Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership

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Who is famous for being “The Mother of Feminism” but was also the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein?

Mary Wollstonecraft is most commonly referred to as “The first feminist” or “The mother of feminism” for her writings on feminism and philosophy. Her essay “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” from 1792 is one of the earliest works of feminist thought, in which she argues that men and women should have equal education and treated both as rational human beings. This essay was in response to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Emile” from 1762 in which he argued that woman should be educated for the pleasure and service of men.

Wollstonecraft writes:

“Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.”

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was considered a radical text as Wollstonecraft was highly critical of the contemporary attitudes towards woman at the time.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Education | Women | Blog

Who was one of the leading sculptors of the 20th Century, reflecting her artistic and personal struggles?

Louise Nevelson, a Russian native, immigrated to Rockland, Maine as a young child and in her twenties, studied art in New York at the Art Students League. Inspired by a statue standing outside the Rockland Public Library, she decided to concentrate on sculpting and rejected the materials artists such as Alexander Calder and David Smith were using at the time: metal. Nevelson used wooden objects off the streets of New York as her point of inspiration in combination with monochromatic colors.  Her style shifted in scale (small scale to outdoor pieces), color (black, white, gold) and imagery (personal, cultural and universal).

A major theme Nevelson seemed to incorporate into her work without directly alluding to is her own marriage troubles. Her sculpture came to reflect her marriage to art and her loss of connection to her husband, a well off businessman. Nevelson’s work has become synonymous with Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Minimalism. Her work has been featured in illustrious locations such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Education | Women | Blog

Who was one of the first black women to sign a long time studio contract with MGM Studios?

Lena Horne, a singer, actress and activist with talent, style and elegance, was born a few decades before Hollywood could fully appreciate her skills as a consummate performer. Horne had to contend with the dual obstacles of overcoming racial and social inequalities of society and those perceptions as portrayed on the big screen in Hollywood.

As an actress, Horne was able to break the mold of Hollywood’s racial stereotypes of maids and butlers and became a cultural icon of her own. Her performances in The Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, catapulted her into the public’s imagination as well as those of entertainment executives. By the 1940’s, Horne was the highest paid black actor in America.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Education | Women | Blog

Why and when was Women’s history month created?

To kick off Women’s history month at the Woodhull Institute, we need to start with a basic and overlooked question: why and when was Women’s history month created?

In its infancy, this commemoration started as a single day on March 8th. At different points over the course of the 20th Century, this day has taken on multiple meanings given the social, economic and political issues of the time. It initially sought to acknowledge the plight of women laborers and their role in the Russian Revolution.

During the latter half of the 20th Century, the cause shifted from the labor movement to female led anti-nuclear protests to the women’s liberation movement. In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution declaring “Women’s History Week”. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project lobbied Congress to expand the observance to the whole month of March.

To commence this month long celebration, the Woodhull Institute will post a “Woman of the Day” for the month of March.

To lead off the month, we will start with the woman our organization is named after, Victoria Woodhull.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Education | Woman of the Day | Women | Blog

The Connected Film Crew

Woodhull Fellow Tiffany Shlain premiered her new feature documentary “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology” at the Sundance Film Festival. The reaction to the film was overwhleming! Connected won the Women In Film Award (by National Geographic All Roads Film Grant), and received high praise from reviewers (including Al Gore).

Find out more about the film at connectedthefilm.com

Read reviews after the jump! –>


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Media | Women | Blog

Originally posted to ReelGirl on February 9th.

The grassroots women’s literary group VIDA just released some frightening statistics about gender bias in publishing.

The New York Review of Books has 462 male bylines to 79 female, about a 6-to-1 ratio.

The New Republic has 32 women to 160 men.

The Atlantic published 154 male bylines and 55 female.

The New Yorker reviewed 36 books by men and 9 by women.

Harper’s reviewed more than twice as many books by men as by women.

The New York Times Book Review had 1.5 men to 1 woman (438 compared to 295) and an authors-reviewed ratio of 1.9 to 1 (524 compared to 283).

VIDA’s report has ignited the blogosphere with many commentators wondering, as Patricia Cohen does in the New York Times: Why? “What the numbers don’t explain is whether men write more books (and book proposals) than women or whether they more frequently and aggressively ask magazine editors for assignments.”

But this isn’t an either/ or situation; women face challenges at both ends: publishers and editors are biased to think that men’s stories are the best and most important ones, deserving of publication and reviews; and, women writers, socialized to those same beliefs, agree and don’t try hard or often enough to get published.

This double-challenge doesn’t only affect women writers; it muzzles women’s voices across all media.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Culture | Fellows Media Watch | Women | Blog

by Tara Sophia Mohr, Woodhull Alumna

Originally posted to The Huffington Post on February 3rd.

Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef know: the women keep losing.

Each season starts off with a roughly equal number of male and female contestants. All have been through the same rigorous selection process. Yet as the competition goes on, the women simply don’t perform as well as the men. Or so it seems.

A closer look reveals that Bravo’s Top Chef isn’t meritocratic at all. It’s strongly biased in favor of the men — for three surprising reasons.

First, the judges are influenced by gender stereotypes, and not because they are sexist jerks. They aren’t. They’ve stated that they would love for women to do better on the show, and I believe them. But unfortunately, egalitarian views and a desire to support women have nothing to do with bias. Research has shown that bias operates largely unconsciously, and it is based not on one’s conscious ideas about a particular group, but on the stereotypes to which one has been exposed. People who work in the food world — like the judges — have been conditioned, over and over again, to think of culinary geniuses as male. Whether they like it or not, that will color their perception of the dishes, the very taste of the food in their mouths.


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Culture | Women | Blog

Why women’s studies needs the sort of course this author teaches

by Karon Jolna, Woodhull Alumna

Originally published in the Winter 2011 Issue of Ms. Magazine.

When women’s studies was created as a curriculum in universities across the U.S. in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “leadership”—the art and science of motivating and managing people and organizations was not considered a relevant topic. Why? Because women were mostly absent in leadership positions—from politics to business, from media to science, from higher education to nonprofit organizations.

Now, 40 years later, women have led the U.S. Department of State, the House of Representatives and major universities. Women serve on the Supreme Court, anchor the evening news and run businesses as never before. Yet only a handful of the more than 650 women’s studies programs at colleges and universities in the U.S. provide practical and theoretical knowledge necessary for the next generation to make a significant impact on their communities and world.

Continue to Read the Full Article Here!

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Culture | Women | Blog

Originally posted to my blog Reel Girl and on SFGate.com on February 2nd.

Dear Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ),

Thank you for introducing bill HR 3 to make sure federal funding will only go towards abortions if the pregnancies resulted from ‘forcible’ rape and not just any old kind of rape.

Silly me! Before I saw your bill, I actually thought all rape was forcible. I even thought that’s what ‘rape’ meant.

But now, I understand what rape is! It’s like when a stranger comes out of the bushes and rapes you, right? It doesn’t apply to some slutty fourteen year old who seduces a forty year old guy. And it sure doesn’t include a loose woman who drank too much or let herself get drugged. She was probably flirting with the guy who had sex with her passed out body anyway.

I just thought you might want a know, there’s a petition out there against you and all of your good work. Here’s the link.

Don’t worry, I’ve started my own petition against Webster’s to at least get ‘statutory’ out of their definition and clarify this word once and for all.

Very truly yours,

Margot Magowan, Blogger, ReelGirl

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Women | Blog

Originally posted to my blog ReelGirl on January 20.

Lots of comments on my last post about Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and that no matter how no matter how hard parents try, girls and boys adamantly refuse to be nudged out of their prescribed (marketed!) gender roles.

Orenstein elaborates on this challenge in her book: right around ages 2 -3, kids begin to understand that there’s something called a ‘boy’ and something thing called a ‘girl ‘and that something important differentiates between them. The problem is, they’re not sure what that is. Orenstein writes, “The whole penis-vagina thing does not hold quite the same cachet among the wee ones as it does among us.”

Orenstein recounts a story about a kid, Jeremy, who wore his favorite barrettes to school and was taunted by another kid who said, “You’re a girl!”

Jeremy denied it, arguing that he had a penis and testicles. The classmate replied, “Everyone has a penis, only girls where barrettes.”


Category : Community Member Projects and Updates | Culture | Media | Women | Blog
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