A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Carrie Chapman Catt

 She was born as Carrie Lane in Wisconsin on January 9, 1859.  When she was 7, her family moved to Iowa.  There she began preparatory schooling, and in 1880, she graduated from Iowa State College at the top of her class. The next year she became a high school principal, and then, in 1883, Carrie became the first woman to be appointed superintendant of schools.  

In 1885, she married Leo Chapman, the editor and publisher of the Mason City Republican.  The following year he died in San Francisco where he had gone to seek new employment.  Carrie, far from home with few resources,  landed on her feet by obtaining a job as the city's first female newspaper reporter.  Then, in 1887, she moved back to Iowa.  There she joined the Iowa Women's Suffrage Association and began a new phase in her life.  From 1890-1892 she served as the association's state organizer.

In 1890, Carrie married George Catt, and until his death in 1905, he supported her work financially and with his personal support of suffrage. Their marriage allowed her to spend a good part of the year traveling and campaigning for women's suffrage.  She quickly rose in rank and became a close colleague of Susan B. Anthony. In fact, she was asked by Susan to address Congress on the proposed suffrage amendment and later, in 1900, recommended Carrie to succeed her as the president of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  In 1904, Carrie resigned her position.  George had serious health problems, and she spent her time nursing him.  He died in 1905, followed by Susan B. Anthony is 1906; a grief-stricken Carrie spent the next nine years traveling and promoting suffrage rights worldwide.

Then, in 1915, she returned to the United States and resumed leadership of NAWSA.  On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment officially became part of the United States Constitution...144 years after United States independence from England. Women were, at last, guaranteed the right to vote.  

Carrie stepped down from the presidency after the victory, but continued her work for equal suffrage.  She founded the new League of Women Voters and served as its president for the rest of her life.  In the same year, she also ran as a presidential candidate.  Later, she founded and served as chairperson of the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War which became the largest of the women's peace groups during the 1920's.  She also actively supported the League of Nations and later, the United Nations. 

Carrie died of a heart attack on  March 9, 1947 in New Rochelle New York. She was 88 years old.  She had always believed that it was a woman's natural right to participate in politics on an equal basis with men, and she fought for us with everything that she had to give.  Another of her goals was world peace, a cause she pursued throughout her life. She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetary in the Bronx, New York.  She had no children.   


Home Economics

Anyone out there old enough to remember the Home Economics classes in high school.  I certainly do.  I started high school in 1961.  There was no such thing as middle school; we went right into our freshman year.  There wasn't much available for us females back then...home economics, secretarial courses, etc.  I found the following I thought you all might be interested in.  This IS the way it used to be.  It just makes you all the more thankful for those brave women who took a stand.

The following is from an actual 1950's high school Home Economics text. The capitalized masculine pronouns were done by me for emphasis. And, seeing this made me so mad, I also had to add my little comments.


HAVE DINNER READY:  Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious mean--on time.  This is a way to let him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned with HIS needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and having a good meal ready is part of the warm welcome that is needed.  (What about the woman's needs?  Does she not count?)

PREPARE YOURSELF:  Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when HE arrives.  HE has been with a lot of work-weary people.  Be a little gay and a little more interesting.  HIS boring day may need a lift.  Greet him with a smile. (What about the woman's day?  Surely it couldn't have been so exciting back in those days.  Maybe the woman needs a lift).

CLEAR AWAY THE CLUTTER; Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up children's books and toys, papers, etc.  Then run a dust cloth over the tables.  Your husband will feel HE has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.  (What a load of crap.)

PREPARE THE CHILDREN:  If they are small, wash their hands and faces and comb their hair.  They are HIS little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. (Treasures?  What, are they nothing but objects that must be perfect?)

MINIMIZE ALL NOISE:  At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise from the washer, dryer, or vacuum.  Encourage the children to be quiet. (Never mind that the children were screaming and fighting all day.  Hubby is all that matters)

SOME "DO NOTS": Don't greet him with problems or complaints.  Don't complain if he is late for dinner.  Count this as a minor problem compared to what HE might have gone through that day. (Women are subordinates; therefore, their problems are minor).

MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE:  Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.  Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom.  Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.  Speak in a low, soothing voice.  Allow HIM to relax and unwind. (Never mind that you have a migraine or your back hurts.  He has to be comfortable).

LISTEN TO HIM:  You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time.  Allow HIM to talk first.
(Always him first).

MAKE THE EVENING HIS:  Never complain if he doesn't take  you to dinner or to other entertainment.  Instead, try to understand HIS world of strain and pressure and HIS need to unwind and relax. (Never mind that the children had a cold, the washer broke down, the sink stopped up, etc.  He is the one who needs to unwind and relax.  You don't deserve a night out.)

The goal of all of this is to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax in body and spirit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one.  


The Grimke Sisters

 (Angelina and Sarah Grimke were legends in their own lifetimes.  Together, these two sisters made history...daring to speak before mixed crowds of men and women and publishing some of the most powerful antislavery tracts of the era)

Sarah Moore Grimke was born on November 26, 1792 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Her sister, Angelina Emily was born 13 years later on November 26, 1805, and despite their age difference, the two sisters were very close and lived together throughout their lives. Born to a prominent judge, the two sisters grew up on a slave owning plantation in South Carolina, but they were never comfortable with the idea of treating people as if they were property to be bought and sold.  In fact, they strongly disapproved of the practice of slavery.  And so it was, that these two sisters, who could have lived a life of ease and comfort, chose to devote their lives to the fight for racial and gender equality. Before Sarah had reached adolescence, she had been severely admonished by her father for trying to teach a slave girl to read...and Angelina, too, was sensitive to the plight of the servants in their household, and the sight of whip marks on a young slave boy confused the girls, but eventually gave them the strength to stand at the forefront of the Abolitionist Movement.

In 1821, Sarah left her South Carolina home and moved to Philadelphia where she became a Quaker.  Angelina followed in 1829.  It wasn't until the mid-1830's, though, that the sisters began their public crusade against slavery.  In 1835, Angelina wrote a letter about the recent race riots and sent it off to William Lloyd Garrison, the founder and editor of "The Liberator", an abolitionist newspaper.  He subsequently published the letter...which, eventually was reprinted in several other publications.  From that time on, the sisters were deeply involved in the movement.  

And, because slaves and women shared similar plights, the two sisters also became actively involved in the feminist movement as well.  In 1836, Angelina wrote her famous "An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" in which she encouraged southern women to use their moral force and fight against slavery. This generated so much interest that the sisters were invited to attend a Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society in New York City.  

The sisters then began addressing small groups of women in their homes...and although Sarah was a poor public speaker, she was Angelina's equal when it came to the written word, and in 1837, the first of her "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes" appeared in the New England Spectator.  Also in 1837, the sisters went on a tour of Congregational churches in the northeast where, in addition to denouncing slavery, they also denounced racial prejudice.  Furthermore, they argued that white women had a natural bond with female, black slaves. Both were denied the right to vote and the right to a secondary education, and both were treated as second-class citizens.  By 1838, thousands were flocking to hear their Boston lecture series.

Angelina finished a  year-long speaking tour with an address to the Massachusetts state legislature...becoming the first woman in United States history to speak to a legislative body, and the sisters settled in for a much needed rest.  Angelina was physically drained, but she was also in love with the great abolitionist, Theodore Weld; they were wed in a simple ceremony with Theodore renouncing all claims to Angelina's property and her omitting the words "to obey" from her wedding vows. Both black and white Americans were in attendance. Afterwards, the two sisters retired from public life and lived on a farm in New Jersey where they operated a boarding school.  Many abolitionists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, sent their children to this school.  

On March 7, 1870, when Sarah was nearly 80 and Angelina 67, the sisters boldly declared a woman's right to vote under the 14th Amendment by depositing ballots in the local election.  along with 42 other women, Sarah and Angelina marched through a snowstorm to the polling place, and although many of the spectators jeered them, they were not arrested because of their age.  

Three years later, on December 23, 1873, Sarah died.  Angelina suffered several strokes after Sarah's death, leaving her paralyzed for the last six years of her life.  She died on October 26, 1789.  The two women had proven to be strong, independent, and skillful in getting their points across.  They faced challenges and came to realize the need for women's rights in order to get their voices heard. They are remembered today for their strength, independence, and perseverance; their integrity and devotion inspired other women to have the strength to speak up.  Through their example, and their words, the Grimke sisters proved that women could have a far-reaching influence on society.


Dorothea Lange

 Dorothea Lange was born May 26, 1895 in Hobokon, New Jersey.  When she was 7 years old, she contracted polio which left her with a weakened right leg and a pronounced limp.  Her classmates made fun of her, and even her mother appeared to be ashamed of her.  Then, when she was 12, her dad walked out, and she neither saw nor heard from him again.  The family then moved in with Dorothea's maternal grandmother.  Her mom took a job as a librarian, and it was during those long walks through downtown Manhattan to meet her mother after school, that Dorothea decided that she wanted to take photographs.

Her mother had wanted her to become a teacher, but Dorothea had her mind set.  Instead, she studied photography at Columbia University and worked part-time at a New York portrait studio.  By 1918, she had begun to travel.  Then, with the onset of the Great Depression, she took her camera to the streets where she documented the suffering of the dispossessed standing in bread lines or participating in labor strikes.  The pain of her own childhood gave her a fuller sense of what suffering meant.

From 1935 to 1939, her photos of the poor and forgotten--particularly the sharecroppers and migrant workers--brought their plight to public attention. Her best known picture was one that was simply called, "Migrant Mother". 

During World War II, Dorothea documented the internment of Japanese Americans in camps, and then turned her camera on women and members of minority groups at work side by side in the California shipyards.  After the war, she covered the founding of the United Nations.  She traveled widely in the 1950's and 1960's visiting such countries as Viet Nam, India, Ireland, and Pakistan.

Dorothea was the first woman ever to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which she was unable to complete because of illness for in the last two decades of her life, her health was poor.  She suffered from gastric problems and post-polio syndrome.  She died of esophageal cancer in 1965 at the age of 70.


Alice Paul

(Social reformer, activist, and lawyer.  Alice Paul spent much of her life fighting for women's rights)

Alice was born January 11, 1885 in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.  Her parents were Quakers who believed strongly in social equality.  In fact, her mom even took young Alice along to suffrage meetings.  So, it is no surprise for Alice to grow up to become an important leader for the women's suffrage movement. 

Alice graduated from Swathmore college in 1905 and went on to do an internship in social work in New York City.  She received her masters in sociology in 1907.  Then, for the next few years she travelled to Europe, working closely with the women's suffrage movement in England.  There, she was arrested several times for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.  In 1910, Alice returned to the United States and became involved with the American women's struggle for the right to vote.  Eventually, she earned a PHD from the University of Pennsylvania; he dissertation was about the legal rights of women in the United States.  

In 1912, she and a friend, Lucy Burns, took over as leaders of NAWSA ( The National American Women's Suffrage Association), but she was dissatisfied with their progress, so in 1916, Alice formed the NWP (National Women's Party) and demanded a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.  It focused on a national level and her group even picketed the White House, the firt group to do so .  At first, they were largely ignored, but when the United States entered World War I, the suffragists signs became more taunting to President Wilson...even accusing him of being a hypocrite.  In essence, the women wanted to know how he could send Americans to died in a war for democracy when voting rights were denied to their women at home.  Now, they were becoming a nuisance and an embarrassment, and it was decided that the picketing in front of the White House must be stopped.  

They began to assault the picketers, both verbally and physically...and the police did nothing at all to protect the women.  Instead, they started arresting the suffragists on charges such as obstructing traffic.  At first, the charges were usually dropped, but then they began sentencing the women to jail terms of a few days...but still they continued picketing...and now their prison sentences grew.  Finally, in a last ditch attempt to break their spirit, Alice Paul was arrested, tried, and sentenced to serve seven months in prison.  

She was placed in solitary confinement, and for the first two weeks, they fed her nothing but bread and water.  She became weak and was unable to walk, so they transferred her to the prison hospital.  It was here that she began her famous hunger strike...one which others would eventually join.  The prison doctors responded by placing her in the psychiatric ward with threats of transferring her to the insane asylum, but she would not been.  Now, afraid that she might die, the doctors began to force feed her by holding her down in a chair and inserting a 5-6 foot tube into her mouth and poured liquids into her stomach. But, despite the pain and illness this caused, she still refused to end the hunger strike and her fight for the right to vote.  

After 5 weeks in prison, Alice Paul was set free.  It seems that the attempts to stop the picketers had backfired.  Newspapers throughout the country carried stories about the jail terms and forced feedings, angering many Americans and creating more support than ever for the suffrage movement.  Finally, on January 9, 1918, President Wilson announced his support and the next day, the House of Representatives passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment...giving suffrage to all women citizens.  In June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment by one vote...and the next year, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment.  That made it official the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. 

Although women had finally won the right to vote, Alice did not stop there.  She and her colleagues now began to push for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution which would guarantee women protection against discrimination.  Alice continued to fight until she was debilitated by a stroke in 1974. She died at the age of 92 on July 9, 1977.

"There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it".--Alice Paul

The ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline.  On July 21, 2009, Representative Carole B. Maloney from New York introduced the ERA into the House of Representatives.  As far as I know, it has not been passed.


Queen Lydia Liliuokalani

(Queen Laliuokalani was the first and only reigning Hawaiian queen and the last Hawaiian sovereign to govern the islands)

The following story angers me.  When we speak of Hawaii as our 50th state, we tend to forget about the people we 'stole' it from. 

Lydia was born September 2, 1838 on the island of Oahu; she was the third of ten children born to a high-ranking Hawaiian family.  When Lydia was four, her parents  sent her to the Royal School on Oahu, and there she learned English and studied music and the arts.  She was extremely talented in music and a noted musical composer. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 150 songs including "Aloha Oe" which is still sung in Hawaii today.

As a young woman, Lydia became a part of the royal court attending King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. She married John Owen Dominis in 1862.  He was Boston sea captain and himself an official in the Hawaiian government. They had no children, and according to her diaries, it was not a very happy marriage.  Then, when the king died, and his named heir refused the throne, the Hawaiian legislature elected Lydia's brother, David, to the throne of the island kingdom in 1874.  He became known as King Kalakuaua, and Lydia served as his regent.  Then, upon the death of her second brother, who had been the heir apparent, Lydia was named heir presumptive.  

Lydia spent the next 14 years of her life establishing her role as a leader.  During this time, she took an active part in organizing schools for Hawaiian youth.  And one time, when the king was away on a world trip, a smallpox epidemic broke out.  Lydia immediately took the reins and temporarily closed Hawaii's ports to prevent its spread. Her goal in life was to please her people and protect their interests.  This infuriated the sugar and pineapple growers, but endeared her to the Hawaiian people. 

When her brother, King Kalakaua died in January of 1891, Lydia ascended to the throne. She regretted the loss of power that the monarchy had suffered under the rule of her brother and tried to restore the traditional autocracy to the throne. Lydia was also deeply concerned with the common good of the people, and spent much of her life setting up charitable organizations devoted to education, health, and welfare.  Shortly after she assumed the throne, her husband died.  Lydia never remarried. 

Lydia opposed the renewed Reciprocity Treaty which had been signed by her brother.  This treaty granted privileged commercial concessions to the United States and ceding them to the Port of Pearl Harbor.  This was the beginning of her downfall for it alienated her from foreign businessmen who immediately tried to abrogate her authority.

Lydia fought bitterly against annexation of the islands by the United States, but eventually she was deposed by white foreign businessmen, and the Hawaiian throne was passed onto the United States and the rogues who had stolen it.  The so-called 'reformers' and their promises for democratic reform was soon revealed as a ploy to strip the Hawaiian peoples of their nation, but by that time, it was too late for Lydia to save them.  

Lydia lived out the remainder of her life in her royal palace in Honolulu...tending to her gardens and continuing her work for the improvement of conditions for the poor.  In 1917, Lydia died due to complications of a stroke. She a deeply loved and well-respected figure.  And, like other remarkable native leaders, she was forgotten by the Americans as they invaded more and more territory...marginalizing and exterminating any inhabitants they found.  Had her life been wasted? Had this queen been a weak monarch who allowed the United States to take over her country?  Certainly not, for as this woman ruled, she set an example for many to follow.  Her impact survives even today as Hawaii's motto still bears the words she once spoke: "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."



Jane Addams

"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt."--Jane Addams

(American social reformer and pacifist, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931)

Jane Addams was born 'Laura Jane Addams' on September 6, 1860; she was the daughter of a well-to-do gentleman, and her mother was known to be a very kind, gentle woman. However, Jane never really got to know her mother, for she was only two when her mom died...leaving Jane's father with five children to raise.  He remarried and her new stepmother brought two new step-brothers into the family.  

Jane became very close to her dad and began to mimic everything and eagerly learned everything he had to teach her including tolerance for others, philanthropy, and a the importance of a strong work ethic.  He encouraged her to seek a higher education, and Jane attended the Rockford Seminary for young women, excelling in all of her studies.  It was there that she developed her strong leadership traits. She decided to pursue a career in medicine, but her parents felt that she had enough education and were afraid this would affect her decision to marry and have children...something expected form upper class women in those days.

Her parents felt that that perhaps they could get Jane's mind off medical school by taking her and several of her friends to Europe for a year or two.  It was while they were away that Jane first began to show signs of illness. Then unexpectedly, her dad died of acute appendicitis.  This set Jane into a deep depression and left her with a sense of guilt that somehow she had upset him due to her insistence on attending medical school...and her illness was getting worse.  By now, she could barely walk or move without great pain.  Although it has been said that Jane's illness was stress related, we do know that she did have a slight curvature of the spine.  Eventually, she had surgery and was an invalid for almost two years.  Then, when she recovered she headed to Europe again.

She returned to the states in 1887 with a Rockford classmate, Ellen Gates...this time with a new vision and dream for her future.  While in Europe, the pair had visited Toynbee Hall in London, a settlement house...and she and Ellen were determined to create something much the same, and once commited, there was no stopping them, especially Jane.    Thus, Hull House was born.  Jane and Ellen acquired a large vacant residence built by Charles Hull and moved into it on September 18, 1889. The house provided services for the immigrant and poor population of the neighborhood. People flocked to her, and within a few years, Hull House offered medical care, child care, and legal aid...as well as classes for immigrants to learn English and vocational skills.  

In 1893 a severe depression hist the country, and Hull House was serving over 2,000 people weekly.  Jane realized that if laws were not changed, there would be no end to poverty, so now she turned her efforts to the root causes of poverty.  She worked diligently towards goals including the first juvenile court law, tenement house regulation, 8 hour working days for women, factory inspection, and workers' compensation. She strove for justice for immigrants and blacks and supported women's suffrage. In 1915, in an effort to avert war, she organized the Women's Peace Party and the International Congress of Women.   In 1919 she was elected first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a position she held until her death.   She was involved in the founding of the ACLU in 1920 and was co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. 

Hull House continued to be successful, and when the depression of the 1930's struck, Jane saw many of the things she had advocated and fought for become policies under President Franklyn Roosevelt.  In 1931, just after winning the Nobel Prize, her health began to fail, but she continued her work until her death from cancer in 1935. At the time of her death she had written 10 books, more than 2,000 articles, and had given hundreds of speeches.   Thousands of people came to her funeral at Hull House.  Jane Addams was truly an extraordinary woman.  She is one of the reasons society lives the way they do.

(Family at Hull House)


Gertrude Belle Elion

 Gertrude Belle Elion was the first woman inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.  She is named on 45 different patents, most notably for the discovery of medicines that fight leukemia, gout, herpes, and a drug that suppresses the immune system.  She won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988.

Gertrude's parents were immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 1900's.  Her father was from Lithuania; her mother was from the region of Russia that was later to become Poland.  Her father worked his way through dental school, and her mother worked as a seamstress.  Gertrude was born in New York City on January 13, 1918. In 1921 Gertrude's beloved grandfather emigrated from Russia and moved in with the family.  He and young Gertrude had a very close, loving relationship and spent many hours together.

Gertrude was always quite the scholar and loved learning, but in 1929 her father went bankrupt with the crash of the stock market.  This seriously affected Gertrude's prospects of attending college, but she didn't give up.  Finally, in 1933, she was able to enroll in Hunter College, which was, at that time, a tuition free women's division; she was 15 years old.  Then, during this time, she discovered that her grandfather was dying of stomach cancer; his death determined her choice of college major--chemistry.  

At 19, she earned her chemistry degree, and despite graduating Phi Beta Kappa, she was unable to get a job in a laboratory...despite being told she was qualified.  In fact, she was told that women don't work in labs because they are too distracting.  This was the first time Gertrude had experienced that being a woman had disadvantages. 

So, in desperation, she entered business school to prepare herself for a career in secretarial work, but she quit when she found a part-time job teaching chemistry in the school system.  Throughout the early 1940's Gertrude worked at a variety of jobs--receptionist in a doctor's office, clerk for the A & P stores, a job a Quaker Chemicals, and at Johnson & Johnson. Largely, the main reason she was hired in the chemical companies was because men were not available; they were off fighting during World War II. And all the while, she was saving money to pay for her education...and at night and on weekends, she managed to obtain her Master's Degree in 1941, the only female graduate at New York University.  

In 1944, Gertrude saw her dream finally coming true as she joined the famous Burroughs Wellcome as a research chemist...for $50 a week.  She was one of only two women among a staff of 75.  She also began studying for her doctorate at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, but found she couldn't work and earn her degree at the same time, so she dropped out and stuck with her day job.

Gertrude spent 40 years inventing pharmaceuticals. In 1967, she she became head of the company's Department of Experimental Therapy.  In the 1950's she pioneered the development of two drugs that interfered with the reproductive process of cancer cells to cause remissions in childhood leukemia.  In 1957 she created the first immuno-suppressive agent leading to successful organ transplants.  In 1977 she developed the first drug used against viral herpes.  In 1983 she officially retired, but continued working almost full-time and oversaw the development of AZT, the first drug used for the treatment of AIDS.  In 1988 she received the Nobel Prize, capping off a career devoted to combating some of the world's most dangerous diseases. On February 21, 1999, she went out for her daily walk, but never made it home. Gertrude Belle Elion passed away at age 81.

Although she had to battle longstanding prejudices against women in science, a combination of brilliance, determination, and pure stubbornness brought her to the top of her profession. Gertrude Belle Elion never lost sight of the human being she devoted her life to.  The following was one of many found in her office:

Dear Ms. Elion,

I opened my newspaper this morning and through many tears read of your great honor, the Nobel Prize.  My daughter, Tiffany, was stricken with herpes encephalitis in September, 1987.  A neurologist said the only hope for her was possibly the drug acylovir (AZT).

I thanked the Lord many times that he blessed you with the determination, stamina, love, and patience to work all of the long hours, days, months, and years it takes to invent a new drug.  Tiffany is a senior in high school this year and doing great.  May the Lord bless you beyond your wildest dreams.

                                         --Tiffany's mother 


Raden Adjeng Kartini

Raden Adjeng Kartini was a prominent Javanese heroine.  She was known as a pioneer in the area of human rights for native Indonesians. 

She was a princess from the Island in Java. born on April 21, 1879.  When Kartini was born, Java was still part of the Dutch colonies, the Dutch East Indies.  Her father was the mayor; her mother was his first wife...but not the most important one.  Polygamy was still a common practice among the nobility, and Kartini experienced first-hand the conflicts and sufferings that arise from this practice.  

She was a very active child and loved playing and climbing trees.  And because she came from an aristocratic family, she was allowed to "visit" school until the age of 12.  Her education and the ability to read, write, and speak Dutch set her apart from the other young women, but in no way did this make Kartini feel superior to her peers.  Instead, she spent her short life planning for the education of other women.  The following is a quote from a letter she wrote to a Dutch friend when she was twenty:

"I have been longing to make the acquaintance of a modern girl, that proud independent girl who has all my sympathy! She who, happy and self reliant, lightly and alertly steps her way through life, full of enthusiasm and warm feelings; working not only for her own well-being and happiness, but for the greater good of humanity as a whole."

When Kartini was 12  years old, she was pulled from the school and 'secluded' at home.  This was another common practice among nobility to prepare young girls for marriage.  But, during her seclusion, she continued to educate herself on her own, and because she had learned how to speak and write Dutch, she she also acquired several Dutch penpals. European magazines fed her interest in the European feminist movement and fostered her desire to improve the conditions of indigent women, who, at that time, had a very low social status.

Now, Kartini had always been against the practice of polygamy, but worshipped her father, so, when her parents arranged her marriage to a man who already had three wives, she accepted and was married  on November 12, 1903.  Her husband, a liberal, not only continued to allow her to write to her friends, but also assisted her in establishing the first primary school for women in Indonesia.  It was located in her father's house and children and young women were provided with a basic education.  

However, her enthusiasm at educating Indonesian girls was to be short-lived.  Kartini's only son was born on September 13, 1904, and a few days later on September 17, 1904, Kartini died of complications of birth at age 25.

But, her legacy can still be found in the letters she wrote to her friends in Holland, and after her death, J. H. Abendanon, arranged for the publication of her letters under the title, "Through Darkness Into Light".  And in 1916, the Kartini Foundation opened the first all girls' schools in Java, thus fulfilling her dream.  Her ideas were also taken up by Indonesian students who were attending Dutch university, and in 1922 an Indonesian translation of her letters was published.

Her beliefs and letters have inspired may women and have effected actual change where women have the same rights as men in the area of education, voting rights, and choice of career.  In Indonesia, today, April 21st is a national holiday that recognizes her as a heroine.  Women and girls don traditional clothing to symbolize their unity and participate in costume contests, cook-offs, and flower arrangements. Mothers take the day off and husbands do the cooking and housework.  


Joy Adamson

Joy Adamson was a woman of many talents who probably could have succeeded in any career, but she chose to devote her life to living and working with animals.

   Joy Adamson was born Friederiki Victoria Gessner on January 20, 1910 in Troppau, Silveria, Austria.  She was the second of three children and lived with her parents until she was 10 years old.  At that point, her parents divorced and young Joy was sent to live with her grandparents.  As a young woman, Joy had dreams of a music career and took singing lessons and learned how to play the piano.  She also studied fine art, typing, shorthand, and photography.  Later, she became interested in psychoanalysis and for awhile held onto an unrealized desire to study medicine. Joy was to marry three times in her life. 

In 1936, Joy met and married her first husband, a successful businessman, Victor von Klarwell, an Austrian Jew.  At the onset of World War II, he sent Joy to Kenya to escape Nazi persecution...with the intention of joining her there.  But, during her voyage, she met the Swiss botanist, Peter Bailey, and fell in love with him. In 1938, she divorced von Klarwell and married Peter.  As a matter of fact, it was Peter who first nicknamed her, Joy, and the name stuck. 

For awhile, it was pure bliss. The couple traveled throughout the wildereness of Kenya, studying the native flora; Joy busied herself painting many of the specimens that her husband studied. But, soon thereafter, Joy met and fell in love with her third husband, George Adamson, a game warden.  Joy continued busying herself with her paintings and near the end of the 1940's, began painting the natives of Kenya in their traditional clothing and ornaments...documenting their disappearing customs. 

Then one day in early in early 1956 a series of events unfolded that would change their lives forever.  George had been sent out to track down a man-eating lion who had been terrorizing several of the neighboring villages when he and his hunting party stumbled onto a lioness and her three cubs...startling them.  When the lioness charged, George had no choice but to shoot, killing the mother and leaving three orphaned cubs.  

It was on February 1, 1956 that George brought the cubs home to Joy...unknowingly setting in motion events that would prove pivitol for the very foundation of modern conservationism for Joy was immediately captivated by the cubs.  She devoted herself to raising these orphans and the results showed for soon the cubs were thriving...so well that within six months time, the two largest cubs became too much to handle and were sent to the Rotherham Zoo.  The smallest cub, Elsa was kept by the Adamsons' who believed they would try to teach her to fend for herself in the wild....eventually  hoping to re-release her into the wild...something that had never been done before.  

And it worked.  Elsa thrived and when she was three years old, she was patiently taken back into the bush and encouraged to develop her instincts to hunt and survive.  The Adamsons' knew they were successful when they discovered a week later that Elsa had killed an antelope.  Elsa died at the age of 5 of a disease of the blood, but her life was immortalized by the writings of Joy...."Born Free", "Living Free", and "Forever Free".  Joy took Elsa's three cubs and trained them, eventually releasing them into the wild.  They were never to be seen again.

Joy devoted the rest of her life to working with wild animals. After the release of the cubs, Joy adopted a young cheetah, Pippa who was also trained to survive in the wild. In 1961, Joy founded the Elsa Wild Animal Appeal, and in 1962, went on an international tour to speak about wildlife preservation.  She was also an early activist in the movement against selling and using clothing made of animal fur.

On January 3, 1980, Joy Adamson was murdered, 7 days before her 10th birthday.  Her body was found close to her campsite in Northern Kenya where she had been studying leopards.  At first it was believed that she had been killed by a lion, but later it was found that the wounds had been made with a sword-like weapon rather than claws and teeth. A quiet ceremony was held near Nairobi, Kenya; in her will, Joy specified that her body be cremated and her ashes divided and buried with her two beloved cats--Elsa and Pippa.  

Her life cut short, Joy Adamson and filled her years with the study of big cats.  Her observations became the foundation stone for research projects involving the rehabilitation of captive animals back into the wild. George Adamson continued his wife's work until he himself was murdered on August 20, 1989.  They had lived amongst the wild, untamed, dangerous cats and were both killed by the hands of humans motivated by simple greed.  Ironic, isn't it? Nevertheless, their work lives on through the organizations that Joy founded. 

"Since we humans have the better brain, isn't it our responsibility to protect our fellow creatures from, oddly enough, ourselves?"--Joy Adamson





Mirabai, the 16th century poet, singer and saint, is probably the most remembered and quoted female bhakta poet in Indian history. Even today, versions of her songs are still sung, and she appears as a subject in films, books,and paintings.  Mirabai was a woman who chose her own path, forsaking a life of luxury, and in non-violent resistance to find liberation...a non-conventional woman far ahead of her times.  

Mirabai was a Rajput princess; she was born around the start of the 16th century in a small village in Kudaki, India.  She was the only child of Ratan Singh, the younger brother of the ruler of Merta. Considered royalty, her education included politics, government, music and religion. From an early age she was drawn to and devoted to Sri Krishna in a form of worship that was considered to be a particularly mystical form of Hinduism called Bhakti.  According to this tradition, one approached one's god through pure love and, there were no  restrictions of caste, color, or gender.  Many Bhakti followers willingly gave up their worldly life and families to became wandering teachers.  

At a very young age, Mirabai was married to Prince Bhoj Raj...a pre-arranged marriage.  The Prince was the eldest son of a very influential Hindu family, and the marriage placed Mirabai in a very high social status...but the young wife cared very little for worldly goods and pleasures and showed no interest for the family's gifts of jewels and silks.   Although she served her husband dutifully, her evenings were spent in devotion and singing to her beloved Krishna...in the company of the Bhaktas.  Her new family did not approve of her devotion; they wanted Mirabai to worship their family deity, the Goddess Durga. After only three years of marriage, the Prince died of battle wounds; the family tried to get Mirabai to commit Sati, the practice of voluntary suicide, but she refused. From that time onwards, Mirabai became the victim of the worst persecution by her husband's family who began spreading malicious gossip and creating great physical hardships for the young widow  But, no matter what they did, they could not undermine Mirabai's unwavering devotion and love for Krishna. 

By now her saintly fame was spreading far and wide for after her husband's death, her devotional practices became even more intense; she could often be found singing and dancing herself into a frenzy...even in such public places as temples.  Soon the young widow had attracted a following of devotees from all social groups and castes. But, the relentless torments and hostility from the family was beginning to interfere with her life of devotion and contemplation. and secretly, with her followers, she slipped out of the palace and escaped and set out on a pilgrimage, traveling around to places that were associated with the life of Krishna; her popularity grew, and even before she arrived at a site, people would gather around singing her songs.  They began to look at her as an incarnation of Radha.

It is through Mirabai's hundreds of poems  that we get to know this young woman who lived in a time and place when the sexual virtue of women was so fiercely guarded.  On two occasions her husband's family tried to kill her, but she was miraculously saved each time.  Her own family disowned her, but even that did not stop her.  Today, her life resonates in the hearts of many in India for her words express a type of female liberation.  

"With my tears,
I watered the creeper of love that I planted;
Now the creeper has grown spread all over,
And bourne the fruit of bliss.
The churner of the milk churned with great love,
When I took out the butter,
no need to drink any buttermilk.
I come for the sake of love-devotion;
seeing the world, I wept."    



Enheduana was the first female name in "recorded" history, the first known author to write in the first person.  While there were many who wrote before En Hedu Ana, she was the first to identify herself.

Enheduana lived about 4500 years ago in Babylon. She was a poet, a priestess, and a warrior and  was revered as the most important religious figure of her day. She was the daughter of Sargon the Great, the ruler of all of Babylon at that time; her mother was a Sumarian priestess.  Sargon placed his daughter into a position of power; namely, she became the High Priestess of Nanna, the major temple in Ur.  This was an extremely powerful role for as the en priestess, she was the only one who could appoint a new ruler.  Enheduana also was in charge of directing all the activities of daily life such as trade, farming, and crafts.  She also began monitoring the movements of the stars and the planets. 

Enheduana helped her father to solidify his political power by merging the worship of many local city goddesses into worship of the Sumarian goddess, Inanna. According to historical tales, both she and her father were banished from Ur by a relative who took power. As a result, Enheduana and Sargon went to live in Sumaria.  And, it was while they were in Sumaria that she became so passionate about Inanna, the Sumarian goddess, that she began writing her incantations. Eventually she and her father were restored to their home in Ur, and Inanna was installed as the highest of the goddesses. Enheduana survived her father and continued on as High Priestess during the reign of several of his successors.

It seems that she was much a politician as a priestess, and later religions and religious writers appear to have emulated her.  Through her powerful incantations to Inanna, she not only changed the course of history  but she  continues to be remembered centuries after her death.  

She is the author of over 42 brief temple hymns and three longer hymns.  The following is a poem that speaks of her view of wisdom and how one goes about attaining it:

"The true woman who possesses exceeding wisdom,
She consults a tablet of lapis lazili
She gives advise to all lands....
She measures off the heavens,
She places the measuring cords on earth."

Enheduana was both a mystical and heroic figure...a wise woman as well as a powerful priestess...a true feminist.



Mary Wollstonecraft

"If a woman be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrotn, to power, where are we to stop?"--Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft has been called the 'first feminist" and "the mother of feminism".

Mary was born April 27, 1759 into a large, impoverished farm family, and at a young age, she was forced to resort to her own resources for survival.  Mary's father was an abusive man who took pleasure in bullying her mother into submission.  The family moved around a lot due to bad business ventures on the part of her father.  In 1780, Mary's mother passed away.

Mary was 19 years old when she set off on her own and took a rather unsatisfying position as a paid companion to a wealthy merchant's wife.  Then, in 1783, Mary came to her sister, Eliza's aid, and helped her to escape from a very unhappy marriage by hiding her from her brutal husband until a legal separation could be arranged.  Afterwards, the two sisters, along with a third, established a school for women, but the school failed.  

Mary then became a governess in the family of Lord Kingsborough and lived in Ireland.  They dismissed her in 1787, and she went to London to pursue a literary career...finding a job as a translator for London publisher, James Johnson, who also published several of Mary's works in his "Analytical Review".  Finally, in 1792, Bary achieved public attention when her "Vindication of the Rights of Women" was published.  This book became an important work which advocated equality for the sexes...and included the main doctrine for the later women's movement.

In 1792, Mary left England and went to Paris to observe and collect information on the French Revolution.  While living there, she met American timber merchant and author, Captain Gilbert Imlay.  Mary agreed to become his common-law-wife and in May, 1794, she bore him a daughter, Fanny.  Imlay, though, had no plans to stick around and shortly thereafter, deserted her.  Distraught over the breakdown of her relationship. Mary attempted suicide by drowning.

Eventually, Mary recovered from her heartache and renewed an old acquaintance with the radical, William Godwin.  A few months later, they became lovers, but both continued to live in their own separate apartments in order to focus on their writing careers.  In fact, neither party believed in marriage because the law gave rights to a husband while it took them away from the wife.  Both were totally opposed to this.  But then, Mary became pregnant, and for the child's sake, the two decided to marry...but continued to maintain separate residences. Mary gave birth to another daughter, but sadly, Mary died 11 days later of "childbirth fever".  That child, also named Mary, grew to become Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, the author of "Frankenstein".

And so ended the life of a woman who lived far ahead of her time.  Mary was a radical who dreamed of bridging the gap between male and female; thus, she undertook the task of helping women to achieve a better life...not only for themselves, but for their children. A variety of issues were dear to her heart--morality, politics, education of women..in addition to their rights and the wrongs done against them. Abuse of women hit close to home, and she saw little legal recourse for the victims of the abuse. 

Although , she was scorned in her own day and for generations afterward due to the illegitimacy of her daughter, her free lifestyle, and her unorthodox opinions, Mary Wollstonecraft is truly the mother of modern feminism and her book, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" is today a feminist classic.       


Hypatia of Alexandria

Imagine a time when the greatest mathematician in the world was a woman...who just happened to be the world's leading astrologer as well. 
"Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel, the more truth we comprehend.  To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond."  Hypatia

Hypatia was the first woman to make an important contribution to the develop of mathematics.  Hypatia was born about 355 A.D; she was the daughter of Theon of Alexandria. Nothing is known of her mother.  Theon was an important man; not only was he a mathematician, but also a philosopher, astronomer, and a noted astrologer, and, wanting his daughter to be the best she could be, he made sure to educate her in all of these subjects...as well as developing a physical routine to ensure for her a healthy body.  A brilliant young woman, soon Hypatia surpassed her father's knowledge.

Hepatia never married; instead she chose to pursue her scholarly endeavors and became a teacher at Alexandria's Neoplatonic School; later she became its director...a remarkable accomplishment for a woman in those days.  Her lectures were lively and interesting, and she was loved and admired by all and well respected by many of the officials.  Many prominent Christians were among her pupils.  One of her most famous students was Synesuis, who was later to become the Bishop of Ptolemais.

But, Hypatia lived at a time when there was conflict between the Pagans on one side and Christians on the other, who were demanding an end to paganism. Hypatia symbolized learning and science which those early Christians identified with paganism.  This left her in a very precarious situation.  It was only due to her friendship with Synesuis that she was tolerated, but after he died, she was left vulnerable to those who sought to get rid of her.  The Archbishop, Cyril, as a fanatic whose mission was to rid the city of all Neoplatonists and Jews...and Hypatia's popularity was greater than Cyril's which made her an adversary who stood in the way of him gaining complete control of the people. 

We will never know why Hypatia chose to stay, but she did, and it cost her her life.  One day, in 415 A.D., while she was on her way home from teaching, she was surrounded by a mob of zealots,  dragged her from her carriage and into a local church were they stripped off her clothes and scraped the skin from her body with sharp objects.  Then, they tore her apart...limb by limb and took her body and burned it.  There is no evidence that Cyril was involved, but it is believed he ordered the killing...or at least instigated it by inciting the other Christians. 

Hypatia was a woman who was born,lived, and died before her time, a woman who had been loved by many for her beauty, wisdom, and compassion. Her murder, at age 60, was an act of hatred, a heinous act, but none of the perpetrators were ever punished...let alone arrested.  Her death marked the end of an era, the demise of the last phase of ancient science.  Neoplatonism did not survive. 

Hypatia lives on forever, though, sitting serenely on the Moon, her crater located near the crater that was named for her father.  Her reputation has inspired the imaginations of many writers. 

"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than to not think at all."--Hypatia



Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born in 1797.  She began her life as a slave and ended it as a celebrated American freedom fighter and orator.  Born in New York she was sold several times before she managed to escape with her infant daughter in 1827.  During her life as a slave she had been beaten and suffered many other cruel and unjust hardships...including seeing her husband beaten savagely and dragged away, never to see him again.

Although she could neither read nor write, Sojourner was a captivating speaker who spoke out for women's rights and against slavery.   It was in 1851 that she gave her famous speech, "Ain't I A Woman?", a short, but stirring challenge to the notion that men were superior to women. 

Ain't I A Woman

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.  I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.  But, what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.  Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!  And ain't I a woman?  Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!  And ain't I a woman?  I could work as much and eat as much as a man--when I could get it--and bear the lash as well!  And ain't I a woman?  I have bourne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me!  And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? (member of audience whispers, 'intellect')  That's it, honey.  What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights?  If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men 'cause Christ wasn't a woman!  Where did your Christ come from?  From God and a woman!  Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!  And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
     --Delivered 1851at a Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio

She was a controversial for most of her life and was the first black woman to test the legality of segregation of Washington, D.C. streetcars.  During the Civil War, she bought gifts for the soldiers with money raised from her lectures and helped fugitive slaves find work and housing.  After the war, she continued her tirade against racial injustice...even when old age and poor health confined her to a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan.  She died there on November 26, 1883.  What a very special, brave woman she was.


Let Us Not Forget

This blog was created as a tribute to women with the courage to stand up for themselves and their rights...those women who refused to be repressed...those women whose deeds have made our lives better.  But, I also don't want us to forget those women throughout the world who are still repressed...by their culture, by their husbands, by their families.  So, even though this blog will pay homage to those who paved the way for the freedoms that we enjoy today, it is important that we also acknowledge those sisters who continue to suffer from repression and violence.

Yesterday, several teenagers boarded the subway...boys and girls on their way to school.  They were a noisy bunch...teasing each other, laughing and playing around...normal and accepted behaviors.  And as I sat watching them enjoying their friendships--boy and girl--I wondered if they realized just how lucky they really are...how 'free' they are.  It brought to mind an article I read in not too long ago in "The Guardian". 

In Turkey, police discovered the body of a 16 year old girl who had been buried alive by relatives in what was called an 'honor killing'....punishment because the girl had talked to boys. She was found in a sitting position with her hands tied...in a hole dug under a chicken coop outside of her home. According to reporters, her father, wasn't happy that his daughter...who is one of 9 children...had several boys as friends...so, she was beaten by her grandfather.  The postmortem exam revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach.  Meaning????  The poor child was alive and conscious when she was buried.

And then there is this:

A 13 year old girl was stoned to death in Somalia.  Her crime?  She was raped.  When the child reported this to the authorities, she was accused of adultery and sentenced to death.  In front of a stadium of about 1,000 onlookers, she was buried up to her neck, and more than 50 men stoned her to death.  The poor girl had been crying and pleading..."Don't kill me, don't kill me."

It makes you mad, doesn't it?  And these are only two isolated cases.  Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights.  It cuts across all the boundaries--culture, race, geography---and takes place at home, in schools, in the workplace.  Worldwide, for women and girls ages 16 to 44, violence is a major cause of death and disability.

The above examples are representative of "Honor Killings".  It is estimated that as many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered by their families each year in these so-called honor killings...and sadly, these crimes are not only socially sanctioned in many countries, but the killers are usually treated with lenience because they were defending the family honor.  Will this end in our lifetime?  Probably not.  But, it's important that we remember, that we not become too complacent.  In the next few days I will be posting some links to organizations which fight for the rights of women. 
For now, let us all take a moment of silence to remember our sisters who died simply because they were female.  Thank you for letting me share this today.