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March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is heading the project. Today she profiles Erika Rydberg. -ed.

When she isn’t busy working at one of her three jobs, Erika Rydberg is building 3-D printed violins or strategizing on interesting classes through Knowledge Commons DC. Erika radiates both curiosity and competency, easily explaining the mechanics behind her creations or basic tutorials with eager enthusiasm. She has lived in three of D.C.’s four quadrants, worked at a think tank, a university, a library and a local card shop. Like her cat, Tumbleweed, she’s found her curiosity to be both invigorating, and sometime the thing that gets her into trouble.

Erika teaches basic photography, video, sound and lighting at The Labs at the MLK DCPL. She also runs programs at the Fab Lab, a “fabrication lab” with 3-D printers, a laser cutter, community laptops with creative software, and a wire machine. She also co-created a podcast called Filament about technology in libraries. She moved to D.C. in 2009 to attend the Media and Public Affairs program at GW. Erika is a consistent practitioner of service learning. In college she reinvigorated the Emerson Alternative Spring Break Program, and has since applied her curiosity to learning to use and teach tools to help enable others to make things and tell their own stories.

In her free time she snaps photos of the city, writes, practices music, shoots the occasional video and helps run Knowledge Commons D.C., where she helps run the popular Behind the Scenes series. She is also currently helping develop a podcast series with colleagues from Knowledge Commons about history, neighborhoods and transportation.

Woman Erika Admires

Margaret Sanger was a nurse, a rebel and a crusader for women’s reproductive rights. Sanger coined the term “birth control” and led the most significant fight in favor of women’s reproductive rights in the early twentieth century. She was born in 1879, when birth control was illegal and many states had “chastity laws.” One of eleven children in an Irish Catholic family, she witnessed her mother die, in part due to physical weakness from childbirth and miscarriages. Sanger pursued nursing education and worked in the lower East Side of New York, witnessing the back-alley abortions of poor immigrant women, who had no access to contraception.

In 1872 an all-male Congress passed an anti-obscenity bill handwritten by a rural Connecticut politician named Anthony Comstock. The Comstock Act deemed birth control obscene and illicit, making the distribution punishable by imprisonment.


Undeterred after being arrested for distributing birth control, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, the precursor to the Planned Parenthood Federation. She fought in favor of safe and effective birth control for three decades, and ultimately witnessed the overturning of The Comstock Act and the realization of the birth control pill during her lifetime.

When Erika was in graduate school, she proposed a documentary project on Margaret Sanger. She was fascinated by her story and efforts (check out the Margaret Sanger Papers Project). Erika acknowledges that Sanger was an imperfect human, but inspiring for pioneering for the rights of women, particularly for birth control. Erika’s mother worked in the health field (a PNP) and influenced her research, particularly in regards to women’s health.

Awesome Things Erika Recommends

DC Public Library 

The DCPL is awesome. They offer cool Women’s History Month programming, tango dancing and all other kinds of cool stuff.

Stone Soup Films

Woman-run non-profit focused on making film pieces for other non-profits around D.C. Erika loves what Stone Soup does and what they make and represent. They’re always looking for volunteers, especially if you have a video skill-set!

Knowledge Commons DC

KCDC is a free school for thinkers, doers, and tinkerers — taught anywhere, by anyone, for everyone. It’s a great opportunity to meet others interested in the same things – free education and on-going learning opportunities for people of all walks of life.

Lemon Bowl DC

A women-owned and operated learning/community space on Georgia Ave, that offers classes on a huge variety of artistic topics.

WABA Women & Bicycles

Offers programs for women and bicycling and the Facebook group is truly out of this world awesome. It’s run by badass extraordinaire, Nelle Pierson.