Ordinary Women With Extraordinary Spirit
Ordinary Women With Extraordinary Spirit (audiocassette) Written and performed by Kathryn Beisner. Broomfield, CO: KBS Productions, 1996. ISBN 1¬887577-01-7 60 mins.
The ordinary women in these stories are women pilots, baseball players, and rodeo cow girls. Ordinary women yes but with extraordinary jobs and, as the title says, with extraordinary spirit.
This is a fascinating performance piece, complete with music and sound effects. It mixes historical fact, much of it little known fact, with anecdotes about women. I learned about Bessie Coleman the first black woman to fly a plane (1921). Her's is a story of courage and persistence with a tragic and mysterious ending. The ending of the story about the WASP's in WWII is tragic, too, though in another sense. After years of serving their country acting as test pilots and towing targets and ferrying airplanes in weather conditions considered too dangerous for the men (the women were expendable), the women pilots were let go without veteran status, and with no benefits. Major airlines did contact them after the war, but it was to offer them jobs as airline stewardesses, not pilots.
Since I saw the movie "A League of Their Own" I knew a bit about women's baseball but I had no idea that it was played at Smith and Vassar and other women's colleges in the 1870's. Beisner follows the development of women's teams and the All American Girls r Baseball League, and even mentions the issue of lesbians in the League and the lengths to which management went to insure that the women always appeared feminine.
Appearing feminine was not an issue for the rodeo cowgirls. They began in 1897 and continued until 1941 when they were banned from rough riding as the result of some serious injuries and deaths.
This tape is full of role models whose lives demonstrate that women can do anything and that a worthy goal is to be able to say you have lived your dreams. Beisner's extensive research shows, as does her enthusiasm for her subject. The passion and excitement in her voice, aided by the occasional sound effects and music, draw the listener into the stories.
This is probably not a tape for very young girls who might get a bit confused by the way Beisner covers each of the three occupations in its early days, then moves forward to cover each again in more modern times. Still, the snippets of stones about the lives of the women who are mentioned might be enough to carry them through. A few of the women's stories are developed more fully, but many of the women are mentioned only as brief examples within the context of their role. Thank you, Kathrvn Beisner, for entertaining and educating me at the same time.
Order from KBS Productions Inc., 5023 W. 120th Ave #259 Broomfield, CO 80020 800-669-4127 or 303-469-6866 OR
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The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No. 3, Sep 1997