Monday, March 05, 2012

One "Read" Leads to Another

Each year when Women's History Month comes along I find myself "discovering" a woman who made a difference but who is not in our constellation of very familiar famous people. It is not terribly hard to do. Books are regularly published that recount the efforts, big and small, of women who have been determined in their field of endeavor. Perhaps she is a writer like Julia Alvarez (we have a new biography about her); perhaps she is a scientist (such as Caitlin O'Connell, author of The Elephant Scientist); perhaps she was a courageous member of the Resistance, a courier, or a spy (Women Heroes of World War II, by Kathryn J. Atwood).

Perhaps she was a journalist like Eliza Scidmore, a writer and world traveler whose goal was to bring alive far places of the world for her readers. One of her accomplishments that we can appreciate right here in our nation's capital is the gift of thousands of cherry trees from Japan, a century ago, that Eliza brought about through her appreciation of the beauty of such trees in their native Tokyo. The theme of the book is "sometimes, when you have a good idea, you have to keep trying for a long time." It took many appeals to the park service in Washington DC, and finally an appeal to First Lady Helen Taft, around 1909, resulting in the glorious cherry blossoms enjoyed every springtime along the Potomac.

Reading Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America, by Andrea Zimmerman, inspired me to read more about Helen "Nellie" Taft too, who, it turns out, bucked many White House traditions and effected changes that showed respect for federal workers. That's the pleasure of books: one "read" leads to another!