The Equal Rights Amendment: Unfinished Business for the Constitution

rallyIf I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution it would be the Equal Rights Amendment. I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society. Ruth Bader Ginsberg

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New Moon

img087Recently my favorite magazine for girls-“New Moon Girls”-asked my advice on how to find landmarks to historic women.  My answers, “Find Her! Secret Sheroes,”  are in the March/April edition.  Sidebars include information about the “Put Women on the Map” app; three young women who lobbied to get a bridge in Dublin, Ireland, named after Rosie Hackett, an activist woman; and a group of women in Paris who rectified the fact that fewer that 3 % of the streets are named for women. (One night they covered 60 signs with the names of historic women.) img088

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Dorothea Lynde Dix

DLDPark“It was a cold, blustery day on March 28 . . . ” so I wrote in my first biography “Breaking the Chains: The Crusade of Dorothea Lynde Dix.” The year was 1841 – 175 years ago – when Dix “arrived at East Cambridge jail to teach Sunday school to the prisoners. But, first, with her characteristic curiosity, she insisted on having a tour of the jail. To her horror she discovered two indigent mentally ill women confined in cages made of rough boards – disheveled, shivering people whose only crime was their illness. No stove heated their bare, filthy pens. Why was there no heat, Dix asked the jailer. Because ‘lunatics’DLDnew don’t feel the cold, he replied.” Thus began Dorothea Dix’s legendary forty-year crusade for the humane treatment of people with mental illness. Year after year, the indomitable Dix traveled thousands of miles by stagecoach, boats, horseback, and trains to investigate and expose the horrendous conditions and advocate and ensure reforms. It’s not wonder I was drawn to write about DLD: my father was a psychiatrist and we lived for many years on the grounds of a state mental hospital. “Redbook” magazine once published a story about us titled “The Strangest Place to Find a Happy Family.” (Although I didn’t find it a strange place & my family was no more or no less happy than any other.) The photo is of the Dorothea Dix Park, located on the land where the Dix house once stood in Hampden, ME. The plaque reads: “In Memory of/Dorothea Lynde Dix/ who by devoted care to sick and wounded soldiers/during the Civil War earned the gratitude of the Nation,/ and by her labors in the cause of prison reform and of humane treatment of the insane/ won the admiration and reverence of the civilized world.1802-1887/Her Birthplace.” DLD once proclaimed: “It is time that people should have learnt that to be insane is not to be disgraced; that sickness is not to be ranked with crime.”

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PSTriangle08Remembering the 146 young women workers who died today – March 25 – in 1911 in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire, a transformative event witnessed by Frances Perkins who dedicated her life to fighting for safe working conditions and workers’ rights. I first visited the memorial at the site while writing my biography of Perkins, who became the first woman in a presidential cabinet (1933-1945) and was the architect of some of the most far-reaching reforms and social legislation ever enacted in America, including the establishment of Social Security. Every year a memorial service is held at the site. The photo shows me and my granddaughter Sophie, then four years old, visiting the site in 2008. (Originally the Asch Building, now the Brown Building, part of New York University, the site is located at 23-29 Washington Place, New York, NY)

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River Otter

River OtterOn our walk along the Hudson River today we spotted a river otter swimming in the Hudson River, just north of the George Washington Bridge!

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Death of Susan B. Anthony

Remembering Susan B. Anthony, nationally and internationally revered leader in the fight for woman suffrage, who died March 13th-in 1906. Anna HSBAgraveoward Shaw, an ordained minister and a medical doctor, who became a full time fighter for woman suffrage and a close friend of Susan B. Anthony, pronounced the final farewell at Anthony’s funeral:  “There is no death for such as she.  . .  Her words, her work and her character will go on to brighten the pathway and bless the lives of all people . . . Her cause, perfect equality of rights, of opportunity, of privilege for all, civil and political – was to her the bed-rock upon which all true progress must rest.”  As for what Susan B. Anthony had once said about her funeral: “Remember that I want there should be no tears. Pass on, and go on with the work.”

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Fannie Lou Hamer

FannieLouHamer-02Remembering Fannie Lou Hamer, fearless civil rights and anti-poverty
activist, who died today – March 14th – in 1977. Her iconic words – “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” – are on her gravestone. FannieLouHamerGraveOne of the first women I wrote about, I was – still am – inspired by listening to recordings of her singing and speaking. Her voice “made them brave” said activists who shared the struggle with her. “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” said Fannie Lou Hamer. The image of the statue representing Fannie Lou Hamer is in Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden, Ruleville, MI. It’s on my list of places to visit.

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Words of Wisdom

220px-Florence_Luscomb_Schlesinger_Library“There’s no end to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Florence Luscomb, passionate suffragist and social reformer  and among the first women graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with architecture degree.

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Snowdrops and Spring

IMG_0172“There are flowers in our woods!” Linda exclaimed as she went out the back door this morning.  Got my shoes, my camera and out I went–snowdrops!  One of my favorite childhood memories is my mother’s ritual of looking for the first signs of Spring – the emergence of snowdrops!

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International Women’s Day

Today-March 8th – is International Women’s Day, a day of world-wide events to celebrate social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. IWD dates back to 1908 and a march by thousands of women workers. That same year Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance meeting in Amsterdam, declared: “We oppose a common enemy whose name is not man, but conservatism. Its weapons are the same in all lands – tradition, prejudice and selfishness. We too have a common weapon – an appeal to justice and fair play.” The day was named in 1909 and widely celebrated by 1911, the year of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City that killed 146 girls and women.

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