Miscellanea, August 13, 2021

miscellanea /mɪsəˈleɪnɪə/ n. pl. : a collection of miscellaneous objects or writings [Latin]

This week: a history of the Avon lady, Cuomo’s toxic workplace, an overview of mRNA vaccines, motherhood vs. work ethic, and using old tech for new images.


Ding Dong! Avon Calling! by Katina Manko review – a fresh take on the cosmetics industry


Aah, the Avon lady and her catalogues. I loved flipping through those little books. I can still recall some of the products: soap-on-a-rope, collectible perfume bottles, and little plastic pins with solid perfume inside. I also remember tiny little lipstick samples the Avon lady would leave with my grandmother. I read a lot of non-fiction these days, and this sounds right up my alley. 

Manko focuses her history on the sales agents who rang the doorbells. Throughout, she takes seriously the idea that at least some ‘Avon ladies’ were striving to do something that, until very recently, was rare in American life: to start and grow a woman-owned business. Rather than dismiss them as foolish housewives or corporate dupes, she treats these agents’ entrepreneurial ambitions with respect, dispassionately analysing their achievements and failures.” The Guardian


Andrew Cuomo ran New York badly – because he ran a toxic workplace

The impact on the women Cuomo harassed is the most important story, but his behaviour had a ripple effect on his government, as this man who worked there attests. The passage below was the key for me–the number of competent women lost or passed over.

“Start with the number of women whose careers were cut short and harmed by the governor’s actions. That left New York without the contributions of many women who could have made the state a better place but who left because of the abuse. And who are the women who did not get jobs in the government at all because Cuomo may not have found them attractive? What was their contribution to our collective wellbeing that was missed?” The Guardian


The long road to mRNA vaccines

I knew mRNA was not a new technology and wanted to find some info about it to share to allay the fears of the vaccine-hesitant. Well, here it is.

The science behind the new COVID-19 vaccines has not been rushed. In fact, these vaccines are building on decades of scientific research.” Canadian Institutes of Health Research


American motherhood vs. the American work ethic

Ideal worker vs. ideal parent: a battle women have had to face for years that only intensified during the pandemic. 

Most of the women Recode spoke with said the pressure to be good workers and good parents was self-enforced. However, it’s also true that most insidious power structures can be difficult to isolate from personal preference. ‘Americans don’t want to think that anyone is influencing them to do anything. That’s deeply problematic, because first of all, it’s not true…Second of all, when women think that they are only putting pressure on themselves, and then they can’t live up to those expectations, they blame themselves.’ She added, ‘In fact, the cards are stacked against them. They’re operating within a system that is not set up to support them.’” Vox Recode


Capturing the Feeling of the Ocean on Paper

I love the story of Anna Atkins first using cyanotypes to capture images of ocean plants and inspiring another marine scientist to do the same.  

She also knew about Anna Atkins, an artist and botanist working in the 1800s, when photography was new. Atkins turned to this recently invented medium, specifically cyanotypes, to create accurate representations of the algae and other plants she studied. In 1843, Atkins published British Algae, one of the first books of photographs ever created. ‘Atkins was the first to take advantage of photography in such a scientific and methodical way,’ said Getty photographs curator Carolyn Peter.” Getty


Image by Crystal Smith

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