The Women Who Made Chicago

An illustrated book that reveals the untold stories of the phenomenal women who made Chicago one of America's greatest cities

Julie
Modern Media
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Project Description

I want to create The Women Who Made Chicago, a sequel to my first book, The Women Who Made New York, and provide it to American public high school libraries.

For too long, women's stories have been omitted from our lives, our history books, and our world. But how will it change? Americans—and especially teachers—want to know about "hidden figures," but don't have access to trailblazers' stories in a handy, accessible way. I want to make them accessible, and get them into American public high school libraries so all students have access to a more inclusive, more accurate telling of American history. Existing books provide an incomplete narrative by omitting too many stories.

My project is The Women Who Made Chicago, a deeply reported and beautifully illustrated coffee table book that reveals the untold stories of the phenomenal women who made one America's greatest cities: Chicago! With striking original illustrations by artist Hallie Heald, The Women Who Made Chicago will reinvigorate not just Chicago's history but its very identity. 

Photo by Dean Love

I'm seeking funding because trade publishers all but refuse to publish regionally-titled books; printing and shipping costs (especially for volumes like this with high quality ink and paper) make profit margins too small. And my background as a journalist makes me deeply devoted to finding the truth, which means I'll spend a great deal of time on research with original sources and historic documents to confirm and cross-check information.

My team includes Hallie Heald, (above), the talented painter and illustrator who helped me create The Women Who Made New York; Susan Szeliga, a world-class reference librarian who has more than 37 years experience conducting targeted research for professional writers at some of the country's leading publications; and Anna Bernstein, a writer and poet who speaks Arabic and Spanish who recently graduated from Macalester College and has excellent research skills.

Updates

The Project FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I pick which mini-print I get?

Yes! At the conclusion of the crowdfund campaign we will reach out to everyone who is receiving this reward and provide you with several options. Then you send us your pick and address and we'll take care of the rest.

When will I receive my book?

We estimate the book will take 12 months to complete and another 3 months to print. If there are any small delays we will notify you.

Why are you crowdfunding this project? Won't a publisher pay you to make the book?

When I was hired to write The Women Who Made New York, I was paid a small advance to research and write about 25 biographies. After determining that I didn't want to omit (and seemingly erase) other women's stories, I ended up writing 128, and hiring two research assistants to help me gather information—which ate half my advance. Big trade publishers have found that unless a book is about NYC or maybe Paris, a regional title is never a big commercial success. So, I haven't found one yet who is willing to give me an advance to make The Women Who Made Chicago.

Who will publish your book?

While I would still like a trade publisher to pick this up (and here's looking at you Flatiron Books/An Oprah Book, Amistad Press, Chronicle Books), my agent is currently working to find a regional publisher. If all else fails, I will publish the book myself.

Why are you sending the book to libraries?

All over the country, in Portland and Boulder and Virginia and Chicago, teachers (and a few principals!) told me the same thing: they are sick of women's stories being left out of their classrooms. But they don't have time to visit historical libraries and pore through thousands of pages of documents to learn about hidden figures, then distill the information in a readily accessible way. By sending the books to libraries, they become accessible to educators and to students, who can discover these stories on their own and (hopefully) begin understanding that women have ALWAYS been part of America's creation story.

You seem like such a New Yorker. How can you write a book about Chicago?

Julie is a world-class reporter and has researched and written about a wide variety of subjects. She is fascinated with Chicago, and its rich, complicated history, and is already studying its rich history and amazing women. However, to capture the same kind of deep city love she expressed in The Women Who Made New York, she is inviting a Chicago native with deep #ChicagoLove to write an introduction to the book and set the right tone. Supporters of this campaign will be first to hear about who is selected as the featured guest author.

After Chicago, will you make books about additional American cities?

I would love to! My ultimate dream is create additional volumes about Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco (maybe The  Women Who Made California?) and Texas. But just one book is a load of work so... first things first!

You've been on TV. Aren't you rich?

I am rich; through circumstances having nothing to do with me, I am well-cared for, have a roof over my head, and have plenty of food, and healthcare. But, I don't get paid for media appearances. I offer those services for free as part of my social justice activism. I believe all humans deserve to be treated with dignity, and so spend about half my working hours speaking to students and other non-profit groups in hopes of building a greater awareness of systemic injustice and providing a new narrative for building a kinder, more inclusive world. All that work is unpaid. When I create journalism and other content for professional media organizations, or speak to corporate groups, I get paid. For this project, I am raising enough money to pay the illustrator and researchers a living wage; to offer a small stipend to Women's Studies professors in Chicago (in hopes of involving their students in the project); and to cover the costs of printing and shipping the books to libraries. If there is any money leftover (like if I can get publisher to print the book), I will keep half, and the other half will be donated to feminist, anti-racist organizations that share my mission. But it's unclear at this point whether there will be any money leftover.

Which organizations?

I haven't decided yet. But I am already proud to support Equality Now, which works to build a better world for women and girls worldwide by establishing laws against rape and child marriage; Narrative 4, a group that facilitates story exchanges between students worldwide; and the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization in Montgomery, Alabama, founded by Bryan Stevenson that works to protect basic human rights for America's most vulnerable people, including ending racial and economic injustice and end mass incarceration.

How can I help?

Thank you for asking!! If you are teacher or librarian, or have other connections to your public education system, please get in touch to request books. We are still developing all the connections we need to actually get the books into schools, and welcome any and all leads.

I love all the changemakers you write about. And I want to make a difference, to. What can I do right now?

I get asked this question all the time, and in response have created a list of ways you can start creating the positive change we want to see. Visit www.juliescelfo.com and click on Be The Change for a list of things you can do and links.

 

Monetary Contribution

Just Because I Care

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The satisfaction of knowing tomorrow's students will have access to anti-racist books that celebrate women from all walks of life.

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$35
Supporter

Be part of creating a new canon of American history. You will receive a frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration.

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$60
Ally

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
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$100
Advocate

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
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$250
Changemaker

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • A copy of The Women Who Made New York
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Send WWMC to 5 American public high school libraries
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$500
Conspirator

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC and WWMNY to 5 American public high school libraries
20 Left
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$1,000
Trailblazer

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 10 American public high school libraries
10 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$10,000
Heroine

Be a recognized part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 20 American public high school libraries
  • Printed recognition in the book
5 Left
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$50,000
Oprah-level goddess

Be a recognized part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 100 American public high school libraries
  • Printed recognition in the book
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0 Supporters
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Rewards

Monetary Contribution

Just Because I Care

0 Supporters
Contribute
$15
Fist bump

The satisfaction of knowing tomorrow's students will have access to anti-racist books that celebrate women from all walks of life.

100 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$35
Supporter

Be part of creating a new canon of American history. You will receive a frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration.

60 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$60
Ally

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
40 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$100
Advocate

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
30 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$250
Changemaker

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • A copy of The Women Who Made New York
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Send WWMC to 5 American public high school libraries
25 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$500
Conspirator

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC and WWMNY to 5 American public high school libraries
20 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$1,000
Trailblazer

Be a part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 10 American public high school libraries
10 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$10,000
Heroine

Be a recognized part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 20 American public high school libraries
  • Printed recognition in the book
5 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
$50,000
Oprah-level goddess

Be a recognized part of creating a new canon of American history, make these stories accessible to students and teachers, and build your own library. This reward includes:

  • Autographed copy of The Women Who Made Chicago
  • Frameable mini-print of a Hallie Heald book illustration
  • Send WWMC to 100 American public high school libraries
  • Printed recognition in the book
1 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward