Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Color is Love?

"He loves me. He loves me not." Library of Congress, 1910.
U.S. SENATORS GATHERED THIS WEEK at a hearing to discuss anti-Muslim discrimination and to determine if the Justice Department needs more resources to deal with the growing problem. Sadly, it seems unlikely that we'll ever live in a world without prejudice. Thankfully, there are always people who stand up against hate.

This week, 102 years ago, Californians Helen Gladys Emery, 21, and Gunjiro Aoki, 25, a native of Japan, fell in love and decided to marry. At the time, European-Americans and Japanese people were not allowed to marry in California; that state's legislature had passed the law just weeks before.

When the engagement news broke, a mob gathered outside her family's home and pelted Emery and her mother with rocks, rice and dead flowers as the two raced for a train to take them to Washington State, where Aoki, traveling separately, would meet them and the couple could legally marry. At the train station, another crowd gathered to hurl insults.

BUT THE YOUNG LOVERS STOOD STEADFAST: Aoki refused an offer of $1,000 from the Japanese community in San Francisco to give up his alliance. "Not for two million dollars," he answered. And before she left, Emery issued a public statement. In part, it read:

"I love Gunjiro Aoki, have loved him for some time, and sincerely hope to maintain my love for him despite all that may be said or done, despite the slurs on his character or the insults of the small-minded and petty individuals. . . . I cannot see why children born of such a union would possess to any lesser degree those attributes of Americanism, as judged in its highest and broadest sense, than, say, those born of a union between a native of Poland and one of the interior of Russia. Mentality, breeding, courtesy, honor, love of country and filial devotion are as much a part of the Japanese characteristics as they are American."

Turned away in Portland and Tacoma, the couple wed in Seattle — thanks to the mayor's permission and armed guards to prevent any more crowds from stopping or hurting them.

According to their great niece, playwright Brenda Wong Aoki, after the wedding her Uncle Gunjiro said, “To Christian spirit all things are equal. If you understand about love, you know it is the same in all nationalities. What is the color of love?”

The couple had five children and were married until Aoki's death in 1932. Incredibly, the U.S. government revoked Emery's citizenship for her marriage to Aoki — and reinstated it after his death and her name change to "Oakie."

AttaGirl notes:
Nancy Nichols will receive a copy of Friends Forever. The winner? Chosen by my 13-year-old daughter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AttaGirl Author Interview and Book Giveaway

TIME TRAVEL AND FRIENDSHIP intertwine in Friends Forever, a sparkling novel that jumps across a century as tween heroines grow up in the same house 100 years apart. Author Amy Ariel, an attorney and educator, shared her thoughts about her characters and the novel's 1912 setting with AttaGirl. Check out her answers — then leave a comment and your email address. One lucky reader will receive a complimentary copy of Friends Forever. 

Amy Ariel
Friends Forever offers a lively backdrop of circa 1900 events, particularly those that relate to civil and women's rights. Do you hope readers will be inspired to learn more about this time in history?
The Progressive Era is both challenging and inspiring. When we imagine the past, it's tempting to conjure a time more simple than the one in which we live. . . . 
I would be thrilled if my readers became engaged with Hannah and Abigail’s story and through it became more interested in the setting of Abigail’s life. However, what I hope most is that they will be intrigued by the idea of the past brimming with stories and become
inspired to read more of any of them.
Why center your story on this time in history?
Friends Forever began as a short story written as a birthday present for one of my then seven-year-old students, Amalia Hertel. When asked what she would like for her birthday she requested I write a story about a Jewish girl who wasn’t too much older than and at least as smart as her, and she wanted a story that wasn’t too ordinary. . . . [Later] when I picked up my short story [again] and watched it grow under my fingers, I journaled in Abigail’s voice to get a sense of her character. It became clear Abigail is a child of the Progressive Era. She wonders at one point whether anyone living 100 years in the future will ever stand at the corner of Marshall and Lexington and wonder about a girl like her. I hope after meeting Abigail, more people do just that.

Both girls in Friends Forever are great readers, and several popular novels are featured. Do you have personal early-1900s favorites? 
It was love that motivated me to include so many references to my favorite turn-of-the-century novels. Others, for older readers, will have cameos in the next book.
An element of magic allows Hannah to time travel in Friends Forever. If you could get to know a woman from the turn-of-the-century, whom would you choose?
There are at least two: Alice Paul and Clara Ueland. They were very different women, but each was strong and brilliant. I think of Alice Paul every time I vote, since she was one of the people who led the successful campaign for women’s suffrage. Clara Ueland was the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. I would guess neither of them would let me be satisfied with anything I’ve accomplished so far in my life. Both of them would push me to learn more, be more, and accomplish more. I would love to spend time with women like that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

10 Cool Women You've (Likely) Never Heard Of

March is National Women's History Month. Just a month? Pick any decade, any year for that matter, and you'll find women making history — although too often they're not the history-makers we learn about in school. To help right that wrong, just a smidge, AttaGirl, circa 1900, is pleased to acquaint you with 10 amazing women — a race car driver, a movie director and a self-made millionaire among them — who were breaking new ground roughly 100 years ago.  

Suffragist and adventurer Annie Smith Peck became the first woman to scale the Matterhorn in 1895, writing magazine articles to pay for her expedition. In 1911, Peck, then 61, climbed Peru’s Mount Coropuna, planting a "Votes for Women" banner at the summit.  . . Lizzie Arlington signed a professional baseball contract — the first woman to do so — and pitched for the Philadelphia Reserves in 1898 . . . . Despite the fact that she couldn't swim, retired schoolteacher Annie Taylor, 63, (see inset) was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel — and live. "I would caution anyone against attempting the feat," she told reporters after surviving the plunge in 1901. . . . Educator, orator, religious leader and businesswoman Nannie Helen Burroughs, the daughter of two former slaves, got started early, helping to establish the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 — at just 17 years old. . . . Alice Guy-Blaché, the motion picture industry's first female film director, made her first full-length feature in 1906 and went on to direct, produce or oversee more than 700 films. . . . Madame C.J. Walker created a line of hair-care and skin products for African-American women and, thanks to her marketing genius, became the first self-made female millionaire at the turn of the century. . . . Mary Harriman founded the Junior League, one of the oldest and best-known women's volunteer organizations, in 1901. Their first project? After her coming-out ball, the 19-year-old debutante organized her friends to bring all of her party bouquets to hospital patients. . . . Jesse Tarbox Beals was the first woman to make her living as a photojournalist, covering fires, floods and murder trials beginning in 1902 for the The Buffalo Inquirer in Buffalo, New York. . . . At age 17, Anna May Wong, a native Californian, starred in her first silent film, The Toll of the Sea, in 1922, and went on to become the first Asian-American superstar. . . . Race car driver and movie star Anita King was the first person to ever drive alone across the United States — from Los Angeles to New York City. Despite getting lost in the Nevada desert due to terrible signage, Wyoming mud that rose to the top of her hubcaps and much more, King accomplished the feat in 49 days in 1915, stopping to speak at 100 Paramount Theatres along the way.