100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Remember those history books of yore, when it was all you could do to scan a page without dozing off? But since we’ve grown up and read more, we’ve realized that history is incredible – a treasure trove that dives into EVERY subject we’re interested in (and many we’re not). Now, we search out history, via the New Yorker, National Geographic, and other publications; through movies and shows; and, of course, through books (though definitely not those heavy tomes from our early school days). And yet, it can be hard to find a history book that makes you laugh, smile, and want to learn more – a book that brings history alive.

I have to share my very favorite history book in the WHOLE WORLD. Written by Sophia Dembling, 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go is, at first glance, a travel book. HA! Ha, I say. This book is extraordinary, and while it DOES focus on travel (maybe this is why I love it so much?), it is a Mary Poppins bag of interesting things, waiting to be unpacked. It is, at once, a travel guide, a talk with a very funny best friend, a history class with your favorite professor, and inspiration to read, learn, and explore more.

I imagine your eyebrows rising incredulously. Let me explain…

100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go is, of course, a travel guide. It’s a travel guide to many, many interesting places around the US, with a focus on women and women’s accomplishments and history. But here’s the genius of the author – while she travels, she shares extremely interesting places – and WHY we should visit and learn more. And that why? The stories she crafts – all 100 of them – are so remarkable that she brings our country’s history to life, one place at a time. It’s like reading letters from or talking with a friend - one who is erudite, curious, and loves to share what she’s learned because it is just so COOL.

 

100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

 

The book is split into sections – America the beautiful, essential cities, Americana, all-American kitsch, the American melting pot, women’s history, tough cookies you should know, artists and writers, musical museums, the great outdoors, retreats and spiritual escapes, just kinda girly, and home and hearth. And let me tell you what Dembling does with each section – she crafts interesting, enticing, re-readable descriptions of each place (perfect bookstores! The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! The Iditarod! Antiquing! Tiffany & Co! The Mall of America! Maine! Oregon! Civil rights, women’s rights, poverty, pioneers, the outdoors, painters, artists, musicians!).

What inspires in this book, dear readers, is that Dembling’s writing is so full of joie de vivre, so full of excitement and passion and interestingness, that we can’t help but catch fire for each topic, all 100 of them. This book? It’s that Mary Poppins bag of American history and travel and fascinating people – you can’t wait to see what Dembling pulls out next. Must I elaborate more? Take my word for it – I LOVE this book. You need to read it!

 

Pioneer Woman Museum, Ponca City, OK. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Pioneer Woman Museum, Ponca City, OK.

 

We were lucky enough to catch up with author Sophia Dembling, to ask about the back story of her book – inspiration, research, challenges, and more. Here’s what she had to say…

 

Please tell us about your book, 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go...

100 Places in the USA is a wholly subjective collection of places that I think are interesting, or cool, or fun, or quintessentially American. It encompasses women's history, Americana, kitsch, adventure, spirituality, art, fun…. It's a little bit about a lot of things.

 

Ghost Ranch Labyrinth. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Ghost Ranch Labyrinth

 

What inspired you to write this book?

This book is actually third in a series published by Travelers' Tales. The first was 100 Places Every Woman Should Go and it encompassed the whole world, the second was 100 Places in Italy.

I've been exploring the USA since I was 19 years old. My first adventures were criss-crossing the country for a month at a time on the Greyhound bus. I just love exploring the country's nooks and corners. At the time Travelers' Tales was looking for someone to write 100 Places in the USA, my friend Jenna Schneur and I were writing a website called Flyover America. (It's gone dormant, but we're proud of what we did and there's still lots of flyover fun to look at should you be inclined.)  It sounded like a perfect project for me, so I jumped at it.

 

Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast

 

Let's talk research - where did you go to conduct research for this book? How long did it take you?

I wasn't able to go every place in the book, though that just gives me stuff to look forward to. I have been to many places over the course of my more than twenty years as a travel writer and was able to draw on those trips. Some of the places I visited specifically for the book include Seneca Falls, birthplace of the women's suffrage movement; Red Cloud, Nebraska, author Willa Cather's hometown and inspiration for much of her work; Savannah, Georgia, 'cause I've always wanted to; Washington DC, because it had been a long time since my last visit; the Badlands of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore because they're just so cool. The book took a couple of years, although I did not work on it steadily.

 

Badlands National Park. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Badlands National Park

 

Where there any challenges in researching and writing this book?

Yes, researching and writing this book. When I first took on the project I thought, "Hey, the chapters can be 500 to 1,000 words. Piece o' cake!" It didn't really hit me until I started work that even a short chapter needs a lot of research. That alone was daunting. Then I had to present all that research in a short and snappy style. At one point it seemed that no matter how many chapters I wrote, I was always 30 chapters from being done.

 

Tina Turner exhibit  at Stax Museum. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Tina Turner exhibit  at Stax Museum

 

Harriet Tubman's grave, Auburn, NY. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Harriet Tubman's grave, Auburn, NY.

 

Did you uncover anything unexpected, while researching and writing this book?

I had fun looking for women's stories wherever I could. I think my favorite surprise story was Emily Warren Roebling, the woman behind the Brooklyn Bridge. And there's a neat woman's story behind the vote in Tennessee that finally ratified the 19th amendment.

I was also surprised that I could find no place that delves into the lives of Southern women during the Civil War. There are Gone with the Wind museums, but nothing about real women and their real lives during this devastating time. This to me is a huge gap in the American historic landscape.

 

Susan B Anthony house and tree. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Susan B Anthony house and tree

 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

 

What's up next for you?

As well as travel writing, I am a professional introvert. I wrote The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. My next book, due out in January, is Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After.

 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Yes: If we go, they will build it. A lot of sites dedicated to women have a sort of makeshift quality. They're small, not well funded, often also-rans. (Both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the First Ladies National Historic Site are in Canton, Ohio. Guess which one is a multimillion-dollar behemoth full of razzle dazzle. Guess which one is not.) But if women make a point of visiting women-centric sites, tourist boards will take notice and perhaps we'll see our stories rising up from the underground.

 

Anthony and Douglass statue, Rochester, NY. From 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go

Anthony and Douglass statue, Rochester, NY

 

 

Thank you, Sophia! To find out more (including stops on the book tour!), please see:

https://www.facebook.com/100PlacesforWomenUSA/events
http://www.sophiadembling.com/books

And, of course, you can find the book at your local bookstore or online.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Sophia Dembling, except the cover, which I took here at my desk this morning.

 

 

Note: We received a review copy of this book from the publisher - THANK YOU!

 

 

 

This book is a Mary Poppins bag of interesting things, waiting to be unpacked. It is, at once, a travel guide, a talk with a very funny best friend, a history class with your favorite professor, and inspiration to read, learn, and explore more.

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