March 2015: “To Be Young Was Very Heaven” by Sandra Adickes

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Thanks so much to those of you who participated in last months celebration of Black History Month by reading Billie Holiday’s “Lady Sings the Blues.” I do apologize for being so late posting the poll for March‘s book selection for Women’s History Month, but the votes already show a clear majority in favor of “To Be Young Was Very Heaven” by Sandra Adickes.


Sandra Adickes was born 14 July 1933 in New York City. In 1963, Adickes spent part of her summer teaching in the black community of Prince Edward County, VA, where public schools had been closed in response to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to outlaw segregation. Adickes was recruited by SNCC, and on July 4, 1964, after attending an orientation and training session at LeMoyne College in Memphis, she came to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she served as a freedom school teacher at Priest Creek Baptist Church in Palmer’s Crossing. 


At the end of the summer, Adickes accompanied six of her students to the Hattiesburg Public Library, where the children were denied library cards. As a result of their persistence, the police were called and the library was closed. The group then made its way to the lunch counter at the Kress store. In compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the waitress allowed the students to place orders. However, she refused to serve Adickes. The group decided to leave, and when they walked outside, Adickes was arrested for vagrancy, even though she was carrying $70 in cash. In turn, Adickes sued Kress for denying her civil rights. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was settled out of court in 1970.


“To Be Young Was Very Heaven” by Sandra Adickes


Heaven“In the years before World War I, New York City’s Greenwich Village was a place of great artistic and political ferment. Political causes attracted throngs of supporters. Artistic movements filled cafes and restaurants with boisterous conversation. And for the first time, women began to seize power and shape the landscape of the time: Margaret Sanger began her crusade for birth control; Mabel Dodge hosted salons for the avant-garde; Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Workers Movement; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn helped to organize the Workers of the World. The list of women who played integral roles in American life and letters then is endless, and Sandra Adickes captures them all while evoking the now-lost paradise that New York offered to women at the turn of the century.”


Praise for To Be Young Was Very Heaven


“. . . It’s heart is in the right place and it succeeds in illustrating a chapter in history.” —New York Times Book Review
“A rich cast of fiery, romantic idealists.” —The Sunday Times Bookshop (UK)
“A clear, readable portrait of a period of women’s history worth rediscovering.” —Library Journal

Read “To Be Young Was Very Heaven” on Google Books


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