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September 10

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This version of Women of Achievement has been taken
from the 1998 email distribution of Women of Achievement and Herstory.
The full text of this episode of Women of Achievement and Herstory
will be published here in the future.

The First Woman to Have a Bat Mitzvah


QUOTES by Carole Nelson Douglas and Audre Lorde.

BORN 09-10-1909, Dr. Judith Kaplan Eisenstein, U.S. author, musicologist, and composer.
      In 1922 Dr. Eisenstein was the first woman to have a bat mitzvah.
"No thunder sounded," she said in 1992, recalling the ceremony. "No lightning struck."
      Allowing women the rite that had long marked the passage of Jewish males into religious adulthood proved to be the first of many changes broadening the role of women in Judaism. The changes now included their ordination as rabbis. She was the oldest daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism.
      Today the bat mitzvah ceremony (baR mitzvah is for boys) is an established practice within the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism, and parallel celebrations are common in some quarters of Orthodox Judaism as well.

From 1929 to 1954, Dr. Eisenstein taught music education and the history of Jewish music at Jewish Theological Seminary's Teacher's Institute, now known as the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies in New York City.
      While there she published a Jewish songbook for children, Gateway to Jewish Song, which was followed by other books of Jewish music and musical history for young people.
      From 1942 to 1974, she wrote seven cantatas on Jewish themes, among them is the frequently performed, What Is Torah, which she wrote with her husband, Rabbi Ira Eisenstein.
      In 1959, at the age of 50, Dr. Eisenstein, who had earned a Master's degree in music education at Columbia University's Teachers College, began work for her Ph.D. at the School of Sacred Music of Hebrew Union college-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. After receiving her degree, she taught there from 1966 to 1979, and also taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia.
      The smallest branch of Judaism, Reconstructionism views Judaism as what Dr. Eisenstein's father, Kaplan, called the
"evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people," emphasizing the cultural and moral heritage of the Jewish people but not traditional supernatural and theistic beliefs. Dr. Eisenstein studied at the Institute of Musical Art, now the Juilliard School.
      In 1952, Dr. Eisenstein defended the idea of a distinctive Jewish music. While Jews had borrowed much musically from the nations and peoples they had lived among, she wrote in The New York Times, the music of Jews
"bears the unmistakable stamp of their own peculiar wistfulness, puritanism, or wry humor."
      When she was 82, 12 years past the biblical lifespan of 70, Dr. Eisenstein had a second bat mitzvah, at which she was also honored by feminist and Jewish leaders, including Betty Friedan, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Ruth Messinger, Elizabeth Holtzman, Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Blu Greenberg.
      At that time, Dr. Eistenstein expressed disappointment that bat mitzvah ceremonies, like bar mitzvahs, were often overshadowed by lavish parties.
"Bat mitzvah began not just as a statement of feminism," she said, "but as a statement of dedication to something larger than oneself."

[Information on Dr. Eisenstein provided by Varda Ullman Novick.]

Event 09-10-1973: Ironically, exactly 64 years after Dr. Eisenstein's birth, another Jewish tradition of several thousand years duration was broken. The Conservative branch of Judaism ruled that women would be counted along with men to make up the minimum requirement of ten needed for a true worship service. Orthodox Jewry maintains the men-only policy.

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B. 09-10-1638, Marie-Therese of Austria, Queen consort of King Louis XIV of France, was another royal female whose body was used in trade for political power for others. She was given in marriage by her father as the price of peace between France and Spain.
      As part of the marriage agreement, M-T renounced her right to the Spanish throne that she would inherit. Her husband Louis XIV to whom she was forced into marriage was a horrible whoremonger who took many official and unofficial royal mistresses. He was also a liar.
      After breaking the marriage vows, he broke the marriage agreement and conquered part of Spanish Netherlands in his wife's name. M-T is said to have never complained of her treatment, had five children, and then conveniently died. Louis XIV reigned 1643-1715, some 34 years after M-T's death.

09-10-1758, Hannah Webster Foster, British author of Coquette; or The History of Eliza Wharton that went through 13 printings. Twenty years after her death the book was still being reprinted. It was not until 1866 that her name began to appear as the author. Social conventions at the time forbade women gaining "notoriaty," a method of control that effectively kept most women's accomplishments from being credited to them. Only the very brave or stubborn like Jane Austen dared put their names to their works of art in those times.

B. 09-10-1852, Alice Brown Davis was a leader and for a short time the chief of the Seminole Indians. She married a white man who deserted her and their 11 children when the youngest was three. They had operated a trading post for the Seminoles in Oklahoma where ABD's family had settled after the Civil War. Most of the children became prominent community and government leaders.
      ABD, in spite of the hardships of keeping a business going and a large family, became an amazing symbol of strength among her people who resided near the Cherokee in Oklahoma. She even went with a group as an interpreter to seek land in Mexico. Her people's self-government was effectively abolished when the State of Oklahoma set up counties that submerged the Indian population with white voters. Because the U.S. government needed a chief's signature for a piece of Florida property, President Warren G. Harding appointed her chief of the Seminoles.
      She had previously visited the "lost" group of Seminole who had hidden in the Florida Everglades to escape the forced migration that became the Trail of Tears and established a dialogue between the two groups. Instead of signing, ABD demanded reparations and she was summarily removed and a U.S. government illegally signed the deed.
      The Seminoles, under her guidance took the matter to court and finally won a settlement in 1946, 11 years after Davis' death. The whites continue to exploit the Seminoles and to keep many of them in abject poverty.
      The author of WOA visited several Seminole settlements as a news writer while she lived in South Florida and later visited in Okalahoma. I am STILL ashamed and angry at the despicable treatment and genocide of our native peoples. The European invasion of the Western Hemisphere killed more than 100 million native Americans. And we still close our eyes to the Indian Holocaust and the poverty and displacement we continue to exert over the survivors.

B. 09-10-1863, Abbie Gerrish-Jones, U.S. critic, writer, and composer. Her opera Priscilla (1887) is considered the first complete opera - libretto and score - to be written by an American woman.

B. 09-10-1864, Josephine Adams Rathbone, U.S. librarian. One of the first professionally trained librarians, JAR took a supervisory and teaching position at Pratt Institute Free Library in Brooklyn New York, the first free library in the U.S. She left Pratt which was one of the primary institutes of training for librarians, giving them hands-on experience to direct the New York Public Library school.
      A man was hired as director of the NY school and she was made vice-director, a move that shocked her. She was regarded as the real director of the school. JAR was recognized widely as the foremost teacher of library science in the nation, requiring her students to not only know the business of taking care of books but also knowing their contents and current affairs. She served as president of the American Library Association for one term.

B. 09-10-1877, Katherine Sophie Dreier, U.S. painter and modern art museum founder. Instead of focusing on her considerable artistic talent, KSD turned most of her energies towards gaining acceptance in the United States for modern art. Independently wealthy, she - along with artist Marcel Duchamp - established Soci,t, Anonyme in 1920, New York City's first museum of modern art. She published material and held lectures and the like to encourage acceptance of the new art forms.
      When the Museum of Modern Art opened in 1928, it eclipsed her museum and she later donated the collection to Yale University.
      Her sisters were Mary Elizabeth Dreier and Margaret Dreier Robins, both active in art and in social concerns. All three were active in the women's suffrage and rights movements.

B. 09-10-1883, Mabel Vernon, U.S. suffragist, feminist firebrand, and pacifist. Not as well known as some, MV was the first national suffrage organizer for the Alice Paul militant wing and was one of the first to be arrested for picketing the White House. She arranged for Sara Bard Field's transcontinental automobile trip that collected half a million signatures supporting women's suffrage.
      An award-winning debater in school, she traveled throughout the nation to urge support for suffrage. In later years she worked for the Equal Rights Amendment and campaigned for women who were seeking seats in Congress.
      In the early 1030s she became active in various internationl peace movements and gradually began to center on South American problems and was a member of the Inter-American delegation for the founding of the United Nations in 1945. MV received several honors from various South American nations.
      Throughout her long life, she was not only a valued speaker, but one of the most valued and under-honored types of any organization: a great fundraiser.

B. 09-10-1886, Hilda Doolittle, aka H.D., American poet, novelist, translator and writer. An imagist in her poetry, H.D. leaned heavily on ancient mythology and mysticism images. She signed her works H.D. rather than her full name. Her best know works are perhaps Helen in Egypt (1961) and her somewhat autobiographical Bid Me to Live (1944). Her best known poems are,"Sea Garden" (1916) and "Red Shores for Bronze" (1931).
      She wrote that she was "saved" by wealthy English novelist Winifred Ellerman, known professionally as Bryher, who was the most significant of H.D.'s several major relationships. Bryhar and H.D. usually shared a home and frequently traveled together.
      H.D.'s daughter from a marriage with homosexual Richard Aldington was adopted by Bryher. Both women married, mostly in name only, in the way of the times.
      H.D.'s mother was raised a Moravian (a mystical sect) and taught music and painting. H.D. saw herself as pulled between the two poles of her father's scientific views and her mother's mysticism.
      H.D.'s work is almost under constant reevaluation with one critic saying that "we have not yet learned to read her." And so, like her thinking, her works are judged either as ordinary or she is judged as one of the major poets. She lived most of her adult life in Europe, only visiting the U.S. a few times.

Event 09-10-1894, United Daughters of the Confederacy, a woman's patriotic society, was founded. As its title indicates, membership is limited to those who forebearers were in the Confederate armed forces or government or were prominent in the "cause." Its stated purpose is education and preservation of Confederate historical sites.

B. 09-10-1894, Rachel Field won Newberry medal for Hitty, Her First Hundred Years (1930). Her major adult novel All This and Heaven Too (1938) was a runaway best seller and a major Hollywood movie.

B. 09-10-1896, Elsa Schiaparelli, Italian-born French fashion designer who used surrealist-inspired ideas in her fashions. She invented such styles as the bottle dress was responsible for moving colors for women into the vibrant scale with her introduction of shocking-pink.
      ES used the garish to create interest and produce good advertising for the name. Her main lines featured solid styles that sold extraordinarily well for 40 years. One of her innovations was padded shoulders that changed women's silhouettes to the power look.

B. 09-10-1907 Fay Wray, U.S. film actor, the human love interest of the original King Kong of the movies.

B. 09-10-1908, Eva B. Adams, director of the U.S. Mint 1961-69.

B. 09-10-1927, Yma Symac, Peruvian song stylist who revived interest in ancient South American music. Her voice ranged four octaves from deep contralto to a full high C, and she imitated birds, drums, etc., as she sang. She was immensely popular in the United States.

Event 09-10-1948: Mildred Gillars, accused of being Nazi wartime radio broadcaster "Axis Sally," was indicted in Washington, D.C., on treason charges. According to the indictment, Gillars broadcast propaganda in English aimed at demoralizing Allied soldiers and citizens during World War II.

B. 09-10-1953, Amy Irving, American actor best known for her roles in The Far Pavilions (1984) and Yentl.

Event 09-10-1974: Mary Ann Krupsak, wins the democratic nomination for New York lieutenant governor over Mario Cuomo and Antonio Olivieri.

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      "How unfair it is that enterprise is called a harlot when it wears a female face .... You call her an 'adventurous' as well. Two centuries ago the word designated a woman who lived by her wits; today it has been debased to describe a woman who lives by her willingness - especially in regard to men of influence and wealth."
            -- Carole Nelson Douglas in Good Night, Mr. Holmes.

      "When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
            -- Audre Lorde

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