. Apollo Space Program. As is often the case, once you start digging into the details around historic events or people, you discover many related interesting facts and stories. When your sources include Gale databases you can spend hours exploring and learning.

Here are some of the facts I found when I began my journey to learn more about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—the fascinating women whose stories are told in Hidden Figures.

  • Katherine Johnson began her career as a “human computer” at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor. Before the age of electronic computers, NACA employed hundreds of women mathematicians as human computers. Men with similar qualifications were classified as professionals; women were sub-professionals. Black mathematicians were segregated in their own office and loaned out to various divisions as needed. (Read more about Johnson in Biography In Context.)

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Winter in Michigan—It Could Be Worse!

By Debra Kirby What do winter in Michigan, the Detroit Zoo, and the “greatest survival story of all time” have in common?  Answer: The Shackleton Endurance Exhibit that runs through the end of the year at the Detroit Zoo, one of my favorite local hang outs—with or without kids in tow. I visited the exhibit … Read more…

How Well Do You Know Your Presidents?

By Traci Cothran

Who served as both Vice President and President of the United States, without having earned a single vote in the election?

Gerald Ford, that’s who!

museum1
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Last week I traveled to Grand Rapids, MI, and visited The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. During this 2016 election season, it was a breath of fresh air to wander amidst all the exhibition reminders of Ford’s “character,” “integrity,” “teamwork,” and how he “led by example” – detailing his life from his days as a Boy Scout, to college football player, to Navy man, and into his long career in government.

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Fun, New Ways to Celebrate Book Lover’s Day

By Tara Blair

Readers rejoice—Book Lovers Day (August 9th) is here, encouraging you to kick back and relax with a great book. From shaded spots under arching trees to being tucked in a warm bed, there is no better way to celebrate the holiday than reading. To keep you from growing tired of the norm, we thought of a few ‘out-of-the-box’ ways to honor the occasion.

Read some new ways to observe the classic holiday! 

Find a Literary Haunt Near You
Did you know F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented Oak Bar in New York City’s Plaza Hotel? Or that Victor Hugo found inspiration to write Les Miserables while strolling Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens? No matter where in the world you reside, you can find a great place to get closer to your favorite author while reading.

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