>My writing class is fabulous. The assignment for this week is to write a profile of the worst boss I ever had. (In prior weeks, we were assigned to write a piece about something we didn't want anyone to know and a piece in which each paragraph begins with the phrase, "I remember..." We get two pages in which to express ourselves, and working within very specific parameters is helping me in many ways.) The instructor gave us an example of an excellent profile, a story called "Mazie." It was written by the infamous New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell in 1940, and is about a woman who works at a movie theater on the Bowery. To say she is a total character is an understatement.
At one point in the piece, Mazie talks about meeting Fannie Hurst and being suspicious of her because she didn't want to appear in Hurst's writing. I'd never heard of Fannie Hurst before, so I looked her up online. (Sorry mom, I don't have any encyclopedias sitting around the apartment, although I know this is your preferred method of research.) Hurst was a well-known novelist in the 1920s and 1930s. Even better, she was a member of the Lucy Stone League, an organization that fought for women to be able to keep their maiden names after they got married and use them legally. (Motto: "My name is the symbol for my identity and must not be lost." I get shivers down my spine reading that.)
Is this not the coolest thing ever? Now, I acknowledge that a woman's maiden name is really her father's family name, indicating that you are your dad's property (thus a boy is also his dad's property) and thus changing your name at marriage just signals that another man now owns you. To some women, it is important to take their husbands' names, and who am I to tell them otherwise? If that's what you want, good for you. But, I felt very strongly associated with the name I was given at birth. Suzanne Reisman is me. So I didn't change my name, and happily, most people didn't bat an eyelash. (And those who did received swift tongue lashings from me that made them sorry they said anything. Stupid fucks.)
I just love picturing these strong, smart, sassy women in the 1920s sitting around in their little fur stoles and chapeaus agitating for their rights. Even better, it turns out that the League is again active today, and fights for equal rights! I'm totally joining up. It's just amazing what unexpected things you can learn while taking a class, isn't it?