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Girls' Role Models Come to Class

March 04, 1993

The Women's History Project grew out of the shock of a fractured collarbone.

The collarbone belonged to Stacey Hindy, who seven years ago had suffered a hairline fracture when she tumbled from the bars on a playground. She was 7 at the time.

The greatest shock, perhaps, was felt by her mother, Sandy.

"It would be fun to work in a doctor's office," Stacey had said as she walked out of the doctor's room with her arm in a new sling.

"Yes, it would," her mother had replied. "What would you like to do?"

"I could be the nurse," Stacey suggested.

"Yes, you could, but you could be the doctor , too," Hindy noted.

It was the obligatory response of a 1980s mommy, except that Stacey wasn't buying it.

"No, I couldn't," Stacey declared. "Only men can be doctors."

Uh-oh, thought Mom: So much for those feminist values she thought that she had been instilling in her little girl.

"As we were driving home, I was really annoyed. How could this be?" Hindy said recently.

"I wondered who the first woman doctor was. I looked in the encyclopedia when we got home and found it was Elizabeth Blackwell."

Hindy, a teacher, realized that if Stacey didn't know much about famous women, neither did her classmates. So Hindy decided to teach them.

And the rest was history--women's history.

Hindy researched the lives of five women and distilled them into short scripts. Then one morning, she appeared at Stacey's school wearing a scalp-hugging flying cap, large goggles and a red jumpsuit.

"My name is Amelia Earhart," she began.

The next three days, she returned as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, athlete Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias and, of course, as Blackwell.

Hindy was an immediate success. Several other schools invited her to appear, and the American Assn. of University Women branch in Thousand Oaks adopted the Women's History Project.

Now a committee chooses the five women who will be portrayed each year.

Dozens of women and older girls--among them Stacey-- volunteer to portray the women at most public and private schools in Thousand Oaks. Many schools outside Thousand Oaks have also asked for scripts. And the branch has applied for a grant to publish several of the scripts.

"You're talking to someone who has always hated history. It was boring. It was never exciting for me," Hindy said. "This really got me into it."

Meanwhile, Stacey, 14, a freshman at Westlake High School, has given up on a nursing career.

Now she wants to be a doctor.

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