Author Kirkfield helps Lafayette celebrate women’s history

Reflect on how far society has progressed in terms of women’s rights 

As a center of communal culture and knowledge, the Lafayette Library plays a fundamental role in the local community. Following International Women’s Day on March 8, the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation turned its focus to women’s meaningful contributions to history through displays of the works of female authors across the United States. 

The Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation hosted author Vivian Kirkfield on March 9 as part of a larger endeavor to incorporate diverse reading material into local elementary schools’ curricula. 

Kirkfield’s book, “From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves,” follows two women who largely contributed to influential inventions in history yet received little acknowledgment for their achievements.

“One of the things that brought me to this particular book was the stories themselves that this particular book, along with some of the other storytimes, that we’ve been doing since last October, gives you insight into what I would call unsung heroes, people you may not have heard about, but that made an impact on our lives,” Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation Programs Director Sarah Blumenfeld said.

The online format of the webinar allowed the foundation to access a broader selection of authors, including Kirkfield, who lives on the East Coast. 

“One of the advantages of being able to do it as a webinar is our authors are not local. Vivian’s in New Hampshire, and we don’t have the resources to financially fly somebody [out] to be here in person, so it’d be very hard to make that happen. … Virtual gives us a chance to bring in speakers from farther away,” Blumenfeld said.

Although Kirkfield is a children’s book author, the messages she explores in her work allow audiences of all ages to relate to her writing. 

“Whenever I’m presenting or reading any of my stories, it is to inspire other people whether they’re six years old, or whether they’re 60 years old, or [even] 16 years old, because we all have hopes and dreams and plans of what might be,” Kirkfield said.   

The ideas conveyed in her writing tie in closely with Kirkfield’s own backstory, as she began her career as an author later in life. In fact, it was not until Kirkfield went skydiving one day that she realized her dream of becoming an author could become a reality.

“I knew that if I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane I could do anything,” Kirkfield said during the meeting. 

Kirkfield’s motivation in writing “From Here to There Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves” stemmed from her desire to present the parts of history often glossed over by textbooks. 

“Women make up at least half the population of the world. And so, that’s a big part of what history should have shown us, but unfortunately, over many years history hasn’t really shown us, especially American history,” Kirkfield said.

The larger discussion about women’s history prompted by her work led Kirkfield to reflect on how far society has progressed in terms of women’s rights. 

“When I got married in 1967, I had a bachelor’s degree in education, I was a teacher, and I was married, and I could not get my own credit card. My husband had to cosign for my credit card,” Kirkfield said. 

Many attendees found Kirkfield’s work very educational and highlighted the insufficient attention given to women’s history in schools’ curricula. 

“I thought it was really interesting because most of the women she mentioned in her book I had never heard of before. It really made me realize how little I know about women’s history,” Acalanes sophomore Taylor Carlin said.

The topics discussed throughout the event underscored the need to educate younger generations on women’s history, and attendees believed that through the work of children’s authors like Kirkfield, it is possible to celebrate women’s achievements beyond the month of March. 

“Obviously it’s women’s history month but I think it’s important to always celebrate women’s history …  because as children we don’t really learn that much about women’s history. I think that is why her books are so important,” Carlin said. 

That education starts with places like the library, which provides opportunities for all citizens to learn more about history. 

The library  “ is a free access to information, something that our democracy is built on. To have such a vibrant, strong library in our community is one of the things that makes Lafayette a great place to live,” Blumenfeld said.