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A photo still from a performance of The Grandmothers Grimm. It shows four actors onstage in 19th century costumes. One actor is seated in the centre with a red shawl wrapped around his head, while the other stand around him.

Daily Helping for September 24th, 2023 – The Grandmothers Grimm

It is not uncommon for women’s stories/accomplishments/achievements to be forgotten and/or replaced by those of men in the historical record. It happens all the time. For example, one of my first year’s daily harts taught me about Sister Rosetta Tharpe and how she was a pioneer of the electric guitar long before Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were hailed as such. Those men’s names are legendary, but the Black woman who every single one of them cited as having an influence on them as musicians is practically unknown. It’s the same old story. And it’s been going on for centuries. As evidenced by today’s daily helping, The Grandmothers Grimm.

Everyone knows the fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers. Cinderella. Snow White. Rapunzel. Rumpelstiltskin. Little Red Riding Hood. Hansel and Gretel. Sleeping Beauty. Of course, one could argue that the credit for making these stories so ubiquitous should really go to Disney instead of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. But the fact remains. The Grimm Brothers are famous the world over for their fairy tales that have spawned countless retellings and adaptations over the centuries. But were these tales really theirs?

Not according to the play The Grandmothers Grimm. It tells the story of the women who helped the Grimm Brothers collect old wives tales and adapt them into the anthologies of stories that were ultimately published. In this version of history, it was women who provided the stories in the first place. It was women who helped adapt the stories into tales that were suitable for children. And it was women who argued in favour of the women characters, ensuring that their stories were being told fairly. And in the end, guess who got all the credit? A pair of brothers. Another instance of women’s contributions being lost to history.

The Grandmothers Grimm is not the only contemporary piece to explore this history. There’s a whole book about the secret history of the Grimm fairy tales and the women who were actually behind them. Unfortunately, I haven’t read the book just yet. But after seeing The Grandmothers Grimm, it is most definitely on my list. The play was a wonderful introduction to this piece of history, and now I absolutely want to know more. More importantly, I will forever be grateful to works of art like The Grandmothers Grimm that work to ensure that women who have been erased by history get their proper due. Even when it’s centuries overdue.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!