Coming up with 50 individuals to effectively represent all the diverse women of the world who throughout history have not received the recognition their accomplishments warrant is no small feat, but in ANONYMOUS IS A WOMAN: A Global Chronicle of Gender Inequality, author Nina Ansary has done just that. Aiming to acknowledge women specifically born before the 1900s, the book introduces readers to the likes of Tapputi-Belatekallim (1200 BCE Babylonian), Cleopatra Metrodora (200 – 400 CE Greek), Rabi’a Balkhi (Tenth Century, Afghan), Beatriz Kimpa Vita (1684 – 1706, Kongolese), Marie-Sophie Germain (1776 – 1831, French), Clelia Duel Mosher (1863 -1940, American), Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1916, African American) and many other names of which most people have never heard.
In the mid-18th Century, for instance, 22-year-old Eva Ekeblad figured out that potatoes could be made into both flour and distilled spirits which went on to reduce the frequency of famines in all of Sweden. Huda Sha’arawi, kept veiled and secluded in an Egyptian harem, founded the Egyptian Feminist Union. In America, Elizabeth Freeman who was born a slave, hired a lawyer and successfully sued for freedom setting a precedent that eventually led to the abolition of slavery in the entire state of Massachusetts. Zitkala-Sa (also known as Red Bird or Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) born to a Yankton Sioux mother on a South Dakota reservation not only wrote a libretto for the first opera collaboratively composed with a First Nation indigenous person, she also founded The National Council of American Indians to advocate for improved education, health care, citizen rights and cultural recognition/preservation. Author Nina Ansar’s goal in presenting these women’s accomplishments? To challenge: “discriminatory policies, laws and ingrained stereotypical assumptions that create barriers for women and girls to succeed at a level commensurate with their aptitude and skills.”
In this day and age, is such a goal necessary? A few facts: 104 countries still have legislation preventing women from working certain jobs. 18 countries still have laws that allow husbands to forbid their wives to work at all. And even in countries where women are ‘allowed’ to work, 59 nations still have no law preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Women lead just 17% of the world’s top universities as of 2019. Out of the 904 individuals who have received the Nobel Prize since 1901, only 51 have been women. With 100% of sale proceeds from this book going to non-profit endeavors such as The Center for Human Rights in Iran and The London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security, purchasing numerous copies of this unique, long-needed resource for one’s friends, family, local libraries, educational institutions and of course one’s self only serves to add more truth and goodness into a world sometimes sorely lacking such qualities; a total win-win.
With powerfully evocative text and beautifully illustrated watercolors, ANONYMOUS IS A WOMAN: A Global Chronicle of Gender Inequality by Nina Ansary is so deliciously important, it could be expanded into an equally useful series.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader