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April 17

One of the five Nevelson stamps

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.

Are You Kidding Historical Misfact

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie hung by her teeth

First Black Woman Member of the UK House of Commons

Judging Amy Almost Got Gaveled Out Before Hearing


QUOTES by Elizabeth Janeway, Margo Jones, Jane Welsh Carlye,Michel Montaigne, and Dale Spender.

Are You Kidding Historical Misfact

On 04-17-1972 Nina Kuscik became the first woman to *officially* run the Boston Marathon according to the Boston Marathon committee.
      Well - not quite. Let's do a bit of HERstory.
      In 1966, Roberta Bengay hid in the bushes and then joined the runners just after take-off to get into the race. (Several women have since claimed Bengay was an alias and are claiming to be her, but WOAH has no knowledge of any of them. We know of no photograph of her IN THE RACE ITSELF and none of the claimants has offered proof.)
      Bengay ran the Boston Marathon in 3:12.2 and beat two-thirds of the men. Race officials, however, denied a woman had run the race.
      "I know of no girl who ran in the Boston Marathon. I do know of a girl who is supposed to have run on the same roads as the marathon route today. But that's not the same." (sic!)
      In 1967 Katherine Switzer was refused permission to enter the Boston Marathon, but got a number as K. Switzer.
      While racing she was recognized as a woman and officials chased her trying to pull off her number. (There's a famous photo of the attempts which were foiled by male runners around her, as well as her speed.) She finished the race.
      Being a member of the Syracuse University track team, she was promptly suspended from the Amateur Athletic Union for "running without a chaperon!"
      For those who are shaking their heads, YES only 35 years ago - and only 29 years since "we were legal." ... As we often write, "Women's rights are VERY young and tender."

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Stunt Walkers - Often Women - Were the Big Draws at

Event 04-17-1921: One of the great draws of the early air shows were the stunt walkers, those who performed risky manuevers OUTSIDE THE AIRPLANES such as walking on the wings. Many of them were women because it aroused men and newspaper men more to see women doing such things.
      One such woman was Phoebe Fairgrave who had dreamed of flying in high school.
      No man pilot would take her on as a student.
      She couldn't be serious! Flying was men's work!
      "It was not long until I began to realize that one way in which I certainly could get up in the air would be to buy an airplane. I had a hunch that the prospect of a sale would make the boys waver in their determination not to have anything to do with satisfying my ambition to go aloft," PF wrote later and used a small inheritance
      Lessons and the plane proved to be too expensive for just a hobby so she combined her love of flying by becoming an air show performer.
      She wing walked and made parachute jumps.

For those readers who are too young to remember, planes at the time flew only 50-75, later at 100 mph. They also flew very quiet compared to modern engines and flew quite close to the ground (which made the outside of the plane acrobatis easy to see at the air shows).

On 04-17-1921 Phoebe took her first parachute jump winding up in a tree, dangling unhurt.
      Within a few month she set a new world's record for women jumpers by parachuting from a plane at 15,200 feet.
      Then she developed the trick of cutting off her first parachute, then free falling before deploying her second chute - a real crowd pleasers that made her one of the most popular attractions in the country.

Popular, smart, and ambitious, Phoebe formed her own organization, The Phoebe Fairgrave Flying Circus.
      She soon married Vernon Omlie, the pilot who had taught her to fly. Together they continued to barnstorm until they'd raised enough money to form their own flying school and broadened into the aviation business, Mid-South Airways in Memphis, Tennessee.
      (Based on information in United States Women in Aviation 1919-1929.)
      NOTE: The Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie scholarship was established by the Federal Aviation Administration Mid-South Chapter Federal Women''s Program (MSCFWP) and the Women in Aviation, International Memphis Belles Chapter.
      This scholarship is awarded annually to a student or students demonstrating academic potential and ability to overcome obstacles. The goals of the Memphis Belles and MSCFWP are to increase the awareness of job opportunities, training, upward mobility, and avenues of self-development for women in aviation careers and in government service.
      For details see: http://www.aella.com/WIAI/fwpapp.html
      See: Omlie, Phoebe Fairgrave (1902-1975) Aviator Leonhirth, Janene. "Omlie, Phoebe Fairgrave." In The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture), edited by Carroll Van West. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998.

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First Black Woman Member of the UK House of Commons

Diane (Julie) Abbott (b. 1953) was the first black woman member of the House of Commons, U.K.
      She was born in London, England, UK. She studied at Cambridge, and was an administration trainee in the civil service before working for the National Council for Civil Liberties, the Greater London Council, and Lambeth Borough Council. She joined the Labour Party in 1981, and served on the Westminster City Council 1982--6. Elected to Parliament as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987.

Little Known Factoid:

Joan Alison who died at ago 90 in 1993 co-wrote the play Everybody Comes to Rick's that was the outline of one of the most popular storylines in modern entertainment.
It became the 1942 movie Casablanca.
Here's looking at you, kid.

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Judging Amy Almost Got Gaveled Out Before Hearing

CBS' Judging Amy the highest rated new drama of the 1999 fall season almost didn't make it.
      The show was the last one ordered for pilot season and the last one to be put on a network schedule. Even then, only a small presentation reel was ordered, rather than a full episode.
      "What it meant was that the network ran out of money for pilots but still wanred e to see something, so we'll pay for 20 minutes," explained executive producer Barbara Hall.
      The series, based on star Amy Brenneman's mother's years as a judge in family court, was developed jointly by Amy and executive producer Connie Tavel.
      It appears "everyone wanted Tyne Daly desperately." An excellent choice because she has shown great maturity that showcases her fantastic acting ability and received Emmy recognition.
      For her part, Daly said that she was drawn to the project for two reasons.
      "We've seen a lot of cops and lawyers, but we never go in the back rooms where these decisions are made," said the actress, who is also pleased that the character of Maxine was allowed to have flaws -- like her own smoking habit.
      Animal lovers will be pleased to hear that the family dog Socrates (who died in one episode) was still alive and well at this writing. The closing moments of that episode when Tyne Daly breaks down is one of the great scenes of TV.

      Note: Actor Amy Brenneman, with her mother, the Hon. Frederica S. Brenneman, received a gavel with the state crest for use on the popular television show Judging Amy, at the Supreme Courthouse in Hartford, Conn., Friday, May 19, 2000.
      The Connecticut Supreme Court honored Judge Frederica S. Brenneman in a brief ceremony for her work in the juvenile court system and her daughter for her TV role based on her mother's life, which brought increased awareness of this tough job through her program Judging Amy.

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B. 04-17-1693, Mary Spratt Provoost Alexander - Dutch colonial (born New York City) merchant. Although much of MSPA's life is not fully documented, this remarkable woman had 10 children, two husbands, and built a trading empire of stores in New York city for which "she imported goods so extensively that it was said hardly a ship arrived in New York without a consignment for her."
      In addition, MSA was active in politics, she aided and was in partnership with her various children in business. Her second husband was a prominent attorney and it is said she financed him and provided him with valuable contacts.
      The Dutch women colonists had a tradition of merchandising and trade. At least one actually traveled with her goods between European ports and New York city.
      The couple built a magnificent mansion and lived well. Their wealth, in today's dollars, would have made them milliionaires.
      Many of her children lived extraordinary lives in commerce and trade as well as becoming involved in civic matters.
      According to Nichola Varga who studied MSA's life, the "most extensive account of Mary Alexander s life is in Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, The Goede Vrouw of Mana-ha-ta (1898), a book professedly baed on family traditions and records."

B. 04-17-1813, Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper - U.S. author and philanthropist,
      SAFC is best remembered for her novels and essays on nature and the rural life.
      Her father James Fenimore Cooper encouraged her to write but other than a few works - and those about her father - she was never very successful
      On her inherited wealth, she founded Thanksgiving Hospital in Cooperstown in 1865 and in 1873 the Orphan House of the Holy Savior, which she personally superintended. It eventually held almost a hundred children.

DIED 04-17-1826, Elizabeth Morris - English-born, U.S. actor. She and her husband were arrested in Boston in 1792 for conducting an illegal performance; it was the first play ever performed in that city. She became the leading actor of her day but in middle-age became a noted recluse.

B. 04-17-1845, Katharine Isabel Hayes Chapin Barrows - U.S. ophthalmologist.

B. 04-17-1845, Isabel Barrows - U.S. editor and pioneer penologist.

B. 04-17-1851, Anna Spener - U.S. Unitarian minister, confounder of New York School of Social Work. She was a reformer active in the women's suffrage and peace movements.

B. 04-17-1867, Beverly Sitgreaves - U.S. to France expatriot. BS was the first American actor to play the lead in the Theatre Anglais in Paris. Her acting career spanned 50 years.

B. 04-17-1885, Isak Dinesen (Baroness Karen Blixen) - Danish writer.
      She is best known to the modern generation for Out of Africa (book 1937; Hollywood film 1985) which recounted her experiences from an upperclass life in Denmark to her marriage of convenience to Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke and then, primarily her life in Kenya. which includes her love affair with Denys Finch Hatton of British royal line.
      In Kenya, she and Hatton were treated as a couple. After Hatton's death, the bankruptcy of her Kenyan faem, she returned to Denmark and took up writing. She also continued her lifelong battle with syphilis with which she was infected by her philandering husband before her affair with Denys.
      She wrote in English and published parallel Danish versions. She was a well-known radio broadcaster in Denmark and an anti-Nazi.
      Through her writing - and even in the way she lived back in Denmark - she created an aura around her that has defied any definition. Some say she re- created her life as a novel so that reality and fact appear surreal and impossible to separate.
      Her face in old age became skeletal-like, some say because of the recurring syphillis, a fact that added to her mystique.
      Her Seven Gothic Tales (1937) and Winter's Tales (1942) are marvelous short story collections. Ernest Hemingway used her husband, Bror Blixen, the notorious "user of native women" as the model for the "big white hunter" character of his African novels.
      The Danish government restored Isak Dinesen's home in Kenya used in the film Out of Africa, and it is now a museum.

B. 04-17-1888, Louise Nevelson, Russian-born, U.S. sculptor.
      Photos of six of her sculptures were featured on five U.S. postage stamps as part of the official U.S. Postal Service 2000 commemorative stamp(s) issue. The release read:

      "WASHINGTON - Expansive, three-dimensional walls of wooden boxes painted black, white, or gold are among the unique trademarks of environmental sculptor and artist Louise Nevelson.
      "On April 6, 2000 the U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the works of Nevelson, one of the most gifted sculptors of the 20th century, with the issuance of a pane of 20 (five designs), postage stamps...
" 'As one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, Louise Nevelson has left an indelible impression on this country; she was ahead of her time and unique in her choice of subject matter and the medium she worked with,' said Anita Bizzotto, Postal Service Vice President, Pricing and Product Design, who will dedicate the new stamps...
      "She was a pioneer in the art world, and worked for almost 30 years before making her first sale. It is not only her artistic creations, but her spirit of perseverance and determination that we honor with the issuance of these postage stamps...
      "Each of the five 33-cent stamp designs depicts a detail of a larger Nevelson sculpture. The sculptures featured on the stamps are (from left to right on the stamp pane): 'Silent Music,' 'Royal Tide,' 'Black Chord,' 'Nightsphere-Light,' and 'Dawn's Wedding Chapel.'
    "The selvage photo of Nevelson, shown standing in front of "Dawn's Wedding Feast" was taken by Arnold Newman in 1980. At the lower edge of the image is a quotation from Nevelson: 'My work is delicate; it may look strong, but it is delicate. True strength is delicate. My whole life is in it.'
      "While Nevelson worked in other media, the sculptures represented on these stamps are all made of wood.
      "Nevelson, born in Russia in 1899, introduced a new form of sculpture that consisted of carved, recycled, and painted wood objects arranged in boxes that were stacked to create entire sculptural walls. During her career spanning more than 50 years, she produced an impressive and influential body of work.
      "Her family came to the U.S. in 1905 and settled in Maine. After her marriage to Charles Nevelson in 1920, she moved to New York City where she studied the arts and where she lived and worked for most of the rest of her life.
      "Nevelson's first solo exhibition was in 1941 at the Nierendorf Gallery in New York City. The first major retrospective of her work was presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1967. During the 1970s and 80s Nevelson expanded the media used in her sculptures to include objects made of synthetic materials.
      "Among her most important commissioned sculptures are 'Atmosphere and Environment' for Princeton University, New Jersey; 'Bicentennial Dawn,' for the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse, Philadelphia and 'Transparent Horizon,' for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
      "The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City has the largest collection of Nevelson works in the world. Nevelson continued working until her death in 1988.

      "Technical details of the stamp Issue:
      "Louise Nevelson - Item Number: 443800 - Denomination & Type of Issue: 33-cent Commemorative Format: Water-activated pane of 20 with selvage (5 designs) - Issue Date & City: April 6, 2000, New York, NY 10199. Photographers: Stamps: Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Jerry L. Thompson, and the Whitney Gallery of Art Selvage : Arnold Newman, New York, NY Designer: Ethel Kessler, Bethesda, MD, Art Director: Ethel Kessler, Bethesda, MD, Typographer: Ethel Kessler, Bethesda, MD."

B. 04-17-1888, Dame Maggie Teyte - English lyric soprano was considered one of the 20th century's foremost interpreters of French song. She performed opera, in concert, and mad numerable recordings. She was the recipient of Chevalier of Legion of Honor (1957). Her mother was also a singer.

B. 04-17-1913, Dorothy Fosdick - U.S. government official. DF was the first woman to hold a high-level policy position with the U.S. state department, but the male historical recorderds insists on billing her as "mistress of Adlai Stevenson when he was running for President of the United States."
      She was his chief advisor on foreign affairs and even after Stevenson, DF was a primary director of the democratic party's foreign policy aims. She was a trustee of Smith College.
      The release of her affair with Stevenson during his campaign for president was aimed at diffusing rumors that he was homosexual.

B. 04-17-1915, Rebekah West Harkness - U.S. patron of dance and a composer. RWH studied under the renowned Nadia Boulanger and at the Mames College of Music and wrote hundreds of popular songs. She inherited a Standard Oil fortune from her husband.
      RWH was president and director of William Hale Harkness Foundation, sponsored construction of medical research buildings at New York Hospital, supported Dr. Irving S. Cooper's research through her Rebekah Harkness Foundation, sponsored Robert Joffey Ballet and Jerome Robbins; Ballets USA, as well as modern and ethnic dance companies and the Central Park Dance Festival.
      She was founder (1964) and president and artistic director (1970-75) of Harkness Ballet that was formed when she broke away from the Joffrey Ballet over artistic differences.

B. 04-17-1916, Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike - world's first prime minister, elected prime minister of Ceylon in 1960 by her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
      She would serve 1960-65, 1970-77, and 1994-
      Her daughter continues...
      She suceeded her assassinated husband as premier and although many doubted her ability to rule, she did not, saying, "People forget I had twenty years of political education from my husband. I am not as inexperienced as they make me out."
      In her first term, BS actively encouraged the Buddhist religion and made Sinhalese the sole official language (and culture) over Christianity and English. These actions, together with her government's nationalizing of various economic enterprises, spurred several western governments led by Britiain (Ceylon had been under English control until 1948) to wreck the nation's economic situation into chaos. Of course that she nationalized Euro-American owned oil companies didn't help her with the U.S.
      She forbade foreign money in an attempt to lift the influences from Sri Lanka but it backlashed and the lack of foreign trade threw as much as 25% of the population out of work.
      Her party was soundly defeated but in 1970 her socialist coalition took over again and instead of backing down, she increased her liberal and nationalistic society. She pushed for a new constition that renamed the nation Sri Lanka as a republic. (It is modeled after the French parliamentary system with the president being the elected supreme officer who appoints the prime minister unlike the better known British system. Prior to the change, Ceylon operated under the British system with parties winning elections and the party electing the prime minister who serves as the nation's supreme officer.)
      She nationalized more industry and pushed for huge land reforms - absolutely destroying the old English-type colonization.
      The expected actions from the west again kept the economy from expanding and the extreme nationalization alienated from ethnic minorities. Strikes were called as pressure mounted for separatism from Tamils, the largest minority group in Ceylon. There was also an armed insurrection by Marxist factions. Both the extreme right and the extreme left warred to take over the nation. In bad faith, she nationalized the newspapers that criticized her.
      Her party was voted out in 1977.
      Three years later her political rights were removed and she was barred from ever holding political office again in an attempt by the right wing to gag her as the leader of liberalism, no matter how badly she acted at times. She enacted many radical measures, which included nationalising denominational schools and life insurance.

Bandaranaike and her daughter.

      However, her popularity could not be destroyed nor her push for socialization and she was pardoned to regain a seat in parliament in 1989 and she again became a major voice.
      In the meantime her son, more right-wing, had attempted to take over the party but his SISTER, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (b. 1945) who was liberal was supported by their mother. The son defected after the choice of his sister and he moved to the right wing party. Chandrika, after her film-actor husband's assassination in 1988, joined her mother in politics and quickly moved into the leadership position. When the SLFP coalition won the elections of 1994, Chandrika became prime minister. A few months later she was elected president and appointed her mother Sirimova as prime minister - probably the first mother- daughter leadership duo in the history of governments in the world.

Bandaranaike in old age;
last vote.

      On the world stage she played a key role in defusing tension between India and China after their brief border war in 1962. However, her other international actions are not well known in the western world because she emphasized good relations with her Asian neighbors rather than the west.
      At her first speech she addressed the women of Sri Lanka, saying, "My victory is really their victory."
      She died 10-10-2000, age 84. She was on her way home after having cast her vote for her daughter in the national elections.
      She stepped down as prime minister 08-10-2000 and was suceeded by Ratnasiri Wickremanayke who was, of course, appointed by her daughter, the Sri Lanka president.

Event 04-17-1919: the right to vote for women of the Canadian Province of New Brunswick was validated but their right to stand for political office was not enacted until 03-09-1934. The general enfranchisement of women in Canada occurred 05-24-1918.

B. 04-17-1928, Cynthia Ozick - U.S. novelist, short-story writer, and intellectual. writer of complex fiction combining Jewish mysticism, supernatural in modern, mostly New York City life.
      Critics say her works seek to define the challenge of remaining Jewish in contemporary American life. By delving into the oldest religious sources of Judaism, Ozick explored much new territory.

B. 04-17-1941, Judith Blegen - U.S. soprano with the Metropolitan Opera. Her mother was a violin teacher.

B. 04-17-1967, Liz Phair - U.S. rock vocalist and composer.

B. 04-17-1974, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya - Russian international chess grandmaster.

B. 04-17-1982, Karen Scavotto - U.S. archer. KS joined the U.S. Olympic team just a few weeks before the international pre-Olympic test. Expected to win only two matches, the 17-year-old instead outshot everyone else in the world to win her first international competition. At the time, the 5'6" archer weighed 126 pounds.

Event 04-17-1991: Every rule was broken when a woman accused William Kennedy Smith.
      The New York Times printed her name and TV cameras showed her face - and the defense attorneys were allowed to question her on her sexual history. A lot of apologies were handed out AFTER the rules were broken, but that didn't help the woman. Smith was was acquitted without problems although there appeared to be other women who were willing to testify that he had raped them, but were not called.
      The newspapers made much of the fact that Smith was the nephew of the Senator Edward Kennedy and always referred to him as "Kennedy" rather than Smith.
      Times columnist Anna Quindlen, whose April 21 column recalls the discretion shown by the paper in the case of the 1988 Central Park jogger story and concludes that any woman who accuses a "well-connected man" of rape "had better be prepared to see not only her name but her drinking habits in print..."
      The New York Times_published an apology April 26 after receiving a lot of criticism for naming the woman.
      Smith was indicted May 11 and he was acquitted after a sensational trial in which questions in open court were raised about his accuser's sexual history and mental state. The Times ran a story sympathetic to his accuser May 12.

Jackie Mitchell signed to play professional baseball for Chattanooga and in April 1931, she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, back to back. It was said she could throw a baseball 100 mph.

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"American women are not the only peoplem in the world who manage to lose tracck of themselves, but we do seem to mislay the past in a singularly absent-minded fashion."
           -- Elizabeth Janeway, "Reflections on the History of Women," Women: Their Changing Roles 1973.

"We have seen too much defeatism, too much pessimism, too much of a negative approach. The answer is simple: if you want something very badly, you can achieve it. It may take patience, very hard work, a real struggle, and a long time, but it can be don't. That much faith is the prerequisite of any undertaking, artistic or otherwise."
            -- Margo Jones "Theatre '50: A Dream Come True," Ten Talents in the American Theatre, David H. Stevens, ed. 1957

"Never does one feel oneself so utterly helplessas in trying to speak comfort for great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother."             -- Jane Welsh Carlye (1801-66)

"Women are not altogether in the wrong when they refuse the rules of life prescribed to the World, for man only have established them and without their consent."
            -- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, 1580, in his Easais. A later Easais is edited by French professional writer Marie le Jars de Gournay who had met him in 1588.

"It is only by insisting on the validity of what men neither know nor understand that women will come to gain their full rights; so it was with Wollstonecraft - so it is today."             -- Dale Spender in Women of Ideas .

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