Friday, March 18, 2011

A Women in History Month Post Featuring Author Jeannine Atkins

Here I am with author Jeannine Atkins
at the March 16th dinner meeting
of the Massachusetts PAS North Shore Council of IRA.

I hadn’t thought about something when I first invited Jeannine Atkins to be the guest speaker for our reading council’s winter dinner meeting on March 16th. March is Women in History Month. A second sense must have guided me when I chose her to speak to our council members…because Jeannine's books–whether nonfiction, historical fiction, or poetry—celebrate the achievements, intelligence, and courage of women.

Jeannine has found inspiration for her writing in nature, in the past, and especially in the lives of women who bucked convention and carved out lives for themselves as scientists and explorers. The famous—and not so famous—women that she has written about include Maria Sybilla Merian, Anna Botsford Comstock, Miriam Rothschild, Louis May Alcott, Marie Curie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Huthchinson, Mary Anning, Rachel Carson, and Jane Goodall.

I couldn’t wait to meet Jeannine in person. I LOVED her most recent book Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters. Once I picked up the book and started reading it I couldn’t put it down. Her narrative poetry in Borrowed Names really drew me into the lives of those three accomplished women—a popular children’s author, a wealthy black businesswoman, a famous scientist who won two Nobel Awards—and their daughters.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Madam C. J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove)

Marie (Sklodowska) Curie

I think Borrowed Names is a perfect book to share with children during Women in History Month. So, too, are some of Jeannine’s other books—which include Aani and the Tree Huggers, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, Anne Hutchinson’s Way, and Girls Who Looked under Rocks.

Jeannine says that during the years when her daughter was growing up, she wrote about people who hadn’t yet found their rightful places in history books—female Arctic explorers, seventeenth century naturalists, paleontologists, pilots. In an interview with Glenn Hoveman, Glenn asked Jeannine about the women she wrote about in Girls Who Looked under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists.

Glenn: Some of the women naturalists you write about in Girls are well known, like Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall. But others are not well known at all, like Maria Merian and Anna Comstock. How did you find out about them sufficiently to really write about them, especially as children?

Jeannine: Writing about women from history often brings me to my next subject, as one life may bump into another. Both Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall wrote beautifully about their own experiences, and expressed thanks to those who taught them, which led me on paths back. For instance, Rachel Carson’s mother used Anna Comstock’s massive book to answer her daughter’s scientific questions, and since Anna Comstock had been a respected professor, her letters and notes had been saved. While a woman such as Maria Sibylla Merian isn’t a household name now, she was highly respected in her day, then essentially forgotten. I love doing the “detective work” of going back to buried records of achievement.

If you’re looking for books about women that you can read to/recommend to children during Women in History Month, I suggest you think of author Jeannine Atkins—a woman author who writes about women.
Learn more about Anne Hutchinson: The Trial of Anne Hutchinson (PBS Kids)
********************Learn more about Mary Anning here.

******************** Learn More about the Chipko Movement: India’s Call to Save Their Forests
You can see a picture of tree huggers here.


Jeannine Atkins said...

Elaine, I couldn't wait to meet you either, and had so much fun! Thank you for this wonderful post. You certainly know how to make a speaker welcome!

jama said...

Love this post -- Borrowed Names was one of my fave books of 2010. So nice to see you two together in that photo :).

Elaine Magliaro said...


I loved your talk! I hope you and your husband had a grand time in Portsmouth.



"Borrowed Names" was one of my favorite books of 2010 too.

PL said...

"Elaine Magliaro said...

I loved your talk! I hope you and your husband had a grand time in Portsmouth."

Elaine, as you can see here and here, we did!

I also wanted to thank you for that wonderful introduction you gave Jeannine at your event -- very nice! -- PL