Friday, February 10, 2006

Another Birthday, Mr. Darwin

Today's article in USA Today caught my eye this morning.

"In upstate Ithaca, N.Y., they're celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday (the still-controversial author of The Origin of Species would have turned 197 on Sunday) with panel discussions featuring Cornell University faculty members, Darwin-related family events at the Museum of the Earth and a screening of the 1960 evolution classic, Inherit the Wind.

One enterprising B&B, the McLallen House, even touts a package that includes a "graduate-level breakfast seminar on geology, evolution, and the Finger Lakes landscape" delivered by the owner, who has a doctorate in paleontology." See the Cornell Daily Sun for details about the event.

And if that's not enough to merit a mention here, later this morning I noticed another librarian deeply absorbed in the Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton, a fictional account of Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, his work on Origin of Species interwoven with a contemporary mystery about what happened to the other doctor on the famed Beagle? See what PW Magazine says in its review.
Not quite up to traveling to Upstate New York in a blizzard this weekend OR plowing through a Victorian scientific treatise? Try watching Inherit the Wind, the 1960 movie about the so-called "Monkey Trial," that put the theory of evolution on trial in the courts.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Feminist Betty Friedan Dead at 85

Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), died yesterday. Margalit Fox of the San Fransico Chronicle writes, "With its impassioned yet clear-eyed analysis of the issues that affected women's lives in the decades after World War II -- including enforced domesticity, limited career prospects and, as chronicled in later editions, the campaign for legalized abortion -- "The Feminine Mystique" is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century."
Online literary magazine Slate has an article by Friedan's friend and Slate editor, Emily Bazelon, fondly remembering a lesser known side to the famously assertive feminist. Bazelon tells about clothes shopping with a less confident Friedan.
"From this shopping expedition I learned that you can have the confidence to take over any room in the world except a dressing room. You can start a revolution and still worry that you lack good taste. You can be a make-way-for-me feminist—the feminist, in fact, who was famously bitter about losing the spotlight to younger, more glamorous women like Gloria Steinem—and still, almost despite your ideals, want to find a dress that flatters you. In the 1960s and '70s, Betty was part of a wave of feminism that assiduously strove to free women from caring about what they looked like, thinking that preoccupation incompatible with the aims of equality. But Betty was never as radical as some of her peers. And though they attacked her for that, her views have proved more durable."
Regrettably, like many women who have benefited from Friedan's activism and revolutionary ideas, I never really read her book from cover to cover. It would be a good time to do that.