". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A History of American Babysitting & Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew comes up in the long and interesting article plus interview with Miriam Forman-Brunell, the author of Babysitter: An American History, that is up on salondotcom today.

So much interesting history here, that I for one, didn't know:

"I was surprised that some girls even formed baby-sitting unions.

In the years right after the war ends, when the baby boom really begins to soar, parents are desperate for baby sitters. These baby sitters really have developed a sense of themselves as being workers. And they have a sense of what is acceptable to expect of a worker and what isn't.

In various parts of the country they begin to organize these informal unions. Girls get together to draw up a code in terms of what's the minimum wage, what can their employers expect of them. Basically identifying the do's and the don'ts.

The unions don't last. And one of the reasons is that that kind of worker solidarity, agency and empowerment is something squelched during the 1950s, in light of fears about communism, and replaced by notions of domesticity and femininity."

The comments by salondotcom readers are revealing, as one of the letter writers observes, of the same sort of gender bias that the book discusses.

Women who grew up to become influential political figures, attorneys, writers and directors of television and movies speak of who Nancy Drew was for them, growing up.

This is a piece in the New York Times -- which, of course, is slotted into the Fashion and Style section, not the Sunday Book Review section!

From the second 'page':

"And let it not be said that Nancy Drew readers must be cut off when they reach 11. Roslynn R. Mauskopf, 52, a federal judge in Brooklyn, inhaled the books as a girl in Washington, D.C.

“I was a daughter of two Holocaust survivors, and no one would ever let you out of the house with a flashlight and a roadster!” Judge Mauskopf said. Nancy Drew proved “you could go out, go anywhere, do anything and make a difference.”

After law school, Judge Mauskopf joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. A young Sonia Sotomayor was just down the hall. Ms. Mauskopf, a career prosecutor, became United States Attorney for the Eastern District.

Shortly after she was named to the federal bench in October 2007, she bought a set of classic Nancy Drew books, volumes 1 through 15. Age notwithstanding, she is in the middle of reading them now."

The article also quotes two people I know, Melanie Rehak, who wrote Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, met during the Fellowship year at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and Lisa Von Drasek, children’s librarian at the Bank Street College of Education.

X-posted to GirlyCon on DW.

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