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September 15

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.

Alys Pearsal Smith's Cry for Justice


QUOTE by Soon Mei-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek).

"There is no sadder sight in the world than that of a wasted life."

This wonderful essay by Alys Pearsal Smith, was published in the remarkable Nineteenth Century Women, a magazine that dared treat women as individuals deserving of their own minds, hopes, and dreams.
      Smith's cry for justice reaches across the times with a clear voice:

"They must arrange the flowers, helping with the housekeeping, pay the family calls, entertain the family visitors, always be at hand, well-dressed, cheerful, and smiling, like household angels, as they are often called, without any personal preferences or pursuits, ready to meet every call, and to contribute to everyone's pleasure but their own. All this, it is true, is a part, and a very essential part, of the duty belonging to an unmarried daughter at home; but it is only a part.

"The tyranny comes in when it is considered to be all.

"It is the fact that she must always be 'on tap' (if we may use the expression) that make life so hard and dull in its effects. Under such circumstance the girl can never sit down to read or write without fear of being disturbed; she can never undertake any definite work or pursuit, lest it might interfere with some of these unceasing claims.

"She never, in fact, has an hour that she can call absolutely her own, free from the danger of interruption. There is always something wanted by someday, and a girl of average conscientiousness would feel very selfish should she refuse to meet these unceasing claims, even though most of them may be very unimportant, and although she herself may have on hand at that moment some important work of her own.

"Her brother, who is reading at home in his vacation, is never to be disturbed; but that, of course, is because he is reading for his examinations, and expects to do some thing afterwards. But are the girls, who are not going in for examinations, and who never expect to do any great things, not to be allowed some definite time for study and self- improvement, or for some outside philanthropic work?...

"The suffering endured by many a young woman under these circumstances has never yet been told. Possessing no money in her own right, and obliged to be, too often from an unwilling father, for all she gets, a girl of character, as she grows into maturity, and lives on as a woman in her father's house, suffers from a sense of bitter humiliation that no one who has not experienced it can understand.

"Many young women under these circumstances would gladly engage in any honourable labour, however menial, that would enable them to be independent and to won themselves.

"Could the parents of these daughters... for one single moment get a glimpse into the hearts of the quiet, uncomplaining daughters, they would be astonished and perhaps horrified.

" 'What can our daughter want more than they have now?' they would ask. 'They have a good home and every comfort and the society of the parent's friends; perhaps a carriage to drive in and horses to ride. What more can they possibly desire?'

To such parents I would reply; Your daughter wants herself... She wants to belong to herself. She has paths of her own she longs to walk in, and purposes of her own she is eager to carry out. She is an independent being, created by God for the development of her talents, and for the use of her own time...

"Put yourselves in her place, and ask yourselves how you would like to have no independence, but be obliged always to live someone else's life, and carry out only someone else' purposes.

"You have had aims and purposes in your lives, and have been free, perhaps to carry them out. Can you dare, as mere human beings like themselves, to lay hands upon the mature lives of your daughters and say, 'It shall be as we please, not as they please?'

"If they yield to your demands it can only be at the expense of a grievous waste of energies and capabilities that were meant by God to accomplish, through their instrumentality, some personal and instrumental work for Him.

"There is no sadder sight in the world than that of a wasted life.

"And when this waste is the result of carelessness or selfishness on the part of the strong towards the weak, it becomes no less a tragedy even although it is done under the name of parental love.

"Such tragedies are not fiction, but the very common occurrence of everyday life around us. How wanton is the waste continually going on in the lives of thousands of women, whose powers, by the long course of trivialites and mental starvation, deteriorate year after years, until they themselves and all their friends suffer incalculable lose."
            -- Alys Pearsal Smith, writing in The Nineteenth Century Magazine, c 1880.

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B. 09-15-1824, Adeline Dutton Train Whitney, American author whose message was "a woman's happiest place was in the home." Of course, that home was always well-to-do, peopled by good souls who always wanted to do the right thing.
      It made her immensely popular for almost a half century. It was the message people wanted to hear and some of her books went through 20 printings. One sold more than a thousand copies in one month.
      She opposed woman's suffrage. She was a better writer and story teller than critics will give her credit for. She was a capable woman of her times.

Events 09-15-1843: Chand Kaur, widow of Kharak Singh of the Sikhs in the Indus River valley of India, sat on the throne for only a few month before she was murdered by a relative. Her followers in turn murdered the murderer. Jindan Kaur was proclaimed regent for her son Dalip Singh. The turmoil opened the way for the British conquest. As a result, a British resident was named to act as regent for the underage ruler instead of his Sikh mother.

B. 09-15-1850, Mary Downing Sheldon Barnes, U.S. university professor at Wellesley and Stanford who was the pioneer in the use of source material to teach history.
      Eschewing standard texts to be learned by rote, MDB would distribute copies of documents, etc., to her classes and have far ranging class discussions on their content and meaning. MDB sought to teach students critical thinking so they would form "independent, unprejudiced judgment as to men's actions, opinions, acts and social processes."
      The underlying principle was to prevent prejudicial historians from distorting facts. She authored the groundbreaking Studies in General History (1885), Teacher's Manual (1886, 1892), Studies in American History (1891), and Studies in Historical Method (1896).

Event 09-15-1853: Antoinette Brown was ordained in a New York Congregational church.
      AB is considered the first formally ordained minister in the U.S. who was also a woman. She had studied at Oberlin College, Ohio, but was refused a license because of her sex. She became a ardent feminists and left the ministry because of conflicts over the rights of women. She married the brother of America's first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.

B. 10-15-1881, Lena Madesin Phillips, American attorney who organized the convention at which the National Federal of Business and Professional Women's Clubs was formed. She served at its executive secretary. Later LMP was responsible for the formation of the International Federation which she headed.
      LMP started out to be a musician but an injury ended her career as a pianist. After working in a number of odd jobs, she decided on law. Following World War II she did extensive work rebuilding women's clubs in Europe as well as doing relief work.

B. 09-15-1890, Dame Agatha Christie (Mary Clarissa), the most famous mystery writer of them all. She wrote nearly 100 novels and a number of plays. Her works have sold in the hundreds of millions of copies and are being reprinted every day. AC created Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, both of whom have had extensive lives on TV and in movie adaptations.
      She was educated at home by her mother.
      Her play The Mousetrap (1952) set a world's record by running 8,862 performances at one theater - more than 21 years - before moving to another theater.

B. 09-15-1910, Anne Gary Pannell, president, Sweet Briar College, VA.

B. 09-15-1916, Margaret Lockwood, British film actor, starred in more than 30 films including the classics, Man in Gray (1943) and Wicked Lady (1945). James Mason was often her leading man. ML was Britain's most popular leading lady in the late 1940s.

B. 09-15-1923, Hilde Gueden, singer with the Metropolitan Opera.

Event 09-15-1929: Seven North Carolina men are indicted for the murder of Ella May Wiggins on 09-14-1929. EMW, widowed mother of five and a labor balladeer, was slain by vigilantes while en route to a meeting for strikers in Gastonia, North Carolina. The workers were striking for better wages and working conditions. The murder was seen as an attempt to intimidate the women workers to drop the strike.

B. 09-15-1945, Jessye Norman, world renowned Afro-American dramatic soprano with a commanding stage presence and voice to match.
      Born of a prosperous family of musicians, JN sang in the church choir before receiving a scholarship at Howard University for her voice. She continued her vocal studies at Peabody Institute and at the University of Michigan. A competition in Munich netted her a three-year contract with Berlin Deutsche Opera where she made her debut in Tannha ser but soon resigned for artistic reasons. She chose to emphasize the concert stage instead. However, when she does choose opera, she portrays the larger than life heroine. Her appearances at the Metropolitan have been triumphs.

Event 09-15-1954: on the eve of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year - Mrs. Betty Robbins, officiates as the first woman cantor in the United States at a Long Island, New York, synagogue.

Event 09-15-1963: four young girls were killed when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that had been a rallying point for Black civil rights demonstration.
      After years of frustrating investigations and delays, a Klux Klux Klansman was finally charged with the bombing in 1977 and convicted of murder. Newspaper reports and historical records persist in presenting the victims as "four children," as usual leaving the sex of the victims out of it when they are female.

Event 09-15-1970: Phyllis F. Shantz, becomes the first woman member of the Secret Service auxiliary that guards the president and his family while they are in Washington.

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      "For is it not true that human progress is but a mighty growing pattern woven together by the tenuous single threads united in a common effort?"
            -- Soon Mei-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek)

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