Margaret Sanger

Changemaker Spotlight: Margaret Sanger and her Birth Control Crusade

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. -Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was a famous American activist who devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women. She grew up during the Comstock laws where it was federally prohibited for women to have access to contraceptives. Sanger believed the only way to overturn these laws was to break them.

Starting in 1910, Sanger relentlessly worked to bring birth control information and contraceptives to women to relieve them from the dangers of repeated pregnancies.

Sanger’s passion was bred from personal experience and tragedy. One of eleven kids, Sanger watched her mother’s health decline further and further after each pregnancy. Eventually at age nineteen, Sanger watched her mother succumb to tuberculosis. At the young age of fifty, she’d been too weakened from seven miscarriages and carrying eleven children. Sanger blamed her father and was seen arguing with him over her mother’s coffin, “You caused this. Mother is dead from having too many children.”

A Shift in Purpose

Sanger became a nurse and found work as a visiting nurse on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In this working class neighborhood, she saw her mother’s fate tenfold. Lacking contraceptives, many of these women turned to cheap unsafe abortions when faced with another unwanted pregnancy. Sanger was then called in to care for these women after these botched procedures. After experiencing enough of the traumatic effects of these abortions, Sanger decided to shift her efforts from nursing to preventative measures.

In 1914, Sanger coined the term “birth control.” She then began her crusade to arm women with information and access to contraceptives. She was arrested multiple times for sending diaphragms through the mail and for even opening the first birth control clinic in the country. She would not give up. 

In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, the precursor to the Planned Parenthood Federation. She spent the next three decades fighting to provide mainstream access to the American public and was eventually successful. Her efforts contributed to several court decisions that eventually legalized access to birth control in America. 

Although her memory is controversial, no one can argue that Sanger’s efforts did not improve the lives of women. She will forever be remembered as the founder of the birth control movement.

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Female police officers Alice Stebbins Wells

Changemaker Spotlight: First Female Police Officers

Alice Stebbins Wells was a minister and social worker who in 1910 became the first female police officer appointed to the Los Angeles Police Department. Although she was not technically the first female officer in the United States, she was the first of female police officers to hold arrest privileges and she was a national trailblazer for getting women allowed on police forces.

Wells worked hard to overcome gender stereotypes and barriers to women working on the police force. At the time, women who worked in law enforcement were only allowed to be matrons overseeing female inmates and juveniles. In May of 1910, Wells drafted a petition and obtained signatures before bringing it to the mayor of Los Angeles, the police commissioner and city council to demand she be appointed as a female police officer. The petition succeeded and she was appointed the following fall.

Paving a Road to a Stronger Force

Her initial months on the job were bumpy. She had to overcome disrespect and confusion with the idea of a woman on the force. One of the usual perks of the job was being allowed to ride the trolley for free. However, she was kicked off the trolley after being accused of wearing her husband’s badge. This was eventually rectified as she was issued a new badge with the title “Policewoman No. 1.” 

She also had to deal with derisive newspaper reporting. Article headlines mocked her with titles like “Officerette, Officeress, and first woman policeman.” Instead of bowing down, Wells demanded acceptance and gave an exclusive interview to the Los Angeles Times. There she stated, “This is serious work and I do hope the newspapers will not try to make fun of it.”

Female police officers Alice Stebbins Wells

Wells continued to campaign for wider inclusion of female police officers across the country. In 1915, she created the International Association of Policewomen. She traveled and gave lectures about the merits of adding female police officers. Wells advocated there were situations where women would be more effective than men in police enforcement. She argued that if female police officers were to go into dance halls, skating rinks, and picture shows, women and children would be less intimidated to ask for help. 

Preparing Female Police Officers for a New Role

Since female police officers were not issued guns or batons, Wells instituted nationwide training programs specifically targeting female officer safety. She also founded other organizations, conferences, and training programs for female police officers nationwide.

Wells expanded these self-defense programs for female community members as well. She began lectures and classes at local schools and women’s organizations. She taught women to be feisty and unafraid to defend themselves. One of her favorite lines was “The weapon nature gave a woman was a scream. But in more rural communities where someone might not hear you then it would not be bad to know a few bone-breaking tricks.”

Wells remained on the Los Angeles Police force until 1940. She died in 1957 and her funeral was attended by all the senior police officials in the department. She also had an all female honor guard of 10 officers. 

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Jane Addams Action Quote

Who was Jane Addams? Changemaker Spotlight

It’s an important birthday this week. On September 6th 1860- one of the most important American social welfare activists was born. You might not be familiar with her by name, but I bet you’ve heard of some of her accomplishments as they helped shape the settlement house movement across the country. So, who was Jane Addams?

Jane Addams won worldwide recognition in the early twentieth century for her contributions as a pioneer social worker, feminist and activist in America. It all started with her founding of a famous place called Hull House in 1889. 

Addams began her mission with her friend, Ellen Starr, and expressed her mission statement to be- “providing a center for a higher civic and social life, to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.” With the founding of Hull House and this mission statement, the settlement house movement began.

Addams and Starr hit the ground running. They made speeches about the needs of the lower class, raised money, recruited young female well-to-do volunteers, and provided childcare and nursing services. 

Jane Addams’ Hull House Legacy

By the second year of Hull House’s existence, it was providing services to two thousand people a week. They had morning kindergarten classes, afternoon classes for older children and night school for adults. They also eventually offered an art gallery and studio, a public kitchen and cooking and sewing classes, a gymnasium and swimming pool, a boarding house for girls, a music school, a library, and an employment bureau. 

In 1892, Addams published her findings, entitled the “three Rs”, on what made the settlement house a success. Residence, Research and Reform became the pillars for the settlement house movement. These were described as “close cooperation with the neighborhood people, scientific study of the causes of poverty and dependence, communication of these facts to the public, and persistent pressure for [legislative and social] reform…”

These published findings traveled the nation and soon settlement houses sprang up in other working class areas of cities nationwide.

As Addams became more famous for her successful efforts, she was drawn into more areas of civic needs. In 1905, she was elected to the Chicago Board of Education. She was later made chairman of the School Management Committee. She worked to create the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy and also became the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. To continue her research on causes of poverty and needs for reform, she led investigations of midwifery and childbirth conditions, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions in lower class areas. 

I am not one of those who believe – broadly speaking – that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance. – Jane Addams

Addams was an ardent feminist and an involved suffragette. But she went even further than supporting women’s voting rights. She believed that not only should women vote, but they should push to participate in legislation and politics. 

Addams was also a pacifist and had a lifelong objective to rid the world of war. She gave lectures at universities across the country and wrote a book entitled the Newer Ideals of Peace. Addams spoke out against America’s entry in the First World War and served on many boards of women pacifist organizations. She eventually became the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

In 1931, Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the second woman to ever receive this honor. 

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Mensa Annual Gathering

Parenting Growth at the Mensa Annual Gathering

Discovering Mensa and journeying TOGETHER

This has been an interesting week for my family. We brought in July with a bang– a huge fireworks display and party with friends. And now we’re at the Mensa Annual Gathering in Baltimore for my son. I’ve been reluctant to speak about my son’s neurodivergence too much in the past. However, I know I’m not alone in parenting a child like him and wanted to share our journey to potentially help others as well.My son is highly gifted. Like off the charts- Mensa gifted. For those of you not familiar with Mensa- it’s an organization for individuals who score at the 98% or higher on a standardized IQ test. 

This is why I’m often reluctant to share this information. I feel like it comes across as bragging- hey, look how smart my child is. But, for anyone who knows someone who falls into this category, you know these academic abilities are often accompanied with challenges.

My son is amazing. But he is NOT an easy child to parent. There are the quizzes about flags, country capitals or sports statistics that begin first thing in the morning before my morning coffee. Finding reading material that is topically appropriate for an eight year old on an 8th grade reading level can be difficult. There are also the extreme emotions, inflexibility and difficulty with social cues and friendships. 

Finding our village: Mensa Community

Mensa Summit

Enter Mensa Gifted Youth. One thing I need to stress up front, many of Mensa’s materials and resources are available for anyone, including children and adults who do not necessarily score at member level, but are still academically gifted. There are reading challenges with appropriate suggested reading lists for young advanced readers. There are also enriching lesson plans for educators and activities for either educators or parents at home. 

For members, there are also both regional youth activities and access to the annual national gathering which has an amazing gifted youth camp track. 

I want to clear the air here and say Mensa is in no way “elitist”, “pretentious” or composed of individuals only concerned with bragging rights as many might imagine. In reality, I’ve found it to be a welcoming place of acceptance, good conversation and nerdy fun for both children and adults. I’m amazed to actually see a ton of families here all enjoying the benefits together. I’ve even met a number of people who admit to meeting their spouses at gatherings in the past!

We’ve thrived here this week. My son is loving the camp activities and most importantly he’s met other kids like him. I’ve found it helpful to meet other parents who share my frustrations, struggles and concerns. I’ve also received a ton of helpful information, ideas and suggestions to hopefully improve our journey moving forward.

So, if you know anyone else facing these struggles, are an educator teaching children like this, or are an adult looking for an enriching community for yourself– I strongly recommend checking out the Mensa community. Have a great weekend everyone!

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Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Why do we still need to discuss the importance of workplace safety? Let’s examine how it’s still an issue today!

the importance of workplace safety

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Another March 25h is here and I’m still remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Every year I reflect on this day and think of the brave women, men and children who were not only victims on that fateful day, but were also there to lead the charge on the picket line to demand reform in the Garment Worker’s Uprising of 1909. But have we yet learned our lesson? Is this really no longer an issue? Let’s examine where we are in society today and why we still need to discuss the importance of workplace safety.

Current workplace safety statistics

I’d love to say that US workplaces are safer today than they were the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, there are more safety protocols and inspections, but workplace safety is still a very valid concern.

The current death toll due to fires and explosions in the workplace is an average of 200 deaths per year. And that is not necessarily in professions expected to be working with those elements. In addition to fatalities, more than 5,000 workers are injured in fires or explosions each year. These statistics come largely from incidents on construction sites, transportation workers, factories etc.

In general, U.S. fatal workplace injuries are steadily increasing and are at their highest in years. In 2021, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded, an 8.9% increase from 4,764 reported in 2020. This equates to a 3.6% fatal occupational injury rate- the highest rate since 2016!

To illustrate- that is an average of 14 workers dying per day and the equivalent of one worker dying every 101 minutes!

Child labor violations are also on the rise!

In 2015- the lowest point in data, the Wage and Hour Division found 1,012 minors employed in violation of child labor laws in the U.S.In 2022, that number more than tripled to 3,876! In addition to the numbers, the concern is investigators are finding a rising number of children working in dangerous jobs like meatpacking plants, loading docks and metal shops.

What should we do with this information?

We start by identifying and talking about it. One of the biggest issues is a lack of knowledge. We think it’s 2023, that can’t possibly still be happening. And yet, it most definitely is.

We then must examine solutions. Labor Unions were steadily declining in past decades, but since Covid that’s been changing.They are now at an all-time high in favorability ratings. “Half the workforce said they would join a union today if given the opportunity because they know that without the power of a union, workers are helpless.” Richard Trumka- President of American Federation of Labor.

With Covid, questions of who is “essential”, what safeties are protected and more have all been brought to the forefront of conversation. We need to continue having those discussions.And we need to accept that, “Support for unions is not just about wages and benefits. It’s respect, it’s dignity and it’s health and safety,” (Trumka).

We need to prioritize the importance of workplace safety.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic and return to the workplace and discuss the future, these issues of worker’s rights and safety need to come to the forefront. We need to educate others about these safety concerns and we need to channel those brave garment workers to stand up for change today!

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Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Black Historical Fiction Authors

Black Historical Fiction Authors

Looking for some Black historical fiction books? Here is a roundup of some fantastic Black historical fiction authors!

black historical fiction books

Black Historical Fiction Authors

I’m always looking for diverse voices in the historical fiction market. For so long it seemed to be a genre saturated with castles and royalty. Those stories are still entertaining and even important in their own way. I’m interested in the Tudors as much as the next girl. But there are so many other important stories out there! I’m loving that the market is expanding so dramatically! In the last year alone I’ve been exposed to so many new cultures and historical periods. I’m loving it! Today I want to focus on some amazing Black historical fiction authors I’ve found. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins has made a name for herself as the “Queen of Black historical romance”. She is a recipient of the 2017 Romance Writers of America Award, the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in literature. She has also been featured on NPR, CBS Sunday Morning, the Wall Street Journal and People Magazine.

Since her first book, Night Song, debuted in 1994, she has been trail blazing the way in writing historical romance stories with Black and multicultural characters.

Learn more about her at her website- and shop her books below!

Black historical fiction authors

Black historical fiction authors

Lola Jaye

You may have seen her most recent book- The Attic Child hitting the bestseller lists and getting attention with Book of the Month etc. But before this haunting story, Jaye was already writing thought provoking historical fiction.

Wartime Sweethearts is a unique multicultural take on the popular WWII time period of historical fiction and Orphan Sisters is an immigration story as well as a deeper look at life in 1950s London.

To learn more about Lola Jaye- visit her website at and shop her books below!

Dr. Vanessa Riley

Have you read Island Queen yet? This book floored me and was one of my top historical fiction reads of 2021! But before this groundbreaking true story about a former slave girl who becomes one wealthiest and powerful landowners in the West Indies, Riley had already made a name for herself in the historical fiction market.

Her work as classified as straight historical fiction as well as historical romance and historical mysteries– all taking place in Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras.

Her books have been featured in Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Publisher’s Weekly and more!

To learn more about Dr. Vanessa Riley check out her website here- and shop her books below!

Black historical fiction authors

Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi has become a legend in the historical fiction world. Her debut novel, Homecoming, came out in 2016 and at the tender age of 26– won her the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award, the Pen/Hemingway Award, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honors, and the American Book Award. She also received a Vilcek Proze for Creative Promise in 2020.

To say this woman is talented is an understatement. But more importantly, she makes us think. Not only does she write about large sweeping periods in history to understand the ripple effects of events over time and generations, but she has also written and offered interviews in multiple publications about what reading in general does for us. How we read, why we read, what effect reading has on society etc.

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