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1900’s

Helen Keller

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Surprise! Hellen Keller’s contributions to the world did not end after she finger signed ‘water’ to Anne Sullivan.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this already famous woman, Helen Keller was born on on June 27, 1880 with the ability to see and hear. However, at 19 months old, she became sick with what was probably scarlet fever or meningitis, which left her both deaf and blind. She was able to sign in her own way, and by the time she was seven, she had over 60 signs she used to communicate to her family. Her mother, inspired by Charles Dickinson’s writings of successfully educated deaf women, sent for a tutor and Anne Sullivan was sent to their house. Things were rough to say the least. Young Helen didn’t understand that each object had a unique word to go with it, and even became violent at times. The breakthrough came when Helen signed the word ‘water’ to Anne, and then became fanatic about knowing the names for everything.

She was subsequently educated at several colleges, and even learned to speak out loud. She ‘heard’ others speech by feeling their lips move with her hands. She used these skills to become and outspoken activist, not only for disabled people, but for birth control, and the woman’s right to vote. She traveled the world, and upon her trip to Japan, she was introduced to the Akita breed of dog. She fell in love and brought the first Akita to America. She published 12 books, many of them about her own life.

Upon her death, she was awarded  Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest awards for a civilian in the USA.

Hellen Keller was a suffragette, birth control supporter and authored 12 books in her lifetime. Her first book was published at age 11, and her subsequent book, The Story of My Life, told

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Annie Oakley

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Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Mosey, in a log cabin in 1860. Her parents were quakers, and her mother had a difficult love life. When her mother was 18, she married Annie’s father, who was a few months shy of 50. She had 9 children in quick succession, including Annie. Her father, old as he was, fought in the War of 1812, but quickly succumbed to overexposure during a blizzard and died of pneumonia shortly thereafter. Her father’s death plunged the family into poverty, and young Annie rarely went to school, going to work as a nanny for a wealthy family at age ten. The family had promised her 50 cents per week for her work. Instead, she was kept as a slave, suffering physical and mental abuse. She would later refer to the family as ‘The Wolves’ but, in a huge testament of her maturity, never revealed their actual names. She ran away, and went home.

It was around this time she began hunting and trapping to support her mother and her eight siblings. She sold her spoils to fancy restaurants all around Ohio, and was so successful she paid off the mortgage on her mother’s house within a year. She became a local celebrity, and when she was 15 a shooting match was made between her and a traveling sharpshooter. The diminutive teenager must have been the last opponent he expected, but she beat him and won $100, a huge sum of money at that time. Far from being butt hurt about the defeat, this sharpshooter began courting young Annie, and they were married after a year. The marriage would last until her death.

She began performing in side shows and variety shows. She became so popular she eventually performed for Queen Victoria of England, King Umberto I of Italy, and the President of France  Marie François Sadi Carnot. So great was her skill that she even shot the ashes off of Kaiser Willhelm II. After the outbreak of WWI, she wrote the Kaiser, asking to redo her famous shot, stating her aim might have been a little off.

When the Spanish-American war broke out, Annie offered to lead a team of 50 female sharpshooters, but her offer was turned down (considering the large amount of female heroes of war on this site, I’d say that was a very stupid decision on the President’s account). Annie was passionate about teaching woman to shoot, teacher thousands how to defend themselves. “I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” She said.

She continued to set sharpshooting records well into her sixties, as well as campaigning for women’s rights. She died in 1922, of pneumonia.

C. L. Moore

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C. L. Moore joins her sister in history Mary Shelley as a women who practically invented something that is now regarded as a boys only club. Enter the Space Western; FireFly fans rejoice.

C. L. Moore was born Catherine Lucille Moore on January 24th, 1911. She suffered from chronic illnesses as a child and spent much of her early years confined to bed with only books to keep her company. She regained her health as a young adult, and left to find employment during the Great Depression. She started writing short stories around 1935, which began to earn her acclaim; and money. Her writings focused on emotional aspects, which was unusual at the time. She’d created the character of NorthWest Smith (see, maybe Kim wasn’t trying to be original?) a space cowboy with a space-tanned complexion. Though an anti hero in the business of smuggling, he often puts others safety before his (*Cough* Malcolm Reynolds *Cough*) She would continue to use NorthWest as a protagonist in later works.

Her work received praise from all, including H. P. Lovecraft. She caught the eye of fellow writer Henry Kuttner. He wrote to her as a fan and, because she presented her first two names with initials, he was unaware she was a women. When he found out the truth, he didn’t seem to care much. They were married, and their work became homogenous. They would quite literally, finish each other’s sentences on a typewriter. They were one, according to all who met them. After his death, Moore abandoned NorthWest and scifi.

Maybe the spark that fueled her space westerns left her when her husband did. Maybe she was just sick of NorthWest and his adventures. Whatever the reason, she continued to be acclaimed until her death, and without her, scifi would be severely lacking on subgenera that has shaped lives and imaginations.

Artist of the Week ~ Enid Yandell

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Enid Yandell was an American sculptor who’s works can still be seen adorning parks today, including possibly her most famous work, Statue of Pan, which resides in Cherokee Park, Louisville. She largely abandoned sculpting after the first world war broke out. She chose to devote her time to volunteering in the red cross in Europe and helping orphaned French children. When she retired to the USA, she was elected as director of the Bureau of Communications for the American Red Cross in New York.

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Zelda Fitzgerald

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Ah, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I idolized him in high school, had his audio books so that I could listen to his talent wherever I went, had posters of the the covers of his books and wished someday to be as great as he was. Did he have a wife? Back then I knew he did. I knew he had a wife named Zelda, and I remembered this only because I was also a video game nerd and had been playing Legend of Zelda games since I was given a nintendo 64 for my 7th birthday. I never really thought much about her, and why would I? She probably cooked and cleaned, and maybe hosted a wild prohibition era party occasionally.

I was wrong on two fronts. Zelda was not the housewife I thought her to be, and Scott was not the hero I imagined him to be. He was a literary vampire, plagiarizing his wife’s works to improve his own and she was a truly remarkable writer.

She was born July 24, 1900, to Minnie Buckner Machen Sayre, and her husband Alabama Supreme Court Justice Anthony Dickson Sayre. Straight from the womb, she was vivacious and magnetic, causing envy, happiness, chaos, or some combination wherever she went. One popular rumor states that when she was ten, she called the fire department and reported that there was a little girl stuck on a rooftop. She gave the fire department her address, hung up, then climbed onto the roof and waited to be rescued. By her teens she was the star of everything she did, be it ballet, entertaining her friends, or attending dances.

It was at one of these dances that she met Scott, then a 21 year old lieutenant in the Army. He tried to impress her with his talent as a writer, telling her about the success he was sure was coming. She was…unimpressed. She, and her family, thought it unwise to accept a proposal from a man so clearly financially challenged. Scott was, as most put it, heartbroken. I, however, think the term ‘butt-hurt’ is a little more actuate. Her rejection of him would lead to a literary career centered around men pining after silly, unattainable women. Scott wrote to Zelda obsessively, and what began as a flirtatious exchange soon became something of a long distance relationship. It was only after Scott published his first article, This Side of Paradise, that she agreed to visit him. They married, and immediately tumbled into a lifestyle of jealousy, acclaim, and theft.

Without Zelda, there would be no Scott. He used their relationship, her sayings, even her writings to fuel his works.

Perhaps one of the first times Scott lifted lines from his wife’s mouth was when she gave birth to their son. In a pain and drug fueled haze, she muttered “I hope it’s beautiful and a fool, a beautiful little fool”. Does that ring a bell with any fans of The Great Gatsby? But that wasn’t enough for Scott. Were his motives seated in a lack of belief in his own talent, or an obsession with his wife? We’ll never know, but we do know that he read and plagiarized his wife’s personal diaries. “It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and, also, scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. Mr Fitzgerald…I believe that is how he spells his name…seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home…” Said Zelda in one interview, regarding her husband’s newest book, The Beautiful and the Damned.

She was growing tired of this stunt, just as she grew tired of Scott’s alcoholism. This didn’t seem to deter her husband. They decided to collaborate on a book of short stories. However, when published, Scott’s name had been added to stories that only Zelda had produced, and worse, some of the stories she’d had collaborated on were whipped free of her name.

Zelda, desperate to let out her feelings wrote Save Me the Waltz, which became enormously popular. Scott, however, was furious. How dare his wife draw inspiration from their life together to write a book? In the very definition of a double standard, Scott was using lines and themes lifted from Zelda’s letters to him to fuel his book Tender is the Night, and also to fictionalize Zelda’s mental illness.

In 1930 Zelda was admitted to a ‘sanitarium’ (read: asylum) and diagnosed as schizophrenic. However, it is commonly believed today that she was suffering from bi-polar disorder (manic depression for you older folks) and not schizophrenia. She would be in and out of these asylums for the rest of her life, her manic delusions fueling the incorrect diagnosis. When home, she was reclusive and prone to violence by all accounts. By this point the Fitzgerald’s were not the popular couple they once were. Instead they were rude, moody, and plagued by their friend Hemingway’s success.

After years of alcoholism, Scott died on December 21st, 1940. Zelda did not attend his funeral. In fact, very few people attended his funeral. At the time of his death, Zelda was working on a last sadly unfinished novel, Caesar’s Things. She’d been admitted to yet another hospital, and was working away. One night the kitchens of the hospital caught fire. The inferno moved through the dumbwaiter shafts. Zelda, locked in her room, burned to death.

Zelda and her husband died believed themselves failures. However, interest in their works boomed after their deaths, mostly centered around Scott.

Yet Zelda has developed a following. It’s not large, but I hope it will grow. For all you writers out there, here’s an extremely talented woman. Check out her works.

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