Saturday, March 31, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Zabel Yesayan

In 1915, the Ottoman Young Turk government rounded up Armenian intellectuals. Some were deported, some escaped, some were relocated, some were killed, some were sent to detention centers. The list of people rounded up included leaders, scholars, journalists, physicians, clergy and teachers. Only one woman was named among them: Zabel Yesayan.

Zabel was born in Constantinople in 1878. In 1895*, she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. While there, she made two major life decisions: to be a writer and to marry Dickran Yesayan. During her time in Paris, she also wrote her first novel, The Waiting Room.

In 1902*, Zabel returned to Turkey. She balked at the only acceptable role for literary women, teaching, and chose instead to work as a writer. This was not considered an acceptable role for women at this time, but she did it anyway. She wrote for women's publications and continued to pen essays and novels. She also caused quite a stir by publishing Phoney Geniuses, which took a satirical look at the Armenian writing community.

Zabel achieved prominence in the Armenian community in Turkey. She fought for women's education and rights. Many Armenian leaders found her too forward-thinking and disagreed with her radical ideas. It's unclear if the Turkish government read Zabel's work or just know of her influence in the community, but she was one of the intellectuals targeted in that first raid on April 24, 1915. She escaped capture by going into hiding in the city before sneaking out of the country under a false name. After escaping, she traveled throughout that region documenting the events of the Armenian Genocide and taking testimonies from survivors. She served as a spokesperson for the plight of her people and wrote about it extensively.

After her husband died in 1922, Zabel settled with her daughters in Paris and continued to write. By 1933, she had decided to relocate to Soviet Armenia, which was the newly formed state for the Armenian people. She continued to write and became a lecturer at the Yerevan State University. Her outspoken nature, once again, landed Zabel at odds with the men in charge. Stalin's officers hounded her for her radical opinions and political views. In the late 1930s, she was arrested as a public enemy. Her official death records state she died in 1937, but her daughter has uncovered evidence that she lived much longer than that in various prisons. According to secondhand reports, it's possible that Zabel drowned in 1943 in Siberia.

Though Zabel's life was marked by tragedy and difficulty, she continued her life's work of writing. She wrote both nonficion and fiction, not hesitating to tell fictional stories packed with just as much truth as her journalist reports of what was going on in her world. She advocated for women's rights and Armenian rights to such an extent she found herself challenging Armenian leadership, Turkish leadership and Soviet leadership. She lived boldly, and never let threat of arrest or harm stop her from writing the truth.

Recently, Zabel has seen a revival. Several organizations have sought to translate and republish her work. A documentary was even made about her a few years ago. A new generation will have the work of Zabel Yesayen to learn about the Genocide, the writing and art of Amernians and the perseverance of an amazing woman.

Learn more:

*Dates differ across sources

Friday, March 30, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Louise Chéruit

Louise and her daughter, 1907
Before Coco Chanel or Elsa Schiaparelli, there was Louise Chéruit, often incorrectly referred to as Madeleine Chéruit. Louise was the first women to control a major French fashion house in the early 20th century.

Little is know of Louise's early life. She was born in 1866 and was the daughter of a seamstress. In the 1880s she studied dressmaking at Raudnitz & Cie in Paris. In 1895, Lousie married Prosper Chéruit who supported her endeavors in fashion. By 1900 the labels in Raudnitz's clothing read "Raudnitz & Cie, Huet & Chéruit Srs., 21, Place Vendôme, Paris." By 1905, they read "Huet & Chéruit, Mon. Raudnitz & Cie ('Huet and Chéruit, formerly Mr. Raudnitz and Co.')" By 1906, Louise was fully in charge of the fashion house of over 100 employees.

By 1910, the House of Chéruit became one of the most celebrated brands in Paris. All of Louise's collections were closely followed by the press. Louise created wearable yet beautifully ornamented clothing that helped transition fashion from the world of couture to the forthcoming world of ready-to-wear.

Louise's talent wasn't limited to fashion alone. She launched the careers of many other artists including designers, illustrators and photographers. She also produced a high-end fashion magazine made with beautiful illustrations and fancy papers.

When World War I hit, most fashion houses closed. Louise's, however, remained open. She continued to serve her clientele until she retired in 1923. Her brand continued until 1935. Elsa Schiaparelli took up residence in at the same address and remains there today.

While Lousie isn't one of the biggest names remembered by fashion, she opened the doors for the likes of Coco Chanel. She also helped transition fashion through an age of great change, especially in women's lives and attire.

Learn more:

  • Read about one of Louise's garments that has fallen into disrepair and is currently owned by the Museum of London. 
  • See these pictures and illustrations of her studio and designs. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin was the first American congresswoman. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916, four years before women were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment.

Jeannette was born near Missoula, Montana in 1880. She was the oldest of six children and spent much of her young life helping to care for her siblings. She graduated high school in 1898 and went on to earn a bachelor of science from the University of Montana in 1902. She took a job working as a social worker in San Francisco then traveled to New York to attend the New York School of Philanthropy. After this, she attended the University of Washington where she became involved in the women's suffrage movement.

In 1911, Jeannette became the first one to speak before the Montana legistlature. She championed women's suffrage and called for a change. By 1914, Montana had granted women the right to vote. In 1916 she ran for one of Montana's two open seats in the House of Representatives. She rallied support across the state and won the seat making her the first woman in Congress.

During her first term in Congress, Jeannette had the privilege to vote for the women's suffrage amendment. Because of changes in districts, Jeannette's second term in Congress wouldn't come until 1940. Jeannette was a pacifist and maintained this belief when she voted against a declaration of war on Japan. She said, "As a woman, I can't go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else." She abstained from similar votes for declarations of war that came after this. Her pacifist attitudes during World War II were hugely unpopular and effectively ended her political career. She said she did not regret her choices and maintained that war was not the solution to the world's problems.

Jeannette never married or had children. When she died in 1973, she left her entire estate for the aid of "mature, unemployed women workers." Today, the Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund provides educational scholarships to low-income women 35 and older. To date, the fund has awarded more than $1.8 million in scholarships to over 700 women.

She is remembered best for her pacifism, but said, "If I am remembered for no other act, I want to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give women the right to vote."

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca, a Northern Paiute author, activist and interpreter, was born in around 1844 in Nevada. She was the daughter of Cheif Winnemucca. Her family was influential in trying to create peaceful relationships with the Anglo-American settlers. 

Sarah attended a Catholic school in California where she learned to speak both Enligh and Spanish. Sarah also became fluent in many Native American languages. These skills would allow her to bridge the gap between the Native groups and the settlers.

Sarah returned to Nevada when white families grew uncomfortable with her presence in the school. Initially, her family had good standing with the settlers and was called on to perform and tour the area billed as the "Paiute Royal Family." However, worsening racial tensions led to violence that killed many members of Sarah's family.

In 1869, she began working as an interpreter for the U.S. Army at Camp McDermit. She carried on her families goals of peacemaking. Despite Sarah's hard work, her people were relocated to a reservation in Oregon in 1872. Sarah and her remaining family moved to the reservation in 1875

By 1876, a new "Indian Agent" was put in charge of the reservation, causing distress among the people there. The Bonnock war broke out when conditions on the reservation became unbearable. During the war, Sarah served as interpreter, scout and messenger. Thankfully, the war had few casualties because the two armies got along well and rarely attacked each other.

When Sarah's people were relocated again, she followed. She held an official job as a translator and was not required to reside on the reservation. When she saw the poor conditions her people lived in, she became to tour the country speaking about the plight of the Native Americans. In 1883, she published the first book written by a Native American woman, Life Among the Piutes, which detailed the struggle she and her people faced. Her speaking and writing earned enough attention and petition signatures to convince Congress to pass a bill granting many of their requests. Sadly, nothing ever came of this bill.

The end of Sarah's life was plagued with illness and financial trouble. Her husband died of tuberculosis in 1887. She passed away of the same illness in 1891. Her advocacy didn't get her people all of their demands during her life, but she set in motion many things to help better the lives of Native Americans. In 1993, she was inducted into the Nevada Writer's Hall of Fame and in 2005, Nevada placed a statue of Winnemucca in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.

Learn more:

  • Watch this video about the making of the statue honoring Sarah
  • Read Sarah's book, which is still in print. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker went from being an orphan at the age of seven to being the first self-made female millionaire. She was one of the wealthiest African American women of her time and used her wealth and power to make change for women and the black community.

She was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867. She was the first child in her family born into freedom. Her parents and older siblings had been plantation slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation. After losing both of her parents by the age of seven, Sarah moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi. By age ten she began working as a domestic. During this time she lived with her older sister and her sister's husband.

In 1882, when she was only 14-year-old, Sarah married Moses McWilliams. It is suspected that Sarah did this to escape an abusive situation living with her brother-in-law. Their daughter was born in 1885. Moses died in 1887, and Sarah moved her and her daughter to Saint Louis. There she found work doing laundry to support herself and her daughter. She married again, but left her husband in 1903 and moved to Denver.

Due to poor working and living conditions, Sarah developed a scalp condition and began to lose her hair. She learned about hair care and started working as a salesperson for a company that would soon become her rival. During this time, she started to experiment with the cleaning products she used for laundry work to see if she could create some sort of tonic for her hair loss. Ultimately, she made something that worked beautifully. She marketed it as a hair regrowth tonic, but it really worked to heal her damaged scalp so her hair could grow healthily once again.

In 1906, she married Charles Joseph Walker and became known as Madam C.J. Walker. She became an independent hair care professional and started going door to door to give women hair treatments and teach them about proper hair care. She started bottling and selling her product, and it took off. Soon, Sarah put her daughter in charge of the mail order business and set up a new headquarters in Indianapolis. To expand even further, Sarah trained a team of saleswomen to sell her hair treatments door to door the same way she had at the beginning.

Not only did Sarah create a great business model, she understood the need for targeted advertising and found ways to reach new customers with newspaper and magazine ads. She also cultivated a strong brand awareness with branded packaging and well-trained saleswomen. By 1920, Sarah's products were sold outside of the United States in places like Cuba and Jamaica.

Sarah also knew how to manage her money, and passed that along to her employees and independent representatives. She provided training about personal grooming, budgeting and becoming financially independent. This lead to the creation of the National Beauty Culturists and Benevolent Association of Madam C. J. Walker Agents, which had annual conventions to train and inspire the women selling her products. The first conference, held in 1917, hosted 200 attendees and is thought to be the first national meeting of female entrepreneurs.

As Sarah's wealth grew, so did her desire to give back. She became involved in the NAACP, gave to scholarship funds for African American students, funded community services in black communities and toured regularly speaking about her success and speaking out against racism.

Sarah passed away in 1919 but left behind a legacy of empowerment and change. She started from nothing and became one of the wealthiest women of her era. She shared her wealth and created change by giving women and African Americans better opportunities and resources. Her legacy and brand continue today.

Learn more:
  • Check out the current products being sold under the Madam C.J. Walker brand
  • Watch this video of Sarah's granddaughter telling her story
  • Read this book written by Sarah's granddaughter 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Artemisia Gentileschi

Possible self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi became the first woman ever admitted into the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence. She is now recognized as one of the most accomplished painters of her generation, but her work as an artist has long been overshadowed by the high profile rape case that mostly defined her life for centuries.

Artemisia, born in 1593, was the eldest daughter of Orazio Gentileschi. He encouraged his daughter to learn to paint at a young age. She showed great promise so her father hired Agostino Tassi to tutor his daughter. Agostino raped Artemisia when she was 19.

Her father did not let the matter go, and brought Agostino up on charges. The court case was brutal and lasted seven months. Artemisia faced in-court medical examinations to confirm her story. When she testified against her attacker, she was tortured to make sure she was telling the truth. Agostino was convicted but never served his sentence. Orazio married his daughter to one of his debtors after the trial, and they moved to Florence.

Artemisia's work is known for its accurate depiction of the nude female form. Male painters of this era were prohibited from using fully nude female models, but Artemisia did not face this restriction. She also broke barriers in her time by painting narrative scenes. Most female painters only did portrait and still life work. Artemisia's oldest surviving painting, Susanna and the Elders, was completed when she was only 17. It featured the contorted nude body of Susanna and proved Artemisia would be a powerful force in the art world.

For many years, Artemisia's works were either overlooked or attributed to her father. However, interest in her work and rediscovery of some of her paintings and techniques has corrected these mistakes over the past century. Initially, her work was mostly viewed through the lens of her rape. Much of what she did was seen as a commentary on the rape, and she was perceived primarily as a victim.

However, as her work continues to gain prominence, critics have come to see more beyond that single story. What was often seen as women carrying out revenge on men in Artemisia's work, is not viewed by some as Artemisia's way of glorifying story female figures. This female artist, while still very young, broke barriers for women painters, pursued prosecution of her rapist, sought out powerful women as the centerpieces for her paintings and didn't let any of the sexism or sexual assault stop her from creating a vast body of work up until her death sometime in the 1650s.

Learn more:

  • See a list of Artemisia's works on Wikipedia
  • Listen to NPR's coverage of a 2017 showcase of Artemisia's work
  • Read Susan Vreeland's novel, The Passion of Artemisia, based on Artemisia's life and work.
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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Sue Sarafian Jehl

Sue Sarafian Jehl served in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), which would become the Women's Army Corps (WAC), as one of it's most prominent members during World War II. 

Born in Armenian immigrants in 1917 in Massachusetts, Sue was the oldest of five daughters. The family relocated to the Detroit era, where Sue attended school and graduated from Highland Park Highschool in 1934. She was also a charter member of the Armenian Youth Federation's Detroit chapter. 

In 1942, Sue became one of the first women from Detroit to enlist in the WAAC, which at the time provided secretarial, switchboard and culinary services to the military. Sue felt it her duty to join the war effort as the oldest of five daughters in a family with no sons. 

While serving in North Africa during the war, Sue became General Dwight D. Eisenhower's secretary. Women's roles were limited at first, but Sue knew that her roles was only the beginning for women in the military. In the book, Triumph and Glory: Armenian World War II Heros, Sue said:
"[WAC] paved the way for women in the military. We were the first. Today they have army officers, marines, even fighter pilots. A lot of people doubted that women could do the job, but [General Eisenhower] was confident. He pushed for it. He said in his book that after we were proven, many of those who doubted us were calling WACs to work with." 
Sue became a prominent member of General Eisenhower's core team. In fact, the Orlando Sentinal reported, “Few people in the American military had as much insight into Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s thoughts and moods during World War II as Sue Sarafian Jehl.” In addition to Sue's many U.S. Military decorations, the Government of Brazil awarded her the Brazilian Medal of War (Medalha de Guerra) in 1946. 

In 1947, Sue married Roland Roy Jehl, a military pilot. This marked the end of her military career. The couple had three children. In 1994, Sue appeared on Good Morning America to share her experience with General Eisenhower and his statue of mind leading up to and during the Normandy invasion. She passed away in 1997 at the age of 80. 

Sue's career in the military opened doors for women, and her dedication and competence helped prove that women were valuable to war efforts. 

Learn more: 
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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown
Not a lot is recorded about the personal life of Marie Van Brittan Brown, but her inventiveness changed the future of both home and commercial security.

In 1922, Marie was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York where she lived her life. She worked as a nurse, which meant she often kept unconventional hours and found herself home alone. Crime rates in her neighborhood worried Marie and made her wish for a way to stay safer and more secure in her home.

Marie came up with an idea for a surveillance system. Her idea involved creating a closed-circuit television system and a motorized camera that looked through a set of peepholes. Her husband, Albert Brown, was an electronic technician. With his help, Marie was able to bring her idea to life. In 1966, the pair applied for a patent on their home security system, which was granted them in 1969.

The system Marie came up with still sounds modern. Not only did it have a closed circuit camera system, but it also featured a microphone so she could talk to anyone on the other side of the camera. It even featured a remote control lock so she could lock and unlock the door from the comfort and safety of another room.

The timing was perfect. No one else was creating this kind of security system in or before the 1960s outside of military applications, which gave Marie's idea an edge. There's no evidence that Marie and her husband tried to market their idea to others after receiving the patent, but their patent was cited by most other security system inventors that came after them. It is unclear when, but Marie did receive a National Scientists Committee award for her invention.

Marie and her husband created a system that became the basis for most modern security systems. It continues to influence security today. The most recent patent that cites Marie's was filed in 2013.

Learn more:

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Beatrice Hicks

Beatrice Hicks was born in 1919, a time when young women were expected to follow in their mother's footsteps, not their fathers. Nonetheless, young Beatrice decided she would take after her engineer father when she was 13.

While her parents seemed to have little opinion about their daughter's ambition, Beatrice's teachers often tried to discourage her from pursuing work in a field most unconsidered so unsuited to women. Beatrice ignored this and went on to earn degrees in chemical and electrical engineering as well as physics. In 1942, she became the first female engineer to work for the Western Electric Company.

When Beatrice's father passed away, she joined the Newark Controls Company, a company he had founded. She worked as the chief engineer there until she purchased a controlling share of the company in 1955 and became president.

Some of her most notable work as an engineer was designing and patenting a gas density switch that would go on to be used by the U.S. space program. Her switch was part of the Apollo moon landing.

Beatrice ran a company, worked as an engineer at that company, continued her education and maintained a marriage all while operating in a world and a field that was not welcoming of women with that much education and power. Beatrice saw the lack of women in what we now call S.T.E.M. careers as a problem, not only for women but also for the fields that lacked their input.

In 1950, Beatrice and other women in her field began meeting together to help advance women in engineering and increase interest for women to enter the field. This group became Society of Women Engineers, and Beatrice was elected as its first president. She toured the country speaking to women and encouraging companies to hire female engineers. Her activism for women in engineering didn't stop there. She served on the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in Services from 1960 and 1963. She was also the director of the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists.

In 1948, Beatrice married fellow engineer, Rodney Duane Chipp. He went on to own a consulting firm. When her husband passed away, Beatrice sold her shares in the Newark Controls Company and took over her husband's firm. She passed away in 1979 at the age of 60.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Henrietta Smith Bowers Duterte

Henrietta Smith Bowers Duterte was a noted philathropist and the first woman and first black woman to own a funeral home in America.

Henrietta was born in 1817 to an affluent free black family in Philadelphia. Known in the community for her fashion sense, Henrietta became a tailor, a successful one. She made cloaks, capes and coats for the middle and upper classes.

In 1852, at the age of 35, Henrietta married Francis A. Duterte who owned a funeral parlor. The couple had several children, but none of them live past infancy. Henrietta's family life was not to be a happy one. After only six years of marriage, her husband passed away in 1858.

Despite her personal tragedy, Henrietta carried on. She took over her husband's funeral parlor and put her name on it. She became the first woman and first black woman to own an operate a funeral parlor. She quickly made a name for herself as a compassionate and swift undertaker who served both the black and white communities. Her business as a funeral director was profitable just as her tailoring business had been.

In addition to offering dignity in death to everyone in her community, Henrietta fought to give dignity in life as well. She was an abolitionist and part of the underground railroad. She smuggled slaves to safety by hiding them in coffins and disguising them as members of funeral processions.

Henrietta's philanthropy reached even further. She supported several charities in her community. She gave money to her local church. She supported the Philadelphia Home for Aged and Infirmed Colored Persons. She also helped support and start the 1866 Freedman’s Aid Society Fair, which offered aid to former slaves in Tennessee.

Though she eventually gave her business to her nephew, some accounts say she worked there until two days prior to her death in 1903 at the age of 86. She served her community until the very end as well. She never ceased her philanthropy or support for causes she cared about. She also opened many doors for women both black and white to operate their own businesses.

Henrietta never took a conventional route. She married late after running her own business and when her husband passed, she not only took over his business but switched it to her name. She grew that business and used that prosperity to help others. 

Learn more:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe in 1909
Julia Ward Howe was a poet, songwriter, abolitionist, suffragette and activist who advocated for causes such as prison reform and international peace.

Born Julia Warn in 1819, she was the fourth of seven children. Her father was a stockbroker and her mother was poet, Julia Rush Cutler.  In 1843, Julia married Samuel Gridley Howe who was 18 years her senior. Julia and her husband were both activists and together edited the abolitionist newspaper Commonwealth.

Despite their shared passion to end slavery, Julia and Samuel did not have a happy marriage. In Elaine Showalter's biography of Julia titled The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe, she paints a distressing picture of the marriage. The biography suggests that Samuel was in love with his male best friend Charles Sumner, and wanted Julia to act not as a partner but as an adoring devotee. Samuel wrote of wanting to keep Julia as a "prisoner [his] arms." Julia would be no one's prisoner even if she did remain in her unhappy marriage.

In 1862, Julia penned for The Atlantic the piece that would make her famous. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" appeared first as a poem and was later set to music. It would become a rallying cry for Union soldiers during the Civil War, but its inspirational powers wouldn't stop there. The women's suffrage movement and black civil rights workers would adopt the hymn later on.

That one poem may have brought Julia fame, but her literary work extends well beyond that. She wrote several collections of poetry, several travel books and a play. Her works have not been as well remembered as her "Battle Hymn" but they were ranked among the best work of her time. George S. Hellman said Julia was "the most notable woman of letters born and bred in the metropolis of America."

Julia's legacy doesn't stop at written works. In addition to advocating for the abolition of slavery, Julia fought for women's rights. She served as one of the founders of the women's suffrage moment working alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Julia had a more conservative approach to women's rights than her well-known contemporaries, but ultimately they joined Julia, who was seeing success with her methods. Even though Julia died because women earned the right to vote, she was a major player in founding and maintaining the movement.

She also started a weekly magazine, the Women's Journal, in 1870, which not only discussed various women's issues, but called for women all over the world to join together to create international peace. In 1871, Julia became the first president of the American chapter of Women’s International Peace Association.

Samuel did not support Julia's writing or her activism for women's rights. While he didn't mind working with her on the abolitionist paper, he didn't like that she wrote about their marriage and women's roles in society.  Samuel tried many tactics to keep her from disobeying him. Julia made concessions to keep her family intact for her children, but that didn't stop her from becoming one of the most prominent and influential women of her era who would make massive strides forward for feminism, civil rights and world peace.

Julia died in 1910 at the age of 91. A choir of 4,000 sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at her funeral. It's difficult to capture all of Julia's accomplishments in one post or even one book. She may not have lived a happy life in her marriage, but she lived a life of great passion and purpose. Her achievements echo on into the future just like her famous "Battle Hymn."

Learn more:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Donaldina Cameron

Portrait of Donaldina Cameron
Yesterday, I wrote about Tye Leung Schulze, and I mentioned Donaldina Cameron, who ran the safe house to which Tye escaped when she ran away from a forced, child marriage. Donaldina dedicated her life to rescuing Chinese girls from slavery and earned the moniker "Angry Angel of Chinatown."

Donaldina came to San Francisco as a young girl. When she was young, she had little contact with the struggles of the nearby Chinese immigrant population. A family friend brought the then 23-year-old Donaldina to the Occidental Mission Home for Girls where she became a sewing teacher. Only two years later, Donaldina became the superintendent of the home.

A lack of prior experience didn't seem to matter to Donaldina or her charges. She ran the home with gusto and made daring attempts to rescue as many girls as possible from various forms of slavery, forced marriage and human trafficking. She often darted through dark alleys and climbed across rooftops to rescue girls. Her life was constantly threatened by those who profited from the girls she saved, but that didn't stop her. Donaldina was guided by her mission to save these girls as well as by a strong faith in God. She continued on with her work regardless of threat, risk or difficulty.

Because child welfare laws did not exist at the time, Donaldina often had to break the law to rescue the girls, but she preferred this tactic because it meant the girls were at least safe while she worked out the legal issues. In 1904, Donaldina and her lawyers were able to challenge the courts to provide some protection for these children. This not only aided Donaldina's work, but it also set a foundation for future child welfare laws.

Donaldina didn't stop at rescues. The Occidental Mission Home for Girls was truly a home where she mentored and taught the girls. They learned skills like sewing and cooking. Donaldina helped them on their paths as the home whether for marriage or an education. One of Donaldina's charges became the first Chinese-American women to graduate from college. Just as Tye, mentioned above, became the first Chinese-American woman to vote.

In 1934, Donaldina retired from the home. In 1942, it was renamed Cameron House, which it had been called by many for decades. Donaldina passed away in 1968. She's credited with saving over 3,000 girls, but her legacy doesn't stop there. Cameron House continues to operate and serve the Chinese women and immigrants in the San Francisco area. What began for Donaldina as a position teaching sewing became a lifelong mission to rescue girls, halt human trafficking and aid the immigrant community. This mission has had an impact that extends well beyond Donaldina's lifespan.

Learn more:

Monday, March 19, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Tye Leung Schulze

Tye Leung Schulze
Tye Leung Schulze ran away from home at the age of 12, narrowly escaped a life of slavery, fought human trafficking, voted, married illegally and worked as an interpreter for countless immigrants. She did all of this despite being was born a female and a minority in 1887.

Tye did not face an easy life. She was the youngest of eight children born to Chinese immigrants. Her parents struggled. She attended a mission school as a very young child, but when she was nine, she was sold to another family to work for them. Her uncle, with the help of the teachers at her mission school, brought her back home. However, three years later, Tye was forced to run away. Her sister has been promised to marry a man in an arranged marriage, but ran off with another man before the wedding. Their parents wanted Tye, who was 12 at the time, to take her sister's place.

Tye ran and found refuge at the Presbyterian Mission Home, known mostly as Cameron House after the woman who ran it, Donaldina Cameron. Tye grew up at Cameron House and stayed there to help Donaldina in rescuing other Chinese girls trapped in slavery, indentured servitude and forced marriages. Tye also helped many of these girls by serving as an interpreter for them.

In 1911, Tye became the first Chinese-American woman to pass the civil servant exams and take a civil service position. She was hired to work as an assistant at the Angel Island Immigration Station. She interpreted and worked with immigrants who had been detained for various reasons upon their arrival.

In 1912, Tye made headlines for becoming the first Chinese-American woman to vote. Voting was not a right universally available to women in the United States yet, but California passed a law giving women the vote. Tye was eager to participate. Of voting, she said, "I studied; I read about all your men who wished to be president. I learned about the new laws. I wanted to know what was right, and not to act blindly... I think it right we should all try to learn, not vote blindly, since we have been given this right..."

Tye would go on to make headlines again a year later when she married Charles Schulze, a white man. The pair met at Angel Island and quickly fell in love. Interracial marriage was illegal in California at the time so, they traveled to Washington state to get married. They had to quit their jobs at Angel Island because of their marriage, and they struggled to find work after this. Tye eventually went back to school to become a bookkeeper. The pair had four children, two daughters and two sons. Charles passed away in 1935, and Tye worked two jobs to support her family. She worked as a bookkeeper at a hospital and as a nightshift telephone operator in San Fransisco's Chinatown.

In 1946, Tye was hired by the Immigration Office again to work as an interpreter. She continued to serve as an interpreter both for the government and individuals in the area until her death in 1972 at the age of 85.

Tye lived a bold life. She did not let her circumstances dictate her possibilities. She didn't stop at escaping slavery and forced marriage herself, she fought to free others from those fates even when she was very young. She voted, and took that right seriously. She married who she pleased, earned an education and worked hard to support her family. She always interpreted for anyone who needed her help. Her life was selfless and made so many other lives freer and better.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Arabella Mansfield

Arabella Mansfield
In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first female attorney when she was admitted to the Iowa Bar.

Born in 1846, Arabella, known in childhood as Belle, lived with her mother and brother after her father abandoned their family to take part in the California Gold Rush. Young Belle was particularly close to her brother, Washington. Because many men were going to fight in the Civil War, colleges began to admit more women. This opened doors for Arabella to follow in her brother's footsteps and begin her studies at Iowa Wesleyan College in 1862. Washington left school briefly to enlist in the Eighth Iowa Century. He returned to school in time to graduate the same year as Arabella. Arabella was valedictorian and Washington was salutatorian of their graduating class.

Arabella accepted a teaching position at Simpson College, but only stayed for a year before returning home to marry her childhood sweetheart, John Melvin Mansfield. After they married, John encouraged Arabella to continue her studies and pursue her interest in law. She apprenticed at Washington's law offices. In 1869, Arabella passed the Iowa Bar Exam. It's unclear how she was able to take the exam as it was only open to men over the age of 21. Regardless, she passed and challenged the Iowa state bar to allow her to be admitted. 

When Iowa agreed to admit Arabella, they became the first state in the union to permit female lawyers. Arabella did not go on to a career as a lawyer, but her act opened up the world of law to women in the United States. 

Rather than working as a lawyer, Arabella went on to teach and work as an activist for women's rights. She earned an M.A. and another B.A. at Iowa Wesleyan College and went on to teach English Literature at the school. 

She and her husband both became active in the women's rights movement. In 1870, Arabella began working with the Iowa Women's Rights Convention and became president of the Henry County Woman Suffrage Association.

In 1876, Arabella and her husband moved to Indiana where they both taught for eight years at Ashbury University (now called DePauw University). Arabella took a break from teaching to care for her ailing husband. After he passed, she resumed her career and became one of the first female college administrators in the United States serving first as the Dean of the School of Art and next as the Dean of the School of Music. 

Even late in her career, Arabella worked to further women's rights and open doors for other women. She joined the National League of Women Lawyers in 1893. Her entire career was one mostly unimaginable to women of her era. She didn't let that stop her. She forged forward, ignoring barriers and remaining studious. She fought for the right to be a lawyer. She earned her place in academia. She fought for the right to vote. 

Arabella passed away in 1911 before the 19th amendment passed granting women the right to vote. She didn't see all of the fruits of her labor, but many women after her have benefitted from them. In 1980, Arabella was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. The Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys introduced in 2002 the Arabella Mansfield Award which recognizes the accomplishments of female lawyers in Iowa.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan
Maeve Brennan was an Irish-American journalist and short story writer with a varied style who was compared to writers like Chekhov and Flaubert. She also lived life entirely on her own terms, never minding the cultural expectations placed on women of her time.

Born in Dublin in 1917, Maeve was reluctant to come to America but was left with no choice when her father was appointed to a position in Washington D.C. in 1934. After graduating with a degree in English from American University, Maeve moved to New York City where she found work at Harper's Bazaar. She also wrote for the New Yorker and an Irish social publication. In 1949, she took a position at the New Yorker where she began as a social diarist and expanded to essays, fashion writing and short fiction. She wrote extensively about both her homeland of Ireland and her current place of residence, New York City.

Maeve became a vibrant part of the New York literary scene. She was bright, beautiful, eccentric, clever and captivating. She drank and ventured into pubs women simply didn't go into in those days. She moved constantly, searching out pretty places to live with fireplaces and eccentric details. She wasn't looking to settle down anywhere. Maeve loved her autonomy and her freedom. It seemed she viewed Ireland as her home, one she would not reside in again, and New York City as a place she lived. In fact, Maeve referred to herself as a "traveler in residence."

In 1954, the fiercely unattached Maeve married St. Clair McKelway, a fellow New Yorker employee and noted womanizer who was 12 years her senior. Both were bad with money, prone to too much drinking, impulsive and wild. The marriage lasted only a few years but ended amicably. During her married life, her mother passed away. These personal shifts and upheavals caused Maeve's work to taper off for a time. Once her marriage ended, however, Maeve started back to her writing, turning out even better work than before.

Also, in 1954, Maeve began writing unsigned pieces for the New Yorker as the "long-winded lady." She was not identified as the writer until she published a selection of the pieces in 1969. These articles offer up Maeve's sharp view of life in New York City. There are witty observations and quiet slices of life. There are celebrity sightings as well as sightings of anonymous people going about their lives.

Maeve also wrote series of stories set in Ireland. These were popular among readers and involved a cast of characters that carried over from piece to piece. Once, when Maeve had been in a bit of a dry spell with these stories, a reader wrote in to ask when more would arrive. Maeve responded to the letter in the magazine with a fantastical account of her own (fictional) death (Read it here).

Maeve's story doesn't end happily. Her light burned brightly, much like the open fires she always wanted to have in her living spaces, but perhaps it burned too brightly. Her eccentricities, once loved, turned concerning. Her drinking became heavier. Her behavior turned erratic. Having never settled anywhere, Maeve's constant moving and lack of money management resulted in her homelessness. She vanished from New York society in the early 1980s and eventually died penniless and alone in a nursing home in 1993.

Just as Maeve died in obscurity, so it seemed was the fate of her literary legacy. Thankfully, it looks like a revival is afoot. Her book, The Long-Winded Lady, saw re-release just a couple of years ago. Her work has been anthologized in collections of New York and Irish writers. Her writing continues to dazzle as new readers discover it. Maeve's talent is certainly worthy of a place among the 20th century's best writers. If those of us who discover her share what we find, hopefully, she will get the attention from history that she deserves.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson
Next time you're driving in the rain, you can say a little thank you to Mary Anderson, the inventor of the windshield wiper.

Mary was born in 1866 in Alabama. In addition to being an inventor, she was a real estate developer, a rancher and vineyard operator. While not a lot is known about her personal life, it seems Mary became a savvy businesswoman. She moved to California for a time but returned to Alabama to take care of an ailing aunt. Mary and her family inherited a comfortable sum of money from this aunt by way of hidden gold and jewelry. Some reports say the jewelry was concealed in trunks while others say it was hidden in wooden legs.

Early in the twentieth century, Mary took a trip to New York City where she rode a trolley. She noticed that the driver had to stop the trolley to remove the snow and ice from the window. This was both slow and dangerous. Mary wondered if a window cleaning device could be created that allowed a driver to operate it from inside the car. Right there in that trolley car, Mary because to sketch her idea.

Even though she didn't drive and many thought such a device would be a distraction to drivers, Mary continued to refine her design. After some trial and error, she came up with a basic "window cleaning device," for which she received a patent in November of 1903. Mary attempted to sell her design to a Canadian company who said, "We do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale." Mary was unable to sell the patent or make any money from her invention.

In an interview with NPR, Mary's great-great niece, Rev. Sara-Scott Wingo talked about her great-great aunt's invention and why it wasn't a financial success. Wingo suspects it was because Mary was a woman, saying "She didn't have a father; she didn't have a husband and she didn't have a son, and the world was kind of run by men back then."

After the patent ran out in 1920, the device became widely used. Cadillac was the first automobile company to make it a standard on their vehicles. Mary lived long enough to see her device in use and make roads much safer. Her lack of financial gain from her invention didn't seem to slow her down. She remained a successful businesswoman until her death in 1953.

Mary wasn't recognized for her work during her lifetime, but that has since been corrected. She was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Diana Apcar

Writer, humanitarian, ambassador, activist and Armenian, Diana Apcar was born in British Burma in 1859. She grew up in India and eventually settled in Japan after marrying Apcar Michael Apcar. Her husband died in 1906, after which she took over their family business. Diana was not born in Ottoman Turkey and never lived there, but she deeply cared about the plight of the Armenians living there.

In 1909, Diana learned of the massacre of Armenians at Adana, and she knew she had to act. She published a book in 1910 titled Betrayed Armenia: These are They Which Came Out of Great Tribulation and quickly followed this with texts on peace and evil. She also wrote many pamphlets and articles, as well as letters to foreign leaders asking for help and change.

She also worked with refugees who found their way to Japan. She self-funded refugee houses where she paid for the food, clothing, lodging and health care of the residents who could not afford to pay for these things themselves. She also helped them get the proper paperwork to travel to America.

On May 28, 1918, in spite of the horrors of the previous few years, the Republic of Armenia gained independence. Unfortunately, it was not recognized by any other countries. Diana fought to change this. She became an honorary diplomat to Japan. She was the first Armenian woman to hold this kind of post. She may have even been the first woman ever to carry such an honor. Eventually, she won over the support Japan, which acknowledged Armenia as a country and was one of the few countries to do so.

The diplomatic post also afforded Diana the opportunity to help refugees more and allowed her a better platform for contacting world leaders about the issues facing the Armenian people. Diana's position was abolished in 1921 when Armenia became a part of the Soviet Union, but in the time she worked as an ambassador, she made a huge impact for refugees as well as international Armenian relations. She passed away in 1937 in Japan at the age of 77.

Relentless, Diana worked to bring worldwide awareness to the ongoing oppression of Armenians. She started writing about the problems that faced Armenians six years before what is thought of as the main period of the Armenian genocide. Diana could have seen living in Japan, separate from her people, as something that disconnected her from the suffering Armenians, but instead, she used the safety of her distance to tell the world what was happening.

Diana did not conform to traditional roles for women at the time. She ran a business, was highly educated and held a political position in an era where most women, even those in the developed nations, couldn't vote.

This one Armenian woman, with no help from an embassy, fought for a small nation of people who had no country to call home, and she made an impact. Diana's story hasn't been noticed by history yet, but she deserves a prominent place among the stories we tell about the past. Many accounts of survival shared by Armenian refugees who came through Japan described Diana's help and her kindness. She was just one woman at a time when being a woman didn't afford one many opportunities, but she didn't let barriers get in the way of the love she had for her people.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Zabelle C. Boyajian

Zabelle C. Boyajian, 1912
Zabelle C. Boyajian was an Armenian painter, writer and translator at the turn of the 20th century.

Biographical information on Zabelle isn't widely available. We know the basic facts and some of her publications and major works, but it is difficult to find out the smaller details of her life. She was born in Diyarbakır in the Ottoman Empire in 1873 to an Armenian father and a mother of English descent.  In 1885, her father was killed in the Hamidian Massacres, prompting her mother to move with her and her brother to London. After the move, Zabelle enrolled in the Slade School of Fine art and began writing and illustrating her own books.

In 1901, Zabelle published her first novel under the pen name Varteni. The book, titled Yestere: The Romance of a Life (Esther in English) dealt with the massacres in Sasun, where the Armenian resistance movement first took a stand against the Ottoman army.

In 1910 and 1912, Zabelle had the first exhibitions of her paintings in London. She would later go on to exhibit her artwork in Germany, Egypt, France, Italy and Belgium between 1920 and 1950.

In 1916, she published what is her best surviving work, Armenian Legends and Poems. Zabelle compiled and translated (along with a few other translators) this collection of folk songs, legends and poems, knowing that the stories treasured by her people were at risk. By this time, the Armenian Genocide was well underway in the homeland she'd left behind. The first edition of Zabelle's book raised money to aid refugees from the ongoing atrocities.

Zabelle traveled widely and published a book about her travels to Greece in 1938. In 1948, she published her translation of Avetik Isahakian's epic poem Abu Lala Mahari. She also wrote many essays about classic literature, Armenian literature and comparative essays about Armenian and English literature. Zabelle died in 1957 at the age of 83 or 84.

Through her efforts to preserve the legends and poetry of Armenian, Zabelle has reached across the decades to ensure a vast diaspora has access to these important literary and historical artifacts. In the introduction to Armenian Legends and Poems, Zabelle wrote, "In preparing this book of Armenian legends and poems my principal object was to publish it as a memorial to an unhappy nation."

Zabelle succeeded in that goal and achieved one she might not have expected. As the great-granddaughter of refugees of the Armenian Genocide and a lover of books, I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to find the Armenian stories that I don't know, the ones that were lost when my ancestors were scattered. Zabelle's collection was the first I found nearly a century after she first published it.

The young Zabelle lost her father, her home and surely many family members and friends to the repeated massacres and genocide of the Armenian people. Though she was far from her home and her people, she fought back. She fought by publishing the work of a group of people who were being slaughtered while it was happening, thereby raising money and awareness. She fought by keeping stories alive and preserving the very heritage the Ottoman armies sought to eliminate. As I write this, I sit here with a copy of her book beside me. Her efforts may not be widely known to history, but they are not lost.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Patsy Mink

Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink
Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink was born in Hawaii in 1927. She went on to become the first woman of color elected to Congress, the first Asian-American women elected to Congress, the first woman from Hawaii election to Congress and the first Asian-American woman to run for presidential nomination for the Democratic party, which she did during the 1972 election cycle.

Patsy's ambition was clear even in high school where she was class president and graduated valedictorian. She went on to earn a B.A. in zoology and chemistry from the University of Hawaii and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. She married John Francis Mink in 1951. In 1952, she had a daughter and the family moved back to Hawaii where Patsy practice law and taught.

Patsy was first elected to the Hawaii senate in 1958. In 1959, Hawaii became a state, and Mink sought the Democratic nomination for a seat in the House of Representatives. She was unsuccessful. She was once again elected to state senate in 1962, and in 1964, when Hawaii earned a second seat in the House of Representatives, Patsy ran without the Democratic nomination and won. Through her boldness and grassroots efforts, Patsy broke a lot of barriers and achieved many firsts in this one move.

While in Congress, Pasty fought for equal rights for women and also worked to balance the scales in schools through the efforts like Title IX and the Women's Education Equality Act. Title IX barred gender discrimination for institutions receiving federal funds. It also opened the doors for female athletic programs in schools. The Women's Education Equality Act went further by requiring gender equality programs, more education and job opportunities for female students and even removing gender stereotypes from textbooks.

Mink tried for a U.S. Senate seat in 1976 but lost. She remained active in politics and served in her native Hawaii throughout the 1980s. In 1990 she returned to the House of Representatives where she served until 2002 when she passed away at the age of 74. Her work set in motion many improvements for women and reform in healthcare and education for everyone. In 2003, the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation was started to support low-income women and children. In 2014, she received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Rebecca Lee Crumpler

An early manuscript of Dr. Rebecca Crumpler's
book. No pictures of the doctor remain.
In 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first female African American doctor. Born Rebecca Davis in 1831, she was raised by an aunt who cared for the sick. Rebecca was a bright student and was granted the status of "special student" and admitted to an elite private school. By 1852, Rebecca married Wyatt Lee and moved to Massachusetts. There she worked as a nurse, a position she had apprenticed into because no nursing school existed for a young African American woman to attend. Several sources report that around this time, Rebecca began to apply to medical school but it took eight years for her to find a place that would accept her.

While Rebecca was hunting for a place to go to school, a new school called The New England Female Medical College was starting up in Boston. The founders, Drs. Israel Tisdale Talbot and Samuel Gregory, faced a lot of skepticism from the medical community when the school finally accepted it's first class in 1850. Male doctors believed women were too physically weak and mentally sensitive to be doctors. Thankfully, the school founders proceeded. Rebecca was accepted in 1860 and graduated four years later.

At the time of her graduation, only 300 of the 54,543 physicians in the United States were women. Until Rebecca finished school, none of those women were African Americans. However, Rebecca isn't extraordinary simply for being the first (a title she might not have even known she held. For years a Dr. Rebecca Cole was thought to be first, but she graduated from medical school in 1867.) Rebecca used her degree with compassion.

Sometime after graduating from medical school, Rebecca remarried. Her first husband had passed away in 1863. While dates differ regarding when the nuptials took place, Rebecca married former fugitive slave and Union soldier, Arthur Crumpler. After the civil war, the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Rebecca established a medical practice working primarily with poor women and children and freed slaves.

In 1880, Rebecca and her husband returned to Boston where she continued to practice medicine, though possibly not as frequently as before. She used her time to write a medical guidebook called, A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts, which was published by Cashman, Keating and Co., of Boston, in 1883. The text is dedicated “to mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.” It focused on the medical needs of women and children, a concept way ahead of its time. The book is also possibly the first medical publication written by an African American author.

Rebecca didn't lead a movement, but she quietly persisted in her chosen field. She broke barriers. She cared for those who needed it most. She documented her achievements to further the medical treatment of women and children. Despite her important contributions, no photographs of Rebecca remain. Pictured here is a manuscript of her book. Rebecca has not been widely remembered by history, but her persistence in breaking down barriers allowed her to serve her community and opened up the medical profession to a whole new demographic.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Caresse Crosby

Caresse Crosby and her dog
Caresse Crosby deserves many thanks for inventing the modern bra and helping free women from corsets. No matter how comfy leggings and a jersey dress are, a corset would ruin that whole vibe. This is exactly how 19-year-old Caresse, born Mary Phelps Jacob and known then as Polly, felt when she was getting ready for a debutante ball one evening in 1910. The corset wasn't working with her party dress so she asked her maid to bring her two handkerchiefs, pink ribbon, a needle and thread. She created what she called the "backless brassiere" right then.

Caresse enjoyed her free movement and realized this idea had potential. Her friends flocked to her to find out about this new undergarment so Caresse filed for a patent, which was granted in 1914. While Caresse was the first to receive a patent in this category other patents for bra-like garments date back to 1860. Caresse's design was lightweight and very similar to modern bra construction.

She didn't stop at inventing and patenting the product. In 1915 she married Richard Peabody. By 1920, she had started her own business where she hired women to manufacture bras. This provided both financial freedom and freedom of movement to those employed.

Sadly, Caresse's business did not take off so she sold the patent to The Warner Brother's Corset Company (which is now known as Warners and owned by PVH). The design became a huge success for them. Caresse did not reap all the financial rewards of her invention, but she did take pride in her creation, "I can't say the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat, but I did invent it."

For Caresse, 1920 would be a big year. While still married to Richard, with whom she had two sons, she met Harry Crosby who was six years her junior. They two began a tumultuous affair as Caresse struggled in her failing marriage to Richard who had become an alcoholic. By February of 1922, Caresse divorced her first husband. In July of that year, she and her children moved to Paris with Harry. The couple married in New York in September and returned to Paris two days later.

Once married Harry suggested that the women formerly known as Polly adopt a new name that began with a "C." After briefly considering the name Clytoris, she formally changed her name to Caresse. (She later named her dog, a whippet, Clytoris).

Caresse and Harry quickly became a well-known couple in the bohemian art scene in 1920s Paris. They traveled, threw lavish parties and began publishing books. Their home featured a white wall that served as a guest book, which was signed by Salvador Dali, D.H. Lawrence and many more.  In 1927, they started Black Sun Press which would go on to publish writers such as Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Dali, Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Eliot, Charles Bukowski and Dorothy Parker.

Harry commuted suicide in 1929, but Caresse carried on her work in publishing as well as other avenues. She tried her hand at acting and while in Hollywood she met and married Bert Saffold in 1937 who she would divorce by 1941.

During the 1940s she ghost wrote erotica for Henry Miller before opening her own art gallery in 1941. She used Black Sun Press to present Portfolio a quarterly publication featuring new work from writers and artists including deluxe copies of each issue that featured original artwork by famous artists. She created six issues in total before running out of funds.

After the war, Caresse became an activist fighting for peace and founding such organizations as Women Against War and Citizens of the World.

In the 1950s she bought a castle in Rome and used it to support artists leaving it open for them to live there or visit for a time. In 1953, her autobiography, The Passionate Years, was published. Caresse sold the castle in 1970 shortly before her death from pneumonia on January 24th of that same year.

Caresse led a varied life full of inventiveness, art, intrigue and friendship. She built relationships and fostered artistic communities. While many of her projects were short-lived or unprofitable, Caresse carried out her passions regardless of how society responded and forged her own path. Through her work, she made lasting impressions in the worlds of art, literature and women's fashion.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer, born Amelia Jenks in 1818, was a teacher, journalist, editor, fashion advocate, trendsetter and women's rights activist.

Amelia married Dexter Bloomer in 1840. As the editor of the Seneca Falls County Courier. Dexter encouraged his wife to write for his newspaper, which Amelia did. In 1848, she attended the First Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Amelia attended as an observer, but the following year she joined the movement. She started, The Lily, the first newspaper for women.

The Lily began as a temperance newspaper but quickly expanded to cover women's issues. Amelia supported the suffrage movement as well as women's dress reform. Amelia strongly believed women needed to leave behind the restrictions of long skirts and corsets. She believed clothes should be functional as well as fashionable. In her newspaper, she said, "The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance."

Women were eager to shed these complicated garments, and Amelia quickly became a trendsetter. She often wore a short dress or loose blouse and short skirt over pantaloons. While she did not invent this look, the pantaloons became Amelia's signature item so much so that they were referred to as "bloomers." She said, “As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress, letters came pouring in upon me by the hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns—showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts.”

Throughout her career, Amelia fought for women and supported their efforts. She often found herself at odds with parts of the women's movement because she believed in temperance, but that never stopped her from supporting the core cause. In 1851, Amelia introduced her friend and frequent contributor to The Lily, Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony spurring a lasting partnership between these two activists. A statue stands in Seneca Falls, NY, commemorating this grand meeting. In the statue, as in real life, all three women wear the bloomer outfits popularized by Amelia.

Even after selling her newspaper and moving to Iowa with her husband, Amelia continued her activism. She encouraged local women to become property owners, and during the Civil War, she set up a society to aid Union soldiers. She also worked as the first president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 to 1873.

Amelia died in 1894 at the age of 76. She worked hard for and wrote about women's and social issues until the end. She lived long enough to see full and partial voting rights given to women in several states, but not quite long enough to witness the amendment to the Consitution. Her legacy lives on with the Amelia Booker Project, a booklist that honors feminist books for young readers.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Kentucky Book Women

Pack Horse Librarians
During the Great Depression, women brought literacy to the people in the mountains of Kentucky. They road hundred of miles to make sure every citizen had access to books.

Traveling libraries began in Kentucky in 1896 to address the issues of isolation, illiteracy and difficult travel in eastern Kentucky. The first pack horse library began in Kentucky in 1913 and was founded by May F. Stafford and supported by a wealthy businessman who died one year into the project, which eventually fizzled from lack of funds. By the time the Great Depression hit, the mountainous, eastern portion of Kentucky still suffered high illiteracy rates with little access to education and books.

The area was poor, underdevelopment and underserved by public serves such as road, education and libraries. Coal mining began in the area, which made the citizen hopeful for more prosperous future. They knew literacy would be an important part of that future and wanted to learn to read. However, they lacked access to books.

In 1930, 31 percent of eastern Kentucky residents were illiterate. Despite the demand for books, by 1935, Kentucky circulated only one book per person while the standard at the time was five to ten books per person. When the New Deal was established and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created, they examined the struggles of eastern Kentucky and revisited the pack library idea from 1913. A new pack library began in 1935.

Carriers, widely known as "book women," were indeed primarily female. These women would ride through icy, treacherous conditions in areas of the state that didn't have roads or established pathways to make sure everyone had access to books.

They took their jobs seriously and would often endure falls, frozen feet and flooding. Sometimes the horses couldn't traverse the terrain leaving the carriers to travel on foot or even row boats to reach a destination. One librarian hiked her 18-mile route on foot when her pack mule died.

Carriers also had to create relationships with the communities they visited. Many were skeptical of the newcomers and the books they brought. To help connect with these communities, carriers would read aloud passages from the Bible. This helped them find common ground with patrons who were familiar with oral Scripture readings. It made the people in these areas interested in learning to read the Bible and other books for themselves.

Carlie Lynch was a school teacher at a stop on one of the routes. Grace Caudill Lucas was the carrier to her area. Lynch told The Courier-Journal in 1995 about Lucas' visits to her classroom. She said "She's one of the finest women who ever grew up in this area. She would come every two weeks. I must have had 45 children in the one-room school, and when she would come they'd be so tickled. There weren't many books, but we would pass them around and try to let as many children read them as possible. They loved books like Robinson Crusoe, and they loved poetry."

The carriers earned $28 monthly for covering between 100 to 120 miles a week, but little else was paid for by the WPA. In fact, the carriers had to pay 50 cents a day for their pack horse or mule and feed it themselves. No funds were provided for books, so librarians requested donations from anywhere they could and repaired materials as best they could. Communities had to find their own facilities to store the book collections, turning to churches and post offices. Librarians had to creatively care for the books they had often transferring text from broken or worn out books into binders so people could still read them.

The pack library program ended in 1943 when the New Deal and WPA were dissolved. Over the course of its run the pack library employed nearly 1,000 carriers providing work for many brave women in a time of great struggle for the country and eastern Kentucky. These women didn't just look at this as a job, but as a duty to secure literacy for their fellow Kentuckians.

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Flashback Film Review: Fantastic Voyage 1966

Film: Fantastic Voyage Year: 1966 Director: Richard Fleischer Writer: Harry Kleiner (screenplay) Stars: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch Ge...