When you attend the book talk about untamed women of the Olympic wilderness at the Washington State History Museum on Thursday, May 21, you might be tempted to think, “But we have our very own untamed women here in the wilds of Tacoma!”
And, of course, you’d be right to think that way, but we’ll go there later.
First, a word about the program.
Glynda Peterson Schaad and her brother, Gary Peterson, wrote Women to Reckon With: Untamed Women of the Olympic Wilderness and will be in Tacoma talking about the subjects of their book. The free event is part of the history museum’s “Thursday Night Live!” program held on third Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Conveniently timed, by the way, to allow you to go about your workday duties, grab a tasty morsel from one of T-town’s best eateries, check out a few other spots during Third Thursday ArtWalk, and still have time to settle in.
Lest you think the subject less than riveting, let me throw out these adjectives borrowed from the book’s front flap: “bold, brave, intrepid, brazen, defiant, audacious, and even impudent.” Then add confident, self-reliant, and independent, and throw in a dash of dreaming big, blended with courage and determination along with energy to accomplish goals. (Can I take an order of that to go, please?)
And don’t forget, the event is happening at the history museum, so these women were all of these things at a time in the past — the 19th century to be exact — when women were supposed to sit primly, ankles crossed, stitching upon intricate embroidery or arranging bright nosegays.
While I have been known to arrange a mean bouquet or stitch up a fancy seam, I can assure you that my legs rarely cross. And I cuss like a sailor when I make a mistake (or just feel like dropping an F-bomb, truth be told).
But see, I have the relative freedom in this day and age to be myself — not some sad simulation of what society wants me to be. As do many of the strong female personalities I have had the privilege of meeting in my years of developing connections in my community. They are women such as my mother (more than just a casual acquaintance, to be sure), Marika Hopper, who at 18 years of age left the posh comfort of her private, converted-castle boarding school in Hungary. She escaped from her Communist bloc home during a time of revolution. And while she wasn’t one of those students who desecrated the massive statue head of Stalin in the famed 1956 Hungarian Revolution, she did stow away to an uncertain future, which brought her, eventually, to Tacoma. Known for her booze-spiked cakes, sometimes wicked sense of humor, and upbeat energy when dealing with intense challenges, my mom has taught me some of the best Hungarian curse words I know (though she’ll swear that was my dad’s doing).
Displacement also features in local activist and critical-thinker Claudia Riedener’s bio. She moved from her native Switzerland and eventually landed in the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory as a horticulturist for Metro Parks. A shift to a different type of dirt — clay rather than soil — brought her to her current, artistic vocation as a tile maker extraordinaire whose work can be gawked at on Sixth Avenue (on planters, in Masa, and as a trash can) as well as purchased from ixiatile.com.
Another feature in the Tacoma arts community who easily can be classified as bold, brave, intrepid, and certainly impudent with her wry, witty creations, Lynn Di Nino also escaped from a place — Seattle — to arrive to her home in Tacoma. Landing in Old Town, Di Nino took on the generally deemed man’s work of remodeling her house while creating her artwork in what is, typically, a man’s medium — concrete.
Last but not least, let’s examine one of my favorite untamed women of Tacoma. After shedding the confines of Houston, Texas, like a tightly laced corset, Weekly Volcano scribe and woman-about-polite-society Stephanie DeRosa settled (with some flatulence and swearing) into her current comfy seat. What used to be the tamed West is now becoming wild again, thanks in part to my friend’s biting commentary on everything from family stickers on minivans to tossing salad — all this in a smiling, benign-looking package. She warns, “If you don’t want the peaches, don’t shake the tree.”
So what’s her secret to becoming untamed?
“When you stop caring about what other people think, when you start respecting your own thoughts, when you just don’t give a shit about the people who don’t count in your life.”
Hell yeah, sistah!
[Washington State History Museum, Thursday Night Live! — Women to Reckon With, book talk with Glynda Peterson Schaad and Gary Peterson, Thursday, May 21, 6:30 p.m., free, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.3500]