Posts Tagged ‘history’

Catherine of Siena

(1347-1380)

Italian Saint, mystic, activist

Like many female saints, Catherine of Siena had visions of the heavenly kingdom, but she was also influential in earthly ones. A consecrated virgin since the age of seven and a Dominican lay-affiliate at sixteen, Catherine began to see images of Christ, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory in her late teens. Many medieval women were inspired by visions to withdraw from the world, but not Catherine. Her visions first told her to aid the sick and poor, and then to enter the political arena. Catherine wrote many letters to powerful individuals, begging for peace between the divided territories of Italy and for the return of the papacy to Rome from its location in Avignon. She had a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI regarding the ladder, and was sent as the Florentine ambassador to make peace with the Papal States. Though the process failed, Catherine so impressed the Pope tht he agreed to return to Rome, ending the infamously corrupt Avignon Papacy. In addition to being canonized, Catherine became a patron saint of Europe and the first woman to be honored as a Doctor of the Church.

Florence Chadwick

(1919-1995)

Long-distance swimmer

Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel four times, making history each time. On August 8, 1950, she bested the record set by Gertrude Ederle (the first woman to swim across the channel), crossing from France to England in 13 hours, 20 minutes and managing an amazing sixty strokes per minute in the first part of the swim. “I lost five pounds during the crossing,” she told reporters, adding that it was “a good way to lose weight fast.” In 1951, Chadwick swam the more difficult England to France crossing in 16 hours, 22 minutes, becoming the first woman to complete the passage both ways. She would swim the English Channel the hard way two more times, setting records both times, and also successfully swim the Catalina Channel, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus, and the Straits of Gibraltar.

Versatile in the use of her talent, Chadwick was featured in the movie Bathing Beauty, taught and coached swimming, and encouraged young women to become athletes. When she retired from professional sports, she became a stockbroker and a business executive.

May Craig

(1889-1975)

Journalist

War correspondent, founding panelist on television’s Meet the Press, and iconic hat-wearer, May Craig spent nearly four decades as one of the most prominent personalities in the Washington, DC, press corps. Craig began reporting on the nation’s capital in the 1930s, and by the end of her career she had covered five presidential administrations. The little woman with the ostentatious hats was known for asking tough questions. Adlai Stevenson prepared for an appearance on Meet the Press with a written plea to Craig: “Please be merciful.” Craig advocated famously for a larger female presence within the male-dominated world of news, securing the installation of a women’s restroom in the congressional press gallery and becoming the first female correspondent allowed aboard a naval ship at sea. President Kennedy once quipped that the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women was simply an effort to placate her. In 1962 Eleanor Roosevelt paid tribute to Craig in her “My Day” column: “No other lady of the press has waged a longer or more persistent battle for the rights of women than has May Craig.”

Ruth Elder

(1902-1977)

Aviator, Actress

When Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, Ruth Elder determined that she would be the first woman. Assailed by critics who felt the “gentler sex” was not fit to pilot a plane- one German newspaper called her plan “over-whelming presumptuousness” and “crazy sensationalism”- Elder and copilot George Haldeman nonetheless took off from Long Island on October 13, 1927, in the American Girl. They survived some 2,600 miles of stormy weather before the plane’s oil pressure failed and they were forced to land in the ocean 300 miles off the Portuguese coast. During their rescue, the American Girl went up in flames, inspiring a popular song of the times, “Flaming Ruth.” Although she did not reach her goal, Elder’s feat was celebrated; a ticker-tape parade awaited her in New York. The publicity also garnered her the lead in the 1928 silent movie Moran of the Marines. Elder continued to fly, participating in air races and joining a group of licensed female flyers, the Ninety-Nines, who proved that women in aviation were here to stay.

Myrlie Evers-Williams

(b. 1933)

Civil Rights Activist

“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, a tireless advocate for civil rights both before and after her first husband, Medgar Evers, was assassinated in 1963. Medgar had been Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Myrlie was his secretary. Together they worked for an end to segregation in the southern United States. After Medgar’s murder, two trials against his killer, Byron de la Beckwith, ended in hung juries, but Myrlie’s persistence persuaded Mississippi state attorneys to reopen the case nearly thirty years later; Beckwith was finally convicted in 1994. Evers-Williams also forged her own identity, notably as the first African American woman to serve on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. From 1995 to 1998 she served as the NAACP’s board chair-person- the first woman to hold that position. “I…battled mightily to preserve Medgar’s memory,” she wrote in a 1999 memoir, “and, at the same time, to be seen as myself, as Myrlie- as a woman and not simply as ‘the widow of.'”

Trixie Friganza

(1870-1955)

Actress, Suffragist

As a young girl, Cincinnati-native Delia O’ Callaghan, known to her friends as Trixie, worked as a cashier to help support her family. Convinced she could be a breadwinner in a more compelling career, she successfully auditioned for a chorus role in The Pearl of Pekin in 1889, adopting her mother’s maiden name, Friganza. An enthusiastic and gifted thespian, she progressed from the chorus to feature roles and was best loved for her musical comedies and vaudeville acts. Friganza was famous for her crowd-pleasing comic styling, which often centered on her portly, “perfect forty-six” figure and turbulent love stories. Although she poked fun at herself onstage, she was considered by her contemporaries to be a self-assured and confident woman. She used her celebrity to champion social issues, such as women’s suffrage and access to art for the economically depressed. Shown in this 1908 photograph, when she spoke at a suffrage rally in New York City, Friganza proclaimed, “I do not believe any man- at least no man I know- is better fitted to form a political opinion than I am.”

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress

 

Do we want the vanilla iced latte or vanilla bean frappuccino? The new Coach purse or next month’s rent? Heels or flats? Highlights or lowlights? America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway? Single or get married?  Let’s look beyond the shoes, the purses, the jewelry, and the clothes. Look beyond the surface.

The reasons women started a revolution for themselves many decades ago are still true today. However, the extraordinary change and growth we have achieved in a single generation is astounding. In a 2009 study the Rockafeller Foundation did, in collaboration with TIME magazine on the battle of the sexes from the 1970’s to the present, Nancy Gibbs describes not only how far women have come, but also how our wants and needs have changed over the years.

In 1848, when Elizabeth Stanton first spoke up about her discontent with the American government and the limitations being placed on women at that time, including their freedom, thus began the movement where women would fight to no longer look to a man for approval. Women would take matters into their own hands, instead of asking for power, they took it themselves. The movement for social, political, and economic equality for both men and women has seen many changes since then, so where are we now?

Gibbs reported that “it is expected by the end of 2009, for the first time in history the majority of workers in the United States will be women. The growth prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are in typically female jobs like nursing, retail and customer service. [However], more and more women are the primary breadwinner in their household (almost 40%) or are providing essential income for the family’s bottom line. Their buying power has never been greater- and their choices have seldom been harder.”

The question that is posed and consistently remains the theme of this article is: is the battle of the sexes really over? Other questions raised about this topic include:

How do men now view female power?

How much resentment or confusion or gratitude is there for the forces that have rearranged family life, rewired the economy and reinvented gender roles?

And, what, if anything, does everyone agree needs to happen to make all this work?

Some of us might know the answer, some of us could see part of the answer in reading this article, and yet the rest of us may never find the answer. But the point is that we agree these aren’t just issues we can sweep under the rug. We need to acknowledge that these issues are real and affect men and women each day.

Remember when you were little and you got all dressed up to go over to grandma’s house for the christmas family reunion? Everyone sat around eating cookies and telling stories about how things used to be “back in the day.” Grandma would say things like “take your education seriously, when I was your age I never had the opportunity to go to college” or “we were never allowed to wear those outfits anywhere, at school our uniform skirts were always measured to our knees, and elsewhere we always wore dresses that covered our arms and it was unheard of to show cleavage. Even at church, we wore dresses, stockings, gloves, and always had to have our heads covered with a Sunday hat or a small cloth that looked like a doilie.” For years and years we heard how our grandmothers, our aunts, our mothers, never had the same opportunities that you and I have today. If you’re like me, you always just responded with “yeah, yeah we know, you had to walk 10 miles to school each day, up hill both ways.”

But what was really going on at that time? What changes were women making, if any? Gibbs brings back the history for us in saying,

“At a time when American society was racing through change like a reckless teenager, feminism had sputtered and stalled. Women’s average wages had actually fallen relative to men’s; there were fewer women in the top ranks of civil service (under 2%) than there were four years before. No woman had served in the Cabinet since the Eisenhower Administration; there were no female FBI agents or network-news anchors or Supreme Court Justices. The nation’s campuses were busy hosting a social revolt, yet Harvard’s tenured faculty of 421 included only six women. Headhunters lamented that it was easier to put a man on the moon than a woman in a corner office.”

A lot of people have said, around this same time is when feminism started to die. That, it was no longer “cool” to be a feminist in our American society. The rallies and riots in the streets and the scenes of women on Capitol Hill burning bras were a thing of the past. (Ah! I so wish I could have been a part of that!) Many said, and still say that the Women’s Movement was a joke, that it was just a bunch of angry women who were constantly PMSing for a couple years and wanted everyone to suffer for it. Men and women, including feminists, have said that there is no movement. That a movement means there is progress, that the cause is “going somewhere,” but the women’s movement won’t accomplish anything, it is not and will not go anywhere.

“[Well] that was a cranky exaggeration; many changes were felt more than seen, a shift in hopes and expectations that cracked the foundations of patriarchy. ‘In terms of real power- economic and political- we are still just beginning,’ Gloria Steinem admitted. ‘But the consciousness, the awareness- that will never be the same.'”

 If we’re being honest here, I agree that the awareness of feminism will never be the same as it was in the 1970’s. However, one stereotype we gladly fulfill, is that we will never go silent. Feminism still lives on, and we’re certainly not about to shut up about it! To all those that say feminism died a long time ago, and to those who constantly reep snobish remarks at women who publicly voice their thoughts of feminism- you may silence few individuals, but you will never silence the movement. Furthermore, as history has shown, we have the cold hard facts to shatter the thoughts and words of all those who said WOMEN CAN’T. The truth never lies my friends.

Today 57% of college students are women. In 1972, 43% were.

In 1972, there were 7  female TV-news correspondents at ABC, CBS, and NBC; out of 153. As of 2009, there 95 out of 252.

21—The median age at which a woman got married for the first time in 1972.

26— The median age at which a woman married for the first time today.

39% of all births are to unmarried mothers. 12% were in 1972.

There were 18,000 women who held a membership with the National Organization for Women, in 1972. As of 2009, the memberships have jumped to 500,000.

There are now 3.3 million married couples in which the wife is the sole earner. That’s 2.4 million more than in 1970.

                                1972: 13%                              2008: 23%

             Percentage of children living with a single mother.

 Exactly 89% of women and 89% of men both agree they are comfortable with the woman in the household earning more money than the man.

40% of women say they are the primary breadwinner in their household

More men (60%) than women (50%) are convinced that there are no longer any barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace.

Forty years ago, 1/3 of all workers were women; now nearly half are. 76% of adults view this as positive for society. AND 80% view this as positive for the economy.

29% of men agree that female bosses are harder to work for than male bosses. 46% of women disagreed.

71% of men are more comfortable than their fathers with women working outside the home.

70% say women are less financially dependent on their spouses than their mothers were.

Men have lost the battle of the sexes. 58% of women disagree and 62% of men disagree.

And as a personal side note: To my fellow sisters, feminazis, and all those in between…don’t ever let someone else take power over you to the point where you feel you cannot speak your mind. Everyone has a voice. Including the really pesky misogynists…if they have a valid argument, bring it on. If they just want to piss you off…I really don’t give a f*** is sometimes the most liberating response. Finally, to all those “closet-feminists” who are sometimes afraid to speak up…this is for you. I hope you join the rest of us soon!

Rock on.

Olive Ann Beech

(1903-1993)

Aircraft Manufacturer

Born in Kansas, Olive Ann Beech grasped finances at such an early age that she had her own bank account by the time she was seven years old. She began managing her family’s checks and bills at age eleven. When Beech got a job at the Travel Air Company, she studied airplane diagrams to school herself on the company’s product and quickly earned a promotion. In 1932, she and her husband opened their own company. Beech Aircraft, with Beech in charge of most of the company’s finances. She helped the company grow from a handful of employees to thousands of workers with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. When her husband died in 1950, Beech was elected president and chairman of the board, leading the company into further expansion, larger profits, and even space ventures before finally stepping down in 1982. Beech’s numerous accolades- the Wright BrothersMemorial Trophy and inclusion in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the National Business Hall of Fame-earned her the title of First Lady of Aviation.

Violet Asquith Bonham-Carter

(1887-1969)

Politician, Orator, Diarist

Precocious and intellectual, Violet Asquith Bonham-Carter was steeped in British political culture from an early age. Her father served as prime minister from 1908-1916, bringing about many progressive social changes while in office, and in 1920 he enlisted his brilliant daughter to help with his campaign for election to Parliment. Her powerful speaking skills, sharp intellect, and pull with women voters led to a resounding victory, opening the door for Bonham-Carter to achieve great things, including the presidencies of both the Women’s Liberal Federation and the Liberal Party itself. She warned against the rise and dangers of German fascism during the harships of the Great Depression, and she forged a lasting friendship with Winston Churchill, who would soon lead Britain through the devastation of World War II. A patron of the arts, Bonham-Carter became a governor of the BBC (in 1941) and of London’s Old Vic Theater. She was later granted entrance to the House of Lords and despite ill health, worked hard to end numerous social injustices, including apartheid in South Africa, until her death in 1969.

Helena Bonham Carter, actress and wife to director Tim Burton, is her grand-daughter.

Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1878-1950)

Politician

“Arkansas needs another man in the Senate” read the campaign slogan of Mrs. Hattie Caraway’s opponent for the 1938 senatorial election. The public, however, did not agree, and granted her a second term in the Senate. Caraway had been a devoted housewife and mother with little inclination toward politics before being chosen to fill in for her late husband, Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway, who died abruptly in 1931. She became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932, refusing to step down as expected to make way for the Arkansas governor’s candidacy that year. Reflected in 1938, she was a quiet but firm advocate for farmers going through the severe hardship brought on by the Great Depression. Caraway was later appointed to the Employees Compensation Appeals Board. As a lifelong, staunch supporter of women in politics, she said: “There is no sound reason why women, if they have the time and ability, shouldn’t sit with men on city councils, in state legislatures, and on Capitol Hill. Particularly if they have ability!”

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress

Alva Belmont (1853-1933)

Suffragist, Reformer, Philanthropist

“I have been crying in the wilderness for wealthy women to give up their leisure and do something to justify their existence- in vain- no reforms appeal to women who have everything,” bemoaned Alva Belmont, who, unlike the rich she criticized, was a major benefactor of the women’s suffrage movement. Belmont, a divorcee, then widow, of two affluent men, gave of herself as well as her fortune. She was a founder of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and it’s successor, the National Women’s Party.

In 1912 she led a suffrage march in New York City, and five years later, she gave her Washington, DC, house to the NWP as its headquarters, serving as the organization’s president from 1921 until her death. Belmont campaigned for decent working conditions and fair wages for laboring women, supporting the 1909-1910 New York shirtwaist-maker’s strike. She not only raised funds for the cause, but personally went to court to bail out strikers. The owner of several lavish homes, the untiring Belmont also pursued an interest in design, becoming one of the first female members of the American Institute of Architects.

Helen Gurley Brown (born 1922)

Writer, Magazine editor

In 1962, after nearly two decades spent navigating the worlds of white-collar office work and single womanhood, forty-year-old Helen Gurley Brown penned the best-selling self-help guide Sex and the Single Girl. Her book raised the confidence and encouraged the independence of unmarried professional women everywhere, helping to inspire the feminist movement.

Three years later Brown, who had no editorial or journalistic experience, became the editor-in-chief of the fledgling literary monthly Cosmopolitan. She infused the publication with style and bravado and introduced the phenomenon of the modern-day cover girl. Cosmo quickly became one of the country’s most popular magazines, its circulation, under her leadership, increasing from eighty thousand to over two million readers in just a few years. Brown remained Cosmo’s editor for over thirty years, coaching a generation of women to achieve success in love and at the workplace. In 1997, when she took a new post as editor of the magazine’s fifty-nine international editions, the New York Times wrote: “Rarely has a magazine been so strongly identified with one editor for so long.”

Get it girl! Xoxo

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

British Novelist

Her countless complex, silly, endearing, shameful, and inspiring characters remain dear to readers today, but Jane Austen hardly grew up expecting to become one of the most highly regarded authors in the English language. Daughter of an English clergyman, Austen received a casual education at home and enjoyed a close relationship with her sister, Cassandra, while surrounded by six brothers and the young boys enrolled in the Austen’s boarding school. She began writing at an early age, developing a light, satirical voice while expertly delving into human nature in depictions of daily life and human interaction.

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress

We Can Do It PosterIn World War II over six million women joined the home front war effort in America, filling jobs that had been exclusively male. Produced by the War Production Co-coordinating Committee, the “We Can Do It!” poster created in 1943 by J. Howard Miller inspired women entering the workforce. 1942’s popular song, “Rosie the Riveter” became a nickname for all women in the war workforce, as well as what this iconic poster became known as. As men returned from WWII, most women left the factories, but the confidence, competence and earning power they had experienced forever changed the American workplace. Over time Rosie has become an icon symbolizing women’s strength, determination and ability to do any job. The Rosie the Riveter advertisement is effective in that it encouraged women to go against their society’s gender norms and generate force behind their new role and service to their country.

            When first visually analyzing this advertisement, we can see that the main elements being projected are attitude and power. The text “We Can Do It!” is large and the only text present; it is significant because in this one short statement, these words of encouragement and confidence had enough power to convince women they could contribute and be just as strong as men. This poster is unique because it portrays feminine and masculine qualities. Rosie is showing feminine qualities by wearing makeup and lipstick, her eyes are large and dramatic, and her hair is curled and pinned up in a red and white polka dot bandana. Contrasting to what qualities women were expected to have in that time period, Rosie is also wearing a men’s work shirt, the symbol on her shirt is a woman instead of a man, her hair is covered, and most importantly she is holding a very strong and masculine stance. Her facial expression shows plenty of attitude, especially with her direct stare, showing no fear or doubt. The advertisement shows that although she might look feminine, her actions show hyper-masculinity. Rolling up her sleeve shows that she is ready to work hard and portrays that she has strength and power that no one knew she possessed.

            In observing the Rosie the Riveter poster, we can similarly compare it to the famous Uncle Sam Wants You poster. Although both were created to persuade men and women separately for different reasons, the confidence and power generated from each are similar. Rosie the Riveter is all confidence and encourages women to take on a new role and embrace their strength. In an androcentric society, this message exerts that women can step out of the homemaker role and can handle the responsibility of a man’s job as well. This debut of strong women everywhere stated that it was women’s time to step up and their opportunity to take on more power. Our government called upon the highly androcentric society of the 1940s and asked women everywhere to reverse their roles and fight the gender norms constructed for them in order to help keep the country running. Rosie the Riveter forced women to be more than what society told them they could be.

            Although modern America has largely evolved from the created roles and values that were enforced in the 1940s and 1950s, R.W. Connell, author of Gender: Short Introductions, makes an observation that can be liberally applied to women’s roles, regardless of the current decade. Connell explains that, “women do most of the housework, in most contemporary societies, and also most of the work of caring for young children. Women are much less likely to be present in the public realm than men, and when they are, they usually have less in the way of resources” (pg.2). This is, in short, what women were faced with when the men of the United States went to war. In this “post-feminist” world, there has been a huge increase in the number of women in the workforce and working the same jobs as men, at usually the same hours or more. However, Connell says that worldwide, women’s average incomes are fifty-six percent that of men’s average incomes. In perspective, our society is economically set up so that women must be dependent upon men.

            “People construct themselves as masculine or feminine. We claim a place in the gender order- or respond to the place we have been given- by the way we conduct ourselves in everyday life” (Connell, 28). The Rosie the Riveter advertisement was effective in that it sparked a revolution that allowed women to take power for themselves and generate a force that was bigger than them, to accomplish new roles and responsibility in order to serve their country. However, from the historical demands from reform of social movements regarding women in the workforce, reproductive rights, homosexual law and many more, we still see today that there is unequal respect amongst the relations between men and women in our society. Gender is completely socialized by the people we surround ourselves with and by our relations with the values and beliefs that our social structures provide. Cultural patterns differ, yet gender will always be taught. We must stray away from the thought that the human race is so black and white, and try to reform what has been instilled inside us by learning that gender is just another social structure in our society.