July 19th and 20th of this year mark the 175th Anniversary of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls!
For those not familiar, this historic two day convention was the first event to focus on “the social, civil and religious condition and rights of women.” About three hundred women attended and after two days of discussion, they drafted the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. This document described the ways in which the laws of their time failed women. They failed to protect their rights, their safety and their potential. Their proposed solution wascalling for the woman’s right to vote.
This was the official launch to the women’s rights and suffrage movements. Sadly, it took seventy years for women to actually be granted this right and few got to ever celebrate or see the fruit of their labors. But there was at least one woman, Rhoda Palmer, who at 102 cast her first ballot in the 1918 New York State election.
It’s amazing how second nature and even taken for granted voting seems today. I’m guilty myself of not voting in every election. It’s just a small one. There’s no candidate I care for, etc. But, to think of the blood, sweat and tears so many put in to grant us this simple privilege, I know I should do better.
As we head into what appears to be another contentious election season, let us remember these courageous people from our past. And let us most importantly remember, even one vote can make a difference. Let your voice be heard!
For more information about the Seneca Falls Convention and to really get a clear picture of the attendees and the risks they took to attend the convention that day– take a look at this keynote speech from the 150th anniversary.
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Do you have women in your family who have gone to college? What about any doctors, lawyers or other ceiling busting women? If so, you have Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink to thank.
Fifty-one years ago, Rep. Mink authored a bill and got Congress to pass this landmark piece of legislation. The Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in educational institutions and programs that receive federal funding.
This legislation was groundbreaking for a number of reasons. For the first time women were entitled to an equal education on every level. No more could colleges turn away women from entering particular programs of study!
It also paved the way for sex equity in school sports and other school sponsored extracurricular activities.
Ultimately, The bill was renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 to honor her contributions to civil rights, and economic and social justice.
An interview with Rep. Mink in 2002 shared her personal motivations for authoring the bill.
“I have a very personal connection with Title IX because while I was wanting to go to medical school and I had written to a dozen or more medical schools to seek entry, each one of them turned me down by saying that they did not admit women to their schools. It came to me as quite a shock that in America it was not a person’s grade, aptitude, tests, recommendations that got the person into the careers of their choice, but that it had to do with one’s gender.”
Luckily, we have come far from those ceiling-inhibiting days. What is something you’re grateful you were able to accomplish as a woman in your lifetime that your mother could not?
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On May 29th, 1943, the Saturday Evening Post published a cover image that changed history forever. It was an image by Norman Rockwell, portraying “Rosie” with a flag in the background.
Overnight, this image became iconic. It showed up everywhere– at movie theaters, posters, newspapers, etc. Rosie the Riveter was everywhere– and society would never be the same again.
When we think back on women’s history, WWII and Rosie the Riveter offer a clear dividing line. There were women in the workforce before WWII, but they were definitely in the minority and the idea of a woman working after marriage was unheard of.
But America entered the war and workforce rules changed.
Suddenly, it was patriotic for women to work! American women entered the workforce in droves. Between 1940-1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce rose from 27 to nearly 37%. And by 1945, one out of every four married women worked outside the home.
Then the war ended and America entered its identity crisis. The intent behind the Rosie the Riveter campaign was for it to be a temporary fix, “patriotic” women filling the gaps while the men were away. They were supposed to happily return to their homes when the men returned. However, what was not considered was how societal roles had changed forever.
For starters, how could men ever claim superiority again after witnessing these women’s selfless efforts and demonstrations of their strength and capability? Also after tasting freedom and thriving in their new jobs, many women were rightfully unhappy about returning to their former lives at home.
We all know progress is slow. And major societal change especially takes time. But I do want to examine how far women have come since that famous picture debuted.
This postwar era required an entire reshuffling of identity and viewpoints. For those of you who watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the latest episode hits on this point perfectly.
The father, Abe, goes out to dinner with a group of other men. While there he admits to having an identity crisis and questioning everything he’d thought he’d known for his entire life. The men go around the table trying to pinpoint what Abe is feeling. They offer theories about change and how fast the world has changed in their recent years. How it’s natural to feel overwhelmed etc.
Finally, Abe offers up that it’s about his daughter. He admits that everything he thought he knew about women and his expectations of them is wrong. He’d pinned all his hopes and expectations on his son and later his grandson. He brought the son to Columbia to watch him teach, never even thought to do that for his daughter. Same with his grandson, putting all his efforts in tapping into his early potential. And yet now? His daughter owns the apartment he lives in. Her husband abandoned her and she was the one who fought her way up to thrive. She’s in a difficult profession and yet, she’s mastering it. All of this is without any help from him or her mother. And his granddaughter is the grandchild showing the early signs of genius talent. He realizes he majorly undersold their potential and capabilities. He closes by admitting his daughter is truly remarkable.
“Rosie” is eighty years old this year. Eighty- that’s one lifetime. And in that one lifetime we’ve seen expectations for women go from telling our daughters their only role in life was to cook and keep house to saying they can be whatever they want. If they can dream it and work hard, they can make it happen. We now have a woman Vice President, congresswomen, pilots, astronauts, judges, entrepreneurs, scientists– you name it, they’re doing it!
“Rosie” might have been a campaign born out of necessity, but she changed the rules to the game. For that, I’m forever grateful. Let’s see where another eighty years of remarkable women can take us!
Why was this day created and how has it evolved over time?
Take Our Daughters to Work day began in 1992 by Gloria Steinem as a project of the Ms. Foundation. It was created to show girls that being smart was something to be proud of and not something to hide. By providing girls with real-life models in the workplace, the hope was to offer something for girls to strive to achieve themselves. Gender did not have to hold them back from a desired profession.
Parade Magazine wrote about the program and by 1993 the Take Your Daughter to Work Day Foundation was formed to help expand the program nationally and internationally.
From Female Empowerment to Breaking Gender Stereotypes
In 2003, the program expanded to include boys. And while many criticized this, wasn’t the point to increase female empowerment? The Foundation argued that the expansion would only make the program stronger. It would allow for the dissolution of gender stereotypes completely. For instance, shouldn’t a boy be told he’s allowed to be a nurse?
Since then the program has continued to evolve. It’s now an April tradition, with worldwide participation. It purposefully takes place during the school year so educators can incorporate it into their lessons, drawing from real world experiences. There have even been purposeful strides in reaching out to low-income communities to find ways for children there to participate as well.
Are we empowering our daughters?
All of this is fantastic. And I am grateful for these opportunities and lessons for our next generation of workers. However, it’s interesting to see the original intent behind the day and how it has changed over time. I love the idea of breaking gender stereotypes and teaching children they can follow any career path that interests them.
However, I do not feel our job is completely done in empowering girls to thrive in the workplace. If the realities of the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that women still shoulder the bulk of the burden when it comes to childcare and home management in addition to their jobs. Women are still the default parent who gets the phone call from school. They are still usually the one who needs to stay home with a sick child. They carry the bulk of the emotional labor, scheduling dentist appointments, replacing outgrown clothing, chauffeuring, etc.
“Take our Daughters to Work” Starts at Home
We can most definitely tell our girls they can aim for any career path they want. But they are still seeing their mothers carry an unsustainable workload each day and battling burnout. What is the answer to that? It’s complicated, I know. But until that balance is shifted, our girls will unfortunately always hit a ceiling.
We have come a long way from the balance of parenthood from the past. I applaud that men have made major strides in division of responsibilities at home and child rearing. But we, as a society, can still do better.So, parents, instead of just taking your child to work. Consider what you model for them each day. Are you demonstrating an imbalanced division of labor in the home? Are you making sure one parent isn’t burning out from an overloaded plate? The daily application they witness are the lessons your children will carry. Empower your daughters to speak up, negotiate in all areas of their lives and thrive.
Just Like John Proctor questioned- How can I live without my name?
What’s in a Name?
Happy March! It’s Women’s History Month and I can’t wait to share some of the fun content I’ve got prepared! We’ll start today with some info on female writers and the big question of the day- What’s in a name? Does our name actually define who we are?
Literature nerds like me might remember the anguished scene in The Crucible where John Proctor refuses to give up his name. “Because it is my name! How may I live without my name?” He views his name as his identity. His source of worth.
And yet, as we go into Women’s History Month– we have to examine the irony of this poignant scene, knowing women have been forced to give up their names in many capacities for centuries.
The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is celebrating women in writing. This one obviously hits close to home for me. One thing it forces me to examine is the sacrifices women had to make to get their work out for public consumption. For years it was considered “unfeminine” or “unseemly” for women to be writers. Therefore, women were either turned away by editors or forced to publish under a man’s name instead of their own.
In a different capacity, the decision regarding my name came up in my own publishing journey. Any of you who know me personally know I publish under my maiden name instead of my married name. This was done for a few reasons- but honestly, the main reason was because as John Proctor said– It is my name! I began my writing journey in childhood. I practiced and got my degree in English, taught and began my MFA program all as Joyana Peters. So, yeah, I wanted to climb to the top of that mountain and fulfill that dream with the name I started with!
I leave you with this other little story to consider-
A girl was born on November 22nd, 1819. As was customary at the time, she was sent to boarding school at just five years old.
When the girl was sixteen, her mother died. Although she was thriving at school and showed great potential, she was forced to return home to work as her father’s housekeeper. The girl settled into a new monotonous existence where each day blended into the next.
At the age of twenty one, an opportunity arose. Her father decided it was time for her to marry. They moved to the city so he could search for a suitable match. But luckily, the girl developed a relationship with her liberal neighbors who hosted salons with great thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over time they took her under their wing and the girl began to consider a different version of the life she was living.
Higher education for women was still not an option, but she was able to break into intellectual society by writing book reviews and translations. She eventually moved to London and found work with a publisher. There, she fell in love with a writer, but he was trapped in a horrible marriage and divorce was still not an option. Desperate to be together, they scandalized society by deciding to co-habitate together anyway.
She became an outcast, no longer welcome in society, although he suffered no consequences. But the girl decided to make the most of this time in isolation. If her name was already tarnished– why not assume the required male nom de plume and publish her writing?
The girl’s work took off like wildfire. Even Queen Victoria became a fan!
She continued to publish under the now famous nom de plume for the rest of her life. And her work has transcended time and still stands out as revelatory and brave as the woman who wrote it.
So, who was this amazing female writer? Mary Ann Evans otherwise known as George Eliot the famous writer of Middlemarch.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What do you think our names say about us? Are they sources of our identity? Please comment on this post to share!
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You may have noticed I have a strong affinity for the amaryllis flower. It’s on my logo, I use it in many of my other graphics and I even named my publishing company Amaryllis Press. What’s the deal with that? Why the amaryllis flower?
Well, there’s a few reasons. One big one is exemplified by something that happened this week.
So, I am horrible with plants. Like my thumb is blacker than black. All you need to do is ask my sister or mother-in-law who try to give my plants some much needed TLC and resuscitation whenever they visit.
And yet, I have this beautiful amaryllis flower that somehow managed to bloom again this week for the third year in a row! Trust me, I thought this thing was deader than dead. I honestly can’t even remember the last time I watered it, and yet you’ll see below– it’s a beauty to behold at the moment.
But that’s the thing about amaryllis plants– they’re the heartiest flowers out there. They’re bred to withstand harsh climates, lack of light, neglect… and still come out better than ever!
Kind of like my protagonists, or honestly women in general. You can knock us down– but we’re never out!
Even the name amaryllis and symbolism behind it hold special meaning to this analogy. The amaryllis derives its name from the Greek word meaning- “to sparkle.” And the stunning flowers are believed to mean pride, strength and determination as they stand tall over all other winter blooms. Yes, they are one of the few flowers that bloom during the winter!
So, now do you see why I love the amaryllis flower? What better way could I represent strong, empowered women?
This got me thinking. Many of you met me and joined this newsletter list at one of my festival events. And one of my favorite things about those live events is getting to talk with you and hearing some of your stories. So many of you have shared incredible stories about the amazing women in your own families. Women who embody the characteristics of the amaryllis flower. I would love for others to hear your stories!
So, I’m going to add a section into my newsletter called The Amaryllis Women. I’d love for you to send in your family stories to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about the incredible women from your families! I’ll choose one or two to share each week. I can’t wait to hear your stories!
Have a great weekend everyone- and remember to sparkle! 😉
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