EDWARDS — Charlotte Waisman, Ph.D., and Jill S. Tietjen are some of the worst-behaved women the Bookworm of Edwards has ever had speak at one of its book events. Their dedication to making American women’s history accessible to everyone and their eagerness to share their nontraditional lives with others makes them more than worthy to be included in their own book “Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.”
“Her Story” is a timeline of both prominent and nearly forgotten women who contributed something significant to American society, from the creator of abstract algebra to the pasteurization of milk, and shows how these developments fit together to create the pseudo-equality we have achieved in the 21st century.
While this book is not an in-depth exploration of the several hundred women’s lives, it is a very good and thorough introduction into women’s history that parents will find useful in teaching their daughters and sons that anything is possible. It also opens a dialogue about women’s achievements and abilities, Waisman said.
Before you run away thinking this book is a feminist manifesto, please be assured it appeals to a much larger audience than the bra-burners of yore. People of all ages and genders who are interested in the many useful contributions women have made to society will benefit from reading “Her Story.”
Attending the Bookworm of Edwards event will also make a difference, since a portion of the proceeds goes to the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
Not only do Waisman and Tietjen want to pen the history of American women, but they also want to encourage women (young and old!) to help break the stereotypes that prevent women from accomplishing their goals — whether it be the CEO of an international corporation, an inventor or a stay-at-home mom.
Go ahead, break the rules
These two ladies, while too humble to include themselves in this book, deserve their own places in the annals of history. Not only does Waisman have a Ph.D. from the School of Communications from Northwestern University, but she is also executive coach, a leadership facilitator and a managing partner in The AthenA Group. She is also a prolific writer, having published three books and countless articles.
Tietjen is a practicing electrical engineer and an equally gifted and productive author. Her projection into engineering exemplified the difficulties women face in entering the work-force, especially a very male-dominated industry like engineering. Although she only entered engineering the third year the University of Virginia admitted women to the program, she never noticed the lack of women engineers until she began working in the industry. She observes that “throughout my career, I have been the one and only (woman) or one of very few (women). In recent years, I can see that the numbers (of women entering engineering) have increased, but certainly not to 50:50.”
Because of their unique backgrounds and dedication to women’s history, Waisman and Tietjen clicked when a mutual friend introduced them. Their task-oriented and driven personalities meshed perfectly and the idea of “Her Story” was born early in their relationship. Their goal took them to libraries and out of the “contained role that women frequently take.”
Their presentation at the Bookworm of Edwards on Monday night will expound on their ideas of feminism, what it takes to break the traditional roles of women and the stories of ill-behaved women featured in their book.
Both these feminists (a word that Waisman defines as “men and women who champion the rights of women”) see a better future if we “make sure that our society values women,” Tietjen observes. The glass ceiling is still there. The stereotypes are still there. The inane gender expectations are still there.
Tietjen discreetly encourages young women to break the rules a bit and explore their options. “I do not consider myself well-behaved,” Tietjen mused. “If I had followed the rules (women don’t do that, women shouldn’t do that, women can’t do that), I would never be where I am today.”
Waisman and Tietjen not only champion the rights of women, they fight for them. Their Joan-of-Arc mentalities ensure that young women have options and, more importantly, they know what those options are.
Pick up “Her Story” at the Bookworm of Edwards for $24.99 and discover why Madeline Albright said that “Her Story” “serves to make the tapestry of the U.S. history richer by weaving women into that history.”
Leigh Bennett Horton is an intern at The Bookworm of Edwards and a student at the Colorado School of Mines. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.