Who should we be talking about for Women’s History month?

This list is far from complete and our conversation is far from over. Let’s come together to educate and lift up. Who would you add to the list?

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Women's History Month

I recently happened upon this article by Yale grad student Barbara Sostaita. If you were not among the thousands of people who read and shared the article, let me sum up. The picture at the beginning of the post is of a young Latina flipping off the camera– that sets the tone for the entire article. Sostaita writes passionately about her refusal to celebrate “your feminism,” which she (correctly) understands as being overwhelmingly white.

Maybe it was the tone of her writing, or maybe it was the intensity of her passion, but after reading the article I felt deeply ashamed, embarrassed, and left out. I am white. I thought it was a good idea to celebrate the suffragettes. I thought Hillary Clinton was ok to talk about. And Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is on my “to-read” list. I did not recognize a lot of the names that Sostaita brought up. I am not familiar with Toni Morrison’s work; I don’t know who Gloria Anzaldua is; I was unaware that female asylum seekers in a Texas detention centers went on a hunger strike for immediate freedom. I  didn’t know who these women were, and that embarrassed me.

I felt deliberately left out of this conversation because of the color of my skin. It wasn’t until the next day that it hit me. Maybe I was feeling just a small bit of what my sisters around the country and the world feel every. frickin. day. I was feeling sorry for myself because I felt left out. But how many women are left out of conversations not only because they were born with the ‘wrong’ anatomy, but the ‘wrong’ amount of melanin in their skin as well.

But Sostaita didn’t stop there. She goes on to say:

This Women’s History Month, I refuse to celebrate a white feminism that keeps women of color on the margins. This Women’s History Month, I refuse to celebrate a white feminism that alienates, subjugates and oppresses women of color. I don’t want to be hear about the first Latina [insert public office title] or the first Asian [insert professional sports title]. I’m sick of women of color only being mentioned and deemed worthy when we are the “first,” when we fit neatly into a box crafted by white women’s version of history. We have been, are, and will always be “exceptional” and “important.”

Ms Sostaita got me thinking– who else am I missing this Women’s History Month? Who  should we really be talking about? I asked around, and it seems the majority of the women we generally think of when we think of important women in history are indeed white. There are obviously a few exceptions, as some amazing African American women are consistently lauded (I’m looking at you Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth).But I was disappointed to see not one Asian, Hispanic, Indian, or Native American woman on my list.

Here are some of the ladies I heard mentioned when I asked, “Who are some of your favorite women from history?”

themostbeautifulcurveMy mom: for real though, big ups to our mommas!

 

 

 

“If you’re not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space!”

 


(image from Wikimedia)  Harriet Tubman: abolitionist, activist, nurse, underground railroad conductor, military hero;  buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

mte5ntu2mze2mzc5mdu1nji3Lucy Stone: suffragette, abolitionist; convened the first national Women’s Rights Convention in 1850.
 “I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned.”

emma_goldman_21Emma Goldman: fiery speaker and advocate for peace, free love, and birth control; she was deported to the Soviet Union in 1919.
“The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.”

annajuliacooper-1884-oberlincollegeAnna Julia Cooper: born into slavery, Cooper went on to become an author, speaker, and one of the most prominent African American scholars in US history.
“...not till race, color, sex, and condition are seen as the accidents, and not the substance of life; not till the universal title of humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is conceded to be inalienable to all; not till then is woman’s lesson taught and woman’s cause won–not the white woman’s, nor the black woman’s, nor the red woman’s, but the cause of every man and of every woman who has writhed silently under a mighty wrong…”

christineChristine de Pizan: born in Italy in 1364, she is considered a pioneering feminist writer and one of the most notable women writers of medieval times.
“[I]f you seek in every way to minimise my firm beliefs by your anti-feminist attacks, please recall that a small dagger or knife point can pierce a great, bulging sack and that a small fly can attack a great lion and speedily put him to flight.”

sojourner_truth_01Sojourner Truth: a leading civil rights and women’s rights activist, Truth was born into slavery, but escaped with her baby girl and went on to successfully win her son’s freedom in court.

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

ida1Ida B. Wells-Barnettdaughter of slaves, she became a journalist and led an anti-lynching campaign in the 1890s; she formed the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 and is considered a founding member of what would become known as the NAACP.
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

ap69010102601_custom-e1a28a7b5adcce275aa3e0d232b671b0f786bad9-s6-c30Elizabeth Cady Stanton: early leader of woman’s rights movement; wrote the Declaration of Sentiments  (a call to arms for equality).
 “I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.”

img_9703-e1362439761550Ashley Rhodes-Courter: a former foster child herself, Ashley advocates for children in foster care

“Your mother is a hard act to follow. She will always be the love of your life.”

 


 

margaretchasesmith1960Margaret Chase Smith:  politician, U.S. congresswoman, presidential candidate, author; she cosponsored the Equal Rights Amendment with Congresswoman Winifred Stanley in the mid-1940s and worked on improving the status of women in the military.

 

“When people keep telling you that you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try it.”

 


 

20160202012946shirley_chisholmShirley Chisholm: first African-American congresswoman, and first major-party black candidate to make a bid for US presidency

 

“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”

 


 

800px-marywollstonecraftMary Wollstonecraft: English writer, educator, journalist, and women’s rights advocate who argued for equality and educational reforms.
“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

jane-addamsJane Addams: pioneer for social work, advocate for peace, and social activist; founder of Hull House.

“Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.”

222px-astellproposal1Mary Astell: English philosopher best known for her theories on the education of women and her critiques of John Norris and John Locke.
 “If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?

This list is far from complete and our conversation is far from over. Let’s come together to educate and lift up. Who would you add to the list?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Happy International Women’s Day

international-womens-day-logo

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a “global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” (according to InternationalWomensDay.com). Woman’s Day was organized by the Socialist Party of America, and was first observed in New York in 1909. Though it was claimed to have been organized as a remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Worker’s Union, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that strike actually happening. Inspired by the Americans, over one million people celebrated Woman’s Day throughout Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland in 1911. The popularity of the Day continued to spread, and in 1977 the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

This year’s campaign theme is built around the easy to share #PledgeForParity. According to a 2014 prediction made by the World Economic Forum, global gender parity will not be achieved until 2095. 2095, y’all! But that is not the worst of it. The very next year the very same group re-evaluated the numbers and, given that progress towards gender equality had SLOWED, they extended estimate to 2133. So, they are saying that women will not have equal rights, education, and representation for another ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN years! I won’t see it, I get that. But I am not ok with the idea that my daughters won’t even see it. In response to this abysmal estimation, people are being asked to take a pledge to take concrete steps to close the gender gap before the estimated date. Some suggestions are to pledge to:

  • help women and girls achieve their ambitions
  • challenge conscious and unconscious bias
  • call for gender-balanced leadership
  • value men and women’s contributions equally
  • create inclusive, flexible cultures

Tons of people have already make pledges, including the Global President of Mars Foods Fiona Dawson and Founder of Virgin Sir Richard Branson.

RichardBranson

“It’s sad to see that in this day and age, gender parity is still far from a reality in many parts of the world.

I’ve always felt strongly that the best places to work are those that foster an inclusive culture – one where differences are celebrated and our people can be themselves and feel at home.

Here at Virgin, we recognise that a culture that brings together the right group of people who mirror the wonderful diversity of our world and who can promote diversity of thought is good for business. It’s a huge opportunity, not a challenge, and it’s great for the communities that we serve. We have the desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives through changing business for good, so we create an environment where all people can thrive – because of who they are, not in spite of it.

That’s why, on International Women’s Day, I support the Pledge for Parity. It’s an important reminder that all of us in business can and must do so much more to promote equality, respect and fairness.”

 

How will you help bring an end to gender disparity? Pledge here.

 

 

Beauty is…being a rebel

As you probably know, today is President’s Day. As you may or may not know, today is also Susan B Anthony’s birthday. Here are a few things I learned from scratching the surface of her life story…

As you probably know, today is President’s Day. As you may or may not know, today is also Susan B Anthony’s birthday. Here are a few things I learned from scratching the surface of her life story…

 

1. To be a rebel, you gotta find a cause. Or six.

Susan B Anthony Rebel

Throughout her life, Anthony fought for equality above all else.

Abolitionist: Members of Anthony’s family were very involved in the anti-slavery movement, and in 1856 Susan became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She hung posters and gave speeches calling for an end to slavery. In 1863 Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized a Women’s National League to support the 13th Amendment. In her newspaper, The Revolution, she argued against lynchings and racial prejudice.

Educational Reform: In 1846 Anthony was a teacher and became active in calling for equality in the classroom. She called for better pay for women teachers and for equal education opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, or their family’s former state of servitude.  In the 1890s, she raised $50,000 to ensure that the University of Rochester would admit female students.

Labor Activist: Anthony advocated for an eight-hour work day in her newspaper, and she encouraged women who were excluded from male dominated trade unions to form their own unions. And of course, she called for equal pay for equal work.

Temperance Worker: Anthony was raised a Quaker, and as such, she believed drinking alcohol was sinful. She was an active member of the Daughters of Temperance, a group of women who drew attention to the effects of drunkenness on families and pushed for stronger liquor laws. When she was denied the right to speak at a convention of the Sons of Temperance, she held a meeting of her own. In 1853 Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton endeavored to petition the State Legislature to pass a law limiting the sale of liquor. The petition was rejected because most of the 28,000 signatures on it were from women. Anthony and Stanton  realized that women needed the vote so that politicians would listen to them, and they resigned from the Temperance Society to focus on getting women the right to vote.

Suffragist: Anthony and Stanton had believed that the Republicans would reward women for their work in the abolition movement by giving them the right to vote. When that didn’t happen, they were disappointed. Then they got to work. They founded the American Equal Rights Association and began publishing their newspaper, The Revolution. Anthony toured the west, giving speeches and raising awareness. She gathered petitions with thousands of signatures and spoke in front of every Congress from 1869 to 1906 to ask for passage of a suffrage amendment. She was a leader in the suffrage movement until she retired as president of the National American Women Suffrage Association in 1900 (she was 80 years old). However, she was still an active and respected voice  in the movement. She presided over the International Council of Women in Berlin in 1904 and became honorary president of Carrie Chapman Catt’s International Women Suffrage Alliance. Women finally got the vote when Congress passed the Ninteenth Amendment (also known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment) in 1920, fourteen years after Anthony’s death.

2. Haters gonna hate.

haters_gonna_hate_03

For just about every cause she championed, somebody hated on her:

  • She faced mobs, threats, and was even hung in effigy for her efforts to end slavery.

 

  • Ironically, Anthony’s work for women in labor got her labeled as an “enemy of labor.” She was president of the Workingwomen’s Central Association, which drew up reports on working conditions and provided educational opportunities for working women. She supported the Sewing Machine Operators Union and the newly formed women’s typesetters union. She tried to establish trade schools for women printers. When printers went on strike in New York, saw it as an opportunity for employers to see that women could do the job just as well as men could and therefore deserved equal pay for their work. So, she encouraged employers to hire women to take the place of the strikers, and was accused of strike-breaking and being an enemy of labor.

 

  • Injustice was served. In 1872 Anthony was arrested for voting (she also refused to pay her streetcar fare on the way to the police station). She also refused to pay her bail and applied for habeas corpus (in which an individual reports an unlawful detention or imprisonment), but her lawyer paid her bail and kept the case from going to the Supreme Court. She was indicted near her home, so the Rochester District Attorney asked for a change of venue, fearing that a jury in Albany might be prejudiced in her favor. The judge in the new venue, Canandaigua, made sure there was no issue with jury prejudice when he instructed them to find her guilty without discussion– the jury did not even get to discuss the verdict! The judge fined her and ordered her to pay courtroom fees. When she refused to pay, he chose not to imprison her, thereby denying her chance to appeal.

3.  Stay focused.

While working in the Temperance Movement, Anthony made a tough decision. In additon to speaking and gathering petitions, Anthony and Stanton had drawn attention to the case of Abby McFarland. Abby’s drunken and abusive husband, Daniel, had shot and killed the man Abby divorced Daniel to marry. Daniel was aquitted on a plea of temporary insanity and given custody of their son. But even though temperance was a cause that was dear to Anthony’s heart, she decided to stay focused and not support Prohibition because it distracted from the bigger issue– women getting the vote.

Susan B Anthony

 

4. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one.

In 1846, when she was a teacher, Anthony argued that girls should be educated as well as boys, because there is no inherent difference in their brains. Over 100 years later, science is backing her up.

equal brains

5. Girl, you better work.

What blew me away the most when I was taking this little glimpse into Anthony’s life was her constant WORK. She seems to have been indefatigable in her pursuit of equality. She reminded me that if there is something you want, pursue it relentlessly. She never saw the fruits of her labor, but she didn’t give up. She stayed the course. And I am so grateful that she did.

you better work
Image from tinyletter.com



I got my info about Susie B from susanbanthonyhouse.org

Beauty is…sitting down

These ladies, and so many others like them, were on the right side of history. And that is beautiful.

They sat. A nation stood. Celebrating Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin

 

Rosa Parks

“Mother Superior of the Civil Rights movement”

Today we celebrate Rosa Parks Day. And for good reason. It was Rosa who drew nation gty_rosa_parks_mug_kb_ss_130203_sshwide attention to Montgomery Alabama, where transportation segregation was rampant. And legal. What I didn’t realize– and you may not have known either– is that Rosa was sitting in “her” section of the bus. So, she was actually following the law. But when all the seats filled up and a white man was left standing, the bus driver demanded that Rosa give up her seat for him. She refused. And the rest is HERtory.

It is a very special thing to learn what happened from the woman herself, in her own words.  Take it away Tom Brokaw…

 

(I grabbed this video from YouTube, but it is also available on NBC Learn. It originally aired in 1995)

But before Rosa, there was Claudette…


 Claudette Colvin

Civil Rights activist, Medical professional (1939-)

I first heard Claudette’s story on an episode of Drunk History. I was in awe. Here was this fierce little 15 year old girl, who refused to give up her seat on the bus NINE MONTHS BEFORE Rosa Parks did it. According to the episode (and this article by NPR), Rosa Parks was a sectary for the NAACP who had a natural gravitas. Parks was an adult, with the right look and the right hair. She would be the face of the boycott. Colvin was young, had darker skin, and got pregnant soon after her arrest– not the poster child the NAACP was looking for.

Civil Rights (2)

Recalling that day, Claudette says she remembers it was Negro history month at her (segregated) school. Her head was swimming with the stories of leaders like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Her class had talked about the injustices they faced every day under the Jim Crow laws. Injustices like not being able to eat at a lunch counter, or try on clothes. She remembers, “We couldn’t try on clothes. You had to take a brown paper bag and draw a diagram of your foot…and take it to the store.” With all of these images fresh in her mind, she had finally had enough. That day she would not be moved. She would not get off that bus– she says she felt like she had Sojourner Truth on one side of her and Harriet Tubman on the other, holding her down in that seat.

When Claudette refused to give up her seat, the bus driver notified police. I will let Claudette tell the rest of the story herself:

CLAUDETTE: One of them (the police officers) said to the driver in a very angry tone, “Who is it?” The motorman pointed at me. I heard him say, “That’s nothing new . . . I’ve had trouble with that ‘thing’ before.” He called me a “thing.” They came to me and stood over me and one said, “Aren’t you going to get up?” I said, “No, sir.” He shouted “Get up” again. I started crying, but I felt even more defiant. I kept saying over and over, in my high-pitched voice, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right!” I knew I was talking back to a white policeman, but I had had enough.

One cop grabbed one of my hands and his partner grabbed the other and they pulled me straight up out of my seat. My books went flying everywhere. I went limp as a baby—I was too smart to fight back. They started dragging me backwards off the bus. One of them kicked me. I might have scratched one of them because I had long nails, but I sure didn’t fight back. I kept screaming over and over, “It’s my constitutional right!” I wasn’t shouting anything profane—I never swore, not then, not ever. I was shouting out my rights.

It just killed me to leave the bus. I hated to give that white woman my seat when so many black people were standing. I was crying hard. The cops put me in the back of a police car and shut the door. They stood outside and talked to each other for a minute, and then one came back and told me to stick my hands out the open window. He handcuffed me and then pulled the door open and jumped in the backseat with me. I put my knees together and crossed my hands over my lap and started praying.

All ride long they swore at me and ridiculed me. They took turns trying to guess my bra size. They called me “nigger bitch” and cracked jokes about parts of my body. I recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm over and over in my head, trying to push back the fear. I assumed they were taking me to juvenile court because I was only fifteen. I was thinking, ‘Now I’m gonna be picking cotton, since that’s how they punished juveniles’—they put you in a school out in the country where they made you do field work during the day.

But we were going in the wrong direction. They kept telling me I was going to Atmore, the women’s penitentiary. Instead, we pulled up to the police station and they led me inside. More cops looked up when we came in and started calling me “Thing” and “Whore.” They booked me and took my fingerprints.

Then they put me back in the car and drove me to the city jail—the adult jail. Someone led me straight to a cell without giving me any chance to make a phone call. He opened the door and told me to get inside. He shut it hard behind me and turned the key. The lock fell into place with a heavy sound. It was the worst sound I ever heard. It sounded final. It said I was trapped.

When he went away, I looked around me: three bare walls, a toilet, and a cot. Then I feel down on my knees in the middle of the cell and started crying again. I didn’t know if anyone knew where I was or what had happened to me. I had no idea how long I would be there. I cried and I put my hands together and prayed like I had never prayed before.

• • •

MEANWHILE, schoolmates who had been on the bus had run home and telephoned Claudette’s mother at the house where she worked as a maid. Girls went over and took care of the lady’s three small children so that Claudette’s mother could leave. Mary Ann Colvin called Claudette’s pastor, the Reverend H.H. Johnson. He had a car, and together they sped to the police station.

• • •

CLAUDETTE: When they led Mom back, there I was in a cell. I was cryin’ hard, and then Mom got upset, too. When she saw me, she didn’t bawl me out, she just asked, “Are you all right, Claudette?”

Reverend Johnson bailed me out and we drove home. By the time we got to King Hill, word had spread everywhere. All our neighbors came around, and they were just squeezing me to death. I felt happy and proud. I had been talking about getting our rights ever since Jeremiah Reeves was arrested, and now they knew I was serious. Velma, Q.P. and Mary Ann’s daughter, who was living with us at the time, kept saying it was my squeaky little voice that had saved me from getting beat up or raped by the cops.

But I was afraid that night, too. I had stood up to a white bus driver and two white cops. I had challenged the bus law. There had been lynchings and cross burnings for that kind of thing. Wetumpka Highway that led out of Montgomery ran right past our house. It would have been easy for the Klan to come up the hill in the night. Dad sat up all night long with his shotgun. We all stayed up. The neighbors facing the highway kept watch. Probably nobody on King Hill slept that night.

But worried or not, I felt proud. I had stood up for our rights. I had done something a lot of adults hadn’t done. On the ride home from jail, coming over the viaduct, Reverend Johnson had said something to me I’ll never forget. He was an adult who everyone respected and his opinion meant a lot to me. “Claudette,” he said, “I’m so proud of you. Everyone prays for freedom. We’ve all been praying and praying. But you’re different—you want your answer the next morning. And I think you just brought the revolution to Montgomery.”

Excerpt from Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose (via NPR)


 

Both of these ladies deserve to be honored today. As do the hundreds of civil rights advocates that made the Montgomery bus boycott a success. And the thousands of African Americans that demanded to be heard by peacefully boycotting. If they had given in and taken the bus, we might still be years behind.

These ladies, and so many others like them, were on the right side of history.

And that is beautiful.

3 Beautiful Female Civil Rights Leaders

All of these women, and many more, contributed to the civil rights movement we are so familiar with today. Though the image we see is usually of men in suits giving important speeches, lets not forget about the strong, passionate, brave women who were also on the front lines in the fight for civil liberties.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gets his day, but these ladies deserve to be celebrated, too.

Continue reading “3 Beautiful Female Civil Rights Leaders”