Amazing Women

by Shaker Maud

There are two people I want to bring to your attention, if you haven't already heard about them.

The first is 14-year-old Caroline Moore, who is now the youngest person to discover a supernova. Caroline and her dad are part of a supernova search team, and Caroline last November detected in a photo taken by a computerized telescope what seems to be a previously unknown type of semi-supernova. Rachel Maddow interviewed Caroline briefly the other night, and she was entirely charming. (That word tends to be coded as how-girls-are-supposed-to-be, which isn't how I mean it. That's just how she struck me. Clearly excited to be on Rachel's show, but remarkably self-possessed.)

[By way of warning: When I viewed the footage of this interview on Maddow's site, the player just continued with the following segment, which was Kent Jones' jokey little treatment of several things, beginning with the prospect of adding separate subway cars for women and men in Japan, because men groping women is so widespread, followed by a violent video game someone has created starring Pres. Obama. Also, Rachel Maddow, though extremely cool in many ways, has not gotten (or heeded) the memo about ableist language.]

The second person is an utterly amazing woman named Leymah Gbowee. She created a Liberian womens' peace movement which contributed powerfully to bringing the years of civil war there to an end and ousting the hideous Charles Taylor from power. Lynn Sherr interviewed her on Bill Moyers Journal Saturday night, where I learned not only her remarkable story, but why I've never heard of her before.

Two American women have made a documentary about her movement and shown it to women in similar war-torn situations around the world, in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and in the Americas, and it will be shown next spring as part of Women, War & Peace on PBS's Wide Angle. One of the filmmakers, Abigail Disney, was also part of Sherr's interview, and she explained that the news photographers and videographers who photographed the political events in which the women were movers did not photograph them, because they did not view these working-class women as important—not the sort of people who should be in the news, even as they were central to the creation of the political future of their nation.

Relatedly, Gbowee, who has generated a veritable flatware wholesaler's worth of teaspoons, and continues to do so, initially believed she was not fit to lead the movement she created because she began it within her church, from whence she, an unmarried mother of several young children, had internalized sufficient slut-shaming to feel she was unfit for a position of leadership. She went on to bring Christian and Muslim women together for the first time to work to end Liberia's civil war, and now she is Executive Director of Women, Peace and Security Africa.

Video of the interview, a transcript, and info about the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, are on this page of the Bill Moyers Journal site.

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