• UO Interviews: Miriam Klein Stahl and Kate Schatz


    Through stories and illustrations, Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl’s book Rad American Women A-Z documents some of the country’s most influential and unsung heroines. Inspired by the book, Miriam Stahl created two exclusive papercut illustrations featuring the portraits of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two radically important voices in the gay and trans movement. 
    Photos by Devyn Galindo


    Urban Outfitters will be donating 100% of the proceeds from these tees directly to an LGBTQ charity organization of the artists’ choice. To learn more about the rad women who both inspired and created the project, we visited Stahl’s Berkeley studio and spoke with both women about the collaboration. 


    Kate, you’re a fiction writer but this is the first book you’ve written with children in mind. Can you share a bit more about what sparked the initial idea?
    I was inspired by my then two-year old daughter, and wanted to create an inspiring, empowering, and fun book that would help her understand American history from a feminist perspective. 
     
    How did you narrow down the process of selecting the women? 
    We reached out to many people to get their suggestions for who they'd like to see in the book, and then did extensive research to narrow it down. We prioritized the stories of women of color and other inspiring and badass figures who are historically marginalized and not found in history books.


    Growing up, who were your own Rad women role models (or the ones you still look up to today?)
    Our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, aunts, sisters....We both come from powerful, inspiring women.
     
    Have you been in touch with any of the women you feature in the book? 
    Yes, Dolores Huerta and Kate Bornstein have been particularly enthusiastic about the book. 


    Miriam, can you share a bit about your process of creating the accompanying illustrations? What was the process like there, with choosing images or points in each of the women’s lives to create the illustrations from?
    I start with a piece of black paper and then draw the portrait with pencil. After I have the image on paper I cut it out with a x-acto blade. I cut  the parts I want to be white and leave the black paper to create the bold portraits in the book. I tried to capture a unique expression on each women and depict an aspect of their accomplishments in the image.  
     
    Do you plan on expanding the concept into other fields or parts of the world?
    Yes! Rad Women Worldwide is next, and we have several other projects brewing. There is no shortage of rad women to learn about.

     
    The book starts a conversation about feminism and the importance of sharing the stories of unheard voices. What are the current causes you're most passionate about?
    We want to inspire and engage young (and older!) readers by providing them with accessible, interesting, visually appealing accounts of rad women from who have been left out of mainstream historical/cultural narratives. We are passionate about working to amplify the stories and voices of those who have been marginalized/brutalized by white patriarchal racist cultures. Beyond that? We want to make feminism cool. We want to make history cool. We want to end rape culture by providing boys and girls and young people of all genders with examples of strong, cool, inspiring women. We want to show them that not everyone identifies with the gender they're born with. We want to encourage white parents, educators, librarians, caregivers, etc to read and learn about the lives of people of color, to discuss race and racism with young people, to understand why #BlackLivesMatter. We want to show the publishing world—the writers, agents, publishers, distributors, editors, critics, booksellers, librarians, etc—that "diverse books" are not just a trend, but a real and critical need.


    Hopefully these t-shirts will play a small part in spreading the word about the rad trans and queer women of color whose fierce bravery and commitment to justice and liberation were central to the American Gay Rights movement. The mainstream LGBT movement has long celebrated Stonewall yet ignored the stories and faces of two of its (many) pioneers, Sylvia Rivera, a Latina Civil Rights activist, and Marsha P. Johnson, a Black Civil Rights activist. These t-shirts celebrate Sylvia and Marsha, and contribute to the visibility of trans/queer people of color, making visible their great accomplishments as well as their struggles against disproportionate levels of violence, abuse, unemployment, and access to housing, healthcare, and basic services. 

    Learn more about Miriam and Kate's book, Rad American Women A-Z
    Urban Outfitters will be donating 100% of the proceeds from these tees directly to an LGBTQ charity organization of the artists’ choice. 
    Shop the Sylvia and Marsha tees