By Jake Sexton
I am currently teaching a citizenship class at the library, a combination of basic civics and American history. While there are plenty of male presidents, Founding Fathers, and generals, there is only one woman from U.S. history that aspiring citizens must remember for their naturalization exam — Susan B. Anthony. Since March is Women’s History Month, some books on this topic would be a good supplement for this curriculum.
After decades of serving on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has somehow become a pop icon in recent years. Lovingly dubbed “Notorious RBG,” the 85-year-old has developed a reputation for stubborn, female badassery. Now you can read some of Ginsberg’s essays and transcribed speeches in her book, “My Own Words.” The topics of her writings include gender inequality, tributes to legal figures of the past, the inner workings of the Supreme Court, and the connections between law and opera.
Another “notorious” story comes in Mary Gabriel’s “Notorious Victoria: The Uncensored Life of Victoria Woodhull — Visionary, Suffragist, and First Woman to Run for President.” I was surprised to run across this book, because you’d think that the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency would be a well-known figure. Her 1872 candidacy was only one aspect of her rambunctious and passionate life. Woodhull was a spiritualist, stockbroker, newspaper editor, political radical, and advocate of “free love” during an extremely conservative time.
Novelist Stephen L. Carter turned to his own family history for his latest, “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster.” Carter’s grandmother, Eunice Hunton Carter, led an amazing life, weaving through the legal and political circles of 1930s New York City, despite the sexism and racism of the day. The book’s title refers to Carter’s integral position on the task force which investigated and eventually arrested famed gangster Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
Historian Matthew Goodman’s “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” almost tells its whole tale in the title. In 1889, famed reporter Nellie Bly was tasked with a publicity stunt of trying to circumnavigate the globe (like in Jules Verne’s popular book). Bly headed across the Atlantic by boat. That same day, journalist Elizabeth Bisland was assigned with the same task, but instead headed west by train. Who would win this great race?
And finally, one of the most popular books at our library right now is Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming.” She tells her story of growing up in Chicago, life in college and law school, marriage, family life, and of course, eight years as first lady of the United States. If you are reluctant to read this book because you don’t like politics, then you have something in common with the author: Obama focuses more on the human side of her experiences rather than espousing policy or discussing power struggles in government.
In library news, enjoy an afternoon of laughter and language with Richard Lederer on Saturday, April 6, at 1 p.m. We also have one of our biggest events of the year coming up on April 12 at 10:30 a.m. — an indoor egg hunt to celebrate Día de los Niños/Children’s Day, with lots of activities for kids and families.
— Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or visit online at sdcl.org.