Wild Girls: How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation (A Norton Short) (Hardcover)
A National Book Award–winning, New York Times best-selling historian shows how girls who found self-understanding in the natural world became women who changed America.
Harriet Tubman, forced to labor outdoors on a Maryland plantation, learned a terrain for escape. Louisa May Alcott ran wild, eluding gendered expectations in New England. The Indigenous women’s basketball team from Fort Shaw, Montana, recaptured a sense of pride in physical prowess as they trounced the white teams of the 1904 World’s Fair. Celebrating women like these who acted on their confidence outdoors, Wild Girls also brings new context to misunderstood icons like Sakakawea and Pocahontas, and to underappreciated figures like Gertrude Bonin, Dolores Huerta, and Grace Lee Boggs.
For the girls at the center of this book, woods, prairies, rivers, ball courts, and streets provided not just escape from degrees of servitude, but also space to envision new spheres of action. Lyrically written and full of archival discoveries, this book evokes landscapes as richly as the girls who roamed in them—and argues for equal access to outdoor spaces for girls of every race and class today.
About the Author
Tiya Miles is a professor of history at Harvard University, the author of six prize-winning works in the history of early American race relations, and a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship recipient. She is the founder and director of the Michigan-based ECO Girls program and the author of the National Book Award-winning, New York Times bestselling All That She Carried. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
With delights and surprises at every turn, [this book] has given me a new pantheon of heroes to admire and emulate.
— Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World
A moving meditation on race, history, and possibility; an enticing invitation to seek renewal in green spaces; a rousing exhortation to women and girls to claim freedom in the wild; Tiya Miles offers us a rhapsodic account of nature as a respite from, and remedy for, the failings of society and culture.
— Nicole Eustace, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Covered with Night
Wild Girls invites readers on a crucial journey of insight and humanity, reminding us how each life—whether enslaved or dispossessed, marginalized or privileged—takes place on this Earth. In centering the formative ties with nature of remarkable girls-to-women—Harriet Tubman, Zitkála-Šá, and Louisa May Alcott among them—Tiya Miles shows how all claimed “wild” as elemental to their lives and their power to oppose racism and sexism. This reckoning with their pasts illuminates possibilities for our future.
— Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
How did women, especially African-American and Indigenous women in the US, find freedom in the face of slavery, repression, domesticity, assimilation, trauma and fear? Through incredible storytelling and study, Miles uncovers how girls and women learned new skills and, ultimately, empowerment and peace through their experiences in the natural world.
— Brenda Child, author of My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks
A lovingly rendered and rigorously researched book on girls from our past, from Harriet Tubman and Louisa May Alcott to Delores Huerta and Octavia Butler, who saw possibility in the soil, the trees, the water and the stars, despite the limitations and humiliations placed on them by others. These stories are a call to action, a reminder that if we lose our way, Nature is a bridge. I, for one, am rejuvenated. What a gift.
— Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces
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