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Breaking Barriers: Wonder Woman and the Bold Women of Medicine, a guest post by Susan M. Latta

bold womenWonder Woman is a strong female comic book character but there is more to her than muscle. She boldly and intelligently outsmarted her enemies. When Warner Bros./DC Comics blockbuster movie Wonder Woman came out earlier this summer I began to think about the characteristics shared between Wonder Woman and the women in my YA nonfiction book Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs, Chicago Review Press. (For Amanda’s review of this title, please pop on over here.)

 

Wonder Woman and the Bold Women of Medicine were controversial when they first appeared and remain so today. They were both unrestrained by the social norms of the era. The women medical pioneers weren’t supposed to be interested in science or medicine; many men and women considered these subjects much too advanced or gruesome for a woman. The treatments medical women perfected; whether it was Sister Elizabeth Kenny’s polio treatment, or Helen Taussig’s research in treating babies with serious heart defects, or Virginia Apgar’s assessment of newborn health, all proved that women could and did have a stake in medicine.

 

In 1939, Superman starred in the first comic book to showcase just one character, followed by Batman later that same year. And in 1941, Wonder Woman, an Amazon who hailed from an island of women only “came to the United States to fight for peace, justice, and women’s rights.”[i] Much like Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman also had a secret identity as a shy secretary named Diana Prince.  But as Wonder Woman, she was resilient.  And what more could the world want than a strong female character that still possessed tenderness and compassion.

 

William Moulton Marston, a trained psychologist, expert in lie detection, and a man influenced by several strong women including Margaret Sanger, (who heavily influenced the comic book character) created Wonder Woman. He was raised by strong women and predicted that one day women would rule the world.

 

The original inspiration behind Wonder Woman was women’s fight for equal rights. Marston believed that a woman must break the “chains” and free herself. And the same went for Wonder Woman except that if she didn’t use her power for the greater good, she’d be forced to return to weakness (and chains).

 

Clara Barton, 1904 (Library of Congress)

Clara Barton, 1904 (Library of Congress)

Wonder Woman was more than just a comic when she first appeared, included in each issue was a feature titled, “Wonder Women of History.” This insert heralded a real life heroic woman who possessed the same Wonder Woman qualities of “daring, strength, and ingenuity,” that in the early 1940s, qualities that were not usually attributed to women. Incidentally, Florence Nightingale was the first “Wonder Woman of History,” followed by Clara Barton, and Elizabeth Blackwell, all three of which I profiled in my book Bold Women of Medicine.

The bold women of medicine displayed strength in the ways they pursued science and medicine. Many of the medical pioneers shied away from the tenderness Wonder Woman exposed, and in that way, they are different. When women first entered the male-dominated medical world, they felt they had to be void of emotion because they believed that was the only way they would succeed.

 

Mary E. Walker in Dress Pants Uniform [Credit] Wikimedia Commons

Mary E. Walker in Dress Pants Uniform [Credit] Wikimedia Commons

Marie Zakrzewska, nicknamed Dr. Zak because she tired of Americans mispronouncing her name, was the third woman to be granted a medical degree in the United States. She was initially not promoted in her first career as a midwife because the professors believed she had a snippy nature and angered too quickly. But she did not behave any differently than the men, her “fault” was that she was a woman.  Dr. Zak (almost sounds like a superhero), pushed women to become scientific thinkers and not rely on traditional female qualities of comfort and nurture to care for the sick. She believed woman must behave as “male physicians” or they wouldn’t succeed.

Mary Edwards Walker, a civil war surgeon, refused to be constricted by clothing traditions of the 1800s. She donned pants, covered by a long coat-like dress. Mary didn’t care what others thought of her; she only wanted to serve. She was the only woman ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which in fact was stripped from her shortly before she died because she didn’t meet the combat qualifications. The medal was restored to her posthumously in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.

 

Edna Adan Ismail with nursing graduates of the Edna Adan Maternity and Children's Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland

Edna Adan Ismail with nursing graduates of the Edna Adan Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland

Like Wonder Woman, many of the Bold Women of Medicine do practice both the rigors of science and the art of compassion. Dr. Catherine Hamlin and Midwife Edna Adan Ismail, both still practicing, see women being mistreated every day and do their utmost to both stop the abuse and heal with surgery and care. Dr. Sister Anne Brooks, an osteopathic physician who is also a nun, before her recent retirement, fought illness with both touch and tough love. She provided education to the poverty-stricken citizens of Tutwiler, Mississippi so that they could return to good health. But if they didn’t comply, her blatant question was “to ask them if they’ve bought their coffin yet.”

 

Bertha Van Hoosen, 1948.[Credit]Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm

Bertha Van Hoosen, 1948.[Credit]Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm

The Bold Women of Medicine believed that they had every right to pursue the study of science, even though men didn’t believe women could handle the difficulty of a medical education. If women were admitted to lecture hall and surgical theaters, it was believed they might “contaminate” the male students. Many of the male and female medical students fainted while watching surgeries and Bertha Van Hoosen was one of those women. She said, “I am not only going [into the surgical amphitheater] but I am going to stay until I faint, and when I come to, I am going to remain, no matter how many times I faint.”

 

 

 

 

As I researched these women, I found that perseverance was a common trait. Yes, they were smart and well educated but they never gave up. Every one of them fought or still fights insurmountable odds, and that is what I admire most about them. Even today there are ongoing challenges for women in medicine, especially in terms of wages. The 2016 Medscape Physician Compensation Report states that overall, women physicians make 24 percent less than their male peers.

 

Dr Catherine Hamlin with trainee midwives at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia 2009. Photo: Lucy Horodny, AusAID

Dr Catherine Hamlin with trainee midwives at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia 2009. Photo: Lucy Horodny, AusAID

Each new generation of women in medicine leads the way, encouraging more women to choose work in a health-care field. The bold women of medicine don’t have Wonder Woman’s special powers, but they work diligently to become today’s real-life wonder women.

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Penguin Random House, 2014, Introduction.

 

Meet Susan M. Latta

Photo Credit: Sarah Pierce

Photo Credit: Sarah Pierce

Susan Latta earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Mass Communications from Iowa State University and her masters in business administration from Drake University. She has worked in several fields including advertising for a large agency in St. Louis, Missouri, and in marketing and finance for the family business, McGarvey Coffee in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned a master of fine arts in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University. In addition to Bold Women of Medicine, Susan has written on history, biography, and geography for Appleseeds and Faces magazines and completed freelance work for Heinemann Leveled Books and ABDO Publishing. Susan has three adult children and lives with her husband and two Golden Retrievers in Edina, Minnesota.

Connect with Susan online: 

Twitter @lattasusan, Instagram suslat, Facebook Susan McGarvey Latta

TPiB: Wonder Woman Amazon Training Academy for Free Comic Book Day, a guest post by Liz Gotauco

This past weekend, Wonder Woman broke box office records – yay! Today we are excited to share a great Wonder Woman themed program from YA librarian Liz Gotauco.

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As a comics reader and ardent Wonder Woman fan, I’ve enjoyed hosting Free Comic Book Day events at libraries for the past five years. But despite my devotion to the fandom, I hadn’t yet actually done a program focused on my favorite superhero.  With the first Wonder Woman movie coming out this summer, I knew I had to plan something special to honor Diana.  While I am the Teen Services Coordinator at my library, I wanted to host an activity that would work for a wider age range.  It fit in well with Free Comic Book Day as both Wonder Woman and DC Superhero Girls had titles available to give away. So the Amazon Training Academy was born.

The Amazon Training Academy worked similarly to many themed programs you’ve probably done before, with patrons taking on challenges inspired by Wonder Woman and her stories. Wonder Woman has a 75+ year history so there was a lot to choose from – maybe too much! So I focused on her most iconic characteristics.

Her strength and agility: In a million-dollar world, the Amazon Training Academy would have been like the set of that ‘90s TV Show American Gladiator, but for me I just picked one of those activities – Gladiator Jousting.  If you have a bit of money lying around, you can rent an inflatable jousting unit, with pedestals that competitors stand on and soft jousting sticks to push opponents and a bouncy-house floor.  I didn’t have said pile of money, but Google led me to a version a camp had done with gymnast mats and pool noodles.  Our middle school leant us the mats and I created large jousting sticks with the pool noodles and duct tape.  Shoving your friend with a pool noodle turned out to be a universal amusement. Parents and friends spotted each other and once in a while I had to step in to make sure pairs were evenly matched. But it turned out to be our most popular activity in the Training Academy.

Bullet-proof bracelets Another activity that we all know goes over well is target practice, whether you’re Katniss shooting an arrow or aiming for a zombie’s head with a Nerf Blaster.  Wonder Woman provides a unique spin on this activity with her bullet-proof bracelets. So I borrowed some safety goggles from our maintenance staff, purchased a Nerf blaster with darts, and assembled some goofy oversized silver cuffs out of toilet paper rolls and more duct tape. Pairs stood across the room from each other (to counter-act how fast those darts fly) and the person in cuffs and goggles tried deflecting darts with their wrists.

wonderwomanweekgauntlets

Lasso of Truth For this I created a simple ring toss with gold rope hoops and Wonder Woman colored poles. This activity scaled the youngest but could be adapted for older ages.  If I did a program like this again, I would love to have a local talent come in to teach rope-throwing, but that seemed like it could be its own program and would take more time and space than the passive activities I was looking to run. But what fun that would be!

Wonder Woman Trivia Lastly, patrons could test their own truth-seeking skills with a simple True/False trivia board, sharing some of the interesting history behind Wonder Woman and her creators. My assistant created a colorful presentation board with lift-the-flap questions and answers, and it made for good pastime while patrons waited for the jousting to open up or stood in line for their free comic books.

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Other ideas I had that didn’t make the cut but might work at your library: a twist on “Two Truths and a Lie” for the Lasso/Truth-telling element, an obstacle course with a Greek theme, creating Diana’s accessories at a make-and-take station, bringing in a local fencing instructor (since the movie has popularized the image of her with a sword and shield), teamwork challenges in the spirit of Amazon kinship, or a screening of the Lynda Carter TV show if you’ve got the right license.  Hopefully the new movie will only increase the popularity of Diana and other woman superheroes, so give the Amazon Training Academy a whirl for your next comic book event!

Meet Our Guest Blogger

wonderwomanliz

Liz Gotauco is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Cumberland Public Library in Cumberland, RI.  She has worked in children and teen library services for almost ten years.  Prior to that, she worked with youth in theatre education with the Rhode Island Youth Theatre.  When she’s not at the library, Liz can be found singing with her cover band Overdue!, sewing a new cosplay, baking, or scouting out fashion exhibits at a local museum.  You can find her at Goodreads and on Litsy and Twitter @lizgotauco.

MakerSpace Mondays: Making Wonder Woman Bracers/Cuffs

makermondayslogo

This weekend the Wonder Woman movie is finally here! And June 3rd, Saturday, has been declared Wonder Woman day in libraries: DC Celebrates Wonder Woman Day with Massive Global Event. We will be celebrating on Saturday at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) by making Wonder Woman cuffs/bracers.

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Supplies needed:

  • Used/empty duct tape rolls or poster mailing tubes
  • Duct tape
  • Box cutter
  • Washi tape

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I must admit that this activity necessitates a little bit of planning. It turns out that empty duct tape rolls are in fact the best way to make this activity. They are the perfect width and are thick enough to make good, sturdy cuffs (or bracers as my teens tell me they are called in Wonder Woman speak). You can also cut down an old poster mailing tube. We discovered this because we have a duct tape station in our Teen MakerSpace and the teens kept throwing away the cardboard tubes and we thought, surely there is something we can make with those. And there is! I will also note that there are tutorials out there for making duct tape cuff bracelets without the tubes. See, for example: Duct Tape Cuff: 4 Steps.

wonderwoman4

Step 1: Turning your duct tape roll into a cuff

You’ll want to use your box knife to cut a small piece out of your empty duct tape roll so you can slip it onto your wrist. Also, the empty rolls are slightly big for most wrists, so you have to cut them down to size. It takes only 2 cuts and then you can remove a one inch section. This is your opening to fit the cuff easily onto your wrist. For smaller wrists, you can cut a slightly larger piece out.

Step 2: Decorate your cuff using duct and washi tape

They don’t have to be Wonder Woman themed, but Wonder Woman themed is kind of awesome. But you can use any colors of tape and just make amazing wearable jewelry.

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Middle School Monday: Teens, Body Image and Wonder Woman

MSM11

A couple of weeks ago, my teenage daughter came to me, lifted up her shirt and told me she was thin. And I had what may arguably be one of my worst parenting moments. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m not, so what.”

As the mom to a middle school girl, I remember very well how I developed an eating disorder in middle school. I am now an adult woman the age of 44 and I continue to struggle with body image issues, a healthy relationship with food, and how to help my daughters not have my issues. Parenting and librarianing to teens can be hard y’all.

Which brings me to Wonder Woman.

I have been looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie for years as it languished in production, changed directors, etc. And I didn’t really realize it was coming out so soon until The Mary Sue shared an article about how they weren’t really marketing the movie, and they’re not. While I couldn’t avoid a Guardians of the Galaxy commercial or tie-in, I had no idea that Wonder Woman’s release was fast approaching (June 2nd).

Fans Want to Know Where All the ‘Wonder Woman’ Marketing Is

As the mom to two girls, I have made it my mission to financially support female centric entertainment because there just isn’t enough of it and we know that in the world of entertainment, box office receipts and viewer ratings are what speaks to the gatekeepers. So we go see the movies (if we financially can when they come out).

This Was Not the Wonder Woman Marketing We Were

But then I learned that they were doing some marketing tie-in with the Wonder Woman – with a health diet bar called Think Thin. That’s right, we finally get a solo female superhero movie and the dangerous marketing tie in they choose is Think Thin. I can not even begin to tell you about the disgust I feel in the pit of my stomach. This is dangerous messaging to send to the tweens and teens who are anxiously awaiting their first chance to see a female led superhero movie. It reinforces every negative body image message these young people receive, and they receive a lot.

And now as a mother and a woman, I am forced into a deep ethical quandary: do I go see the movie to support women in film and risk endorsing this message or do I take an ethical stand of opposition and risk having the studios say see, we tried a female superhero movie and it didn’t work? As a woman, I resent that the studio have put me in this position. As a mother, I resent that they are once again telling my daughters that “thin” is the ideal. As an eating disorder survivor, I can not emphasize to you enough the harm that this does.

Make no mistake, I have boycotted film and television before and I share with my daughters the reasons we are doing so. For example, though The Teen wanted to go see Passengers I explained to her what my concerns about the movie were and we decided not to support it financially.

But I really don’t know what to do about Wonder Woman. And I resent that I am put in the situation of having to try and figure out whether I want to support a female superhero movie or whether I need to boycott it to make a statement about how we harm women with our messaging about body types.