Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Celebrating Women Who Remade Our World

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From “The Reconstructionists” by Maria Popova and Lisa Congdon

The Reconstructionists is a project of writer, blogger and interestingness gatherer Maria Popova and artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon. Each Monday of this year they will introduce us to another woman who has “reconstructed… our understanding of ourselves, the world and our place in it.” So far they’ve chosen women who’ve made an impact in the life of the mind and literature, music, art, science and drama, and chronicling the human condition. Following each portrait is a short profile that gives you a great introduction to a truly remarkable woman.

While some pieces have more personality than others, Lisa Congdon’s images are clean and evocative. Maria Popova’s choice of quoted text gives you a quick sense of each trailblazer’s guiding spirit. I especially like what they created for Anaïs Nin–I think it’s the most successful in terms of marrying the portrait with the sentiment of the text. In all, Popova and Congdon offer us a powerful weave of words and imagery to celebrate each reconstructionist. Here’s a link to the site.

As for the creators, you can find an in-depth interview with each at one of my favorite sites, The Great Discontent.


Lisa Congdon by Leslie Sophia Lindell Photography


Here’s a quote from Lisa’s interview:

If you want to be a great artist, use what you are passionate about internally. Draw from yourself, not from what other people are doing. That’s number one. And take great care with your work. Be meticulous, take the time, make it your best.


A quote from Maria’s interview:


Maria Popova by Alissa Walker

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Write to please just one person,” and I think you need to be a little in love—not necessarily in a romantic sense, although that helps—but to be in love with the reality of your own life in order to produce beautiful and meaningful and intelligent things creatively.

And this:

Progress is incremental for us, both as individual creative beings and together as a society and civilization. The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst. It’s just that culturally, we are not interested in the tedium of the blossoming. And yet that’s where all the real magic is in the making of one’s character and destiny.


Maria Popova by Elizabeth Lippman (NYT)









A recent NYT profile of Maria Popova begins:

SHE is the mastermind of one of the faster growing literary empires on the Internet, yet she is virtually unknown.

I suspect that comment–virtually unknown–typifies the fate shrouding many of the women to be profiled in The Reconstructionists. Which is the whole point of the project, to wrench them out from the shadows and into greater prominence.

I leave the last word to a brilliant woman who invented a system to guide torpedos in World War II and developed the basic concept behind wireless communication. Oh, did I mention she was also a beautiful movie star?

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From “The Reconstructionists” by Maria Popova and Lisa Congdon


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1 Comment

  1. Eileen Kessler

    Thanks, Dan for featuring this work. It’s interesting that I met you today and Brain Pickings was mentioned in the panel discussion. Synchronicity at its best!

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