You cannot enter this fascinating, frontier-opening and much needed volume without learning something you did not know about how New York City became the vibrant epicenter it is today, particularly with regard to the strong women whose contributions go largely unheralded in the more traditional, male-centric histories written and told about the people who helped build it. Promise.
The categories and choices of women to highlight are rather eclectic; ranging from terse but enlightening profiles of cultural literacy pioneers such as Jane Grant [co-founder of The New Yorker] to political avant-garde artists like Yoko Ono. Author Julie Scelfo chose not to highlight “firsts” or those whose influence was felt more on the national stage as opposed to NYC itself, but instead has highlighted those who have helped fashion the City’s soul. So as you read, you will be tempted to say, “But what about …..”!?
The reality is that there are simply too many notable, deserving names, and stories to fit into a single book one could carry! Ms. Scelfo acknowledges, “This book is merely a first step, a history that is unavoidably incomplete.” In fact, in her introduction, she invites readers “to continue this her-story” by visiting www.webuiltnewyork.com to chronicle “the contributions of all our grandmothers, mothers, and sisters.”
Ms. Scelfo is the self-described product of “many who came through New York” and one who has chosen to live in NYC with her family after attending Barnard College and getting a Master’s degree from New York University. This is her first book. She also contributes stories to The New York Times, where she was a staff reporter from 2007 until 2011, among other publications.
Photo credit: Johannes Kroemer
Julie is scheduled to go on tour, in case you would like to hear her speak in person. Upcoming appearances in New York include March 7 at the NYC Women’s City Club, March 9 at the Brooklyn Historical Society, March 15 at KTCollection, April 6 at Barnes & Noble UWS, April 13 at The Village Bookstore, April 24 at the Brooklyn Historical Society, and May 7 at the Apollo Theater.
In addition, she is currently writing The Sahadi’s Cookbook, which captures the flavors and history of NYC’s oldest specialty food store, now operated by a fourth generation member of the Sahadi family.
When asked what her present New York State of Mind is, Ms. Scelfo quickly responded with “perseverance”, a word chosen for and inspired by the countless female subjects of her book.
New York Makers is delighted to accept submissions of stories of “women who MAKE in New York State.” We urge interested storytellers to use both the literal and figurative translation of the idea of “making." Please feel free to email us at Info@NewYorkStatesofMind.com.