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American Inspiration Author Series

Tiya Miles with Wild Girls: How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation

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Date and time
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Celebrating women throughout our country’s diverse history, Tiya Miles, award-winning Harvard historian, converses with Pulitzer Prize winner Laurel Thatcher Ulrich about the natural world and the women who changed America. 

Louisa May Alcott ran wild, eluding gendered expectations in New England. Harriet Tubman, forced to labor outdoors on a Maryland plantation, learned from the land a terrain for escape. The Indigenous women’s basketball team from Fort Shaw, Montana, recaptured a sense of pride in physical prowess as they trounced competitors at the 1904 World’s Fair. Spotlighting such women who acted on their confidence outdoors, Wild Girls brings new context to misunderstood icons like Sacagawea and Pocahontas, and to underappreciated figures like Native American activist writer Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Bonnin, farmworkers’ champion Dolores Huerta, and labor and Civil Rights organizer Grace Lee Boggs.

For these trailblazing women of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, navigating the woods, following the stars, playing sports, and taking to the streets in peaceful protest were not only joyful pursuits; they were techniques to resist assimilation, racism, and sexism. Lyrically written and full of archival discoveries, this beautiful, meditative work of history puts girls of all races—and the landscapes they loved—at center stage, and reveals the impact of the outdoors on women’s independence, resourcefulness, and vision.

Tiya Miles
Tiya Miles is the Michael Garvey Professor of History at Harvard University, the author of five prize-winning works on the history of slavery and early American race relations, and a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship recipient.
WILD GIRLS moderator ulrich.jpg
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is the 300th Anniversary University Professor emerita at Harvard University. She is the author of seven books including A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785 - 1812 and Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007), exploring the popular phrase which she coined. She has received numerous awards and honors including the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991.

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