Grace Bonney, designer extraordinaire, has a gift for you: In the Company of Women, a coffee table collection profiling a diverse range of creative women about their work. It’s 360 gorgeous full-color spreads offering up advice, inspiration, and personal stories from makers, shakers, and other entrepreneurs and innovators — including Janet Mock, Tavi Gevinson, Kate Bornstein, Roxane Gay, Cameron Esposito, Issa Rae, Carrie Brownstein, Laura Jane Grace, Mary Lambert, Jasika Nicole, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Kathleen Hanna.
When it comes to painting the whole picture of women who are creative-minded leaders, Bonney walked the walk on diversity and inclusion, and on purpuse. Over 70% of the book represents women of color, LGBTQ women, differently-abled women and/or women over 40. “I’m always most inspired and motivated by what I feel is missing from or needed within a community or market,” Bonney told me. “I started my blog back in 2004 because I didn’t see mainstream media covering DIY design and handmade work, and when I wasn’t seeing any business books that were inclusive I was motivated to create a book that I felt represented more of the creative community I know and love. So many business books for women are focused on cisgender, straight, white, thin women — and while those stories are valid and important to include as part of a spectrum, they definitely don’t represent all of the amazing stories and businesses that I’ve seen around me.”
Telling these women’s stories came easy to Bonney: they’re her own inspirations. “Getting to meet some of my idols — Laura Jane Grace, Nikki Giovanni, Cameron Esposito — was a dream come true,” Bonney told me, “plain and simple.”
And among the women, who represent a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and industries, come some throughlines we can all pull from and relate to. “I really enjoyed finding unexpected common threads in stories that I wouldn’t have suspected would have commonalities,” Bonney said. “For example, almost every woman in the book admitted they’d given up on the idea of “work/life balance” because they realized — it didn’t actually exist. Things are always changing and adjusting and holding yourself — or your business — to this idea of something static and permanent was a waste of time. That piece of wisdom really stuck with me and changed the way I run my business completely.”
In the Company of Women opens with a quote from Marian Wright Edelman: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” That’s the backbone of this project, and it’s what Bonney wants readers to recognize and feel is slightly righted by its presence on their tables, or in their bookshelves. “My goal was for any woman reading to be able to see herself reflected in these pages,” she said, “and truly know just how many amazing opportunities and options exist. Whether it’s a young girl who sees Shadi Petosky and knows she could be a TV showrunner one day or an older women who sees an artist like Amalia Mesa-Bains and can imagine herself in a second career and painting well into her next stage of life.”
Is it obvious yet why we love this book? Okay, good. Is it obvious yet why you will, too? Great. ‘Cause we’ve got a copy to give away to — as well as a cute tote bag — and you should want them so bad! If you wanna be entered in the giveaway, comment on this post by MIDNIGHT EST TONIGHT, Tuesday October 4, and tell me who inspires you and what you’ve learned from them. I’ll pick a winner and announce them TOMORROW! Dreams really do come true.
UPDATE: We have a winner, folks! Thanks to random.org, I’ve magically selected @keladry and will be bestowing upon them some gifts via the powers-that-be, AKA Grace Bonney herself. Congratulations!
This seems like a solid time for the rest of y’all to check out the tour dates, snag a copy for yourself, and join the conversation on Twitter with the tag #InTheCompanyofWomen.
This is so exciting!
My personal hero is my old principal. I work in education, and I have never worked for someone more dedicated. She is a great leader, a compassionate friend to her staff, and a wonderful support in the classroom. She knows every student and their family. Her school was the only school I have been in where everyone truly felt like family.
This looks like a such a great book and maybe it will give me the kick up the ass I need to make more of myself.
The woman who most inspires me is Yasmin Nair, she’s a political writer and activist who discusses the ways in which the modern queer agenda has been neoliberalised and de-radicalised and how that harms us all. She has taught me to look twice at the political situations in front of me and to have faith in my ability to theorise about things in ways that aren’t necessarily going to be easily accepted by my peers/friends/fellow feminists. I don’t always agree 100% with her but I like that. Having someone to 100% idolise isn’t massively useful!
This is a great interview of hers – http://www.hypocritereader.com/42/yasmin-nair
I know this is 100% Nerd Alert Elementary School Project answer, but it honestly can’t be anyone but my mom. She works an insanely demanding job and still always has time to chat with me on the phone about my day or read over an email I’m nervous about. She is so together, caring, compassionate, smart, and funny. She’s taught me to always make time for people I love and has given me so much of my confidence and ability to trust myself.
My girlfriend inspires me so much. She battles through mental illness as well as taking care of her ill mother and grandfather. She is filled with kindness and love for all those around her and she inspires ne to work hard and to move through the world with a kind outlook.
this book looks amazing.
there are definitely a lot of women in my life that I would include in a work like this :)
Woo hoo! I might get this for my sister for Christmas.
A book with a diverse bunch of women on the cover? What could be better?
When I was a kid my mom told me a story about how Lily Tomlin and her dog walked into the store she worked at and my mom almost reprimanded Lily for bringing in a dog until she realized that it was Lily Tomlin.
I didn’t understand the significance of the woman being Lily Tomlin until I grew up. (side note: my mind was blown when as an adult I realized she did the voice of Ms. Frizzle).
Lily Tomlin is my hero.
I am in the middle of getting ready to move (yet again) to a new state in anticipation of letting go of my corporate job to start my artistic home business. I use to have a home business but it has been a while. I am so nervous about taking the plunge again. This book would be such inspiration! Wish me luck as I begin this new endeavor!
My mother. I would like to be half the woman she is, and I’d be happy. She saved up all her money from being a librarian, left Australia about 22 and came to Europe to be a cook. She has all these wonderful stories about working for a mean Baroness in Venice. She is an example for me of fearless travel and independence (has had her own business for 30 some years) and endless love.
I would love to win the book, but right now I should probably go tell her how grateful I am.
I don’t usually comment here, but this seemed like a good time to emerge! So many people inspire me, but the one that comes to mind now is Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman. I’ve learned a lot from her, most obviously how to cook near a hundred new dishes and sweets (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration!). But I’m also inspired by her patience, inventiveness, and curiosity. She’ll taste a dish at a restaurant and turn it over in her mind, trying to figure out how to replicate it with her own spin. Her diligence and creativity are astounding to me, and on top of that, she’s such a kind, lovely person! She’s a pleasure to listen to, because she’s so interested in and respectful of her audiences, and she’s a pleasure to read. Her writing is colorful and elegant, and — at the same time! — really funny. And she began it all by cooking in her tiny apartment kitchen. I love that. Her recipes are always so accessible without being oversimplified, which I know comes from a place of deep intentionality. “Streamlined” is one of her favorite words; “fewer dishes” is another (okay, two).
I’m actively trying to grow in a couple small ways via Smitten Kitchen. Firstly, I’ve always been a super picky eater. My kidlike fear of vegetables and earthy grains makes me a less than healthy person, and more importantly, a terrible lesbian. But I trust Deb Perelman absolutely, and I’m slowly learning to like foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, quinoa, and farro. I also love to cook, but I’m too anxious to try to incorporate my own flavors and methods. Given the amount of time I spend on Smitten Kitchen and practicing different techniques with Deb’s assistance, I’m challenging myself to really taste and smell foods, to figure out which spices I like, to figure out what I can add and what I can remove, or how I can vary techniques. I’m learning to open my refrigerator and throw something together on my own. Again, this is something a lot of people figure out instinctively, but I’ve come to rely so much on recipes that it’s a stretch.
I read Smitten Kitchen like a novel. When I have nightmares and wake up shaking in the middle of the night, I start reading recipes and calm down immediately (and start bookmarking for the next day). Deb is such a great mother and wife and feels like a friend, or like my warm and wise aunt. I read the comments section to hear what substitutions others are making, and often there are enough little anecdotes to remind me that people all over the world are still going about their days, cooking for loved ones. Fear and politics haven’t consumed everything.
I’d love to read Grace Bonney’s book! I know of her through Deb, actually — she recently spoke at an event in conversation with Grace’s wife, Julia Turshen, and Deb linked to both of them. I did a little research and listened to both of them on a podcast, and I was sad to find that an event Grace is doing near me is sold out! But her book sounds really interesting, and I’d love a copy.
It’s probably a tie between my Mom and my sister. My sister is someone who I aspire to be like, she’s brilliant, hard-working, kind, and radical. But my roots come from my Mom, who taught me what’s important in life. I probably wouldn’t be pursuing a career in social justice if not for her.
If I won this though I’d definitely give it to my sister. She’s been having a rough time recently, she works in Silicon Valley and her new boss is the definition of toxic masculinity. It doesn’t matter that she’s brilliant and more qualified that the majority of her coworkers(90% of whom are male), her ideas are suddenly being discounted. I think this book could be helpful for her.
Right now, the woman who is inspiring me the most is a new friend that I’ve known for about 9 months. She tells me about her goals professionally, her struggles personally and she inspires me to really know myself and to live that out everyday no matter what. It’s awesome!
One of my all time heroes is actress/producer/director and all around awesome human Amanda Tapping. She’s best known for playing Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 for eleven years, a character who was the smartest person on the planet and an Air Force officer who also could punch the bad guys in the face. As a little baby gay who had never heard of feminism in the middle of Iowa, I can’t overstate how big an impact Tapping/Carter had on me. For the first time I saw that girls could be smart and capable. That it was good to stand up for what you knew was right.
After Stargate, she went on to play Helen Magnus in Sanctuary – the little sci-fi show that could – where she was also an executive producer and director. Magnus was also incredibly smart and capable and was surrounded by men who spent the four seasons of the show going “yup, she’s smarter than me and can definitely kick my ass and I’m okay with that.” While filming Sanctuary, Tapping founded a charity called Sanctuary for Kids, which works with small charities and organizations to focus their efforts and do a lot of good in the lives of children around the world. She personally absorbs most if not all of the admin costs so that 100% of the money donated actually gets to the people who need it. And she does this just because she cares about people.
More than the characters she plays, I am constantly amazed to watch interviews and videos of her at conventions talking about her struggles in the industry. When costume testing for SG-1 they wanted to put her in a skimpy top and skin tight pants, but she insisted that her character be dressed in standard military uniform or she was ready to walk. Luckily they listened. She had to wait 6 more seasons than her male co-star to be given a chance to direct on that show. Now she works primarily as a director of sci-fi and she’s fucking brilliant at it too.
And did I mention she insisted on putting a girl-girl kiss into an episode of Sanctuary? That she vocally wanted Helen Magnus to have a woman love interest on the show? That when that decision was challenged by the public her response was basically ‘yeah, we don’t actually care what you think because love is love’?
As a kid I learned from her characters that I could be strong and smart and make a difference. As an adult I’ve learned that sometimes life isn’t fair, but hard work still pays off and the best revenge is being amazing at whatever it is you choose to do. That there is always time and money to care for those less fortunate no matter how busy we are. And that through it all, people notice when you’re a genuine and caring human because that stuff matters too.
My inspiration is, and has always been a retired missionary named Mrs. Charlene. I grew up in a really poverty-stricken area, and the local church used to go around basically collecting kids in their church van. Thankfully, even though they were crazy, they were the kind crazy. She more or less raised me, taught me how to think outside my own circumstance, and basically set me up for a future of successes through mentor-ship and love.
We have our ideological differences, obviously, but there is not a more pure soul in the world. She taught me how to smile, and enjoy life.
Man, all these comments are so good!
My inspiration is my high school History teacher, Mrs. Smith. She was the only person (outside of my mom) to tell me I was capable of being more than I was. She encouraged me to sign up for Advanced Placement History, something I didn’t believe I should do because I didn’t think I was that smart. She was always honest with her students, telling us about her personal struggles and letting us know we didn’t have to have our stuff together all of the time, and that was okay. She’s the only teacher I miss from school because she believed in me when no one else did, and that still means so much to me.
this book looks soooo good. Hope it can be bought in Europe too.
My inspiration is my grandma, who raised 5 children, lost a son to cancer, stood up agains the shady criminals harassing her and her family and today crossed the world to come visit us.
What a great giveaway! The person who comes to mind is my high school choir teacher, as nerdy as that sounds. It’s been years since I was in one of her classes, but she remains an iconic figure of my person-shaping years. (Well okay, I suppose they’re all person-shaping years, aren’t they, but perhaps some of my first even-slightly-independent years. You know what I mean.) She’s incredibly passionate about everything she does and wears her heart on her sleeve always. Which takes quite a strong person to do, to always be that open and loving and such a conscious pillar for hormone-addled teens. She’s gone through a really tough year or two recently and has come back stronger than ever, with more love, strength, and grace than I thought one person could have.
(As a side note, she’s gay and married to a woman, and that combined with her personality tends to attract queer kids and provide a very important supportive space during a crazy time in most of their lives. Anyway. She’s just so cool, I could talk about her for ages. As you may be able to tell.)
Ani Difranco smashed the patriarchy in my head to smithereens at 13. I will never forget how listening to her sing about pulling out her tampon both shocked and shamed my sensibilities and then EMPOWERED the crap outta me (onto you)…It makes me sad to know that some ppl are unimpressed/upset by her bc of (long lists of controversial things) as she really blew wide open so many minds and hearts in a time before internet and tumblr safe spaces existed.
Also, OUR VERY OWN AMAZING SHE-BEAST HILLARY CLINTON. UM–I am agog at her ability to handle so much sexism, degrading bullcrap and insane fear mongering. She truly is my hero.
Also, ALSO I am my own GD hero today because I got out of my anxiety fear bubble about my credit card and finally made a payment on that which is wayyy scarier than it sounds :)
**just looked up agog and it doesn’t mean what I though it meant–let’s just go with ASTOUNDED
I was going to order this for Riese’s birthday …
I love this! such an amazing idea, I might have to gift this to my students.
My heroes are the two presidents of the LGBTQ org at the university I studied abroad at in London. They committed so much of their energy to make the school safe and comfortable for LGBTQ students. It was really amazing. Even though I never had a problem with the university during my semester there, it was really nice knowing that there were students who had my back. They inspired me to get involved in student government at my home university, and this year I am (the first ever) Senator-At-Large for LGBTQ Inclusion. :)
This looks incredible! And so beautiful!
I think that the people who have inspired me the most have all been teachers: my Spanish teacher when I was 15 (and my first lady crush!), who inspired me to pursue languages. My A-level French teacher who complimented me just one time on my translation, which is now what I would love to do as a career. And my fantastic English teacher who pushed me to be curious and learn more about the subject she knew I loved.
But of course there have also been queer people who have inspired me too. Jenny Owen Youngs and Allison Weiss, whose music is my near-constant companion. Kristin and Dannielle of Everyone Is Gay, who have shown me that maybe I *can* make a difference in the world if I believe and I try. Youtuber Ashley Mardell, who has given me the words to explain abstract concepts to myself and others. My best friend Jen, whose coming out has almost paralleled my own, and who has literally been with me every single step of my journey.
Too many? Probably. But the reality is that I try to surround myself with voices and people that inspire me, so I am spoilt for choice when it comes to picking just one.
Beautiful! Can’t wait to see/read/enjoy a copy.
The person who constantly finds new ways to inspire me is one of my former English professors. She’s a kickass woman who goes above and beyond to create inclusive spaces at my alma mater. I spent two semesters learning from her as a teacher and continue learning as a great friend and mentor. I can’t thank her enough for her influence in my life.
I asked my gf who she thinks inspires me and she said, “Me! I do!” and even though she’s totally smug, she’s also right. She won a human rights medal for heaven’s sake ( https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/yen-eriksen-wins-young-peoples-medal-her-lgbtiq-work )! She finds so much genuine joy in the world which is something that I find really difficult considering the world can be such an awful and fucked up place. Her politics and her heart are just so excellent!
But also also also Sara Ahmed is my academic role model and one time she liked one of my tweets and I screamed out loud. Which is exactly what I would do if I won this book. True story.
I would sleep with it under my pillow and maybe it will help me absorb some badassery.
This is serendipitous–I can’t afford (thanks, taxes) to buy this book rn or see Grace & co. when they tour in D.C. in a few weeks–but I am so ready to read it.
I work for an independent bookstore, and my boss, Marlene, inspires me. She and her husband run two small businesses–a badass bookstore and a toy store. Marlene is fiercely optimistic and dedicated to all things social justice in our community–whether it’s prison justice, housing reform or queer rights. In 2017, she’s chairing our store’s initiative to “Read Broader,” encouraging our customers to read authors from different cultures, of wide experiences. The bookstore is a benefit corporation, so a portion of our profits every month go to charities and non-profits around the world. She’s tough when she needs to be, but she’s generous and kind. Even though she has the zaniest job in the world, she stays calm in the face of stress or setbacks, stays organized and never, ever takes it out on other people. To me, that’s incredible. One day, I may want to run a bookstore of my own, and if I’m even a fraction of the human she is, I’m gonna be in decent shape.
Two of the people I look up to most were some of the first queer adults I’d ever met. Seeing people who were like me and functional adults following their dreams was super inspiring. They’re both badass queer ladies that do whatever they need to do to get shit done, and I’m always amazed at how persistent and resilient they are.
My college prof, Dr. Mennel, inspires me! She taught me feminist theory, how to ask hard questions, and that I don’t have to neatly fall into the butch/femme dichotomy!
More than a decade later and I’m still constantly inspired by my high school drama teacher. She is such a strong, smart, creative and caring person. She’s taught me everything from theater basics to art design, teaching, giving and so much more. Her viewpoint on life is contagious and she’s inspired literally tens of thousands of students in her life so far! She’s everything a perfect educator should be and on top of that she’s an outstanding human outside of her classroom.
When I was struggling in my early twenties after a bad breakup, I left college, moved to Northampton Massachusetts (that’s where the lesbians are, right?), and started over. I wrote an email to Grace about how much I looked up to her, about how I didn’t know how to find my way in the world, and asked for her advice.
She was kind and generous, and she offered to share my resume once I was done with college and was ready to make another move.
I never followed up with her on that, but I never forgot. And inspired me to always be kind, and always offer those in need whatever it was that I could spare – whether it was food, love, knowledge, or a helping hand (and sometimes, whether you want it or not, my opinion).
She inspired me to be kind and good. Now she will inspire a whole new generation of women and I couldn’t be happier or more excited for them.
At my grandmother’s funeral, someone told a story about how she and her husband went out to dinner when she retired. One of her husband’s friends saw them at the restaurant, asked why they were celebrating and in response to her saying she retired, he said “good, woman belong in the home anyway.” She poured her beer on his head and made him buy her a new one.
I also get a lot of satisfaction out of how my grandmother was a terrible cook, because so am I. I refused to eat anything she cooked, and one Christmas everyone but me got food poisoning (because I had refused to eat until she made me a PB&J). She wasn’t much for domestic skills, but she was definitely a badass leader and feminist, a nurse, and she threw her whole self into community service. She definitely made life better for the women in her small town, working on projects that directly benefited women. She made me realize I didn’t have to be good at “girly” things to be a successful adult. Even though she was retired, she didn’t really stop working (fueled by Mountain Dew) because she wasn’t the type to relax if there was work to be done somewhere. She was loud, and spoke up when something was wrong or unjust-I can definitely see where I got it from.
This book looks amazing. Thank you for this post.
It’s hard to nail down just one, but at present, I’m most actively inspired by Claressa Shields. I was a fan of hers after the 2012 Olympics, but became wholly enamored with her after 2016 and watching her documentary T-Rex. She has it all: unparalleled talent, a ridiculously inspiring work ethic, grit, steadfastness to her beliefs and ideals (I love the part in the documentary when she’s talking about her “attitude” and gaining sponsorships)…all of it. A complete package of inspiration at just 21 years of age.
Simone Biles!! She inspires me because she works hard but never forgets to have fun. She knows how important her teammates are and stays humble. She is also the best gymnast in the world, actually one of the best athletes in the world period. I saw her compete earlier this year and I was blown away. She is an inspiration for women of color, for athletes, for everyone.
I never comment, and I’m not feeling particularly verbose tonight, but this book just seems awesome.
I’m going to have to go with Rachel Maddow. She’s totally brilliant and I love how she has made such a name for herself in the political news commentary realm, while doing it her way and not compromising her beliefs. She highlights stories people don’t focus on, is willing to talk to people across both aisles, speaks her mind, is completely adorable/hot/great to watch, and manages to educate and inspire me daily. She’s the reason I’ve become more interested in news and politics, and listening to her show’s reruns in podcast form as part of my daily commute makes me feel like a better and more informed citizen and inspires me to share that knowledge and tell those stories. I also totally wish I could be her.
hey @keladry! you won! email me: carmen [at] autostraddle [dot] com and we can figure out how to get you some goodies! yay!
Wow. I never win anything so this totally just made my *not going so awesome* day. I shall email shortly :) yay.
I’m inspired by my partner who gets up and busts her butt teaching kids and living authentically every day.
Pick me! I’d love to get my hands on this book. I’ve read great things so far and Grace has always. End an inspiration!
Yay! One woman who continues to inspire me is Tatiana Maslany. As a woman in Hollywood (or at least Hollywood-adjacent, shoutout to Canada), she stands out as someone who is so deeply and intellectually engaged in the world and expresses that engagement, curiosity, and humanity through her art. So much of entertainment is uninteresting at best and downright harmful at worst. This woman shines a light on the craft and on what it means to be a complex, nuanced person in the world. I love her, ok? I aspire to her badassery, work ethic and overall magnificence every day.
Wow, this book seems really cool! I have to talk about my friend Jay. She was a huge influence on me in a very dark time. She took a chance on me when I didn’t have anyone and helped me score TWO jobs, each much better than the previous. Also her commitment to truth and justice inspires me. She was the first person for me to illuminate how thoroughly your income class dictates your ability communicate, relate, and move upwards fluidly. She’s patient, thoughtful, and unafraid to speak truth. My life is much richer knowing her.
i’m inspired by my best friend. she’s trying to be a great mother, great friend, wife, scientist, cook and all around bad ass, and frankly, she’s starting to falter a bit because of the weight of it all. i’m barely holding on with no kids and trying to find a job. she’s amazing, and i’ll probably give it to her, because i want to be her rock and i want her to succeed at everything. and i know she’ll let me borrow it :)
It’s not a who it’s kind of what.
I took a jewellry fabrication class and it was the first time I really felt like a real part of a community and not just a body circumstantially taking up space where a community was happening. And it just gave me so much I don’t even know how to put it all into words. The closest I can get to encompassing it is to say it made me an adult. I entered that class a hunched in kid with little attachment to self and left a blossoming confident adult with a self in progress.
It was a very much a woman’s community (so much so a transwoman chatted about the recovery experience of her surgery with a ciswoman who also had some delicate surgery in the same area) and there were all stripes, little old ladies, middle age moms, young and teen moms, other 18-19 year old kids, very tatted pierced young adults, a spectrum of artsy types, hobbyists, careers, that person getting a metal lab cred.
We all learned from each other.
From the greenest novice to the oldest of hands we all had something valuable or interesting about our work that contributed to the community. That’s such a unique experience to begin with but for me it was the first time I felt like I belonged with people rather than just member of the same species. And I learned to really interact with other human beings in more constructive way.
What inspires me is women’s (even if I don’t feel like one most of the time) communities. What I learn from them is how to meaningfully be a person and how to interact with other people.
This is definitely a must reading.
My friend Jenny Ham inspired me giving me love, caring and everything