1) Phillis Wheatley: Poetic genius who transcended slavery (yes, a relatively benign version of it, but still, slavery) to write some of the Revolutionary era’s most defining literary works. All, by the way, before she was 20. If that’s not AmericanStudies hot, I don’t know what is.
2) Fanny Fern: Funny, sarcastic, self-deprecating, smart as a whip, willing and able to wear the pants in a relationship (literally, as in her hilarious and biting article in response to the criminal charges faced by a woman who had dressed in men’s clothing), and, yes, the highest-paid newspaper columnist of her era. I know, I would have stood no shot. But an AmericanStudier can dream.
3) Sarah Piatt: Equally adept at capturing the first moments of courtship or the trials and triumphs of parenting, able to write deceptively simple verses for kids and wide audiences or hugely complex works that demand extended readings, married to a fellow poet with whom I guarantee she shared some powerful and passionate works that the rest of us AmericanStudiers can only imagine … yup, works for me.
4) Eleanor Roosevelt: I tend to think that political marriages provide Hollywood marriages with some serious competition in the “these two should not be getting married” sweepstakes. But FDR and Eleanor, whatever their personal struggles and conflicts, have to be the exception to that rule, ‘cause they so clearly allowed each other to do more and better and more impressive work for their country than would have been possible solo. But while Franklin’s positions and power might well have given Eleanor more exposure and opportunity, I also think she’d have spent her life doing exactly that work no matter what. Gotta love that.
5) Gloria Anzaldúa: Ay caramba, que bella escritura! Me gusta sus palabras. Me gusta mucho. That’s some seriously mediocre Spanish, but I know she’d appreciate the effort. A woman and writer of corazón and cranium in equal and equally impressive measure.