Women Cyclists You’ve Never Heard Of

There are very few instances when I get to write about women, feminism (sssshhhhh, don’t tell anyone), history, and cycling all at once. When I get to do those on a day when I also get to go on a bike ride, I’m pretty much living the life.

This week I profiled four women cyclists in history who were good, and not just good for a girl.

Cross-country skiing in Denver

As if we needed a reminder that Arctic blasts are best left squirting out of soda cans or Peppermint Patties, the mini Ice Age left many of us here in the good ol’ USA f-f-f-f-reezing into this week.

Here in Colorado we got sick amounts of new snow in the mountains and a smattering of inches here and there in Denver proper. And every time we get a few new inches, I break out the cross-country gear and literally hit the street. My cross-country gear is older than most college seniors, but it still gets the job done. It’s scraped from too many meetings with the pavement; the wood core peeks through its grey veneer; and it has absolutely zero edges. These elans are great for short (read: under two hours) jaunts out in the woods or the streets just west of Downtown Denver.

Unlike snowboarding, when cross-country skiing, I dress in very few layers. Knowing me and my body’s inclinations, the most important things to keep warm are my fingers, toes, and ears. So I donned the lined knit cap, my second warmest gloves, my wool trusties, and scraped and glided along the packed-down Denver roads.

I donned the iPod, an absolute must when doing exercises that, upon closer inspection, can suck. I enjoy the rhythmic movements of cross-country skiing, the back-and-forth that resembles so many aspects of my life. I enjoy the gliding, where for a few stolen moments, the only work you’re doing is trying not to work. I love the solitude, because believe me, I’m one of the few and the proud exercising outside on a day where the temps crawled up to a balmy 9 degrees.

But slogging and scraping and sliding along I went, guided by Madonna’s first hit “Holiday,” which reminded me of how lucky I am to be cruising outside on a Tuesday morning. After “Holiday” I was treated to some unknown rap music. And with the music gods guiding me, NKOTB’s “Hangin’ Tough” came on just as I reached the local park and began breaking trail.

So appropos.

Conditions: Hazy, winter-fog, temps hovering near zero

Clothing: Soft shell Patagonia jacket, polyester base layer, fleece shirt, lined knit hat

Calories burned: According to fitnessonline, 700 calories. I did not stop once to catch my breath, but I’m rather inclined to agree.

Duration: One hour

I started to hang tough, right about here

The Myth Behind Television’s Female Crimestoppers

Badass female protagonists are the new black when it comes to television shows.  A trend which had its roots in TNT’s The Closer and Fox’s Bonessmart, capable female crimestoppers are ruling the airwaves both on network and cable television.

With premiere week upon us, one can see more powerful women in CW’s Nikita, a remake of the cult classic starring Bridget Fonda so many years ago.  Other fresh female faces of force make themselves known through Annie Frost (nice name), the badass US Marshal who, in the opening scenes of the pilot episode of Chase, single-handedly takes down and cuffs a fugitive.  Returning to us this fall is Castle’s homocide cop Kate Beckett, the ice queen who’s followed around longingly by the boyish Nathan Fillion, a playful foil to the serious Beckett.

Chase joins TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles, another chick-cops are cool babefest, which is brought to you by the ghosts of Cagney and Lacey past and Annie Walker, the below-the-radar hottie CIA spy who sometimes unwittingly outsmarts and outmuscles the bad guys in USA’s Covert Affairs.

Smart, policey-gals are everywhere, sometimes following protocol, sometimes breaking the rules, always winning the fight against evil, and always looking good while doing so. I’m delighted and dismayed (dambivalent) at these heroines: glad cuz they’re always on the right side, trying to do the right thing; unglad cuz they’re perfect size fours who can run in heels.

Then there’s Holly Hunter. You might remember her from such films as Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou, Home for the Holidays, and The Incredibles.  But for three years, TNT did a brave thing: it cast Holly Hunter in the role of Oklahoma City Detective Grace Hanadarko, a crimestopper with all the serious flaws her name suggests.  Where she excels in her professional life she fails in her personal life.  She’s got a guardian angel to guide her, but episode after episode she continues on the same destructive pattern of drinking too much, smoking too much, hating too much, and sleeping with a married man.  The show has explicit sexual content and can be very violent, which is a nice change from the can’t-get-a-date (too-busy-too-cold-too-emotionally-unavailable) stereotype of television female crimestoppers who leap tall buildings in a single bound without breaking a heel.

Detective Hanadarko is a woman in crisis, constant crisis, and needs the protection and guidance of her guardian angel. And yet she’s still very good at her job.

Alas, after four seasons TNT has pulled the drama, and we’re left with crimestopping females (cool!) with perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect bodies, and a strict moral code (uncool…).  We need imperfects like Hanadarko around to remind us it’s ok to be a mess.

Just as long as you’re trying.

Alexander Street Opens up Its Digital Vault

Maybe it’s just the places I frequent, but the collaborators in getting the word out about Women’s History Month is doing the viral thing on the interwebs.

The folks over at Alexander Street, who maintain a scholarly database of all things female and social movements from the years 1600-2000 are tossing their hat in by offering free access to the likes of you and me.

If you’re doing a school project or are just plain interested, they’ve got archives, documents, biographies, and for the visual learners, graphics and tables. And lessons for teachers! Yay!

Check out Alexander Street

Women’s History Month


To commemorate Women’s History Month I wrote a mini-series for the connoisseurs of history over at HistoryNet.com.

You can find all articles on Women’s History under Magazines/All history topics, then scroll down to Topics Sorted by Subject Matter. Click on Women’s History and poof! there the miniseries be.

Today’s installment includes the resume, as I imagined it, of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France, and then, when it suited her, Queen of England.

Read the entire Women’s History series.

Read about Heroines of Women’s History, including my beloved Eleanor.

Women’s History Month, An Introduction

A couple of days in March are famous: the Ides of March (thanks for the warning, Teiresias!) and St. Patrick’s Day (the Irish snake guy).

But the entire month of March is devoted to celebrating the women in history who made in impact – whether on their country, their cause, or maybe even just their family. The National Women’s History Project’s theme this year for Women’s History Month is Writing Women Back Into History.

I attempt to do just that for the fine folks over there at HistoryNet.com. Please, go check me out and if you feel inclined, leave a comment.

Playing Lady MacBeth


I know you’re a playful bunch and are busy right now planning, nay, scheming for Halloween. The females tend to flock to the sexy – sexy librarian, sexy cocktail waitress, sexy gorilla – anything that allows you to dress more revealing than you usually do and not risk being called names.

Femme fatales are hot, too. One of the hottest and most famous femme fatales is Lady MacBeth, the dark, determined woman who would see her husband king, morals be damned.

This week, in the spirit of Halloween, I wrote a tribute to the iron-willed heroine turned crazy lady of the Scottish Play.

The Scientists at Los Alamos May Have Had Sweetteeth

Or, they may have just enjoyed sitting by the river, enjoying sunny New Mexico days and dry nights within the comfort of a local’s home.

That local was Edith Warner, and once again, as a woman of history, she did not lead armies into battle or change public policy. She became a part of history by doing what women in the 1940s did everyday: making a comfortable home, homemade and to-die for chocolate cake.

Dudes like Oppenheimer, Bohrs, and Fermi would spend many hours at Warner’s cozy adobe home, trying to forget the days’ research. They were thankful for her undemanding company and her abilities in the kitchen.

Check out the article at GreatHistory.com.

Gertrude Stein Writes Like a Cubist

Gertrude Stein – love her or hate her – there is no in between. She wrote the weird Tender Buttons and the popular Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. One of my favorites of hers is Three Lives. Very Anglo-Saxon. The language, not the themes.

Well, you know how famous and talented folks tend to hang out with one another? The Bloomsbury Circle had Keynes and Woolf. Gertrude Stein had Hemingway, Anderson, Matisse, and Picasso.

And just as much as Stein influenced the painters, they influenced her right back. Stein was famous (or was it notorious?) for her experiments in language. One of my favorite experiments of hers is when she wrote portraits of the Cubists, in the Cubist fashion.

My Prison, My Home: A Harrowing Tale from Iran

My first memory of Iran came in the fourth grade – it was video, pictures, and other coverage of the American hostages in Iran. Politics was often discussed over turkey at Thanksgiving, so events in Iran, Poland, and anywhere else evil was doing its thing, were often the topic of discussion.

I remember not being able to locate Iran on a map, but I knew that Iran was bad. Not as bad as the Soviet Union, but bad.

Over the years I’ve learned that those student kidnappers, although not the type you’d necessarily want to invite over for Thanksgiving, may have actually had a reason for the kidnapping. Weird. They weren’t just crazy Arabs, they were (somewhat understandably) paranoid of the United States intervening in their internal affairs.

Which you and I know is ludicrous. The United States would never meddle in the Middle East without good reason.

Still, Dr. Haleh Esfiandiari, an Iranian-born academic who also carries an American passport, writes about how the Intelligence Ministry in Iran was convinced she was working with the CIA to overthrow the Iranian government. Now, it’s not crazy to imagine the CIA overthrowing governments, but the good doctor, well, her duties at the Woodrow Wilson were misunderstood by her interrogators.

So they locked her up in the famous Evin Prison. Read her story.