Kylie Jenner and The Cult of Self-Made

The internet had a collective meltdown after Forbes described Kylie Jenner as “self-made” last summer. Many critics railed against Jenner’s privileged upbringing; others pointed out socioeconomic systems are inherently unequal; and the rest mostly noted there’s no such thing as self-made — no person’s an island, no lipstick developed alone, and all that.

One’s opinion of Jenner’s self-made status aside, the “self-made mogul” kerfuffle presented a terrific opportunity to explore the origins of “self-made” in America, its centrality in our national myth, and the dangerous expectations it creates.

I didn’t have a chance to write about this very pressing matter when the story first broke, but now, as 2018 comes to a close, here are a few words on Kylie Jenner and the timeless cult of “self-made.”

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ICYI 2018 Year in Review

Whoa. Where did 2018 go? I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s nearly done now. To celebrate, here are ten of my favorite stories from ICYI over the past twelve months, in no particular order.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking Problem

Join, or Die, America’ First Meme

All the LGBT Books Around My House

Was Pocahontas Her Real Name?

Lyndon Johnson Hated The Graduate

“Daybreak,” Over and Over.

16 Posters By Graphic Great Lester Beall

The Incredible Arthur Ellerman

Found in the LOC: A Cat’s Autobiography

Paul Revere: Art Thief

Found in the LOC: 11 Winter Scenes for the Solstice

“Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Frozen ground,” Marjory Collins, 1943

Winter has arrived, and while the days will now get longer, the season’s here to stay for a minute.

To prepare us what’s to come, here are eleven gorgeous winter scenes captured between 1860-1943, including a shot from ICYI favorite Marion Post Wolcott, a few of a frozen-solid Niagara Falls, two showing the eerie, frost-bitten aftermath of the 1912 Equitable Building fire, and a 1901 shot of DC under deep freeze, which is perfect considering we’re currently this close to a government shutdown.

Ch-ch-check out all the frosty shots AFTER THE JUMP.

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ICYI: Wyoming First In Women’s Suffrage, 1869

Hats off to Wyoming, which on this date in 1869 became the first territory or state to grant women the right to vote.

Sure, the all-male legislature’s intentions weren’t the truest. Some hoped to drum up good publicity for Wyoming. All of them were Democrats, and many hoped to secure partisan favor among potential female voters. And some simply wanted to attract more women to Wyoming for procreative purposes – or, at least, sex.

Regardless of the lawmakers’ reasoning, the measure passed 7-4, and was soon signed by Republican Gov. John Campbell. Women voted in Wyoming the next fall. But things didn’t go as Democrats planned: women leaned Republican that year.

Bitter as all hell, Democrats tried to rescind the women’s suffrage the next year, but Gov. Campbell used his veto power to put a stop to that. Later, in 1890, when Wyoming was transitioning from territory to state, the U.S. Congress also urged them to excise women’s suffrage from their state constitution. But this time lawmakers from both parties refused, a move that helped cement Wyoming’s nickname, The Equality State.

On a related note: check out a recent post on awesome women’s rights activist Dr. Mary Walker.

Found in the LOC: 20 Old Newsstands, 1937-1943

(“Chicago, Illinois. Newsstand in Union Station train concourse, 1943,” Jack Delano)

Newspapers have played a central role in the American narrative since colonial days, when editors, writers, and just plain average folk used the media to make change. And papers remain just as important to our democracy today, as Trump and his allies try to twist reality to their own interests. And the American people know this; that’s why, even as print versions suffer and shutter, digital subscriptions to outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal continue to soar – We want the truth!

To celebrate the newspaper and its essential place in our culture, here are 20 images of newsstands across America, from 1937-1942, taken by some of the greatest names in photography: Marjory Collins, Russell Lee,  Edwin Locke, Arthur Rothstein, and John Vachon.

What’s so incredible here is the wide, only-in-America spectrum of representation: From Japanese Americans reading magazines to Mexican Americans selling diarios, from Baltimore workers reading news about World War II to a New Yorker newsie lost in dozens of titles; from Minnesota to Memphis, Texas to Oregon, these are snapshots of America as it is and as it should always remain.  And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some early editions of Detective Comics and Action Comics!

(“Los Angeles, California. Newsstand on a street corner, 1942,” Russell Lee)

Check out the whole collection AFTER THE JUMP!

And click here for more Found in the LOC!

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Hercules: Gilbert Stuart’s Most Fascinating Subject

Gilbert Stuart was the Annie Liebovitz of his day: Every power player wanted to sit for one of the painter’s portraits, and many did, including six sitting presidents, many of their wives, congressmen, merchants, and “influencers” of the era. No doubt you’d recognize his most famous work: the George Washington portrait Dolly Madison saved from the burning White House during the War of 1812.

That said, looking at a gallery of Stuart’s work becomes tedious. It’s white face after white face, powdered wig after powdered wig — but wait, here’s someone interesting: the only person of color in his collection. It’s a man known only as Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved chef.

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