Jenny Kaplan and Shira Atkins, best friends turned co-founders of Wonder Media Network reflect on how their experience at WMN, and their podcast Encyclopedia Womannica has informed their understanding of Women’s History Month. From leading a women led company to their work exploring women in history through Womannica, Shira and Jenny are inspired to uplift the stories of women leaders past and present in their work each day.
What does Women’s History Month look like at Wonder Media Network?
Jenny & Shira: WHM is one of the more festive moments in WMN’s calendar. In many ways, it is the culmination of our year, because the focus and essence of the month is so intertwined with our daily work. It’s a perfect time to highlight Encyclopedia Womannica and bite-size daily stories of amazing women from history. This month, we’ve also been hyper focused on our show Ordinary Equality, which details the history of abortion access and reproductive justice in the United States and beyond.
To celebrate the “history” part of Women’s History Month — is there a woman from history that you find particularly inspiring?
J & S: It’s nearly impossible to pick just one. Just a few days ago, we profiled Fredericka Mandelbaum on Encyclopedia Womannica. She’s not necessarily a woman of moral perfection, but she is damn inspiring — she was a crime boss on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 19th century at a time when women were often shunned from the workplace. One of the great things about being a part of the Womannica network is the unending well of stories to learn from.
This month has been all about women who have defied the odds to find commercial success. When things are tough, we find solace in the stories of entrepreneurs past including pirate queen Ching Shih, mail deliverer Stagecoach Mary, and master seamstress Elizabeth Keckley.
What informs your decision of the women who you choose to lift up and celebrate in Wonder Media podcasts?
J & S: At WMN we are always thinking about ways to expand our awareness. For us, amplifying underrepresented voices is baked into our DNA — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the most interesting thing to do. Who are the women we’ve truly never heard of? Those are the stories we love most.
What advice would you give other women looking to start their own businesses or be the first in their field?
J & S: Trust yourself! Be confident. You’ll get a whole lot of advice — solicited and not — when you’re starting a business, but the best thing you can do is remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. And build partnerships with people you genuinely like. Business is no fun when you work by yourself. Teaming up with people you respect and can learn from is so much of the joy.