by Martha Hutzel, Library Director, Central Rappahannock Regional Library
As a librarian, and a library director, I am a lover of books of all kinds. I read fiction and
nonfiction, magazines, comics, the newspaper, and plenty of online articles. I grew up loving
books and the printed word. I recently read The Women Who Made New York, by Julie Scelfo, a
former Stafford County resident and graduate of our local high school system. Ms. Scelfo spoke at our Fredericksburg Library last year, and while I was unable to attend her highly regarded
talk, I read the book recently and really loved it. This book is a great example of women taking
and creating leadership roles, even if they did not at the time have official leadership positions.
Most of them were very strong, outspoken women who decided to force change, have careers,
make a difference and leave a lasting impression and a legacy. For instance, this nonfiction
book, which by the way is beautifully created, bound and packaged, and would be a great
holiday gift for anyone who loves books, covers women who had a positive and changing impact
on New York City, from 1650 to today, from Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell to Jackie Kennedy Onassis,
from Susan Sontag to Tina Fey, Ms. Scelfo has covered them all.
The accomplishments range from writer Edith Wharton, who bucked convention and wrote her
now famous novels chronicling the hypocrisy and repression of the affluent classes in NYC, to
Fighting Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American female elected to Congress. Her motto is
still relevant today: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”
In 1870, fifty years before women were guaranteed the right to vote, Victoria Woodhull and her
sister Tennie Claflin opened a brokerage firm on Wall Street. Talk about leaning in! They owned
the table, and the men were so shocked they actually came to gawk through the front window.
Or how about Barbra Streisand, who despite her loud mouth and brashness, not to mention her
refusal to hide her religion, became a great signing and acting success in NYC. No shrinking
violet here! There are pages devoted to Grace Jones, Joan Rivers, Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion
and many other women who left an indelible mark on New York, making it the city it is today.
This book is jampacked with interesting facts and information on politicians, actresses, writers,
madams, renegades, artists, advocates and women who made an impact simply because they
let their voices be heard and didn’t take no for an answer. It simply took a long time for these
women to get the credit they deserve! I strongly recommend The Women Who Made New York,
which is available at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library for your reading enjoyment.