Ah, Halloween season is upon us — and so are the mercurial whims of our children (“I want to be a princess! No I’m gonna be Cinderella? I changed my mind, I want to be a fairy! Elsa! Alice in Wonderland!…”) as well as the grossly gendered commerical costume options. Cue the collective groans of feminist parents across the land. There are a number of websites and blog posts that feature feminist Halloween costumes, and cool alternatives to boring princesses. But there’s always room for more! Rad American Women A-Z has got you covered!
You too can dress your thoroughly indoctrinated offspring up as an inspiring and super-cool activist, athlete, pilot, dancer, rock star, judge, doctor, or writer. All costumes are easy, super low/no-budget, and seriously righteously cute. No storebought Elsas here, OK?
(No disrespect to Elsa/kids who dress up as Elsa/parents whose kids dress up as Elsa. I’m the author of a freakin feminist kids’ book and my kid was a storebought Elsa last year. She might be Elsa again. At least I got her to dress up for this post!)
For real though, at a time where GOP candidates can barely name an important woman from American history, dressing up as a rad woman from history is a great opportunity to have fun and educate others. I learned about pilot Bessie Coleman from a Halloween costume! (See below)
Without further ado, behold — the Rad American Women of Halloween!
A is for ANGELA! Angela Davis is an iconic activist/author/professor/scholar With her signature Afro and raised fist, Angela makes for a pretty sweet costume. The red/orange turtleneck was a frequent wardrobe item, though any funky 70s top could work. She sometimes wore glasses, and often rocked hoop earrings. A black leather jacket, a la the Black Panthers, could work as well. Also, a note to my fellow White People: No Afro wigs. No blackface. Ever. Cultural appropriation is real. Halloween is fun, but please be culturally respectful & responsible when dressing up. Ok? Ok.
Amelia Earhart is a popular not-a-princess costume for girls, but “Queen” Bessie Coleman is a rad option too — especially for kiddos of color! Aviator hat and googles, and bomber jacket or trenchcoat is all you really need. This costume is from a few years ago, and it’s what inspired this post — I had never heard of Bessie Coleman until I saw this kiddo on Halloween and asked her mom who she was dressed as. “Bessie Coleman!” her mama Camille told me proudly, and I promptly went and looked her up.
D is for DOLORES! How about legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta?! All you need is a sign, some ‘work clothes’ (sweatshirt/denim shirt, jeans, boots), and maybe an UVAS NO button if you’re fancy. And voila! Si se puede! Dolores is 80 years old and still fighting the good fight — I like to think she’d be honored to know that kids are representing her on Halloween!
Ok so maybe radical activism isn’t your Halloween thing, and maybe you’re more into Olympic champions with super rad style. How about Flo Jo?! The possibilities are vast — flashy one-legged leggings, red white & blue, gold medals, 80s athletic attire, long fake nails…dress your kid up and let her run down the street like the fastest woman in the world!
Is your kid is reaaaaaallllly into being a ballerina? How about suggesting Isadora Duncan, who basically invented modern dance and wore super fun flow-y costumes? Think scarves (uh, be careful though…), Grecian gowns, and bare feet (but not for trick-or-treating, duh). Show her some youtube videos of Isadora and let her dance all evening…
K is for KATE! Radical transgender author, activist, and advocate Kate Bornstein that is. Kate has fabulous style and is always smiling, so dressing up like her was super fun for this kiddo.
Or maybe you wanna go a little more rock star…she has a new book out and it’s about to be the 40th anniversary of her album Horses, so how about PATTI SMITH? The iconic album cover is insanely easy to recreate — white button-down shirt, black suspenders (or black ribbon made to look like suspenders), black pants, messy hair, black jacket slung over shoulder, badass facial expression. Long live Patti!
If you have a black graduation gown (or last year’s Hermione Granger wizard robe!) it’s incredibly easy to magically become…Her Honor Sonia Sotomayor! Make a cardboard gavel and grab a lace doily and boom, you’re on the Supreme Court.
DR VIRGINIA APGAR
“Doctor” is a pretty common Halloween costume, and it’s cool and all, but consider getting more detailed and being a specific doctor, like maybe Dr. Virginia Apgar, a pioneering physician and anesthesiologist whose work with newborn babies and mothers was revolutionary. Just add a babydoll (or a Raggedy Ann doll!) and when people are like “Oh, you’re a doctor, that’s great” be like “Yeah, I’m VIRGINIA APGAR SPECIFICALLY”
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
Annnnnnd finally, if you wanna go legendary and literary and vintage, how about ZORA NEALE HURSTON! Zora was a major player during the Harlem Renaissance so the look is 20s/30s NYC. Zora was wildly talented and seriously stylish, so this is a fun one!
These are just some of the women featured in Rad American Women A-Z — you could also go as Lucy Parsons, with an old-timey dress and May Day sign! Grab a microscope and copy of Silent Spring and be Rachel Carson! Wear a vintage coat and grab a travel bag and be Nellie Bly! Hopefully you have some Rad American Women Halloween inspiration…And why stop at just dressing up your kid? Why not go full-on and BE MATCHING like these guys!?!?!
Thanks to all the mamas (Hindatu, Soma, Miriam, Lena, Amanda, Leslie, Karya, Camille, and Rhea!) + kiddos who dressed up and took pictures for us! You guys are all so rad. Happy Halloween everyone — and if you want to send us a picture of YOUR Rad American Woman Halloween costume, please do! kateschatz at gmail