Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alice Hamilton

Born this day in 1869: Alice Hamilton (1869–1970), physician, leading expert on industrial diseases, and pioneer in industrial hygiene. Hamilton was the first woman faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She made the public aware of the dangers industrial toxins to workers’ health, helping to gain passage of workers’ compensation laws and improving worker safety.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lavinia Lloyd Dock

Born this day in 1858: Lavinia Lloyd Dock (1858–1956), public health nurse, pioneer in the standardization of nursing practice, early advocate of birth control, suffragist, and social reformer

Monday, February 25, 2013

Millicent Fenwick

“Wherever injustice occurs, we all need to be concerned.” 
—Millicent Fenwick

Fenwick is said to be the inspiration for
Doonesbury's Lacey Davenport.

Born this day in 1910: Millicent Fenwick (1910–1992), U.S. representative from New Jersey (R, 1975–1983), known for her patrician ways, fiscal conservatism, liberalism, and pipe smoking

Fenwick was born Millicent Hammond in New York City. She studied at Columbia University and with Bertrand Russell at the New School for Social Research. In 1934 she married a businessman named Hugh Fenwick. The couple had two children and were divorced in 1945. Despite coming from a wealthy family, Fenwick chose to support her family by working, first as a model and later as a writer for Vogue. She also authored a popular book of etiquette, Vogue’s Book of Etiquette.
In 1952 Fenwick inherited a large fortune. She turned her attention (and her money) to humanitarian causes and civil rights. Eventually she entered politics as well. In 1974 she was elected as a U.S. representative from New Jersey and was re-elected, with increasing popularity, for three more terms. Instead of a fifth term, she chose to run for a Senate seat. She was narrowly defeated by an opponent who greatly outspent her—Fenwick herself refused PAC money and corporate donations, not wanting to be beholden to any interst.
 Although a fiscally conservative Republican, Fenwick was nonetheless a champion of liberal causes, including civil rights, women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, federal funding for abortion, consumer rights, public housing, food stamps, improved working conditions for migrant workers (earning her the nickname “Outhouse Millie”), human rights, campaign finance reform, and Congressional ethics.
Fenwick served on several committees, including the Committee on Banking, Currency, and Housing; the Committee on Small Business; the Committee on Education and Labor; the Select Committee on Aging; and the Committee on Foreign Affairs (she was fluent in three languages). She was also a constant presence at debates, a familiar patrician presence who smoked a pipe (her doctor urged her to give up her cigarettes) and always spoke her mind.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mary Ellen Chase

Born this day in 1887: Mary Ellen Chase (1887–date), college professor, prolific chronicler of the seacoast life in Maine, and one of the most important regional novelists of the early 20th century

Chase, a native of Blue Hill Maine, earned a B.A. from the University of Maine in 1909. She taught at a few secondary schools before earning an M.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1918 and a Ph.D. in 1922. In 1926 she began teaching the English novel and the King James Bible at Smith College. She was a popular and influential professor who passed her passion for novels on to her students.
Chase was also a prolific author, publishing 35 books in many genres. She is most famous for her regional novels, set in Maine. She also wrote essays, criticism, autobiographies, biographies, bible studies, writing technique, and children’ books. Her most popular novels include Mary Peters (1934), Silas Crockett (1935), and Windswept (1941), works which chronicle the changes brought to the Maine seacoast by the industrial revolution.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ruth Nichols

Born this day in 1901: Ruth Nichols (1901–1960), the fastest woman in the world

Ruth Nichols received her pilot’s license in 1924, after graduating from Wellesley College, becoming the second woman in the country to receive a U.S. pilot’s license. That same year she became the first woman in the U.S. to receive a license to pilot a seaplane, as well. She eventually flew every type of aircraft available, from dirigibles to supersonic jets.
Nichols was an aviator pioneer who set numerous records in women’s aviation. In 1928 she and her flight instructor became the first to fly non-stop from New York to Miami. The following year she became the first woman to land a plane in all of the lower 48 states. In 1930 she set transcontinental speed records, and in 1931 held international records for altitutde, speed, and distance.
After sustaining severe injuries in a series of crashes in 1931 and 1932 Nichols turned her attention to relief work. In 1940 she established the Relief Wings, an air ambulance service for disaster relief. When the U.S. entered World War II, the Relief Wings served as part of the Civil Air Patrol. Nicholas became a lieutenant colonel in the CAP and served as both flight instructor and nurse. After the war she did work for UNICEF and continued to break records. In 1958 she broke the women’s speed record, flying over 1,000 mph.
Nichols was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1992.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Isabella Beecher Hooker

“Women are surely ‘people,’ I said.” — Isabella Beecher Hooker (in reference to the phrase “We, The People” in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution)

Born this day in 1822: Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822–1907), suffragist and lobbyist on behalf of women’s rights

Isabella Beecher Hooker was born Isabella Beecher to the Rev. Lyman Beecher family in Litchfield, Connecticut. In 1841 she married lawyer John Hooker. The couple had four children.

The Hookers were the center of Hartford’s literary and social circle. It was under the influence of this elite group that Hooker became convinced of the feminist cause. She worked with leading suffragists of the day to promote women’s rights. She cofounded the New England Woman Suffrage Association in 1868 and the following year founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (which she led for 36 years), planned and sponsored woman's rights conventions, and supported a married women's property bill that was drafted by her husband. She also lobbied extensively in Washington D.C. for a constitutional suffrage amendment.

“For years and years women have been petitioning Congress and the State Legislatures to take down the political bars which men have put up, contrary to the national constitution and the whole spirit of our government, and allow them to become a active co-workers in promoting the general welfare; but the reply has been "leave to withdraw," or its equivalent; and this simply because these women petitioners had no power to cut off the heads of these Congressmen and Assemblymen; (their political heads, I mean…).” —Isabella Beecher Hooker, “The Constitutional rights of the women of the United States,” an address before the International Council of Women, Washington, D. C., March 30, 1888

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Alice Freeman Palmer

Born this day in 1855: Alice Freeman Palmer (1855–1902), promoter of women’s higher education and president of Wellesley College

Palmer was born Alice Freeman in Colesville, New York. An enthusiastic student, she convinced her parents to finance her college education by promising to pay them back and to pay for the educations of her siblings. Energetic and disciplined, Freeman sacrificed her own opportunities to fulfill her pledge. Finally, in 1879, she was able to accept an appointment as head of the history department at Wellesley College. By 1881 she was named president of the college—at the ripe old age of 27! (She was the second woman named president of Wellesley, but is regarded by many as the first because her predecessor did not operate independently of Henry Durant, the school’s founder.) During her tenure (1881–1887) she transformed the school from little more than a finishing school to an institution of serious academic pursuits.
In 1887 she married Harvard Professor George Herbert Palmer. After marrying, she stepped down as president of Wellesley. Her resignation was met with cheers and jeers, depending upon how one viewed women in positions of power. But Palmer proved everyone wrong by continuing to exert strong influence over the direction of women’s higher education in the United States. She served as dean of women at the University of Chicago, was involved in the push to establish Radcliffe College, was a trustee of several institutions (including Wellesley), served as president of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, and served on the Massachusetts State Board of Education, which oversaw teacher training schools.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Angelina Grimké

“The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.” —Angelina Grimké

Born this day in 1805: Angelina Grimké (1805–1879), abolitionist and women’s rights advocate

Angelina Grimké and her sister, Sarah Grimké, were born into a prominent slave-holding family in South Carolina. As young women, both left the south to speak out against slavery. Their antislavery activism aroused harsh criticism. Much of that criticism was leveled at them because they were women daring to speak in public—and to mixed audiences.

“We have given great offense on account of our womanhood, which seems to be as objectionable as our abolitionism. I believe it is woman’s right to have a voice in all the laws and regulations by which she is governed.”

Soon they were crusading for women’s rights as well. In 1838 Angelina spoke before the Massachusetts state legislature, making an appeal for both abolition and for women’s rights. She was the first woman to address a U.S. legislature.

Angelina most famously authored the pamphlet “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South.” In this pamphlet she appealed to those who claimed the Bible justified slavery and used the Bible to argue convincingly that it did not. She also co-authored, with her husband, Theodore Weld, and Sarah, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. The work was widely considered the most accurate description of slavery and was used as a resource by Harriet Beecher Stowe when writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In 1868 Grimké learned that her brother Henry had fathered two children of an enslaved woman. Both sisters acknowledged their nephews and sponsored their education. 

After the Civil War, Grimké concentrated on the women’s movement. She, as well as her husband and her sister, played a leading role in the Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association. In 1870, she joined her sister and more than 40 other women in an illegal protest vote.

Angelina Grimké was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lugenia Burns Hope

Born this day in 1871: Lugenia Burns Hope (1871–1947), social reformer and community organizer whose methods became a model for the Civil Rights Movement

Hope was born Lugenia Burns in St. Louis, Missouri. In the 1880s her family moved to Chicago, and from a young age she became active in the city’s settlement house movement. She performed social work at both the Kings Daughters and Hull House settlements. She also went to school, attending the Chicago Art Institute, the Chicago School of Design, and Chicago Business College.

In 1897 she married John Hope, and the couple moved to Tennessee, where her husband taught at Roger Williams University. The following year they moved to Atlanta. John began teaching at Atlanta Baptist College (later Morehouse College), eventually becoming its president. The couple had two sons. Lugenia Hope continued her social work in Atlanta, turning her attention to the crumbling black neighborhoods of the city.

Hope is most remembered for her tireless efforts with the Neighborhood Union, which she cofounded in 1908. She served as its president from its founding to 1935. The grassroots efforts she directed became a model for community organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. Volunteers canvassed black neighborhoods to learn directly from members of the community what their most pressing needs were. As a result, the Neighborhood Union oversaw employment, health education, medical, and dental programs; worked toward improving schools; and provided recreational opportunities. It also helped purge neighborhoods of vices such as gambling and prostitution.

During World War I the union worked on behalf of Atlanta’s YWCA to provide recreation services to African American soldiers, who were otherwise denied USO and other services. Hope’s success in this effort led her to organize a similar effort nationwide that provided services and counseling to African American and Jewish soldiers. Hope challenged the white domination and racial discrimination of service clubs and other reform organizations, especially through the establishment of Atlanta’s branch of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. She was also the first vice president of Atlanta’s chapter of the NAACP. In this role she established citizenship schools. These six-week courses educated African Americans on voting, democracy, and the role of government.

Hope moved to New York City after her husband’s death in 1936. There she worked with Mary McLeod Bethune, who was then director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration, a New Deal agency. She continued working with the NAACP and was also involved in anti-lynching campaigns and other reforms.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Margaret Knight

Patent model for Knight’s paper bag machine.

Born this day in 1838: Margaret Knight (1838–1914), inventor

Paper or plastic?

If you chose paper, thank Margaret Knight, who was born this day in 1838. She invented the flat-bottomed paper bag and the machine to manufacture it, receiving a patent in 1870. She was a gifted inventor, reportedly making her first invention at the age of 12 (inventing a safety device to prevent common accidents at the mill where she worked). She went on to receive many patents, including several designs for rotary engines.
Her patent for the flat-bottomed bag machine was nearly stolen out from under her. A man named Charles Annan witnessed her wooden model being cast in iron, copied the idea, and reached the patent office before her. Knight contested his patent. Annan’s argument was that a woman couldn’t have made the invention because she was, you know, a woman. Knight proved her case, however, and the patent was rightly issued to her.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pauline Frederick

“There seems to be a feeling that women can't understand or be interested in the more serious happenings, an assumption that news must be spoon-fed to women. I reject that idea because I reject that women are second-class citizens.”  
—Pauline Frederick

Born this day in 1906: Pauline Frederick (1906–1990), pioneering journalist; first woman TV news broadcaster in the U.S.

Pauline Frederick, a native of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, had been interested in journalism since high school. While still a high school student she reported on social happenings for her local newspaper. She earned an m.a. in international law from American University in 1931 (AU did not at the time have a school of journalism). Few doors to hard news, however, were open to her because she was a woman. She persevered in her chosen career by interviewing first ladies and other political wives and reporting on so-called women’s issues for NBC radio.

Toward the end of World War II she became a freelance journalist. She covered the Nuremberg trials for the North American Newspaper Alliance and as a freelance broadcaster. As a freelancer for ABC she often covered the United Nations. She eventually worked on staff at ABC, broadcasting both on radio and television and starring in the weekly Pauline Frederick’s Feature Story.

In 1953 she began working for NBC television broadcasting. She stayed with NBC, until forced to retire in 1974, as the network’s primary correspondent covering the United Nations. Her name was nearly synonymous with the UN, and she was known as “the voice of the United Nations.”

After her retirement from NBC, Frederick was a commentator for NPR (1974–1990). She also continued to blaze a trail for women journalists: she was the first woman to moderate a presidential debate (Ford-Carter, 1976). She was the recipient of many accolades and awards and was the first woman broadcaster to receive a Peabody Award (1954).

You can listen to (or read the transcript of) a charming and fascinating UN oral history interview with Pauline Frederick about her career and the early years of the United Nations here.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Myra Bradwell

Born this day in 1831: Myra Bradwell (1831–1894), lawyer, publisher of the Chicago Legal News, and pioneer of legal rights for women

Bradwell passed the Chicago Bar exam in 1969, but was denied admission by the Illinois Supreme Court because she was a married women:
“…first upon the ground that inconvenience would result from permitting her to enjoy her legal rights in this, to wit, that her clients might have difficulty in enforcing the contracts they might make with her, as their attorney, because of her being a married woman; and, finally, on the ground of her sex, merely.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision because she was married (a married woman having “no legal existence separate from her husband”). Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley:
“The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.… This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society… must be adapted to the general constitution of things…. and, in my opinion, in view of the peculiar characteristics, destiny, and mission of woman, it is within the province of the legislature to ordain what offices, positions, and callings shall be filled and discharged by men.”
Bradwell helped with efforts to pass an Illinois statute that eliminated gender as a basis for refusing admittance to the bar or any occupation or employment. She held out for more profound changes, however. Finally, in 1885 the Illinois Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision and directed that Bradwell be granted a license to practice law.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Lydia Maria Child

“The subject I have chosen admits of no encomiums on my country; but as I generally make it an object to supply what is most needed, this circumstance is unimportant; the market is so glutted with flattery, that a little truth may be acceptable, were it only for its rarity.” 
—Lydia Maria Child, preface to An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833)

 Born this day in 1802: Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880), writer and speaker who advocated for the rights of African Americans, Native Americans, and women; one of the first women to make a living from writing

Lydia Maria Child was born Lydia Maria Francis in Medford, Massachusetts. A teacher, novelist, and publisher of a children’s magazine, Child became a tireless champion of African Americans, Native Americans, and women. She was one of the first women in the country to make a living from writing, including writing a popular book on domestic economy and novels for children. This living was often threatened because of the bold stances she took against slavery, the unequal treatment of African Americans, and the gross injustices perpetrated on Native Americans. Unlike many abolitionists, she sought equal treatment of whites and blacks in American society. Her influential work An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833) laid out the injustices and horrors of slavery and protested the unequal educational and employment opportunities for African Americans. The outspoken work prompted many to join the abolitionist movement. But many others stopped buying her books, publishers stopped accepting her work, and she was fired as editor of a children’s magazine. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier noted that “her praises were suddenly silenced. No woman in this country…sacrificed so much for principles as Mrs. Child.” She was very influential in her day, but what is she most remembered for today? Writing the words to “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Let’s change that, femiloguers!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marguerite Milton Wells

“[T]here must be a nucleus of people in each community who would carry a continuing responsibility for government and would give an intelligent and disinterested political leadership on issues as they arose.” 
— Marguerite Milton Wells 

Born this day in 1872: Marguerite Milton Wells (1872–1959), organizing force behind the League of Women Voters

Wells grew up in Dakota Territory, and became fascinated with democracy as she watched the development of statehood firsthand. She received a B.L. from Smith College in 1895. After college she traveled, cared for various family members, and was heavily involved in volunteer work, serving on many civic and charitable boards.
In 1917 she became active in the suffrage movement, to the exclusion of all other interests, and joined the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, the National Woman Suffrage Association was transformed into the League of Women Voters. Wells took up the league’s mission with gusto and directed its course over the next 25 years. She was president of the Minnesota League of Women voters for ten years while also sitting on the board of the national league. She then went on to become president of the national league from 1934 to 1944. Wells guided the league in its mission to train women to participate in democracy with the knowledge and skills necessary to serve the public interest.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Alice Walker

“If art doesn’t make us better, than what on earth is it for?” 
—Alice Walker

Born this day in 1944: Alice Walker (b. 1944), first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for a novel

Alice Walker was born to a sharecropping family in Eatonton, Georgia. She was educated at Spelman College (1961-1963) and Sarah Lawrence College, which awarder her a B.A. in 1965. Walker became active in the civil rights movement while at Spelman. After college Walker began teaching and continued writing. She has also continued her activism on a broad range of human rights topics throughout her life.
Walker is the author of seven novels; numerous short stories, essays, and poetry; and several volumes of nonfiction, many of which relate to her activism. She also reintroduced the world to writer Zora Neale Hurston with a 1975 article in Ms., “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston.”
Walker’s best-known work is The Color Purple (1982), which won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize (1983). She is the first African American woman novelist to win the Pulitzer. Like many of her works, it explores theme of race, class, and sex in relation to African American women. You can read an excerpt here.
You can visit Alice Walker’s website here.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Kate Chopin

Born this day in 1851: Kate Chopin (1851–1904), novelist and short-story writer best known for The Awakening, a frank novel about the sexual and artistic awakening of a young woman.

Kate Chopin was born Kate O’Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri, and was educated in Catholic school. She knew both French and German and read widely European literature. She was also a very talented pianist. She moved to Louisiana after marrying Oscar Chopin, a New Orleans cotton broker, in 1870. The couple had six children.
After her husband’s death in 1882 she returned to Missouri and began supporting her family by writing. She wrote more than one hundred short stories, which appeared in publications such as Vogue and the Atlantic Monthly and were later collected in two volumes. For many of her stories she drew on the Creole and Acadian cultures she experienced during her years in Louisiana. She was sometimes lumped in with the “local color” writers, but her stories did not resort to the stereotypes or sentimentality typical of such a designation.
Her career pretty much came to a close with the publication of her second novel—and her greatest work. The public was scandalized by the sensual portrayal of a young wife’s artistic and sexual blossoming in The Awakening. Years after Chopin’s death the novel was rediscovered and given the recognition it deserved, not only for the writing itself, but for the early feminist themes it portrayed.

Read The Awakening and some short stories by Chopin, including “Desiree’s Baby,” for free here.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ruth Sager

“Science is a way of life. I think it all comes from the inside. It really gets to the very core of your existence. It is much like being an artist or a dancer. It's something that demands everything from you that you are capable of.” 
—Ruth Sager

Born this day in 1918: Ruth Sager (1918–1997), noted experimentalist and geneticist who discovered the importance of nonchromosomal genes

Ruth Sager was a native of Chicago, Illinois. She earned a B.S. from the University of Chicago (1938), an M.S. from Rutgers University (1944) , and a Ph.D. from Columbia University (1948).  She was a research fellow at the Rockefeller Institute (1949–1951) and a research associate at Columbia University (1955–1965). From 1965 to 1975 she was a professor of biology at Hunter College, where she was able to continue her research.
Sager’s field of expertise was genetics. In 1961 she co-authored, with Francis Ryan, the first textbook on molecular genetics: Cell Heredity: An Analysis of the Mechanics of Heredity at the Cellular Level. Her major contributions to the field during this portion of her career were her innovative research methods and her determination that hereditary traits could be passed on by nonchromosomal genes.
During the second phase of her career Sager was a pioneer in the study of the genetics of cancer. During the 1970s she began working at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and became chief of the Cancer Genetics Division and professor of cellular genetics at Harvard Medical School (1975–1988).
Ruth Sager was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1977. She was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among her honors are the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal from the NAS, an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute, and a Guggenheim fellowship.

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