Celebrate Women; Every Day of the Year

Celebrate Women; Every Day of the Year

Women contribute to society every day of the year.

Celebrate Women; Every Day of the Year

By Anna Hessel with Wes Hessel

 

History In the Making

Women’s History Month 2022 is now behind us, but women’s contributions to society continue, so we are recognizing some of the Women’s History Month themes of previous years in honor of the confirmation of our first female African American Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.  The theme for 2022 is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope”, which pays tribute to frontline workers, medical professionals, and caregivers.  The 2021 Women’s History Month topic saluted the strength of women in times of difficulty.

Glass Is Trash

During 2020, festivities for the centennial of women’s suffrage had to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, therefore 2020’s theme, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced”, was extended through 2021, as we celebrated the election of our first female Vice-President, Kamala Harris. The intent was to pay respect to the ladies that paved the way for women’s voting rights.  Now that the second highest office in the land has had its see-through ceiling shattered, the view to the top looks clear for breakthrough when President Biden hands over the reins.  Ladies, we should make sure we are wearing cute shoes and watch where we step, as there is glass everywhere, and more to come.

Breakouts

Barriers are falling and walls are continuing to be breached.  As Douglas Emhoff put it, “I may be the first Second Gentleman, but I know I won’t be the last.”  The foundation for more is being laid in part by the man who wrote and pushed through the “Violence Against Women” Act.  Dr. Jill Biden has a doctorate in education. Ms Biden is the only First Lady to continue her career while her spouse has led the nation.  But there were leaders before them who led the way.  Shirley Chisholm was the first woman of color elected to Congress, then the first woman to run for the Democratic nomination for president.  Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to be a major party candidate for Vice-President.

Working From Within

The 2016 Women’s History Month theme was “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”  This sisterhood of political pioneers have opened the doors of diversity for our nation.  The National Women’s History Project for that year honored the often undervalued and overlooked women in government leadership and public service.  This collection of amazing women has stood on the forefront of change, and their dramatic influence on public policy and the assisting of building viable organizations and institutions have helped lead the way to a more democratic, safer, and stronger America.

Above And Beyond

These women have fought to insure equal opportunity for all.   With diversity of experience and tireless dedication to community service, each of these public leaders, have succeeded against seemingly insurmountable challenges.  This company of ladies and their ability to create non-partisan policies and all-encompassing solutions, in addition to their determination, art of collaboration, and amazing skill sets, will serve our nation today and inspire our future generations.  We applaud these women for their unyielding courage and faithful service.

Women In Front

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”.  Behind every successful woman is one or more women who succeeded before them, breaking ground or building up new progress.  And these were not always just in the advancement of women’s rights.  Most of us know of Madame Curie, and her ground-breaking radiation work.  But what about Tabitha Babbitt, a Shaker who came up with the prototype for the circular saw?  Or Nancy Johnson, who patented the original hand-cranked ice cream freezer.

Intrepid Inventors

Josephine Cochrane created the first dishwasher to achieve commercial success, with the first use of water pressure to scrub.  Sarah Boone improved the portable ironing board to the familiar wedge shape of what we use today for our pressing engagements.  Alice H. Parker created the first natural gas central furnace.

Men Don’t Have A Monopoly

Elizabeth Magie gave us “The Landlord’s Game”, the forerunner of what we now know as probably the most recognized board game ever, “Monopoly”.  In its design she made social commentary on property owners of her time in their treatment of tenants and materialistic priorities, as well as the benefits of home ownership.

Science This!

The first female scientist hired by GE, Katharine Burr Blodgett, developed the first method to put one-molecule thick coatings onto glass or metal.  This made possible non-reflective glass, which is used for lenses on common items such as eyeglasses, cameras, microscopes, and other optics, as well as picture frames and the like.  She also invented screens during World War II to protect troops from toxins in smoke.

Even More Data

In 1944, data processing pioneer Grace Hopper worked with Howard Aiken to create the Mark I computer at Harvard, then later came up with the computer slang “bug” and its companion, “debug”, after finding an errant moth had caused a system problem.  She was also on the team that developed COBOL.  Architect Eleanor Raymond collaborated with biophysicist Maria Telkes to build the first solar heated home in 1947.

She Didn’t Just Play A Spy…

And Hedy Lamarr didn’t rest on her acting laurels – her work with George Anthiel in 1941 created a “Secret Communication System” that depended at least in part on frequency-hopping for security.  These innovations and further work on her part gave us the beginnings of “spread-spectrum” technology, which became the basis for fax machines, cell phones, GPS, Wifi, and other related wireless communication advances.

Create Like It’s 1966

1966 was a bellwether year – in it Marie Van Brittan Brown patented the first closed-circuit TV security system. Again in ’66, Stephanie Kwolek invented-Kevlar. Kevlar is one of the most important synthetic fabric fibers ever created. She developed the process while working on strengthening material for auto tires. It is still used for tires, and brake shoe linings, boat hulls, flame-resistant clothing, and many other composite materials.  It’s most significant use has saved countless law enforcement and military personnel; which we are extremely thankful for – the bulletproof vest.

Dr. Jackson, Dr. Jackson…

The first black woman to receive a M.I.T. PhD, Shirley Jackson, helped develop modern communication technologies such as touch tones, call waiting and caller ID, and fiber optic cables, in addition to solar cells.  And she was the first woman to head one of the major technological institutions, in her case Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

They Figure In

Since this article is about women, we can’t forget women in American history; explorer Sacagawea, original First Lady Dolley Madison, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, women’s suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony, famed authors Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Red Cross founder Clara Barton and fellow super-nurse Florence Nightingale, aviatrix Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart, poet and author Julia Ward Howe, civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, just to name but a very few…

Wells, Wells, Wells…

Women have typically had to be multi-taskers – many took this to levels of great feats.  Ida B. Wells was a women’s rights and civil rights activist (one of the founders of the NAACP), while also wearing the hats of teacher and investigative reporter, particularly focused on the horrors of lynching.  She, working with Frederick Douglass and other African American leaders, orchestrated a boycott of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, since Blacks were not permitted to enter the exhibit areas.  Ms. Wells also advocated for school integration, and helped found many African American clubs, particularly for women of color.

Working It In

Contemporary to Ida B. was housing reformer, women’s suffragette, social work pioneer, and political administrator Jane Addams.  Harriet Tubman made a career out of multiple jobs – in addition to her famous slavery freedom trips, she was a spy for the Union, abolitionist, and political advocate.

Multi-mavens

Multiple talents aren’t just a precedent of years gone by – what about actress, director, and producer Penny Marshall?  Or dancer, choreographer, singer, and reality talent judge Paula Abdul?  Queen Latifah handles music (including songwriting), acting, and producing, equally well.  While we’re on the subject of entertainment, we can’t forget Cher and Madonna.  Then there’s the lifestyle mavens such as Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, and Ree Drummond.  And, of course, there’s one lady we only need one word for: Oprah.

Sporting It

Great women of sports also abound.  Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias excelled in baseball, golf, track and field, and basketball.  In the 1932 Summer Olympics, she received two gold medals for track and field events, then became a golf professional, and went on to win ten LPGA major championships.  In 1951 she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and she was married until her death in 1956 to George Zaharias.  Babe is seen as a lady ahead of her time.

They Have the Drive

Ms. Zaharias has been followed by other outstanding female athletes, such as a professional from Sweden who is considered to be one of history’s most stellar lady golfers: Annika Sörenstam.  She has received numerous awards, including H.M. The King’s Medal, AP Female Athlete of the Year 2003-2004, Bob Jones Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Nancy Lopez’ exemplary career was also precedent setting.

Tennis Anyone?

The dynasty of the Williams’ sisters in tennis is one of the great dominations of a particular sport.  And before them was the legendary Billie Jean King, who even beat out Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes”.

Leading From The Front

The 2017 theme was “Honoring Trailblazing Women In Labor And Business”; these are ladies that have been successful in challenging women’s roles in the paid labor force and businesses.  Although women have always been part of our workforce, they are often been underpaid and undervalued.  One well known example was popularized by the movie “Norma Rae”, which was based on events in the life of Crystal Lee Sutton.  She was a strong labor leader who fought for unionizing as a way to gain better working conditions.

Do Something…

Here are ways we can continue to commemorate women’s history:

  1. Involve yourself with female supporting groups that empower girls and women
  2. Create a brand-new book or movie club on-line, or join an existing one
  3. Treat a special lady that you receive inspiration and friendship from to a mocha latte, lunch, or bouquet of flowers
  4. Invite female entertainers, speakers, writers, and other professionals to online events
  5. Utilize all social media outlets to encourage women
  6. Utilize intersectionality to understand women of all walks of life
  7. Take an online class that highlights women’s history
  8. Help involve children and teens in art, writing, performing, and reading women’s history related material
  9. Support STEM/STEAM initiatives targeted at encouraging young women in science and creative pursuits
  • Write a play, article, song, book, or poem about women, or read one

Color Purple And White

Let’s all wear purple, the international color which symbolizes women, and white, which represents women’s suffrage, to highlight those ladies who have contributed and continue to do so.  We will keep using our voices for the advancement of female equality.  For more information, visit www.womenshistorymonth.gov.  In the words of Elle Woods, “What? Like it’s hard?”

Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years In Retrospect

Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years in Retrospect

By Anna Hessel

 A Century and Counting

Our nation just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which gave women the universal right to vote.  “You’ve come a long way, baby…” but we have an even longer way to go.  The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight, giving females their voting rights, but the battle for equality is far from over.

The Fight Heats Up

In 1875, women’s suffrage had reached a monumental mark when Mrs. Virginia Minor filed suit against the State of Missouri for her constitutional right to vote in the presidential election.  The case wound up in the Supreme Court.  Unanimously, the justices claimed the privilege to vote was not a fundamental right of United States citizenship, and further asserted the denial of her voting rights was not protected by the 14th Amendment.

Coming Together for the Common Good

Before 1890, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), specifically worked toward securing a woman’s right to vote by a federal Constitutional amendment.   The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) had their focus on the passage of women’s voting rights legislation on a state-by-state-basis.  That year they joined forces, becoming the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  Strategical arguments had threatened to derail progress towards the goal on more than one occasion.

The Twenties Roar Right Out of the Starting Block

The 1920 ratification brought enormous changes for ladies in that decade.  These “Thoroughly Modern Millie’s” were scandalous, bobbing their hair, tying their pearls in a knot, painting their faces, and raising their hemlines.  Men found themselves in a quandary, as these new-fangled females were standing strong as empowered women.  As the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” put it about the watershed change of the time:

There are those

I suppose

Think we’re mad

Heaven knows

The world has gone

To rack and to ruin

What we think is chic, unique and quite adorable

They think is odd and Sodom and Gomorrah-ble

But the fact is

Everything today is thoroughly modern

Check your personality

Everything today makes yesterday slow

Better face reality

It’s not insanity

Says Vanity Fair

In fact, it’s stylish

To raise your skirts and bob your hair

In a rumble seat, the world is so cozy

If the boy is kissable

And that tango dance they wouldn’t allow

Now is quite permissible

Goodbye, good, goody girl

I’m changing and how

So beat the drums ’cause here comes

Thoroughly modern Millie now!

Everything today is thoroughly modern

Bands are getting jazzier

Everything today is starting to go

Cars are getting snazzier

Men say it’s criminal what women’ll do

What they’re forgetting is, this is 1922

Have you seen the way they kiss in the movies

Isn’t it delectable?

Painting lips and pencil-lining your brow

Now is quite respectable

Goodbye, good, goody girl

I’m changing and how

So beat the drums, ’cause here comes

Thoroughly modern Millie now!

Inspired by a 1967 Musical About 1922

I remember singing and dancing to that song at the age of 15 – it was the opening number for my modeling school’s graduation.  I was completely inspired by those lyrics, and I was armed with my Great Lash Mascara, Bonnie Bell Jumbo Lip Smacker in the very grown-up flavor of watermelon, Aqua Net big hair, and brand new platform sandals.  Just like those teenage girls getting their first experience with cosmetics when Bonnie Bell rolled out their skin care line in 1927, I was ready for these new, “all the rage” conveniences.

Equality is Coming…

I stood on street corners with NOW (National Organization for Women), asking people to, “go to bat for girls in sports”.  And, of course, doing everything I could to see the ERA ratified.  After all, I was almost 16; surely by the time I finished my education and joined the workforce, equal rights and equal pay would be a given.  My enthusiastic, “Young Miss” brain was mistaken – the fight continues on.

Give ‘Em an Inch…

The 19th Amendment changed women’s lives in many ways, moving closer to equal rights in many aspects of life in the United States of America.  Ladies were now advocating for education, birth control, sex education, equal wages, job opportunities, and the like.  Another baby of the 1920’s, the original ERA was written in 1921 by fellow activist attorneys and feminists Alice Paul and Crystal Catherine Eastman.  Ms. Paul held three law degrees and had been an instrumental leader of the women’s suffrage movement.  Ms. Eastman, of Erie, PA,  was a socialist, anti-militarist, journalist, and lawyer, educated at Vassar, Columbia, and NYU.

Persistence Pays Off, Sort Of…

The original phrasing read,  “No political, civil, or legal disabilities or inequalities on account of sex or on account of marriage, unless applying equally to both sexes, shall exist within the United States or any territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  The amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923, and in some form had been resubmitted in every subsequent session for almost fifty years, until it’s passage in 1972.

Still Trying

Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the ERA since it was proposed in 1972.  That ratification pushed the ERA across the threshold, however, the original deadline had run out in March of 1979.  But President Jimmy Carter signed into law an extension passed by Congress, granting additional time for the ERA to be ratified until June 1982.  Prior to this, though, five states had “rescinded” their ratifications, the legality of which still remains unresolved.  Many hurdles still remain in the amendment’s path.  It received bipartisan support with recent ratifications by Illinois in 2018 and Nevada just the year before, but these occurred after the inactivity of four decades.  Whether the amendment protecting the equal rights of women will actually be added to our Constitution remains yet to be seen.

Still Fighting

In the words of the immortal Shirley Chisholm, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining.  You make progress by implementing ideas.”  “I want history to remember me…not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the Presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself.  I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.”  “At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.”

“Why shouldn’t I run for president?”

“I have certainly met much more discrimination in terms of being a woman than being black, in the field of politics.”  “I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.”  Those of us that watched the Democratic National Convention will recall with pride a video clip of Ms. Chisholm exclaiming, “Why shouldn’t I run for president?”

Progress is Made but Higher Goals Await

Many women now serve as elected officials, holding public office, but none has yet to break the ultimate glass ceiling of our nation.  Hilary Clinton came very close, winning the popular vote against Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but lost by electoral votes.  Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris may just be the break we need to shatter the enormous barrier.  Marginalized minorities – Native Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian women – still fall through the cracks.

Somethings Never Change

Outlandish arguments against the women’s suffrage movement are still in effect today, still being used against women’s rights.  For example, many men feared women voters might disrupt harmonious family relations, distracting away from family values and the institution of marriage, with the possible consequence of divorce.  Why women even may go to the extremes of wearing pants, cowboy boots, and neckties.

In Their Own Words

Both the 19th Amendment and the Equal Rights Amendment are succinct and simplistic in their directness:  Amendment XIX: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Equal Rights Amendment:  “Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

The Vice Squad’s First Member, Almost

We as women voters owe a debt of gratitude to these sash-wearing, determined ladies of yesteryear, and those that followed in their stead.  Geraldine “Gerry” Anne Ferraro, the first woman to be nominated as a vice-presidential candidate by a major political party, quipped, “Vice president-it has such a nice ring to it!”  She faced much opposition, saying, ”The polls indicated that I was feisty, that I was tough, that I had a sense of humor, but they weren’t quite sure if they liked me, and they didn’t know whether or not I was sensitive.  I readily admit I was not an expert on foreign policy, but I was knowledgeable, and I didn’t need a man who was the Vice-President of the United States and my opponent turning around and putting me down.”  Ms. Ferraro, who’s desk drawer was filled with all kinds of prayers, humbly revered her place in history.

Dare to Dream

Author, feminist, and journalist extrordinaire Gloria Steinem reminds us, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”  Vocalist Helen Reddy recorded an anthem for empowered women everywhere:

I am woman, hear me roar

In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back an’ pretend

‘Cause I’ve heard it all before

You can bend but never break me

‘Cause it only serves to make me

More determined to achieve my final goal

And I come back even stronger

Not a novice any longer

‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

I am woman watch me grow

See me standing toe to toe

As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land

But I’m still an embryo

With a long, long way to go

Until I make my brother understand

Oh yes, I am wise

But it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price

But look how much I gained

If I have to, I can face anything

I am strong

(Strong)

I am invincible

(Invincible)

I am woman

Take a Stand, Make a Plan…to Vote

For the women who planned and marched, setting the bar high for those of us that followed a century into the future, I will honor your suffrage and legacy.  With a blue vote to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, I will take my stand for equality, so that the next chapter in our history may be written with dignity and relevance.  Women will decide this election; let us pave the way for our first female Vice-President of the United States.  Ladies, “this is our moment.  This is our mission.” (Joe Biden)