The comic book Lumberjanes has wrapped up its first story arc! If you haven’t been reading this hilarious, fresh, genuine comic, and you like stories about hardcore lady types celebrating friendship to the max and fighting three-eyed foxes, moving statues, sassy yetis, and other stuff, get your butt to the nearest comic store and see if there are any left!
One of the ongoing jokes in the series is that instead of swearing, the girls swap in names of famous feminists, as in, “what the Joan Jett?” As I read the series, I realized that I knew fewer than half of the women mentioned. Which was concerning.
So here you go: my handy guide to the Lumberjanes’ favorite feminists!
Joan Jett is the rock ‘n roll goddess most famous for “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” She pretty much refused to follow societal rules for girls, and she’s been rocking hard since 1975, both in her trailblazing group The Runaways and as a solo performer. In the 90s, she produced for the band Bikini Kill and is credited with inspiring the Riot Grrl movement. About the challenges of being a woman in the industry: “For some reason people are afraid of powerful women. I don’t really get it.”
Bessie Coleman was the first African-American to become a licensed pilot. She was inspired by stories she heard from returning World War I pilots, but had to train in France because no American schools would take her because she was black and no black American pilots would train her because she was female. She used her skills to become one of the most famous stunt pilots of the 1920s, and she was even offered a movie role, but she refused to take it because it would require her to perpetuate the black stereotypes of the day. She was the first American of any race or gender to earn an international pilot’s license, but she died at age 34 during a test flight in a poorly-maintained plane. She was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.
Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to travel into space, aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992. She entered Stanford at age 16 and served with the Peace Corps before applying for NASA. After her space flight, she taught at Cornell and Dartmouth and founded multiple companies and foundations to further science and exploration. And she was the first real-life astronaut to appear in an episode of “Star Trek” (TNG, “Second Chances”), which is extra awesome because she was inspired to apply to NASA because of Uhura!
Phillis Wheatley‘s poems made her the first published African-American writer, in 1773. She was named after the slave ship that brought her to America and given the last name of the family that owned her. Even though her poetry brought her fame both in America and England, she did not become free until her master died in 1778, when she was around 25 years old. After marrying and struggling with poor living conditions, and being unable to publish her second volume due to the Revolutionary War, she died in poverty in 1784.
Anahareo, given name Gertrude Bernard, was a Mohawk writer and conservationist. She was married to sketchy figure Grey Owl, who claimed to be part Apache but was actually a 100% English bloke named Archibald Belaney. He remains one of Canada’s most respected conservationists, but it was her time with him that led him away from his career as a trapper and towards their mutual roles as conservationists. She remained active in conservation and animal rights causes until her death in 1986. The Lumberjanes scout rules specifically forbid the punching of animals, so hopefully she’d be pleased with her reference.
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts, so it’s pretty appropriate that she gets a shout-out in Lumberjanes. After traveling the world with her husband (who turned out to be a cheating dirtbag), she moved to Scotland, where she met Scout Movement founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell. She was inspired to start a girl’s scouting chapter in her native Savannah in 1912. She never remarried, and when she developed breast cancer, she kept it secret and continued to work for the Girl Scouts until she died in 1927.
Stay tuned for Part 2! (Also, which Lumberjane are you? I got Jo!)