Rosie the game changer

Rosie the Riveter Turns Eighty!

Rosie the Riveter

On May 29th, 1943, the Saturday Evening Post published a cover image that changed history forever. It was an image by Norman Rockwell, portraying “Rosie” with a flag in the background. 

Overnight, this image became iconic. It showed up everywhere– at movie theaters, posters, newspapers, etc. Rosie the Riveter was everywhere– and society would never be the same again. 

When we think back on women’s history, WWII and Rosie the Riveter offer a clear dividing line. There were women in the workforce before WWII, but they were definitely in the minority and the idea of a woman working after marriage was unheard of.

But America entered the war and workforce rules changed. 

Suddenly, it was patriotic for women to work! American women entered the workforce in droves. Between 1940-1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce rose from 27 to nearly 37%. And by 1945, one out of every four married women worked outside the home.

Then the war ended and America entered its identity crisis. The intent behind the Rosie the Riveter campaign was for it to be a temporary fix, “patriotic” women filling the gaps while the men were away. They were supposed to happily return to their homes when the men returned. However, what was not considered was how societal roles had changed forever.

For starters, how could men ever claim superiority again after witnessing these women’s selfless efforts and demonstrations of their strength and capability? Also after tasting freedom and thriving in their new jobs, many women were rightfully unhappy about returning to their former lives at home. 

We all know progress is slow. And major societal change especially takes time. But I do want to examine how far women have come since that famous picture debuted.

This postwar era required an entire reshuffling of identity and viewpoints. For those of you who watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the latest episode hits on this point perfectly. 

The father, Abe, goes out to dinner with a group of other men. While there he admits to having an identity crisis and questioning everything he’d thought he’d known for his entire life. The men go around the table trying to pinpoint what Abe is feeling. They offer theories about change and how fast the world has changed in their recent years. How it’s natural to feel overwhelmed etc. 

Finally, Abe offers up that it’s about his daughter. He admits that everything he thought he knew about women and his expectations of them is wrong. He’d pinned all his hopes and expectations on his son and later his grandson. He brought the son to Columbia to watch him teach, never even thought to do that for his daughter. Same with his grandson, putting all his efforts in tapping into his early potential. And yet now? His daughter owns the apartment he lives in. Her husband abandoned her and she was the one who fought her way up to thrive. She’s in a difficult profession and yet, she’s mastering it. All of this is without any help from him or her mother. And his granddaughter is the grandchild showing the early signs of genius talent. He realizes he majorly undersold their potential and capabilities. He closes by admitting his daughter is truly remarkable.

“Rosie” is eighty years old this year. Eighty- that’s one lifetime. And in that one lifetime we’ve seen expectations for women go from telling our daughters their only role in life was to cook and keep house to saying they can be whatever they want. If they can dream it and work hard, they can make it happen. We now have a woman Vice President, congresswomen, pilots, astronauts, judges, entrepreneurs, scientists– you name it, they’re doing it! 

“Rosie” might have been a campaign born out of necessity, but she changed the rules to the game. For that, I’m forever grateful. Let’s see where another eighty years of remarkable women can take us!

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Female empowerment for our daughters

22 Years of “Take Our Daughters to Work Day”

Why was this day created and how has it evolved over time?

Take Our Daughters to Work day began in 1992 by Gloria Steinem as a project of the Ms. Foundation. It was created to show girls that being smart was something to be proud of and not something to hide. By providing girls with real-life models in the workplace, the hope was to offer something for girls to strive to achieve themselves. Gender did not have to hold them back from a desired profession.

Parade Magazine wrote about the program and by 1993 the Take Your Daughter to Work Day Foundation was formed to help expand the program nationally and internationally. 

From Female Empowerment to Breaking Gender Stereotypes

In 2003, the program expanded to include boys. And while many criticized this, wasn’t the point to increase female empowerment? The Foundation argued that the expansion would only make the program stronger. It would allow for the dissolution of gender stereotypes completely. For instance, shouldn’t a boy be told he’s allowed to be a nurse?

Our daughters glass ceiling

Since then the program has continued to evolve. It’s now an April tradition, with worldwide participation. It purposefully takes place during the school year so educators can incorporate it into their lessons, drawing from real world experiences. There have even been purposeful strides in reaching out to low-income communities to find ways for children there to participate as well.

Are we empowering our daughters?

All of this is fantastic. And I am grateful for these opportunities and lessons for our next generation of workers. However, it’s interesting to see the original intent behind the day and how it has changed over time. I love the idea of breaking gender stereotypes and teaching children they can follow any career path that interests them.

However, I do not feel our job is completely done in empowering girls to thrive in the workplace. If the realities of the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that women still shoulder the bulk of the burden when it comes to childcare and home management in addition to their jobs. Women are still the default parent who gets the phone call from school. They are still usually the one who needs to stay home with a sick child. They carry the bulk of the emotional labor, scheduling dentist appointments, replacing outgrown clothing, chauffeuring, etc.

“Take our Daughters to Work” Starts at Home

We can most definitely tell our girls they can aim for any career path they want. But they are still seeing their mothers carry an unsustainable workload each day and battling burnout. What is the answer to that? It’s complicated, I know. But until that balance is shifted, our girls will unfortunately always hit a ceiling.

We have come a long way from the balance of parenthood from the past. I applaud that men have made major strides in division of responsibilities at home and child rearing. But we, as a society, can still do better.So, parents, instead of just taking your child to work. Consider what you model for them each day. Are you demonstrating an imbalanced division of labor in the home? Are you making sure one parent isn’t burning out from an overloaded plate? The daily application they witness are the lessons your children will carry. Empower your daughters to speak up, negotiate in all areas of their lives and thrive.

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Indigenous Highlighting Yiddish

World Book Day Honors Indigenous Languages

April 23rd is UNESCO World Book Day and this year their focus is on Indigenous languages. If you’ve read my books, you know my main characters speak Yiddish, which is in fact an indigenous language. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about the history of Yiddish.

Yiddish Linguistics

If you were to literally translate Yiddish, it means “Jewish”. Linguistically, it refers to the language spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews, or the Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. It comprises a variety of languages like medieval German, Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic and Romance languages.

Yiddish Origins

It is very difficult to pinpoint the origins of the Yiddish language. The most widely accepted theory is during the 10th century there was a great migration of Jews from France and Italy to the German Rhine Valley. The belief is to find common ground to communicate amongst these different groups, the Yiddish language emerged.

Yiddish Uses

In most Ashkenazi communities they used Hebrew as their language of study for the Bible and prayer, and Yiddish was used for their everyday communication.

Twentieth Century Yiddish

The first international conference on Yiddish language met in 1908. It was there they declared Yiddish to be the “national language of the Jewish people.” This was the beginning of establishing cultural institutions and standardization within the Jewish community to preserve the integrity of the language. 

After that organizations around the world sprung up to offer schools, literature, theater and research to further Yiddish expression. Unfortunately, this screeched to a halt during the years leading up to WWII. Soon Yiddish writers were censored and arrested or even executed. Yiddish institutions were shut down. Eventually Yiddish was outlawed in many places completely.

Indigenous Languages: Yiddish


The Holocaust destroyed much of the Yiddish speaking population. Those remaining were often scared to speak the language. Many who immigrated to America were also facing intense pressure to acclimate. 

Hope for the Future

But Yiddish has experienced a resurgence in the last half century. It is again being studied as a serious academic discipline. Yiddish literature has been recognized and even awarded a Nobel Prize! 

Preservation efforts thrive and the importance of remembering and sharing the language are being brought to the forefront.

The importance of UNESCO and other indigenous language preservation efforts

However, there is more work to be done. At present, 96 percent of the world’s approximately 7,000 languages are spoken by only 3% of the population. Estimates suggest that more than half the world’s languages will become extinct by 2100. Other calculations suggest that 95% of the world’s languages will become extinct or seriously endangered by the end of this century. 

It’s important to remember that these indigenous languages are not only methods of communication. They’re also expressions of culture and knowledge accumulated over millennia. They are central to identity. When these languages are under threat, so too are the indigenous people themselves.

Check out literature by Indigenous Authors

The Yiddish Book Center Digital Library can be visited HERE.

Explore 25 books that highlight beauty of Indigenous literature HERE.

Celebrate and Share Indigenous Peoples’ Day on August 9th

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What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Just Like John Proctor questioned- How can I live without my name?

Women's History Month

What’s in a Name?

Happy March! It’s Women’s History Month and I can’t wait to share some of the fun content I’ve got prepared! We’ll start today with some info on female writers and the big question of the day- What’s in a name? Does our name actually define who we are?

Literature nerds like me might remember the anguished scene in The Crucible where John Proctor refuses to give up his name. “Because it is my name! How may I live without my name?” He views his name as his identity. His source of worth.

And yet, as we go into Women’s History Month– we have to examine the irony of this poignant scene, knowing women have been forced to give up their names in many capacities for centuries.

The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is celebrating women in writing. This one obviously hits close to home for me. One thing it forces me to examine is the sacrifices women had to make to get their work out for public consumption. For years it was considered “unfeminine” or “unseemly” for women to be writers. Therefore, women were either turned away by editors or forced to publish under a man’s name instead of their own.

In a different capacity, the decision regarding my name came up in my own publishing journey. Any of you who know me personally know I publish under my maiden name instead of my married name. This was done for a few reasons- but honestly, the main reason was because as John Proctor said– It is my name! I began my writing journey in childhood. I practiced and got my degree in English, taught and began my MFA program all as Joyana Peters. So, yeah, I wanted to climb to the top of that mountain and fulfill that dream with the name I started with!

I leave you with this other little story to consider-

A girl was born on November 22nd, 1819. As was customary at the time, she was sent to boarding school at just five years old.

When the girl was sixteen, her mother died. Although she was thriving at school and showed great potential, she was forced to return home to work as her father’s housekeeper. The girl settled into a new monotonous existence where each day blended into the next.

At the age of twenty one, an opportunity arose. Her father decided it was time for her to marry. They moved to the city so he could search for a suitable match. But luckily, the girl developed a relationship with her liberal neighbors who hosted salons with great thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over time they took her under their wing and the girl began to consider a different version of the life she was living.

What's in a Name?

Higher education for women was still not an option, but she was able to break into intellectual society by writing book reviews and translations. She eventually moved to London and found work with a publisher. There, she fell in love with a writer, but he was trapped in a horrible marriage and divorce was still not an option. Desperate to be together, they scandalized society by deciding to co-habitate together anyway.

She became an outcast, no longer welcome in society, although he suffered no consequences. But the girl decided to make the most of this time in isolation. If her name was already tarnished– why not assume the required male nom de plume and publish her writing?

The girl’s work took off like wildfire. Even Queen Victoria became a fan!

She continued to publish under the now famous nom de plume for the rest of her life. And her work has transcended time and still stands out as revelatory and brave as the woman who wrote it.

So, who was this amazing female writer? Mary Ann Evans otherwise known as George Eliot the famous writer of Middlemarch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What do you think our names say about us? Are they sources of our identity? Please comment on this post to share!

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Black Female Freedom Fighters

Black Female Freedom Fighters

Let’s honor some of the courageous women who fought for civil rights!

Black Female Freedom Fighters

Black Female Freedom Fighters

In honor of MLK Day, I wanted to write about the fight for civil rights and equality. But as so many things in history, I feel there is a lack of acknowledgement for some of the amazing women who contributed to this fight. So today, let’s shine a light on some amazing Black Female Freedom Fighters!

Septima Clark

Septima Clark was a public school teacher in South Carolina for thirty years. She was forced to relinquish her position in 1956 when she refused to renounce her involvement with the NAACP.

Believing literacy to be the key to political empowerment, she went on to set up workshops to teach others basic literacy skills, the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens and how to fill out voter registration forms.

She continued teaching and advocating for civil responsibilities for the rest of her life. She taught and developed curriculum at key places like the Highlander Folk School for social advocacy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the American Field Service.

In 1975, she was elected to the South Carolina School Board. She received a letter of apology the following year from the South Carolina governor and got her pension reinstated.

In 1979, she was recognized by President Jimmy Carter and given a Living Legacy Award and published an autobiography about her involvement and journey with the Civil Rights Movement. You can check it out below!

Amelia Boynton Robinson

Amelia Boynton Robinson was an activist leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. She was a key figure in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. She was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal in 1990.

Boynton began her activism in 1934 when she registered to vote, a difficult task in Alabama at the time. A few years later she wrote a play called Through the Years, that recounted her father’s half-brother’s story. He had been a former slave who was elected to Congress during the Reconstruction Era.

In 1958, her son was arrested for attempting to buy food from a white food counter in a bus terminal. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor in the state court and fined. A current law student at Howard University, he appealed the decision and unfortunately lost until the case (Boynton vs. Virginia) eventually went to the Supreme Court and was reversed by Thurgood Marshall.

In 1964 Boynton ran for Congress hoping to encourage black registration and voting. She was the first female African American to run for office in Alabama and the first woman of any race to run on the Democratic Party ticket for the state. She received 10% of the vote.

In 1965 Boynton began working with Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to plan demonstrations for voting and civil rights. She helped organize a march to Montgomery which took place on March 7th, 1965. The event became known as Bloody Sunday when police stopped and beat the demonstrators. Boynton was beaten unconscious, a photo of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world and is still one of the most famous photographs from the march today.

To learn more about Boynton read one of the books below- including her own Bridge Across Jordon!

Nine More Amazing Black Female Freedom Fighters

Are you familiar with Leah Chase or Dr. June Jackson Christmas? What about Aileen Hernandez or Diane Nash? Sadly, they along with Judy Richardson, Kathleen Cleaver, Gay McDougall, Gloria Richardson, and Myrlie Evers have been mostly left out of the history books. Until now!

Nominated for a 50th NAACP IMAGE Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author, Lighting the Fires of Freedom is a MUST Read to learn more about overlooked women from the Civil Rights Movement.

Janet Dewart Bell put together these women’s stories from collections of oral narratives and photographs. Each of these women answered the call to fight for freedom with passion, courage, and persistence.

If you’re interested in getting a close look at the women who were on the front lines during this movement- you need to read Bell’s book!

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Who was the first novel writer? Learn the History of Novels!

Do you know the history of novels? Who was the first novel writer? Read here to find out!

Who was the first novel writer? The history of novels

The History of Novels

Are you familiar with the background or history of novels? Where did novels come from? Who was the first novel writer? 

In the 21st century, where novels are considered the most popular form of entertainment, it’s impossible to imagine novels not being around. But prior to the eighteenth century, novels didn’t exist. Prior to novels, authors retold stories that were already well known. And the genre of fiction was just reinventing a story previously told. For example, an author might reuse characters such as Hercules or Adam and Eve and tell a new rendition of their story. 

Daniel DeFoe was the first author documented to break this tradition. DeFoe pulled away from retelling stories and invented his own new protagonists, experiencing their own trials, tribulations and lives. The first documented published work classified as a novel was DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe published in 1719. The novel is about a man, Crusoe, who was shipwrecked on an island and the adventures he experienced.

At first, critics did not know what to make of this new fictional publication. Debate followed as other authors jumped to copy.  What defined this new genre? An imaginative recreation of reality? A historical or scary conveyor of the truth? A harmless amusement? These were all potential definitions of a novel in the eighteenth century.

Despite the varying perspectives and even potential contradictions, there were some key components that emerged in the new fictional pieces. 1. Writers were more likely to show the life of the present day vs life from the past. 2. Characters were made to be believable and relatable.

Thus the genre of the novel was born. 

As we all know, novels are now the most popular form of published genres. There is just something about picking up a story to escape from reality. And one thing that never ceases to amaze me is just when you think every story has already been told and there’s nothing new left out there, some new author finds a way to completely prove that wrong. Just goes to show there really is no limit to the power of imagination!

Happy Reading Everyone!

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