Brontë Hallowed Ground 

The Brontë society is in the midst of celebrating the bicentennials of the births of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë, with upgrades to the museum, displays from the BBC special “To Walk Invisible”, and artistic expressions of their work.

In one art piece an artist named Tamar Stone has created a small bed, layered in blankets, shams covering pillows, and a thick, lumpy mattress, each embroidered with the words of these four siblings from their written work. In the artist statement, she writes: Women have always been associated with the home, hearth, and domestic duties. The more I learn about women’s lives being constricted by their clothes and social mores, combined with my interest in the history of housework, the more I have been exploring what was happening to women in their homes and how they were prisoners within their ‘upholstered cages’. In the past our life cycle began and ended in the bed of our home: we were born there and we died there. Today that life cycle often begins and ends in an institutional bed.

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Victoria is Everywhere

In Paris I mentioned our guide, Heidi, sharing with us about the percentage of street named after women was dire. Being a native Londoner, she mentioned that she didn’t think London was the same way, in fact half of the stuff in the city are named for Victoria.

I can confirm this.

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Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Humanity. 

“[Women] are far above men to inspire him, far beneath him to corrupt him… but they have no human mind and no human nature.” – Dorothy Sayers, The Human Not Quite Human, 1947.

I love Dorothy Sayers and her essays on women from the first half of the last century. And this small passage comes up time and time again as I’ve read about the women on this trip. For the most part, I’ve somewhat enjoyed digging in to it, this idea that women are above to inspire and below to tempt and are never quite human, and what we can do in our classrooms and lives to help both boys and girls realize that this simply isn’t the case: we are all human.

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Fresh Air from Maria & Corrie

“Her ideas are still so… fresh.”

While Nina, our guide at the Maria Montessori house, spoke this about the creator of an education movement still happening today, I believe we could say the same of so many women and men we’ve met along this trip and especially in Amsterdam. There’s a reason we’re drawn to Anne’s belief that people are still good at heart, that Maria’s schools and method are still growing, that Heidi has been translated into so many languages.

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Being a Namer: Reflections on Anne Frank 

When I was around 10 or 11, I read Anne Frank’s diary for the first time. It was one of those books that I felt deeply. Anne and I were so similar: both young girls who wanted to be writers, both born in June, both loved our parents deeply and yet felt constantly misunderstood by them, both with the middle name of Marie. I remember in the midst of reading it trying to start my own diary- something I’ve never done well- and naming it Kitty, like Anne.

I read the book over and over again, hoping for a different ending, each time heartbroken that history couldn’t change.

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What We Learned from Georg, Ella, and Johanna

Oh Switzerland. Forget our Florence and Siena campuses, sign me up for a German class and plant me in the rural Swiss countryside and you’ll never meet a happier teacher.

Yesterday we saw the places that inspired Spyri, today we saw the hometown that gave her beginnings. After our trip to Maienfeld, we asked the Swiss information desk how best to get to Hirzel. “Hirzel? Why do you want to go to Hirzel?” She said. “Tourists do not go there, people live there.”

We bought tickets anyway.

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Book Prep: St. Catherine Setting the World on Fire

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As I began mapping the women that I wanted to study and the places they would lead me, I wanted to not only know the ‘noble’ women in history and their accomplishments, but I wanted to be honest and sure in knowing their complications. If we don’t know their complications, we don’t know their humanity, and we completely miss the point.

St. Catherine, y’all.

She’s one of two patron saints of Italy, along with St. Francis of Assisi; one of six patron saints of Europe; and one of only four female Doctors of the Church. Most of what we know about her comes to us through the writings of Raymond of Capua, a close friend and spiritual director of St. Catherine who published her biography after her death.

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Book Prep: Anne Frank & Adolescence in War

Diary of a Young Girl**Scroll to the bottom and click follow to get updates to your inbox with each new post!**

Before I knew I was awarded the Fund for Teachers grant that’s allowing me to visit all of these places and people, I knew I was teaching a course titled “Bildungsroman” at Odyssey. “Bildungsroman” is one of my favorite words, a German word that often gets swapped around with the phrase “coming of age” but means much more than that. Bildungsroman refers to the growing awareness of the world around us, the loss of innocence as we grapple with sudden complications unaware to a child, and the moral development one seeks on this journey as they navigate to atonement or isolation. As we wrestled with the books that students would read in this vein, Anne Frank’s story, “The Diary of a Young Girl” was an obvious choice. (And partly because I secretly hoped for this grant and knew this book would be built into my schedule to reread!)

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Book Prep: Johanna Spyri & Heidi

Kapow! We are only a few short weeks away from this trip and I am beyond excited. My sweet friend Sarah is able to come with me, and I’m hoping she’ll introduce herself via blog post in a few weeks!

Part of our journey includes a couple of days in Switzerland to learn more about Johanna Spyri and Heidi. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this piece is one I am looking forward to the most.

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