Claudette Colvin

Today–March 3rd–in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year-old African American girl, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person (nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing). Kicked by a police officer and forcibly removed, she was handcuffed, arrested for violating the city segregation laws, and locked in an adult jail cell.  Supporters put up bail and paid the fine.
Why did she do it?  In school, she later explained, she had learned about her rights under the U.S. Constitution and about historic women: “I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other–saying ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat.”

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Women’s History Month

PC Writing Women ShirtHappy National Women’s History Month!! Over thirty-five years ago, five friends in Santa Rosa, California, noticed that something was very wrong.  They realized that few women were featured in schoolbooks.  In fact, no more than 3% of the content was devoted to women! So, the friends—Molly Murphy MacGregor, Paula Hammett, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, and Bette Morgan—decided to do something about it.
Selecting the week of March 8th to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th, an already established worldwide event, the friends organized a week-long Women’s History event celebrating  historic women’s contributions to every aspect of American life.
The week-long events were so successful that Molly Murphy MacGregor proposed the idea at a Women’s History Institute, chaired by the eminent historian Gerda Lerner, at Sarah Lawrence College in 1979.  Inspired by Molly’s presentation, the group passed a resolution to create a National Women’s History Week, an idea that President Jimmy Carter made official in 1980.
In 1987, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned the United States Congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month. Today National Women’s History Month is widely celebrated across America in offices, museums, libraries, and schools. The President of the United States issues a special proclamation. Happy Celebrating!!

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Eugenie Clark

Eugenie Clark–another amazing adventurous, groundbreaking woman: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/us/eugenie-clark-scholar-of-the-life-aquatic-dies-at-92.html?hpw&rref=obituaries&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

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Happy Birthday

Today is our first 4-birthday day! Twin grandchildren Quinn and Balan were born a year ago on 2/24/14, the same birthday of our twin sons, their father David and uncle Stephen! Amazing coincidence!  Happy Birthday to the four of you!!!!

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Valentine Day

Another “Mother of . . .”: This vintage Valentine, a long-ago gift from a friend/antique dealer, hangs in an ornate frame on the wall in my office. Little did I know at the time I received it that Valentine Day has a “Mother”–Esther Howland, who in the mid-1800s started a business with an all-female assembly line to produce Valentine cards, from simple ones for five cents to elegant creations with layers, lift-up flaps, accordion springs, die-cuts, etc. for up to fifty dollars. Known as the “Mother of the American Valentine,” she ran her very successful business for many years. The message on my card is “In Fondest Remembrance.”
Photo: Another "Mother of . . .":  This vintage Valentine, a long-ago gift from a friend/antique dealer, hangs in an ornate frame on the wall in my office.  Little did I know at the time I received it that Valentine Day has a "Mother"--Esther Howland, who in the mid-1800s started a business with an all-female assembly line to produce Valentine cards, from simple ones for five cents to elegant creations with layers, lift-up flaps, accordion springs, die-cuts, etc. for up to fifty dollars. Known as the "Mother of the American Valentine," she ran her very successful business for many years.  The message on my card is "In Fondest Remembrance."
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Barbara Jordan

Several years ago, I was walking down a hall in the convention center in San Antonio, Texas, and discovered a row of bronze statues, including this one of Barbara Jordan, a Barbara Jordan statuebrilliant lawyer who racked up a series of firsts as a female African American politician. She achieved national prominence as the first African American to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic national convention, and for her role as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings.  On a previously trip to Texas, I had visited her grave in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin (the first African American woman to be buried there): A bas relief of her is on the marker under the word “Patriot.”  At the base is a marble slab with the words; “Eloquent Champion of Ethics and Justice We the People Salute You.” Barbara Jordan full grave mediumBarbara Jordan medium

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Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth girl full sizeOnce upon a time, in New York, not far from where I live in New Jersey, a baby girl known as Isabella Baumfree was born into slavery to a Dutch-speaking master.  She was auctioned off at the age of nine with a herd of sheep for $100 to a cruel English-speaking master who beat her for not understanding his instructions, leaving life-long scars on her body. Twice more she was sold.  Then in 1826, when her master refused to honor his promise to free her a year before all adult slaves were to be freed in New York, she escaped with her baby daughter Sophie.  Discovering  that her five-year-old son Peter had been illegally sold to an out-of-state slave owner, she filed a lawsuit and won.  About that time, she had a conversion experience and took the name, she said, God  gave her–Sojourner Truth.  In 1843, at the age of 43, she set out to witness against slavery and for women’s rights.  A towering, majestic, fearless presence,  Sojourner Truth was a passionate advocate for freedom and equality.  I’ve visit a number of landmarks honoring Sojourner Truth.  Most recently this extraordinary memorial to her in Esopus, New York, a hamlet in the town of Port Ewen, NY, the area just west of the Hudson River, where she spent almost thirty years as a slave.  The bronze statue, by Trina Green, represents her as a girl.  There are welts on her hands and back representing the beatings she endured. The jar represent the work she did for one of her masters, who owned a tavern, of carrying heavy jars of molasses and liquor long distances.  The following images are: historical marker at Sojourner Truth Memorial “Sojourner Truth Daughter of Esopus”:  Home of Martinus Schryver, a tavern owner who bought Isabella in 1808; Van Wagnen House, where Isabella sought refuge when she escaped with her infant daughter Sophie in 1826; Photograph and advertisement for Sojourner Truth, who sold her photograph and her Narrative to support her travels under the slogan “I sell the Shadow to Support the Substance; 1808 Inventory of the Estate of Charles Hardenburgh, who had inherited Isabella from his father, her original owner. This is the first official record of Isabella, whose value is listed at $100. Her mother, Bett, and brother Peet, are also listed. photo 7Van WagnenSojourner lecture1808 inventory

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Happy Birthday

ZoraNealeHurstonGraveCroppedHere’s a link to the National Women’s History Project’s list of January birthdays and events. In scanning it, I noted that I’ve photographed landmarks for five of the women–Lucretia Mott, Zora Neale Hurston, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, Julia Morgan. I have an autographed photo of Dolly Parton (how I got it is a story for another day), and for years I’ve had this quote by Barbara Tuchman posted above my computer: “Whether biography or a straight history, the writer’s object is–or should be–to hold the reader’s attention . . .want the reader to turn the page and to keep on turning to the end.” The photo is of Zora Neale Hurston’s grave in the Garden of the Heavenly Rest, Fort Pierce, Florida. http://www.nwhp.org/events/january/

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Glaciers and Louise Boyd

IMG_0974Writing about  Louise Boyd, the Arctic Explorer who was passionate about ice, in my book Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories About Women Who Made a Difference, whet my appetite for experiencing a glacier.  A helicopter with me aboard landed on West Fork Glacier in Alaska. Thrilling!!!!!

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A Parable

photo 8Boston, MA:  Friday night, I unexpectedly got to see the marvelous exhibition “Fiber Sculpture 1960-Present” at The Institute of Contemporary Art. The photo is of “Sistah Paradise’s Great Wall of Fire Revival Tent,” 1993-2009, acrylic and cotton yarn, by Xenobia Bailey. The story is a parable about Sistah Paradise, a fictional African medicine woman, or “Obeah.”  A slave on a cotton plantation, she uses the cotton to crochet a magic tent, in which, after entering and drinking tea, slaves will be transported back to Africa. The exhibition notes explain that “Sistah Paradise remains behind to help future generations rediscover their origins and establish a sense of collective identity.”  Straining to read text that I noticed on the lower back of the tent, I was rescued by the guide, Love Aridou, who had a written copy and read to me:  “She clearest my path, and prepares a blissful sanctuary in the presence of my enemies. She protects me with her gaze streaming from a treasure house of abundant grace.”

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