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Posts Tagged ‘women’s history’

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, and last night Bob and I watched the “Apollo Wives” documentary on PBS. It was a fascinating trip down memory lane for anyone old enough to remember where they were on July 20, 1969.

I was in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a my roomie Alicia. My own wedding was on the horizon, and the moon landing was on a small black and white TV in the corner of our apartment. I remember feeling awed and wondering if the footage had been slowed down, because the effect of zero gravity didn’t translate to my brain.

Bob called me soon afterwards, to see if I had watched. There were no DVRs or recording devices to play back such a monumental moment in time. If you missed it, you’d have to wait for the next day’s evening news show. I had to remind Bob I was marrying someone else. I wonder if he remembers?

That August, Bob had to chase his own stardust at Woodstock:

The story of Woodstock, slice it how you will, is anti-Darwinian; nature suspended her processes of selection, and everyone more or less lovingly muddled through. Such menaces as there were seem to have been collective—the dodgy brown acid, the lack of sanitation, the rain that left concertgoers huddled under (packaged in?) sheets of clear plastic. When Sri Swami Satchidananda, ochre-robed, inaugurated the proceedings on August 15, he proclaimed the imminent oneness of everything: “America is becoming a whole!”  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/woodstock-nation/307611/

America became whole when a man landed on the moon, but we didn’t know much about the military/astronaut wives back in the day. The press paraded their pretty faces in the back pages of newspapers. The drinking, the Valium and the divorces were kept under wraps. It was a watershed year for women, do you go all “Stepford Wife” or do you continue your education and put off marriage? Burn your bra, or pull up your girdle and soldier on?

Well there was a little known woman, an MIT scientist, behind the design of the software that made that Apollo mission possible. Margaret Hamilton and her team wrote the code for the computer’s guidance system on board the rocket. When NASA thought they may have to abort the landing, she figured out the computer’s memory was being overloaded with too much inconsequential data – she taught them how to prioritize! Landing went to the top of the list – isn’t it ironic?!

And this was when computers used “core rope memory” which was woven in a laborious process by hand, by women in factories…hence the male engineers called these memory programs “LOL Memory.” And it wasn’t because it was humorous. LOL stood for “Little Old Ladies.” http://www.vox.com/2015/5/30/8689481/margaret-hamilton-apollo-software

So here’s to you Margaret Hamilton! For going where no woman had gone before. And here’s to every girl who takes a science or a math class and loves it! In Catholic school, and later in high school, I was never given that opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I loved science. Back in 1969, I thought my future was secure. I’d be the wife of a Harvard lawyer and create cocktail parties to beat the band. Luckily, I woke up.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

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Although we may not be caught up with all the news that’s fit to print while four generations cavort in the Florida sunshine, we did manage to see the latest Downton. Some of us watched the Masterpiece special on TV, and some caught PBS online the next day. And just to be safe, Grandma Ada had her son at home in the ice and snow taping last Sunday’s program. Naturally we were all speculating on the birth control device Lady Mary sent poor Anna Bates,her Lady’s maid, out to fetch from the pharmacy. Remember we are now into the 1920s, and Flapper fashion and suffrage is de rigeur!

Still, the same week a period drama wrestles with pre-marital sex, in fact seems to condone Lady Mary’s bohemian idea that 1) women should take charge of their bodies and not leave this messy business to the man, and B) she get to know this guy Tony “in every way” before marriage without having to deal with an unwanted “epilogue,” Pope Francis chimes in with this: “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits – but no,” he said, adding the Church promoted “responsible parenthood”. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/19/us-pope-airplane-idUSKBN0KS1WY20150119

The doctors in the room all speculated Lady Mary was using a diaphragm and whipped out their devices to google this idea! Indeed, cervical caps were used in the 20s and 30s but were very scarce in this country. And just in case you haven’t heard of our modern-day saint Margaret Sanger, she thought ; “…the best method of birth control was a doctor fitted device, either the cervical cap or a diaphragm. Sanger opened North America’s first birth control clinic in New York City in 1916. Sanger and her sister, Ethel Higgins Byrne, did the work themselves, assisted by a receptionist. Sanger claimed to have fitted 488 women with diaphragms in the 10 days before the police shut the down the clinic. Sanger claimed she could not find a doctor willing to work at the clinic.” http://www.case.edu/affil/skuyhistcontraception/online-2012/Cervical-Caps-Diaphragms.html

Enter the Dutch physician, Dr Rebecca Gomperts. She is truly an inspirational woman who travels the globe to educate, enlighten and skirt the regulations and restrictions on a woman’s right to choose her method of birth control. She started Women on Waves where she would induce medical abortions with the morning after pill, mifepristone and/or misoprostol in international waters. In countries where politics restrict access to reproductive health care she is viewed as a villain, for most women she is their savior. In 2006 she started Women on Web https://www.womenonweb.org in order to enlarge her vision and reach more poor and marginalized women.

Using Mifepristone and Misoprostol is no more complicated than using other medications. You will get clear instructions about how to use the drugs, what to expect, and when to go to a doctor. If you have questions about any step of the process, you can contact a helpline. A medical abortion does not need to take place in a hospital or first aid clinic.

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/06/the_political_landscape_is_not_ready_meet_the_woman_leading_a_d_i_y_abortion_revolution/

Of course today, in this country, we can purchase Plan B over the counter. Whether we call it responsible or planned parenthood, it’s good to know the Pope gets it, even if he has to backtrack to keep the Cardinals happy. And as for Lady Mary, she is more a vixen than a rabbit, don’t you agree?

Rebecca Gomperts, one foxy lady

Rebecca Gomperts, one foxy lady

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IMG_0787Yesterday we got up early to wish our country a happy birthday. Like we’ve done so many times before, we headed up the mountain to Mr Jefferson’s home for the 52nd Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello. http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/nearly-citizens-naturalized-at-monticello/article_33d59e48-03f4-11e4-af9a-0017a43b2370.html

Thousands always gather to watch our newest citizens swear an oath of allegiance to these United States; red and blue, right and left unite in our collective pride for once. And as Iraq was dissolving into tribal warfare, trying desperately to sustain its very early gestational stage of freedom, I thought about the bigger picture. How we didn’t achieve true independence in 1776, well not ALL of us did, IMG_0792

We had to fight our own bloody Civil War and then survive the tumultuous 60s, and we are still voting one state at a time for marriage equality in 2014.

And while the keynote speaker, David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group, read an amusing email he received from TJ himself, it was his list of famous immigrants that caught my attention; Albert Einstein, YoYoMa, Kissinger, Madeline Albright, etc and I couldn’t help but think about the buses of women and children that have faced angry mobs in California, and the refugee camps we’ve set up along border states.    IMG_0797

Still, what other country our size manages to allow and contain so much dissent, along with a free press? How will history tell this American immigration story? It turns out Mr Rubenstein graduated the same year as Bob from Duke University. I asked Bob if he thought he’d been a frat boy in 1970. The Yearbook that year was divided in two, one for the Greeks and one for the Geeks (Hippies).

And as I stood there with my little flag and my hand in its splint, I thought about the Supreme’s latest Hobby Lobby ruling. In 1967 when I was in college, doctors were not allowed to write prescriptions for that newfangled birth control pill if you were unmarried. And today, your boss can determine your reproductive destiny because SCOTUS has ruled in favor of corporations over women. And it has once again softened the line between church and state, and we know what Mr Jefferson would say about that! IMG_0783

http://classroom.monticello.org/teachers/resources/profile/6/Jefferson-and-the-Declaration-of-Independence/   ps why do I always look like some botched plastic surgery victim?

 

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Imagine yourself fresh out of high school. Someone tells you that you can make 79 cents an hour, but he can’t tell you where, or what exactly you’ll be doing. It’s the middle of WWII, and your family had just survived the Great Depression; 79 cents an hour is really good money. Would you say goodbye to your family and friends, pack a suitcase and get on a train the next day?

Well, it’s the middle of the great Virginia Book Festival http://www.vabook.org/index.html/ and this glorious, spring-like afternoon I found myself at the New Dominion Bookstore on the historic Downtown Mall listening to Denise Kiernan talk about her book The Girls of Atomic City. I learned something new today. The race to build an atomic bomb wasn’t just happening in New Mexico. Over 80,000 people were assembled in Oak Ridge, TN – a town that was built for the sole purpose of enriching uranium. Only no girl knew exactly what they were doing there. All of their jobs were so well compartmentalized; plus they had been advised not to talk or write home about their work, or they would be fired. http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/the_book.html

I wanted to ask her, after she explained how she had interviewed some of the surviving women now living in an assisted living community at Oak Ridge, if they felt any remorse when they found out what they had been working on, in their later years. But I didn’t because the bookstore was packed and I was squeezed under the stairs on a stool. I’m just going to have to read this book myself, and draw my own conclusions. Or maybe I’ll email the author and ask her!

I love the Book Festival, it’s quintessential Charlottesvillian. There was a beautiful carousel that was whirring in the middle of it all, and gown and town were mixing it up with alacrity. I bought the Love Bug a few books naturally, and visited with Anita and Skip who come over every year from Richmond. I told them how we had just seen the movie Monuments Men. I learned a few things during that movie as well. And who doesn’t love George Clooney? Plus his dad does a cameo at the end.

This was a week to go back in time, to the 1940s. Of all the programs so far this weekend, I can honestly say Ms Kiernan was the best. But I doubt I’ll be attending any other festival events because poor Bob has finally come down with that flu-like illness I mentioned earlier. Not to worry. I just made him some delicious Jewish chicken soup, he should be feeling better in no time.

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Birds do it, bees do it. But apparently if you happen to be the next single woman to serve as a university president in some parts of these Southern United States, you won’t be allowed to do it – that is, live with a partner in the usually big, beautiful, university-provided campus president’s house.

Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, is leaving Johns Hopkins, and is slated to become the first Black female president of her alma mater, Alabama State University in Montgomery, next month.

“Her contract requires the 58-year-old engineer to move into the president’s home…(one) clause states ‘for so long as Dr. Boyd is President and a single person, she shall not be allowed to cohabitate in the President’s residence with any person with whom she has a romantic relation.'” http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/01/17/263484808/no-cohabitation-for-alabama-states-first-female-president

She seems to have no problem with this clause, after all she signed the contract. Still, it makes me smile to think about the “scandal” happening in France right now. President Hollande jets around at night on his scooter, disguised in his helmet to visit his lover, a film actress. He is only discovered by the fashionable French press because of his shoes! It’s all over the papers, but knowing some French people as I do, and listening to the interviews on the streets of Paris, his citizens could care less! Alors, Les Liasons Romantique!

Fidelity is over rated in France. “When it comes to extra-marital affairs, the French are the most forgiving nation in the world, according to a recent study. The U.S., however, is still as unforgiving as ever, ranking 27th on the list, right between Brazil and Ghana.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/infidelity-study_n_4611674.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

What I didn’t know until I read the above article, is that President Hollande is simply cohabiting with his First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, who was his previous mistress. Yes sirree folks, they are NOT married, but have been together since 2007. I am trying to imagine this arrangement in the USA. My brain just cannot do it, sorry. But let’s try…it would be like Bill living cohabiting on Pennsylvania Avenue with Gennifer Flowers, and then seeing an intern on the side. You can see how the first part just wouldn’t work!

If there’s one thing I learned from moving South, it’s that things move a lot slower down here. We talk to strangers, we help each other in airports, we drive slowly in the left lane. In fact, I’m pretty sure our Governor would never close any lanes in a grudge match, after all we can snarl traffic just fine by stopping to talk to a neighbor on the road. And no Virginian would think of honking their horn!

So maybe this cohabitation clause wouldn’t work at NYU, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered at any French university. I doubt that the clause would have appeared on a male president’s contract. But I’ve got a feeling that Dr Boyd has bigger fish to fry. Might I suggest she give our single female UVA President Teresa Sullivan a call? After all, somebody always gets hurt when all those glass ceilings shatter. http://www.virginia.edu/presidentsreport/

Here is the Bride with Great Grandmother Mamie and some of her great grandchildren after a lunch at the MSU President’s gorgeous historic home that honored my brother and sister-in-law last year. And The Love Bug with her cousin, Frankie.IMG_1554IMG_1558

 

 

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We all remember our firsts, right? First kiss, first friend, first job, and what about your first car! You thought I was heading somewhere else, right? Well, walk with me down memory lane for a bit, because today is International Bacon Day, and I’m living in the South now; and we consider bacon a major part of the food triangle, or plate, or whatever… , but hey who doesn’t like bacon!

Not sure why August 31st received this honor, probably some meat-middle-manager’s idea of a joke, but it seems to be catching on. And it was seeing how Ford was celebrating the day for all things bacon, offering a special decal for their Ford Fiesta, that got me thinking. All vegans please look away now:     bacon---profile-1377696523

I thought back to Bob’s first car, a Ford Galaxy. It was the 60s, of course, so he and his friends decided to papier mache his little hot rod in paisley! Here is what he had to say about it, and since it’s in a language I don’t understand called auto-speak, I’ll quote,

“It was my first car, a 1960 Ford Galaxy 500, with a 390 cu in engine, dual Holley four-barrel carbs, and a Hurst four-speed shifter.”  Paisley Ford 1969 B

I never got to ride in that baby, we had broken up when we left for college, and he had gone the way of Woodstock. Alas. That’s him in the black shirt upper right, looking like a Sgt Pepper’s cover shoot. You can get a glimpse of the colorful paisley hood in the front of the picture.

I was one of the rare few with a car in high school. It was an ancient red Renault that I inherited from a brother who either went off to college or to a kibbutz and left me in charge of it. It was super tiny for the day, about the size of a Mini Cooper that was swimming around with huge Caddies and their sharp fins.  I remember swerving through puddles and playing that game where you stop suddenly and everybody jumps out and rearranges themselves in the car, like circus clowns. Oh yeah, I packed people into that beauty!

Yes folks, that was the worst of my teenage crimes against humanity. I left it to others to drive across the state line for a beer run, my stepfather was a judge, so that just wouldn’t do.

My moment of grace was when that same brother, Eric, taught me how to start up the Renault on a hill. We pulled up to a stop sign at a very good angle, pulled up that little parking brake, and since i didn’t know any better, I just kept trying. We inched further and further backwards down the hill, until I finally got the synchronization of brake, clutch and gear. Thank you for your patience big brother!

It wasn’t until later that I learned that not “all girls” knew hot to drive a stick shift on the floor. Was the automatic shift invented when more women started driving or something? The Bride informed me that she was the only one of her friends who could drive a shift. Let’s hope our little Baby Bug will have the opportunity to learn about a four speed stick. Here is the cutest 1 year old in her latest big girl ride! Now, go and cook some bacon! photo

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Imagine a time when women were addressed by their husband’s name, Mrs Andrew Ford for example. Imagine a time when we couldn’t vote, or inherit property. I know, it’s hard for us to imagine all this, although when I went off to college I was not allowed to wear pants on the street or in any fine restaurant. We were not given a tie, like a man who might show up tie-less, and told we could now enter their dining establishment, we were just scooted out. Girls were dying or becoming infertile because this was before Roe vs Wade, and back-alley abortions were as common as…coat hangers. Our lives were less than, and then we changed all that.

And Maybe the exPresident of France married a model, and maybe President Xi Jinping of China married a pop singer. But our President married a no-nonsense lawyer. And good for Michelle, for not tolerating a heckler. Bravo! “I do not do this.” Haven’t we all wanted to shout that to the roof tops? I do not mop floors! I do not bake cookies! I do not join PTAs!! I know, I did all those things, but still… I remember when a cousin told me she just doesn’t cook, and I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Shame on you people who thought Michelle was acting like an “angry Black woman.” Here we go again, trying to restrain our evil womanly ways, and spinning it like it’s a racist thing. I was so happy she came out of her First Lady persona to call out a heckler, at a gay fundraiser. She went right up in her face, she got in her grille. And that’s just the way you want to fight, standing up for yourself, defending your right to be there, to speak your mind. So it’s fitting we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of a little known English Suffragette this month, Emily Davison.

At the 1913 Epsom Derby in Manchester, Emily threw herself into tho ring to place a Suffragette banner on the King’s horse, at full gallup. Good idea, bad execution, since 4 days later she died of her injuries.  An active, determined fighter for women’s voting rights, “She was frequently arrested for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to burning post boxes and was sentenced to a month’s hard labour in Strangeways after throwing rocks at chancellor David Lloyd George’s carriage. During her sentence, she went on hunger strike and blockaded herself into her cell, leading prison staff to turn a hose on her and almost fill her room with water.”                                                   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-22826644

Today, it is hard to believe that we had to witness yet another panel of mostly military men (yes, there was 1 woman) sitting before Congress. And exploring the level of sexual assault in the services has reminded me of the Catholic Church looking into pedophilia and priests. The word clueless comes to mind. So, I’m asking our First Lady, a staunch supporter of the military, to step up; tell Congress and the Pentagon we don’t do this. American women are not only wearing pants in the street and in battle today, they are bringing home the bacon once they return in record numbers, and they are being treated as less than by their superior officers. Please sign this petition: https://www.thisispersonal.org942532_492383090840563_145442712_n  And Michelle, if you want to stay home for your daughter’s birthday this weekend, that’s fine by me!

 

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