In honor of Memorial Day, celebrated here in the United States on the last Monday in May, I wanted to do something different and write about a group of women who unselfishly gave a lot of f*cks to serve their country. This week’s article looks at the US Navy Nurse Corps and the women who started it: the Sacred Twenty. This is the 6th article in my series Ask Her About Her Zero F*cks.

This article is lovingly dedicated to my late uncle Major Philip Reilly, USA, Retired, whose extensive personal library fostered my interest in military history.

Why Nursing


What if the Texas Rangers threatened your family’s business? I don’t mean the baseball team, either. In 1914, the Rangers were called to shut down a radical Mexican-American newspaper in Laredo. Tejana suffragist and civil rights activist Jovita Idár held her ground in front of the paper’s office and challenged the Rangers to a standoff, armed with her words and her belief in the freedom of the press. This is the fifth article in my series Ask Her About Her Zero F*cks.

On a sunny morning in 1914 in the border town of Laredo, Texas, a group of Texas Rangers…


The ruthless laissez-faire capitalism of the 1900s treated factory workers as expendable. After 146 people perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, labor organizer Rose Schneiderman wanted revenge. She dedicated her life to fighting for workers’ safety, especially that of women in the dangerous and poorly paid garment industry. This is the fourth article in my series Ask Her About Her Zero F*cks.

On a warm afternoon in March 1911, a wastebasket caught fire in a shirtwaist factory in Manhattan. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied floors 8, 9, and 10 of the Asch building at the corner of Washington…


Imagine being too radical for both the Civil Rights and the Women’s Liberation movements. In the 1960s and 1970s, Black feminist Johnnie Tillmon and the National Welfare Rights Organization were just that. Their mission — rights, respect, and opportunity for welfare recipients — did not fit either movement’s narrative. So they wrote their own. This is the third article in my series Ask Her about Her Zero F*cks.

American welfare rights leader Johnnie Tillman speaks outside to large crowd, c. 1972
American welfare rights leader Johnnie Tillman speaks outside to large crowd, c. 1972
American welfare rights leader Johnnie Tillmon speaks at a demonstration, c. 1968. Source: “Forgotten Feminisms: Johnnie Tillmon’s Battle Against ‘The Man.’” Black Agenda Report, 7/11/18.

The Spring 1972 issue of pioneering American feminist magazine Ms. contained an article that was controversial even by women’s liberation standards. It was tellingly omitted from the front cover, which featured omg-for-1972…


The early 20th century organized labor movement saw many activists rise to national prominence, including a scrappy teenaged socialist orator named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1906. This is the second article in my series Ask Her about Her Zero F*cks.

In my decade-plus of studying women’s history, I have noticed that women who gained reputations for being *scary* were often small and delicate-looking. There was an inverse relationship between a badass woman’s stature and her perceived threat level. This week’s subject is no exception.

“Elizabeth Flynn is a little woman, the best…


The American feminist Alice Paul went to England in 1908 to study social work. Her involvement with the British suffragette movement changed the course of her life — and of American history. This is the 1st article of my series Ask Her About Her Zero F*cks.

Newspaper photograph of American women’s suffragist Alice Paul, aged 24, in Guildhall Police Court. London, 1909
Newspaper photograph of American women’s suffragist Alice Paul, aged 24, in Guildhall Police Court. London, 1909
Alice Paul on trial at the Guildhall Police Court, London, 1909. Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 19, 1909.

Look at this lady. Who the hell does she think she is? The defiant young woman in this photograph is none other than the (in)famous American suffragist Alice Paul (1885–1977). She and another suffragette are in the Guildhall Police Court in London, on trial for disrupting the Lord Mayor’s banquet by breaking a window…

Amanda Reilly

Women’s historian who specializes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Consummate nerd, slightly old school, just wants to spin a yarn!

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