Ever heard of Amy Poehler? This iconic star of NBC’s Saturday Night Live and the creative and acting genius behind NBC’s Parks and Recreation has teamed up with other powerful women to create an organization committed to highlighting intelligent, creative, free-thinking women. This organization is called Amy’s Smart Girls.
A recent feature on their online newsletter shed light on our very own Julia Carpenter from the class of 2009. Julia is employed by the iconic Washington Post as a Digital Audience Producer where she creates social media content and writes blog posts. This highly visible part of the Washington Post has our Julia creating content seen globally! However, Julia has an interesting personal mission that allows her to creatively share, educate and inspire today’s readers on women you should know. Here is a link to her blog. https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/julia-carpenter
Here is a feature article on Julia Carpenter ’09: A Woman to Know by GRACIE MCKENZIE
I got an inspiring message from the past in my email inbox yesterday. Since the end of August, I’ve been getting a newsletter called “A Woman to Know,” which highlights one fantastic woman from history each weekday. If I’m lucky, she’s someone I haven’t heard of before—like Virginia Hall, a WWII-era spy, or forgotten author Dawn Powell. No matter what, though, I learn something new; as I told the creator of the newsletter, Julia Carpenter, the newsletter feels like a grown-up version of the picture books about great women on which my mom, a feminist and a scientist, raised me.
Just like the women she features in her newsletter, it’s entirely possible that you’ve seen Carpenter’s work without even knowing it. During the day, she works on getting the best parts of the Washington Post in front of your eyes as you browse the Web—and this is especially true if you’re on Tumblr, where she runs the Post’s main blog. But after hours, Carpenter has another mission: she wants to get people talking about historic women.
“I grew up my whole life reading so much about dead white men,” she says, and while many of those white men have inspired her, it’s important to her “to point out all the other women who were involved in those same adventures and escapades. It’s the same with people of color, it’s the same with queer identities—all of the people who were involved with history, I want to talk about them and give them the attention that they deserve.”
It was a tweet from editor Rose Pastore that first sparked the idea for this particular project. “I don’t know her personally; we’re just Internet friends,” Carpenter says. “I remember I started following her because she made some really cool gifs of like, the bottom of the ocean.”
One day in March, Pastore tweeted something that caught Carpenter’s eye: three words—“woman to know”—followed by a link to the Wikipedia page for Alice Bunker Stockham, one of the United States’ first female doctors.
“I responded: ‘I love that. This should be a Tumblr. Or a newsletter,’” Carpenter remembers, but while she talked to her friends, claimed the TinyLetter name, and started collecting a list of inspiring women, she says she “sat on it for months and didn’t do anything with it.”
In late August, though, Pastore tweeted “A woman to know” again, this time linking to Ima Hogg. Hogg, the early-20th-century philanthropist who “does not have a sister named Ura,” has now been featured in the newsletter, along with around 40 other inspiring women from Ann Lowe toZenobia.
Carpenter had been collecting a list of women since she first conceived the idea, but it took that second tweet, and back-up from supportive friends, to spur her into action.
“I’d go down these Internet rabbit-hole spirals of lady awesomeness where I’m like ‘Rosa Bonheur is the most amazing landscape artist in the world! Why does no one know who she is?’” Carpenter explains. So then, the newsletter is “just taking like that kind of crazy rabbit-hole enthusiasm, and then trying to create something from it.”
Many of the women were Carpenter’s heroes—like Nora Ephron, whose edition Carpenter says she agonized over because “she is so important to me; how do I sum it up in a paragraph?” Radical feminist Carolee Schneeman “was a little bit of a newsletter just for me just because I love performance art, I love talking about periods, and she combines both of those things,” Carpenter says.
Others were suggestions from friends and co-workers at the Post (Lowe, who designed Jackie O’s wedding dress, from Alma Gill; legendary Post publisher Katharine Graham, coming soon, fromArielle Retting), or from readers who reply to each edition to tell her about their favorite women. “The most enjoyable part of all this is people replying to the newsletter with women to feature, women that I had never heard of,” she says.
Between suggestions and her own ideas, she’s up to around 40 half-finished drafts. “It is sometimes a little bit of a challenge” to balance the newsletter with her day job, she admits, especially because TinyLetter doesn’t allow scheduling.
This means Carpenter has to send the email out manually each day, between meetings and breaking news. “I send it in the middle of the workday: I don’t send it after, I don’t send it in the morning, so it’s got to be something I can carve out that time in advance for,” she explains.
But still, she encourages other Smart Girls to go for their side-hustle ideas, despite the extra work: “Just make it — it doesn’t have to be perfect. Tell your friends you’re going to make it, because then they’ll ask you about it and you’ll have to make it. I’m guilty of keeping an idea notebook that’s 2 inches thick, and then only starting ten of the ideas, and then only finishing half of the first thing, so accountability for me is huge.”
Thanks to the Internet, she says, it’s never been easier to find a community for your projects.
“Historical women are something that’s important to me as a writer, as a reader, and as somebody who shares beautiful pieces of writing and great pieces of creation all the time,” Carpenter explains. “If something resonates with me and if something matters to me, I know it matters to somebody else.”
We’re behind Julia’s mission 100% here at Smart Girls! And, fun fact: she says she’s a huge fan of us, too. Spread the love and sign up to get “A Woman to Know” in your inbox here. She also told us she’s a “newsletter addict;” check out this (abridged) list of her recommendations for other Smart Girls:
- Ann Friedman Weekly (“Number one, first newsletter that broke the newsletter mold. Like, queen of newsletters,” Carpenter says.)
- Caitlin Dewey’s Links I Would G-chat You If We Were Friends (“I work with her at the Post,” Carpenter adds. “She’s one of the sharpest reporters in the industry, period. And her newsletter is delightful. It makes me laugh, I Pocket every link. The gif transforms my day from a bad one to a good one!”)
- Jessica Valenti’s Eat Me
- Kristen Bellstrom’s The Broadsheet
- Lauren Katz’s Links My Mom Sends Me
- Lelia Cohan-Miccio’s Uptalk
- Lena Dunham’s Lenny (in which Amy recently interviewed young Broadway actress Sydney Lucas!)
- Lindsey Cook’s Up Down All Around
- Matt Sheret’s The Bureau of Small Observation
- Meghann Farnsworth and Masuma Ahuja’s Gif Your Life
- Sami Main’s Pep Talk (“It’s like candy rains into your inbox every day.”)
- Tyler Coates’s It’s My Stupid! (“Ultra-narrative, ultra-inspiring, ultra-relatable.”)
- Hello Prompt (“It’s this amazing newsletter that sends you a writing prompt every day and then you reply with your writing and then the creator of the newsletter then shares those the next day,” Carpenter explains. “It’s totally my crack. I love it.”)