Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Girl Power: 5 Must Reads about Community

“I never thought of myself as a particularly brave person, certainly not a hero.  But I found that inside every human being there is a hero waiting to emerge.  I never could have done what I did without the help of many heroes.”  --Luba Tryszynaka-Frederick

This contemporary media driven world is all about teaching women to find THEIR happiness and demand THEIR rights. On the contrary, I think the best gift we, as women, can give ourselves is to contribute positively to our spheres of influence. The focus of this post is on girl power—the kind that is about helping others. I chose these biographies and stories because the women demonstrate compassion, selflessness, vision, and courage for the betterment of people in their communities. They represent the type of heroes and women I would like to see young girls aspiring to be. 

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins
Publisher Summary:  Meet Kate Sessions, a young woman with a grand passion for trees.  She has guts.  She has vigor.  And she has vision—a green, leafy vision that will one day transform a city.

Why I Picked It:  
Not only does Kate study science at time when women generally were discouraged from doing so, she goes on to be the first women to graduate from the University of California with a degree in it.  Women in her era were limited to a few specific roles. However, Kate broke the mold of expectations. She saw a problem in her community—no trees or greenery—and used her knowledge and talents to make a difference. Working and studying diligently, she found plants and trees from all over the world that thrive in San Diego’s climate. Every year she cultivated a variety of trees and plants. Then, she donated them to the local park and around the city. Kate took a barren landscape and made it a place of lavish natural beauty for all the citizens to enjoy. People traveled from far away to visit the city, and do so even to this day. Jill McElmurry’s illustrations capture the splendor and impact of Kate Sessions’ contribution to the city and to science.

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel
Publisher Summary: When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn’t speak English. She didn’t know that poor young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast. But that did not stop Clara. She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a factory. Clara never quit.  And she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. So Clara fought back. Fed up with mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women in the country’s history. 

Why I Picked It: 
Brave Girl is a wonderful historical biography that depicts a time of immense hardship and struggle for many people—especially immigrants. Markel does an excellent job describing the arduous conditions while Melissa Sweet illustrates them effectively. Clara is an example of perseverance and boldness. Marching to help marginalized workers, she endured constant exhaustion and even a physical beating by gangsters. She helped not only the thousands of women who were being mistreated, but she impacted genuine change throughout the country for all Americans working in sweatshop conditions. Clara Lemlich reminds women that when they have a worthwhile cause and work together, they can help rectify injustice.

The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone
Publisher Summary:
Ever since she was a little girl, Jane Addams hoped to help people in need. She wanted to create a place where people could find food, work, and community. In 1889, she chose a house in a run-down Chicago neighborhood and turned it into Hull House—a settlement home—soon adding a playground, kindergarten, and a public bath.  By 1907, Hull House included thirteen buildings.  And by the early 1920s, more than nine thousand people visited Hull House each week. 

Why I Picked It:
Jane did not complain about problems or demand the government fix everything. Instead, she saw a problem and worked to remedy it.  Kids getting into mischief – Put them to work doing something productive.  New Immigrants can’t find jobs – Teach them English and job skills. No safe place for children to play – Build a playground.  Jane is also an outstanding role model. She lived in the settlement house in the midst of poverty and filth.  Everyday and every item she received were used to help others. Not only did she use her own money to help, but she also won over many other wealthy people who helped her. Jane is the epitome of what needs to be done to solve contemporary problems—individuals working in their communities, giving of their time, money, and resources. 

Publisher Summary
Florence Nightingale revolutionized the world of medicine by emphasizing cleanliness, food that was hot and nutritious, and organization in hospitals. What began as an attempt to make army hospitals safer and more effective became a lifelong mission, and the innovations that began with Florence remain relevant today.

Why I Picked It: 
I was struck by the fact that Florence grew up wealthy and confortable, yet she had an overwhelming desire to help the needy.  She was not just a nurse, an amazing occupation in its own right.  Instead, she studied and revolutionized the profession. Her tireless efforts helped men injured in battle recover and the poor receive proper medical care. As she traveled all over the world and corresponded with professionals everywhere, she gained the tools and knowledge to lessen the suffering of all patients. Helping to start the Nightingale Training School for Nurses and inspiring the founding of the Red Cross ensured that people well beyond her reach and life would be impacted. Demi’s trademark illustrations bring her immense contributions to medicine.

Luba: Angel of Bergen-Belsen by Michelle R. McCann and Luba Tryszynska-Frederick
Publisher Summary: 
Why am I still alive?  Why was I spared? 
One cold December night in 1944, Luba Tryszynska questions were answered when she found fifty-four children abandoned behind the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. And Luba knew the consequences of rescuing these children. If the Nazis caught her, she could be executed. But they are someone’s children. And they are hungry. Despite the mortal dangers, Luba and the women of her barracks cared for these orphans—known to history as the Diamond Children—through a winter of disease, starvation, and war.

Why I Picked It:
I was so humbled after reading this story. I cannot imagine living in a concentration camp, separated from my husband and child. Luba did—for 2 years. Like many people, she questions why is she here.  Why is she still alive when so many others have died. When she saw the opportunity to help others, even worse off than herself, she took it. Her example prompted the other women to open up their hearts to a group of orphans. Every day she went around the camp and convinced people—who were also put in peril by helping her—to give her extra food and supplies to take care of the children. The fact she was able to move around the camp so freely to get what she needed is a miracle in itself.  When the war finally came to an end, dozens of children walked out of the camp and into new lives because of her compassion and courage. An epilogue, additional historical background information, and list of resources are also included. The haunting pictures by Ann Marshall round out this heart-wrenching text. You would be hard-pressed to find a better picture of leadership through compassion and self-sacrifice than Luba’s story.

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