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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 26, 2015 3:42pm-4:01pm EDT

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just climate change unfortunately. there's a host of ways in which we are changing the planet on a geological scale, so much so that you've probably heard discussions of e geologists thinking that we should rename the time we live in. we officially live in the holocene which is the time since the last ice age, that we should rename this after people because people have replaced the great forces of geology of the past. so these are really, really big things and they're not -- it's not a matter of, you know spending more time helping animals or even donating more money, though those are all good things too old, and i really do recommend them. but it's a matter of sort of trying to get our minds around, you know, all of these really really big ways in which what we're doing seems really ordinary. it's really just changing the planet on a permanent basis. thank you. thanks a lot.
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[applause] >> if you would like to get a book signed, we are going to line up right here in front of the stage. [inaudible conversations] >> elizabeth kolbert, author of "the sixth extinction" and this year's winner of the pulitzer prize for nonfiction. you can see this program anytime online at
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>> remarkable partnerships, iconic women. their stories in "first ladies," the book. >> she did save the portrait of washington which was one of the things that endeared her to the entire nation. >> whoever could find out where francis was staying what she was wearing what she was doing who she was seeing, that was going to sell papers. >> she takes over a radio station and starts running it. i mean, how do you do that? and she did it. >> she exerted enormous influence because she would move a mountain to make sure that her husband was protected. >> first ladies, now a book published by public affairs looking inside the personal life of every first lady in american history based on original interviews from c-span's "first ladies" series. learn about their unique partnerships with their
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presidential spouses. filled with lively stories of fascinating women who survived the scrutiny of the white house, sometimes at a great perm cost. personal cost. often changing history. c-span's "first ladies" is an illuminating, entertaining and inspiring read now available as a hard cover or e-book through your favorite bookstore or online bookseller. >> and now panel on west view press' lives of american women series. historian carol birken leads a discussion on the lives of catherine beecher elizabeth gurley flynn shely chisholm and angela davis. >> i want to introduce the panelists. first, i want to point out i brought copies of the book so far that are out in the series.
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i wanted to do this series for many, many years. it was in my head. and i envisioned exactly the kinds of books that these women have produced or are are producing. that is books that point to the lives of interesting women some famous, some not, but particularly books that point to the way in which you can understand american history through the lives of women, not sum my through the -- simply through the eyes of men. so i'm going to -- robin you want to catch your breath? >> i'm all caught up. [laughter] >> okay. robin spencer is assistant professor of history at lehman college where she teaches courses on the black freedom movement. her areas of research include civil rights and black power urban and working class radicalism and gender. her writings on the black panther party have appeared in the journal of women's history
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souls, radical teacher and many collectionses of essays on the 1960s. she's completing a book on gender and the organizational evolution of the black panther party in oakland with duke university press and starting a second book project on the intersections between the movement of -- for black lib rawtion and the anti-vietnam war movement. next to her is barbara winslow a professor in the women's and gender studies program in the department of secondary education at brooklyn college. one of my oldest and best friends. there's a little nepotism involved in my selection of people to write these books. [laughter] not because they're my friends but because i know them well enough that i know they write well, they want to communicate with college students and with the general public and they're interested entirely in women's history. barbara is the founder and director of the shirley chisholm
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project, brooklyn women's activism 1945 to the present. and she's the author of "shirley chisholm, catalyst for change." next to her is lara vapnek, the author of "elizabeth gurley flynn: modern american revolutionary." she teaches history at st. johns university. she specializes in the history of gender, labor and politics in the 19th and 20th century united states. her previous publications include breadwinners working women and economic independence, 1865-1920 as well as several articles on women's labor history. she is a distinguished lecturer for the organization of american historians. cindy lobel, a former student of mine. i just want to get the nepotism straight. [laughter] cindy lobel isen an assistant professor of history at lehman
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college, the city university of new york. she's also on the faculties of the mccauley honors college and the program at the graduate center. cindy earned a ba from tufts university and a ph.d. where she wrote a brilliant dissertation in u.s. history from the graduate center kuny. her first book, urban appetites: food and culture in 19th century new york, was released in april 2014 by the university of chicago press. the manuscript for "urban appetites," not surprisingly, won the dixon ryan fox prize for the best manuscript that year on new york history. lobel has published in the winchester portfolio, in common place and in history now. her current research includes this biography of catherine beecher to be published soon by westview press and the american,
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lives of american women series. and her next book will be a biography of 19th century new york african-american oyster man thomas downing. i have questions for all of them to start things off, and i will make sure that they keep their answers brief enough that you will have time to ask questions too. first i want to ask all of them very briefly to tell me who your subject is and what were her most important accomplishments. cindy, do you want to start? >> thank you. thank you all for coming. i hope that nobody had too much difficulty with the subways. other than poor carol. [laughter] so my subject is catherine beecher who was a 19th century women's reformer and educator. catherine beecher is different from some of the other
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biographies in that she really does reflect more 19th century developments than 20th century developments. her -- i sometimes say that she was a little bit like the martha stewart of her age in that she really was a proponent of a kind of lifestyle and she had rhetoric about the sort of emphasis on domesticity and motherhood and she herself was neither. and, but she also really made a name for herself as a reformer and particularly women's education. >> thank you. thank you all for coming. i just want to thank my fellow panelists for coming together to discuss this very interesting group of women, and i'm excited to put them together because they're not often put together. so elizabeth gurley flynn lived from 1890 to 1964, and she was a
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tireless advocate for socialism feminism and free speech. she started her career as an agitator for the industrial workers of the world which was a group that was also called the wobblies, and she later became a leader of the communist party. she defended the right to free speech very strongly through two red scares, the red scare that followed world war i and also the red scare that followed world war ii. she spent the majority of her life trying, in her own words, to persuade the majority of the american people that socialism would be a happier, more secure and peaceful more just and equitable system of society than capitalism is or can be. needless to say, this was a very controversial message, and that's one of the reasons that she was such a strong advocate for free speech, because she was pretty much the center all of her life.
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>> i'm writing on shirley chisholm from this wonderful borough of brooklyn. and in one of her last interviews, she said she did not want to be known as the first african-american woman elected to congress in 1968 from the 12th district here in brooklyn, and she did not want to be known as the first african-american and the first woman to mount a serious campaign for the presidency of the united states. i assume looking at most of you that probably 90% of you know that about shirley chisholm. but when i speak in high schools and at colleges across the country, no one has heard of the woman who i believe paveed the way for -- paved the way for the election of barack obama. she wanted to be known as the woman who lived in the 20th century and who tried to be a catalyst for change, which i believe she was. i think i wanted to just address one very specific achievement
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that resonates for all of us in new york city. when she was a legislator inial ban gnu, she was responsible for -- in albany, she was responsible for the seek legislation, and this was knowledge that enabled high school students from underserved high schools to come to the city university of new york and get the kind of support services they needed to stay in school to thrive in school and to graduate. and today as at least three of us -- four of us will attest because we're all at kuny, the students at the city university of new york look like the city of new york, the population of the city of new york. you talk to any cuny professor, and the reason we stay at cuny for the incredibly high wages and working conditions -- [laughter] is because of the wonderful students we get to teach. >> wonderful. well, thank you all for coming
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out. i get the pleasure of writing about angela davis who um, like many of the women on this panel many of the subjects of the biographies is, of course, a very well known and legendary activist, but she's still with us today. so angela davis is still making history. she's a contemporary figure as well as a historic figure. so that makes my task as a biographer really, really interesting. so angela davis as you may know -- and you may have actually gone and seen her. she comes to new york quite often. she gives presentations and speeches and seminars at universities as well as for the general public. but she is well nope for her activism -- known for her activism in the 19 60s as part of the communist party, as part of the black power movement and as part of the movement for black feminism. she's also well known for her physical image as well.
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angela davis her afro in the 1960s is really iconic. it was a sum boll of resistance -- symbol of resistance the-in ration, the movement to free angela davis from her incarceration was a global movement. so angela davis is known all over the world. and the image of her is also a very familiar image. so for me as her biographer, the task is to sort of unpack her contemporary activities, trace them back to her historic activities and think about the ways in which her incarceration in 1960s her involvement in movements for radical social change her empowerment of women and black women in particular and working class women can all be brought together to try to understand her as a complex being. so it's really excited to be working on her. >> thank you. i want to throw out some other
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questions now and whoever feels moved to answer can do so. what elements of your subject's childhood seem most important in shaping her into a strong woman as she payment a strong woman? -- as she became a strong woman? what role did her family and community play? cindy? >> i'll step in. [laughter] that's a good question for catherine beecher, of course, because catherine beecher was a member of probably the most famous family in the 19th century. she was extremely influenced by her father. so beecher you may recognize the name even if you don't know catherine beecher because her brother was henry ward beecher whose statue i passed on the way here as well as his church, and her sister who was even more famous than her brother was harriet beecher stowe, the author of "uncle tom's cabin"
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which book abe -- abraham lincoln said basically he said of her -- i'm paraphrasing her but the little lady who started the big war. so catherine beecher certainly came from a very famous family, a family of reformers a family of evangelicals. her father, lyman beech was a pretty famous evangelical minister in connecticut. and without question that really influenced her development. he placed expectations on his ten children that they would work to reform society which was really necessary to the evangelical project in the 19th century. the great awakening, second great awakening, the second great awakening in particular was really a perfectionist movement to perfect society to really make it ready for the second coming. and so he really sent his
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children out into the world basically to make change and catherine beecher very much rose to that challenge. she was not a radical like some of the women represented here but she was a reformer, and i think that some of that will come up also as we go along. >> barbara i know you want to talk to this. >> well unfortunately, i could talk about shirley day in and day out. >> no, we're not going to let you. >> and i promise you, i won't. [laughter] but i do, i should have begun with thank yous to lara, who initiated this, to carol for coming and, of course, for all of you. chisholm's childhood was extremely important in terms of who she became. she was a working class daughter of caribbean immigrants and when she was a very young girl, her parents -- who were very poor living in brooklyn -- sent her to live in barbados. and she was raised by a very
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strong but stern grandmother and great aunt. and she actually was in barbados at the moment when the bar bade january movement for independence from britain began. and it was the beginning of the barbadian working class movement, the socialist movement. and when i went to barbados to do research, what i found from reading the black newspapers is that the social is exist labor and working class organizations were far more advanced on the subject of women's suffrage and birth control and reproductive rights for women than even in the united states. and while chisholm doesn't write about this in her own autobiography, i can only assume being raised by strong black women in a majority black island at a moment of great struggle was very important to her consciousness as a woman, as a woman who had


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