February 1999

Making a difference

By Joyce Hansen
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If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then Joyce Hansen's latest book, Women of Hope, speaks volumes about 13 of our country's most heroic and inspirational African-American women. Each woman is featured in a one-page biography opposite a beautiful black-and-white photograph.

The portraits were part of a poster series created by the Bread and Roses Cultural Project, to "honor courageous, creative women of color whose persistence and vision gave society hopefulness and inspiration." Moe Foner, Executive Director of Bread and Roses, writes in the foreword that wherever the widely displayed posters appear — from bus stations and airports to schools and community centers — "pictures of these indomitable women lend a presence of strength and hope." Each striking photograph is accompanied by a one-page biography, just enough to whet the reader's appetite. Hansen provides thumbnail sketches of women worthy of entire books about their achievements, and leaves us wanting more.

The brief profiles are perfect for a book report or for young readers with short attention spans. (Now that I think of it, where was this book when I was in the fourth grade and had to choose a role model?) If the biographies fall short in their lack of detail, they make up for it in emotion and drama. The book moves chronologically from slavery and the Civil War through to the 1990s and includes an annotated bibliography. Hansen includes a list of more than 30 additional "Women of Hope" for readers to explore. These cultural and political icons remind us all that we are capable of anything, including change on a massive scale.

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