A is for Astronaut

Women’s History Month

This picture is based on the first Hispanic-American woman in space, Ellen Ochoa.
The first Hispanic-American woman in space, Ellen Ochoa.

March is Women’s History Month. It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few examples of women throughout history who have made a difference to us all. Women who have made a difference to the environment, women who made a difference to social justice, who made a difference in science or medicine, women who have been great leaders of their countries, who were great explorers. I could just start a list of names: Rachel Carson, Erin Brockovich, Dorothea Dix, Dorothea Lang, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Jeanne Baré, Maria Theresa, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and Sacajawea.

US Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

However, Women’s History Month is more than that. It is educating ourselves, and young people who are still in school, who will soon enough be growing up to make choices about the world we live in, to know about the importance of women, the sacrifices the women before  have made so that we all could have everything we have, and at its most basic level, the fundamental understanding that people, no matter their gender, are equal.

Does this mean that the things that men have created or brought about are less good? Of course not. But in a society that still, sadly values women, on average, 77% less, it is good to make the effort to shine a light on the equally valuable efforts that women have made throughout history.

So from Anne Frank to Zenobia, let’s learn about, celebrate, teach about, and appreciate women all year, and not just during Women’s History Month!

ABC Girls

The Fourteen Female Rangers of Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is in the East Congo, and is a very dangerous place, for people and animals. It is one of the few places that gorillas and other endangered animals still remain in the wild. However, because of the terrain and the proximity from human habitations, it is an ideal location for not just poachers, but rebel military forces and other dangerous criminals looking for a place to hide. It is the oldest national park in the entire continenABC Girlst of Africa. Historically the job of Park Ranger to Virunga has been an only male job. Women were not allowed to be Park Rangers.

However, in 2014 four women passed the very difficult tests to become the first female Virunga National Park Rangers.  Kisamya became the first female section commander, and she and her team of women protected the gorillas, tourists, and the Park from danger.

Since then ten more women have passed the exams, and successfullyPark Rangery passed training with Belgian Commandos to learn battle field tactics and and extreme survival skills to use against groups from illegal loggers to anti-government groups.

The woman I painted represents these women, although she is caring for a rhino instead of a gorilla. She represents women who care about nature and animals and choose to take that out into the field, even though the field may be dangerous. The picture also shows Indigenous Women caring for and protecting animals that live in their area, and achieving more autonomy over their homes.
veteran jobs
Another woman I thought of as I painted R is for Ranger, was Kinessa Johnson, a former US Army veteran, who after her time in Afghanistan joined a program called Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW), which trains other people, like Kisamya. So Kinessa uses her skills and teaches Kisamya to protect the animals.

It just goes to show, when we work together we can accomplish great things!

Kisamya’s Story

Kinessa’s Story

Illustrating Diversity and Inclusion

In working on the ABC Girls book, I’ve worked hard to show diverse groups of women and girls; socially diverse, economically diverse, ethnically diverse, etc. The books we read, and the pictures we see as children really stick with us through our lives, and form the groundwork for our understanding of the world. They help form the framework that be build our ideas, and opinions on. If we can only access limited media, than our framework is incomplete. Without realizing it, our understanding of the world is incomplete from the start. We are limited in the ways we are able to understand the things we started out missing. That is why I have been working so hard to include diverse portrayals of women and girls. When I was young, the perception in toys, books, and cartoons was very simplistic. Girls wore dresses and liked pink. That was the idea femininity that was presented to me and my peers from a young age. When we encountered anyone who fell outside that, they were outside of our limited world view, and were perceived as strange. It took until I was an adult to dismantle and rebuilt that scaffolding. I’m sure there are parts I have missed. What I want to do, is to start children off with a better, more accurate picture than I had, of the inclusive diverse society we live in. The idea of feminine is so much more than pink and skirts. It’s even so much more than XX chromosomes. Read More