img_1804Banners, badges, buttons, balloons, posters, placards, ribbons, sashes, stamps, and trading cards were just a few of the items suffragists used in women’s worldwide fight for the vote. Onward into elective offices around the world.

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Even whenseq-14-2-copy-2 I’ve finished a book I keep an eye out for additional information: For example with my most recent book about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, I keep a running record of epithets regarding women’s rights advocates. Recently I found a particular brain-numbing one: “‘main Guyesses’ of the woman suffrage bunch.” The woman under attack was a seventy-two-year old widow, Ellen Clark Sargent, a pioneering suffragist in California, who, in 1901, filed a test case demanding either the right to vote or a refund of her taxes. She and other suffragist attended the trial, while her son George presented her case. The epithet appeared in the caption of a masculinized caricature of her published in “The San Francisco Call,” March 30, 1901. Sargent founded a suffrage organization in 1869. She was a close friend of SBA and ECS. In 1878, her husband, the former U.S. Senator Aaron Sargent, introduced the 16th Amendment that eventually became the 19th in 1920, granting women the right to vote. Ellen Clark Sargent died shortly before women won the right to vote in California in 1911. Thousands gathered at a memorial service held at Union Square in San Francisco, the first ever held for a woman. Flags flew at half-mast.

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Susan B. Anthony

On campaigning: In 1896, seventy-six-year old Susan B. Anthony spent 8 months campaigning for a woman suffrage amendment in California. (It was defeated.) Here’s her biographer’s account: “There was scarcely a day, including Sundays, that she did not make from one to three speeches, often having a long journey between them. She addressed great political rallies of thousands of people; church conventions of every denomination; Spiritualist and Freethinkers’ gatherings; Salvation Army meetings; African societies; Socialists; all kinds of labor organizations; granges; Army and Navy Leagues; Soldiers’ Homes and military encampments; women’s clubs and men’s clubs; Y.M.C. A’s and W.C.T.U.s. She spoke at farmers’ picnics on the mountaintops, and Bethel Mission in the cellars of San Francisco; at parlor meetings in the most elegant homes; and in pool-rooms where there was printed on the black board, ‘Welcome to Susan B. Anthony. . . .[She] visited also various towns throughout the central part of the State and along the coast, speaking in wigwams, halls, churches, schoolhouses, and the open air, taking trains at all hours, travelling through heat and dusk, wind and cold; and there was never a word of complaint during all the long campaign. She was always ready to go, always on time, always full of cheer and hope.” The photograph is from that campaign.l-2-ca-96



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Another reason why I love nonfiction!

So happy to read this article in The New York Times. For all of you who took my courses in nonfiction literature at Queens College, CUNY or Teachers College, Columbia University, here’s another reminder of why I love nonfiction and the importance of it!!!


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“I would like to be buried in Arlington Cemetery”

elaineharmonwaspastronautToday – September 9, 2106 – I was heartened to find an article in The New York Times, illustrated with a lovely full-color photograph of the interment in Arlington National Cemetery of the cremated remains of Elaine D. Harmon, a veteran World War II pilot in the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a pioneering Army unit known as WASPs. The media called the 1,102 women pilots”Flygirls.” (1,074 new recruits, plus 28 WAFS, Women Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) They logged over 60 million miles in the air, ferrying 78 different types of aircraft from factories to repair bases to front-line airfields, towing targets in training exercises, and flight-testing planes. The unit was not set up as part of the military so the thirty-eight WASPS who died were refused a military burial.  In June 1944, efforts were made to officially recognize and militarize the WASP, but Congress refused. The end of the war was in sight and the pressure was on to move women out of the workforce to accommodate the returning men.  The WASPS were unceremoniously disbanded in Dec. 1944, with no benefits.  Efforts to rectify the injustice finally forced Congress to officially recognize WASPS as members of the military, thirty-three years later, in 1977.  In 1910 they received the Congressional God Medal.

There’s a section titled “When I Die . . .,” about last wishes in my book, Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial.  Elaine Harmon, who died in 2015 at the age of ninety-five, wrote her last wish on WASP stationery and left in a fireproof file box for her family to discover: “I would like to be buried in Arlington Cemetery.” I had the  honor of meeting Elaine Harmon in 2012 at an event, “Honoring Maryland’s ‘Rosies'” sponsored by the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center in Baltimore. As you see in the photographs, she still fit into her WASP uniform.  The woman seated with Harmon is Mary L. Cleave, a former NASA astronaut, who flew on two space missions.  Although some WASPS had been buried in Arlington, a ruling was issued in 2015 that there was no room for any more! It took the activism of Harmon’s family and the support of two female veterans in Congress to get legislation passed, overturning that ruling. President Obama signed the bill in May 2016.

The New York Times’ article quoted a stanza from “Celestial Flight” written by Elizabeth “Kit” MacKethan Magid,  a WASP, in memory of her best friend and classmate Marie Michell Robinson, who died in a crash of a B-25.  They had promised each other that if one of them died the other would visit the grieving mother.  Shortly before she left to attend her friend’s memorial service in Michigan, Magid  was flying and fantasized that her friend was alive.  When she landed she founded a quiet place in the Operations Room and wrote, “Celestial Flight.” Here is the entire poem::  She is not dead – /But only flying higher,/ Higher than she’s flown before/And earthly limitations will hinder her no more./There is no service ceiling,/ Or any fuel range,/And there is no anoxia,/ Or need for engine change./Thank God that now her flight can be/To heights her eyes had scanned,/Where she can race with comets,/And buzz the rainbow’s span./For she is universal/ Like courage, love and hope,/And all free, sweet emotions /Of vast and Godly scope./And understand a pilot’s Fate/ is not the thing she fears,/But rather sadness left behind,/ Your heartbreak and your tears./So all you loved ones, dry your eyes,/Yes, it is wrong that you should grieve,/For she would love your courage more,/And she would want you to believe/She is not dead./You should have known/That she is only flying higher/Higher than she’s ever flown./  Elizabeth Magid died in 2004 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.  In 2005 a group of amateur aviation archeologists located the crash site in the Mojave Desert and discovered items belonging to Marie Michell Robinson, including her WASP lapel insignia.


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Bookstore happiness

img_1441Happiness is unexpectedly discovering a used bookstore while on a research road trip! I’m trying to curb my book-buying appetite (running out of room, plus I have a book to write) but I succumbed to getting, “The Unknown Gertrude Jekyll,” a collection of writings by the great English garden designer. From nature, she once said: one learns the “importance of . . . directness of purpose.”

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Jersey Shore

IMG_1298Although totally prepared to leave, we stayed with our plans to spend the Labor Day weekend at the Jersey Shore. We figured that our 12-year-old granddaughter’s prediction that Hermine wouldn’t come ashore and send us scurrying to safety was as good a forecast as any of the others we were hearing. Turned out, the weather was beautiful and the surf dramatic. IMG_1530The selfie-takers are the granddaughter’s parents: Jon and Kat.

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Irish Women of the South

My long-time, cherished friend, Mollie Hoben, the co-founder of BookWomenCenter for Feminist Reading, Minnesota Women’s Press, organizes and leads  stimulating, life-enhancing book trips,  “Reading on the Road,”  in the U.S. and abroad from Iceland to Oaxaca, Mexico, to Sedona, AZ, and Coastal Maine. http://www.womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=10&SubSectionID=706&ArticleID=3534&TM=72771.3  Recently during a scouting trip to Ireland, Mollie viewed a display in the English Market in Cork featuring key women from the struggle for independence.  “Everywhere around the country,” she wrote in an email to me, “there were lots of public displays about 1916, and of course most (almost all) were about the men of the time.” (2016 is the centennial year of the “Easter Rising, an event that reignited the fight for an independent Ireland.)  Mollie sent me these two photos of the display titled: “women of the south: radicals and revolutionaries.”  The top part of the poster is in GaelIrish womenic, which is translated to read: “This exhibition document the hidden stories of women who played a part in both Cumann Na mBan and the Franchise movement in Munster.Irish Wo of the south We grew up without fully understanding the motivation of these women, or why politics and history downplayed and censored their contributions. This installation documents a portion of these women’s lives.  It hopefully marks the beginning of a public conversation honouring the everyday stories of ‘Women of the South'”.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (ECS) recalled in her autobiography that in 1840 she was in Dublin, Ireland, in the “midst of the excitement” that Parliament would pass the “Repeal of the Union,” severing the relationship between Great Britain and Ireland.  One day she dined with an Irish leader, known as the “Great Liberator,” Daniel O’Connell. “I asked him,” she wrote, “if he hoped to carry that measure. “No,” he said, “but it is always good policy to claim the uttermost and then you will be sure to get something,” advice she would recall throughout her long fight for women’s rights, including woman suffrage.   In 1882 during a visit to England, where her daughter Harriot lived, ECS heard Charles Stewart Parnell, the great Irish advocate for Home Rule, speak in the English Parliament.  In 1890, in a speech to the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, ECS cited Parnell, as a model for keeping an issue alive in a unresponsive governing body.  That same year, she wrote an article defending Parnell who was under attack for an alleged affair. (In 1921 the British Parliament passed an act partitioned Ireland into Northern and Southern Ireland.  In 1948 the last ties were severed between Southern Ireland, now known as Ireland, and Great Britain.  Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom.)

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Women’s Equality Day

imagesAugust 26th!! It’s Women’s Equality Day, established by Congress to celebrate the day in 1920 when the the Nineteenth Amendment was certified, thus officially added to the U.S. Constitution. The long, hard struggle against enormous resistance was over; women had won the right to vote!!  “The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guaranty of your liberty . . . .,” declared Carrie Chapman Catt, a key leader, “PRIZE IT!”  To which I add: “USE IT!”


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Susan B. Anthony

SBAposterCA“Forget conventionalism; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work you best works.” Susan B. Anthony
The “Sixth” on the poster is shortened from Sixteen, the woman’s suffrage amendment that would eventually get passed and ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Seventy-six year old SBA was in CA, lecturing during the 1896 campaign for a referendum on woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution. It was defeated. CA women won the right to vote in 1911.

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