Over the summer I became a new fan of musician, singer-songwriter Frank Turner. He’s a former punk/hardcore guy turned rock (and now sometimes folk) singer, who is a bit of a history buff. After recognizing that a lot of his interests involved stories of largely unsung women, he started turning these stories into songs. Eventually he wrote an album‘s worth of tunes, recorded with an all-female band (his normal band is four men), and recorded a podcast episode to accompany each song. In those podcasts, he interviews historians, musicians, and other interested parties as he reflects on what he found compelling about these women’s lives.
In the course of my burgeoning fandom I joined a Facebook fan group, and there encountered Valerie Gritsch, who launched a fan project, Tales From Wo-Fan’s Land, paralleling Frank’s release. Fans wrote short essays about women or non-binary individuals of their choosing. The essays were culled, edited, and published the day of the album’s release (two days ago, August 16). Valerie posted the nearly 40 essays on her blog, and sent Frank a link. He graciously responded on Twitter. The comments about the “pretty trying” days are likely in connection to negative reviews of the album which focused on the issue of a man writing songs about women, something he overtly reflects on in his podcast, but for some people (and oddly they are almost all men, it seems), there’s always going to be the assumption of self-aggrandizement and appropriation in this type of circumstance. Better he keep writing about being a guy in his late 30s, I guess?
Anyway, although I was overwhelmed with responsibilities from my summer programs (see yesterday, and most likely tomorrow!), I opted to contribute to the project. I had a variety of ideas, but decided to ask the hive mind on Facebook for some more. And they/it sure delivered. Specifically, my friend and fellow history teacher John Hagan suggested Freddie Oversteegen, who as a teenager joined the Dutch resistance against the Nazis. I dug into her story and found two more women who might have actually done even more (Freddie seems to have gotten focused on a bit because she was the youngest), and as a result I ended up doing my essay about all three of them. You can find it here.
The essays themselves are what you might expect from crowd-sourcing from within a particular community of fairly like-minded individuals. The writing takes many different forms. Some is academic-based with citations, others are informal, first-person journeys. Some of the women are truly obscure, while others are known to those of us who pay a little bit of attention to culture and history. But all of them deserve our attention.
Valerie and company are so excited by the work that was produced, that they collectively have decided to continue on an open-ended basis. More essays are being written and will be added to the archive.