220px-Harriet_Quimby_054Thank you, NPR, for turning us on to the charming podcasts of one Nate DiMeo, creator of lyrical 10-minute episodes on little-known moments in history that deserve remembrance. These poetic pieces appear occasionally on his site, The Memory Palace. Consider “400,000 Stars,” his paean to the 13 women (mere maids, schoolteachers, and shopgirls) whom Edward Pickering hired at the Harvard Observatory in the 1870s to replace his lazy graduate students. (He declared that his maid could do a better job. So he hired her. And she did—for 25 cents an hour.) As in all his podcasts, DiMeo paints the scene for us: “They made sure that the lace ruffles at their wrists didn’t dip into the inkwells” as they counted the stars in photographs (every one of the 400,000 that could be seen back then). “These human computers ordered the heavens without looking up.”

DiMeo understands what it was like for women back in the old days. The episode we first heard was “Remembering Harriet Quimby, a Daring Female Pilot” (photo above). DiMeo’s rendering:

 

The year after the second International Aviation Exhibition, Harriet Quimby rose 150 feet in the air, circled five times and landed within an acceptable distance from a designated point in the grass and became the first American woman to get her pilot’s license. Let’s remember that it’s 1910, and women can’t even vote. But here is Harriet Quimby flying, rising above. Let’s just embrace the metaphor. Let’s just see her in the open air cockpit not far above the trees, but high enough to see Long Island Sound to her left and the open ocean rolling out to her right and men and women down below looking up with widened eyes.

To enjoy all the episodes (60 of them), go to http://thememorypalace.us/

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