In this week’s Wednesday 5, Amelia Earhart’s bold views on marriage; Helen Mirren on sexism in Hollywood; women science fiction writers still encouraged to use male pseudonyms; Phiona Mutesi uses chess as a pathway out of poverty in Uganda; and the documentary on Mutesi’s journey from the slums in Kampala to the international stage of chess champions.

Amelia Earhart’s Prenup—Her Vision of Marriage

Via the Purdue University Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers

That Amelia Earhart is a bold woman. And we’re not referring to her becoming the first female aviator to fly a solo transatlantic flight. Nope, we’re referring to her prenup, which we’ve read  thanks to the  Purdue University Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers. In a letter to her husband-to-be, George Putnam, Earhart lays out a vision for her marriage:

“. . . let us not interfere with the others’ work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements . . . . I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.”

We’re not the only ones moved or impressed with Earhart’s honesty. Lori at Feministing.com, who says the letter’s discovery is a great counter to the still-ongoing work/life balance debate, reminds us that “the well-reasoned perspective laid out in these papers is strangely reassuring . . . in that it’s a good reminder that ours is hardly the first, second, or even third generation to struggle to define what it means to be  independent, feminist, and successful while also being a loving and supportive partner and perhaps spouse.”

 

Helen Mirren on Her “Sudden” Popularity

Consider this actor’s bio: Began acting career in the 1960s, and since then has racked up one Academy Award, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards. Why, then, would anyone ask said actor about her “sudden” popularity? That actress is Helen Mirren. And this, according to BlackBook, is how she recently responded:

“Well, that’s how it looks from the outside. My success grew slowly but constantly. I’ve been working every year since I started acting and I got many awards before I won the Oscar for The Queen. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been interested in big Hollywood flicks and I’ve only been in a few recently. I’ve always sensed a misogynist and sexist attitude, even in the ’60s and ’70s. Can I say that [the 1970 movie] Five Easy Pieces sucks?. . . . You need to be a feminist. It’s about equality and rights.”

This question about Mirren’s “sudden” popularity is not only insulting to her and her portfolio but it underscores a continuing and larger problem for women actors in Hollywood: invisibility.

 

Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Still Encouraged to Use Male Pseudonyms

In October, we shared a story by blogger Danuta Kean on women crime writers whose characters are deadlier than their male counterparts. Kean argued that crime-writing women at the helm of an explosion of heightened violence are “pushing boundaries with work that is getting nastier as a result.” Well, on the flip side, the women in science fiction aren’t faring so well as the women in crime fiction. Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com tells us that female science fiction and fantasy authors are still encouraged to use male pseudonyms. Case in point: J.K. (not Joanne) Rowling of the Harry Potter series. While women make up the majority of readers for most fiction genres, science fiction remains the exception. In that data lie the publishers’ rationalizations for “encouraging” male or gender-neutral author names, as Anne Sowards at Penguin tells us in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

“For a new author, we want to avoid anything that might cause a reader to put a book down and decide, ‘not for me.’ When we think a book will appeal to male readers, we want everything about the book to say that—the cover, the copy and, yes, the author’s name.”

 

The Year of the Girl: From Poverty to Disney Film, a Ugandan Chess Star

From Pakistan to Uganda, this is indeed the year of the girl. While the online petitions and social media campaigns to give Malala Yusufzai the Nobel Peace Prize are circling the web, another phenomenal young woman is breaking ground in Uganda. Phiona Mutesi, who grew up in one of Kampala’s poorest slums, started attending a chess program ran by missionaries so she could get food; turned out to be really good at it; became the country’s champion and a global rising star in chess; now travels the world as a chess player; and has had a book written about her (the book, “The Queen of Katwe,” will be made into a Disney film). And Phiona is only 16.

Click to read the CNN article and view the interview with Phiona Mutesi.

 

Documentary: “Queen of Katwe” Ugandan Chess Star, Phiona Mutesi

For this week’s dose of inspiration, we share the short documentary on Phiona’s story.

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