5 Friendships to Know for Women’s History Month
In “Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History,” Maggs tells the stories of groups of friends who helped change the world. “I think it’s important, especially when we look at history, to see where women have been able to fight against patriarchy,” she said.
Particularly during times of racial and gender inequality, Maggs believes there are key lessons to be learned about how women have supported each other, as “no one succeeds on their own, and especially with women. , the more we work together, the stronger we are. ”
Kaila Story, Associate Professor in the Departments of Pan-African Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Louisville, adds, “If we’re trying to eradicate such monumental structural institutional things, we need of our girlfriends to hold our hand, to hug us and see us and let us know that we are not only capable, but more than capable.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, we spoke with authors and professors to highlight five friendships between women leaders in politics, art, literature and activism.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauli Murray
The unlikely friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and activist and jurist Pauli Murray began as a confrontation, said Patricia Bell-Scott, who wrote about the couple in her book “The Firebrand and the First Lady.” In 1938, frustrated with Southern racial segregation in higher education, Murray wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The first lady responded within two weeks, Bell-Scott said, “and it opened a conversation that has continued for nearly three decades.”
Over time, they went from disagreement to alliance, Bell-Scott said. And after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, their correspondence shifted from political matters to genuine concerns about personal family matters. “So it became a time of caring and friendship,” Bell-Scott said. “They had very busy lives, but they were rarely offline for more than six months.”
Roosevelt and Murray’s friendship demonstrates a willingness to have tough discussions and listen to other points of view, said Bell-Scott, who was also a consulting producer for the 2021 documentary “My Name is Pauli Murray.” . For example, in a letter to Roosevelt, Murray explained how she was threatened with eviction from a white California neighborhood where residents felt she did not belong.
“From that day in the 1940s until the end of her life, fair housing and housing discrimination remained a priority for Eleanor,” Bell-Scott said, “because she had, through her friendship with Pauli, an indirect sense of the pain that the experience was – the opportunity denied on the basis of race.
Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe
When Mexican painter Frida Kahlo traveled to America in 1930, she was an aspiring 23-year-old artist trying to find her place as the wife of famed muralist Diego Rivera, says art historian Celia Stahr. and a university professor. from San Francisco. “She was really starting,” Stahr said. “And she meets a number of female artists who I think really inspired her and helped her with her first breakthrough.” Among them was the modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
They met the following year in New York when O’Keeffe was 44 and at the height of his career, Stahr said. But while O’Keeffe thrived professionally, she was crumbling emotionally due to her husband’s infidelity. “In some ways, Diego Rivera was not so different from [O’Keeffe’s husband] Alfred Stieglitz,” Stahr said of the two male entertainers who were both known to have had affairs. “So I think [Kahlo and O’Keeffe] had to bond on that too.
In a male-dominated community, “female artists generally didn’t have many support systems,” Stahr added.
While they both struggled with relationships and sanity in their lives, their brief time together in New York was also marked by some fun memories, Stahr said, including an unforgettable tequila-filled night.
“As far as I could find, I don’t think the jack-in-the-desk grows really typically in the Mexican desert landscape,” Stahr said, adding that the portrait is also one of the first times that Kahlo is seen painting with flowers. .
“I think it’s directly related to Georgia O’Keeffe,” Stahr said.
Audre Lorde and Pat Parker
Audre Lorde and Pat Parker had a lot in common. Not only were they both black lesbian poets, mothers and activists, but they were also each battling cancer, said Story, a professor at the University of Louisville. In 1974, five years after they first met, they began regularly exchanging letters, discussing their writing and sharing intimate details about their personal lives, according to the book “Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989”.
“These are letters exchanged with two of the greatest poets of the 20th century,” Story said. “And both have used their lived experiences as springboards for change.”
Lorde was central to many liberation movements, including second-wave feminism, civil rights and black cultural movements, as well as struggles for LGBTQ equality, according to the Audre Lorde Project. His friendship with Parker has inspired a number of poems, but Parker also wielded his own influence as an unsung hero of the Black Arts Movement, reports Vice.
While Parker was based in Oakland, Calif., Lorde divided her time between New York and trips abroad. But they maintained their friendship through a correspondence that lasted 15 years, ending the year before Parker’s death.
“They were both incredible women who really articulated a lot of our current ideas about justice, transformative education, critical race theory,” Story said. “All the things that we face now as a nation, these women spoke about in their letters to each other and in their work.”
Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald
“Marilyn looked up to Ella immensely,” Mark said. “So much so that Marilyn’s singing is sort of based on how [she] thought Ella was singing things. Eventually, Monroe started showing up at different venues where Fitzgerald was performing, he said, “and they got to know each other.”
A key event in their friendship occurred in 1955 in Los Angeles. While Fitzgerald often played concert halls with big bands, she struggled to land nightclub gigs, said Mark, who also hosts a radio show celebrating the singer’s music. One popular venue in particular, Mocambo, would not book Fitzgerald. That’s when Monroe stepped in, telling the club owners that if they booked Fitzgerald for 10 days in a row, Monroe would show up with celebrities every night.
“Ella was reserved and Marilyn kept her word,” Mark said. On opening night, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland were reportedly among the celebrity friends who showed up. The club was sold out for 10 days, Mark said, and from then on Fitzgerald never had a problem booking nightclubs anywhere.
“It’s, I think, a wonderful first example of female power – one woman helping another achieve her goals,” Mark said.
Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz
Both wives of slain civil rights leaders, Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz’s friendship was born out of tragedy. And while the media often portrayed them as “widows,” women were activists and leaders in their own right, wrote author and minister Barbara Reynolds in The Washington Post. in 2013.
In 2013, Lifetime released the film “Betty and Coretta” to chronicle their exploits and the brotherhood they forged together. “Life brings them out of the shadows to renewed examination, appreciation and recognition of their leadership,” Reynolds wrote at the time, although family members of King and Shabazz later pointed out inaccuracies. in the biopic.
“Nevertheless, they were truly spiritual sisters,” Reynolds wrote. “It is a truth of which I am certain.”