This morning’s #ALA11 celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Amelia Bloomer Project annual list of feminist books for young readers was an inspiring, joyful affair. I found particularly inspiring the introduction written by Nel Ward, co-founder of the project, describing the roots and inspiration for this wonderful list, and shared by this year’s co-chair Beth Olshewsky.
Ten and a half years ago, four ALA members started talking in an elevator about how a book selection committee “might help young people become better adults,” as Nel described it. Jenny Baltes, Debbie Carton, Peter Holland and Nel Ward were all fresh off of major book award committees, and over lunch that day they developed the idea for the Amelia Bloomer Project annual list of books for youth that embody feminist ideals, principles and stories. That year, they brought together nine members for the selection committee and started reviewing books with these goals in mind.
“When we started, most books for youth showed girls and women as strong or at least coming into their own. Wanting a less ambiguous description, we decided that Bloomer books should actively demonstrate girls and women shaping their own destinies and empowering others, breaking gender and class bonds forced by society as they defy stereotypical expectations.”
As a local school librarian, I have found the Amelia Bloomer Project lists invaluable and inspiring. You can find all of the lists here, including the 2011 Amelia Bloomer Project booklist. I was honored to be able to listen to inspiring presentations by Margarita Engle, Olga Cossi, Joy Crysdale, Jan Annino and Lisa Desimini. Each filled me with hope and ideas to share with my students.
Mary Ann Scheuer