My ten year-old daughter is lying on the floor of my office, colorful cards stacked in neat piles- sorted into categories she finds interesting and wants to learn more about, and a stack to the side which she says “these women did good things, but their work doesn’t fit with my personality.” This is in sharp contrast to the scattered mess of colorful cards on the floor earlier, when my 12 year-old son was perusing them. He’s not a big reader, and the fact he sat and pored over the stories is a testament to the compelling nature of the work. (He’s currently quite upset that Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards plotted in her assassination.)
What my children are so captivated by are the new deck of cards “We Brave Women” by Ashmae Hoiland. Are they trading cards? No. Are they flash cards? No, but you could certainly find ways it make up memory games. Are they like sports cards? Not even a little bit. From Ashmae’s website, they are described as
“[A] Set of cards featuring 60 different brave women. Each card features a hand-drawn, hand-painted portrait with a stories, facts and a quote from each woman. The set comes in a beautiful, sturdy box that holds all the cards. Each card is 4×6 inches.”
These cards could easily have been made into a lovely picture book for children- the watercolor artwork is whimsical and utterly charming- but after watching two of my own kids play with them, I see the brilliance in keeping them separate and allowing the images to move through the child’s hands in ways unique to their individuality. My son would not have spent time on the floor with a book, but the tactile nature of the slippery-smooth cards compelled him to spread them out, and he spent far more time with them than he would have otherwise. My daughter, who is a very different learner, created a system for analyzing them, and while she is friendlier to books than her brother, also spent more time studying each of them than she might have. She’s currently off looking up Marie Tharp- Geologist & Cartographer, who might be her new hero.
At the risk of veering into gendered territory, boys have predominantly had the pleasure of cards- baseball cards are, after all, steeped deeply in American folklore and history- and there are no women’s faces or stories on baseball cards. Of course girls can enjoy sports trading cards, too- but they aren’t going to see many representations of women.
These cards ever-so-gently crack that mold open. The cards are about women, but they are for everyone. My son enjoyed them as much as my daughter, and I expect similar reactions from my other children. I hope there are subsequent additional sets with more women and more stories.
When a friend of mine received her set, she said she stood in her kitchen flipping through them, and found tears springing to her eyes- reading short little stories about the real lives of women is something we tend to lack in our culture. These women are as imperfect as every one of us- but they each accomplished something important in their lives and with their unique passion and drive. What could be more inspiring than bringing more of that into our lives?
After reading them all, my daughter summarized nicely, “Mom, all people need to know more about what women did to help and change the world.”