Honoring National Women’s History Month
“Spring arrives when the yarn goes up,” said resident Cindy Simon, who is co-founder of Dollies Making a Difference.
The yarn she refers to is a yarn-bombing on the Village Green. Colorful blankets and strips of crocheted and knitted yarn are wrapped around trees, benches and lampposts and will be up through March 25.
It is part of a project that Michelle Vallemaire started six years ago to draw attention to National Women’s History Month.
For example: Many school children learn about the Boston Tea Party and how colonists threw the tea into the harbor. But how many have learned about Penelope Barker (1728-1796), who organized 50 women in North Carolina to sign a resolution boycotting British tea—which led to the first women’s political demonstration in America.
Or that Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002), the first Asian-American congresswoman, was largely responsible for Title IX, which ensured equal financing for women’s sports in schools.
Or that Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) was the first woman to win a Nobel prize in medicine (1988).
Or that actress Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) pioneered the technology that is the basis for today’s WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth.
Villemaire researches and attaches about fifty tags to the project, which gives a brief history of a specific American woman.
“This country doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar museum for the women who helped build this country,” said Villemaire, who noted that three locations in Washington, D.C. along the National Mall are being considered for a National Women’s History Museum.
The Village Green board realized that before Villemaire could start the installation, she needed liability insurance. Jim Kirtley, executive director of the Palisades-Malibu YMCA, took the creative Palisadian under the Y’s insurance umbrella.
“The YMCA enthusiastically sponsored me to do this yarn bomb,” said Villemaire, “and as an official volunteer I proudly represent my favorite nonprofit.” The cards were once again printed by InstaMail (on Via de la Paz). “I try to use local businesses.”
The self-described “Air Force brat” said she was born in Massachusetts but spent much of her childhood in Saudi Arabia. She has lived in the Palisades since 2011 with her husband, TV writer/producer Jonathon Abrahams (“Mad Men” and other shows).
Villemaire was asked what he thought of the project when she first suggested it. “He had doubts and couldn’t understand my vision,” she said, “but, after the first year, he just said ‘Wow!’”
She said the yarn bombing has been a great way to speak to her two daughters, Pearl and Vivi, about inspirational women. In the past, she’s gone into her daughters’ classrooms and students have helped made pom-poms, which then become part of the exhibit. “I think it’s important for my daughters (ages 10 and 7) and that’s why I keep doing it.”
Some of her daughter’s classmates had already been asking about the yarn bombing. “It’s nice having a tradition,” said Villemaire, who explained that once the installation is dismantled, the yarn pieces will be upcycled into blankets for women and families transitioning out of homelessness through the People’s Concern.
Cindy Simon watched as passers-by stopped during the installation. “People wander by, then turn into the Village Green,” she said. “They smile and it makes the work of putting it up worth it.”
Villemaire, who has a popular family blog, has been featured on “Good Morning America” and Hallmark’s “Home and Family” and was invited to the White House during the Obama administration. She is a DIY (Do It Yourself) Designer and a content creator (Visit: homemademimi.com).
If you cannot make it to the Green, here’s a list of the famous women selected by Villemaire, in addition to the four women in the story. How many do you know?
Bella Abzug (1920-1998); Mary Pickford (1897-1972); Dr. Nettie Stevens (1861-1912); Dr. Chien-Shiun Wu (1912-1997); Toni Ko (1973- ); Emma Lazarus (1849-1887); Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818); Jane Addams (1860-1935); Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955); Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910); Nellie Bly (1864-1922); Ruby Bridges (1954- ); Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973); Rachel Carson (1907-1964); Lucille Ball (1911-1989); Daisy Bates (1914-1999); Joyce Chen (1917-1994); Julia Child (1912-2004); Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005); Bessie Coleman (1892-1926); Prudence Crandall (1803-1890); Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992); Dorothea Dix (1802-1887); Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980); Amelia Earhart (1897-1937); Charity Adams Earley (1918-2002); Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910); Betty Friedan (1921-2006); Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873); Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977); Grace Hopper (1906-1992); Dolores Huerta (1930- ); Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960); Anne Hutchinson (ca. 1591-1642); Mary Harris Jones (1837-1930); Helen Keller (1880-1968); Leona Woods Libby (1919-1968); Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888); Maya Angelou (1928-2017); Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906); Josephine Baker (1906-1975); Penelope Barker (1728-1796); Clara Barton (1821-1912); Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927); Wilma Mankiller (1845-2010); Maria Mitchell (1818-1889); Lucretia Mott (1793-1880); Annie Oakley (1860-1926), Mine Okubo (1912-2001); Rosa Parks (1913-2005); Alice Paul (1885-1977); Ethel L. Payne (1911-1991); Pocahontas (ca. 1596-1617); Condoleezza Rice (1954- ); Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994); Sally Ride (1951-2012); Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962); Sacagawea (1790-1812); Deborah Sampson (1760-1827; Margaret Sanger (1879-1966); Elizabeth Ann Seton ((1774-1821); Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); Gloria Steinem (1934- ); Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896); Maria Tallchief (1925-2013); Shirley Temple (1928-2014); Sojourner Truth (1797-1883); Harriet Tubman (ca.1820-1913); Minnie Vautrin (1886-1941); Maggie L. Walker (1864-1934); Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919); Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784); Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894); Mildred “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias (1911-1956); Lucy Stone (1818-1893); Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906); and Anna May Wong (1905-1961).