Tomorrow–Nov. 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, designated by the United Nations in 1999 in commemoration of the Mirabal sisters: Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa who were murdered on Nov. 25, 1960 because of their bold and fearless opposition to Rafael Trujillo, brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic (1930-1961). Just a few days ago, Linda and I visited friends in the Dominican Republic, who arranged a 10-hour road trip for us to visit the Casa Museo Hermanas Mirabal, a profound experience. The museum, in what was the sisters’ home at the time of their murder, was created by their surviving sister, Dede, to honor her sisters, who were known as las Mariposas, “the butterflies,” in the resistance movement. We viewed personal items, including a wedding dress, embroidery, teacup collection, and artifacts of their murder such as shoes, handbags, and the heartbreaking display–the long braid of hair that Dede cut from Maria Teresa’s head in the morgue. The sisters were survived by their husbands, (one of whom was later killed for his political activism), six young children (Minerva’s daughter is currently a congresswoman), and their mother. Linda took this picture of me looking at busts of Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa.
“Don’t be a grouch and waste life; don’t be disgruntled; don’t be a growler; don’t be a crank.” Wise words from Nellie Bly (born Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman), investigative journalist and around-the-world-record-setting traveler. I won’t set any records but I will be away for a week in a country that has 3 extraordinary sisters and a mother & son on its currency, more about that when I return.
I had a stimulating time yesterday with the engaged & engaging readers in the SESCIL Book Group who had read my book, “Thanksgiving: The True Story.” Here is what Thanksgiving meant to Sarah Josepha Hale, the 19th century godmother of the holiday that we celebrate today: “It is a holiday especially worth of our people. All its associations and all its influences are of the best kind. It reunites families and friends. It awakens kindly and generous sentiments. It promotes peace and good-will among our mixed population.” What does it mean to you?
Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born today–Nov. 12–in 1815 in Johnstown, NY!!! On the day of her birthday in 1880, she began keeping a diary: “My philosophy,” she noted, “is to live one day at a time, neither to waste my force in apprehension of evils to come, nor regrets for the blunders of the past.” The image, which I included in my book, is ECS with her daughter Margaret and son Robert at the gala celebration for her 80th birthday.
Abigail Adams was born on this day–Nov. 11–in 1774 in Weymouth, MA. It was a bitterly cold day when I visited the Abigail Adams Park in Weymouth, a marvelous place with her words on plaques mounted on boulders that are scattered throughout the park. I slipped and slid along the ice-covered path to find the plaque with her famous warning to her husband, who, we all know, paid her no mind: “In the new Code of Laws, which I suppose, it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands.”
Abigail Adams to John Adams, March-April 1776
Tomorrow–Nov. 11th is Veterans Day and the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Women veterans came from all over, including Australia. Cheering people lined the parade route. It was too crowded for me to get a clear photograph of the memorial, so I returned the next morning and photographed this solemn scene of veterans reverently remembering and honoring the service of over 265,000 women, all volunteers. I was profoundly moved that day, and still am.
“I always thought that if I could make anyone who had not seen such suffering begin to imagine the suffering, they would insist on a world which refused to allow such suffering.” Powerful words by legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn who was born today–November 8, in 1908. When she died in 1998, she was heralded as “one of the great war correspondents of the century–brave, fierce and wholly committed to the truth of the situation.” I wrote about Gellhorn in “Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II,” and highlighted her in a documentary based on that book.
Susan B. Anthony voted in Rochester, NY, on this day, Nov. 5th, in 1872. “Well,” she wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “I have been & gone & done it!! Positively voted.” During a visit to Rochester, I photographed this marker that reads:
Susan B. Anthony Voted Here
At a shop on this site, on November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 14 women from this neighbor voted in the presidential election. Two week later, Miss Anthony was arrested in her home on Madison Street for this illegal action. Women struggled for 48 more years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, making it legal for women to vote. That amendment is known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
Recently I spend an afternoon with a marvelous group of daughter and their mothers talking about my book Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories About Women Who Made a Difference! Interesting & provocative questions, including: How did you select the women? How come we’ve never heard about any of these women? We also talked about the definition of “adventurous” . . . favorite woman . . . solving writing problems . . .Very cool event organized and hosted by my daughter-in-law!
“Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out. You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything.” Annie Sullivan, teacher and companion for Helen Keller I visited this memorial, “Water” by Mico Kaufman in Feeding Hills, MA, Annie Sullivan’s hometown. It captures the moment Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, made the connection between the object she was feeling–water–and the letters Annie Sullivan was spelling in her hand, thus learning her first word. The statue is also in Tewksbury, MA.