By John Marcotte – Lumberjanes is easily one of the best all-ages books to come to comic-book stores in ages. And while anyone can read it, it has special importance for young girls. It shows girls that they can be the hero of the story and that it is OK to be different — without ever getting preachy or heavy-handed. Far from it, the book is a blast to read and stands on its own merits as entertainment, and it doesn’t resort to using morals or message as a crutch. The fact that it is subversively empowering for girls is just a bonus.
Writers Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis have also peppered the book with references to brave women who changed the course of history — particularly women of color. It’s easy to just skim right by them, but I’ve made a game out of finding them and looking them up with my girls, who love getting “secret knowledge” about real-life kick-butt women from a group of fictional kick-butt girls.
But if you’ve already read the books, or you just want everything in one place you can use our “cheat sheet” below to see what references you might have missed.
Joan Jett (born September 22, 1958) is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and occasional actress, best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, including their hit record “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20 to May 1, 1982, as well as for their other popular recordings including “Crimson and Clover”, “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, “Do You Wanna Touch Me”, “Light of Day”, “Love is All Around” and “Bad Reputation”. She has been a feminist icon throughout her career. She is considered by the Toronto Sun as the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll. (source Wikipedia)
Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African-American descent to hold an international pilot license. Because flying schools in the U.S. denied her entry, she taught herself French and moved to France, earning her license in just seven months. Bessie specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, earning a living performing aerial tricks. (source Wikipedia)
Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She has appeared on television several times, including an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (source Wikipedia)
Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753 – December 5, 1784) was both the second published African-American poet and first published African-American woman. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.
The publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) brought her fame both in England and the American colonies. (source Wikipedia)
Gloria Jean Watkins (born September 25, 1952), better known by her pen name bell hooks, is an American author, feminist and social activist.
Watkins derived the name “bell hooks” from that of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, capitalism, and gender and what she describes as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern perspective, hooks has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism. (source Wikipedia)
Agnodice or Agnodike (c. 4th century BCE) (Gr. Ἀγνοδίκη) was the first female Athenian physician, midwife, and gynecologist, whose life was recounted by Gaius Julius Hyginus. Hyginus, who lived in the 1st century BCE, wrote about Agnodice in his Fabulae.
Before Agnodice, women were not allowed to practice medicine. For the Greeks, Agnodice trial brought changes with the Athenians law which thereby allowed women to study medicine. Agnodice’s story has also been used through the seventeenth century as a tale for midwives to defend themselves against male-dominated professions seeking to incorporate the study of medicine into childbirth. (source Wikipedia)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. A pioneer of twentieth-century music, Tharpe attained great popularity in the 30s and 40s with her gospel recordings. She became gospel music’s first crossover artist and its first great recording star.
Tharpe’s 1944 hit “Down By The Riverside” was selected for the American Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2004, with the citation stating that it captured her “spirited guitar playing” and “unique vocal style.” Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, recorded in late 1944, was the first gospel record to cross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard “race records” chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart. The recording has been cited as an important precursor of rock and roll. Tharpe has been called the Godmother of Rock n’ Roll. (source Wikipedia)
“Lay off the high ones!”
“I like the high ones!”
This bit of dialogue comes from A League of Their Own, a 1992 American comedy-drama film that tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Directed by Penny Marshall, the film stars Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna. The screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel from a story by Kelly Candaele and Kim Wilson.
In 2012, A League of Their Own was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” (source Wikipedia)
Annie Smith Peck (October 19, 1850 – July 18, 1935) was an American mountaineer. She lectured extensively for many years throughout the United States, and wrote four books encouraging travel and exploration. Peck scaled mountains into her old age, including a first ascent of one of the peaks on the five peaked Mount Coropuna in Peru in 1911.
An ardent suffragist, when she reached the top of Coropuna, Peck placed “Women’s Vote” banner on top of peak in honor of the Joan of Arc Suffrage League, of which she would become president in 1914.
In 1929–30, Peck traveled by air around South America in order to show how easy and safe it was for tourists. Her journey was the longest by air by a North American traveler at the time. In 1930, she was awarded the Decoration al Merito by Luis E. Feliú, the consulate of Chile, on behalf of the Chilean Government. (source Wikipedia)
Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist who became known around the world for important finds she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England. Her work contributed to fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. (source Wikipedia)
About the contributor
John Marcotte is a writer, TEDx Speaker and activist living in Sacramento with his two super-heroic daughters and wife. You can read more of his work at his website, Heroic Girls, which is dedicated to empowering girls by advocating for strong role models in alternative media — particularly comics.