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September 21

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.

Autumnal Equinox

Excerpt from Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth

Women and Living Wills


QUOTES by Carol Moseley Braun, Barbara Jordan, May Sarton, Etta Semple and Marie de Ventador.

09-21 - Autumnal Equinox - Mabon or Harvest Home when light and dark are in balance. In the old religions, a harvest festival is held, thanking GAWD for a bountiful harvest that will carry the people through the long winter.
      Harvest festivals are still being held in most of the temperate zone of Europe and America to commemorate the safe harvest. Ocktoberfest and Thanksgiving are both different faces of the harvest festivals that are usually marked with new wine drinking, feasting, and dancing.
      A good harvest means life. Remember, until just recently, people didn't have supermarkets. Even today, two bad harvest years would have most of the world facing starvation.

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"Because nobody pays a girl what they would pay a man."

This exchange is from Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, a lengthy and interesting novel of the near-end of the Dark Ages in England, namely the 1100s. The exchange on page 391 between the high-born but destitute Aliena and a wool merchant, however, could have openly occurred in the United States in 1970 BWL (Before Women's Lib) and is still going on sub-rosa in most workplaces...
      [Two men presented a sack of wool shorn from their sheep to a wool buyer who said]
"...The quality's poor... I'll give you a pound (240 pennies)." [The two men accepted the money and left. The wool buyer then examined the wool Aliena presented.]
" 'Mixed quality, half a pound,' he said...
      " 'What?' Aliena said incredulously.
      " 'A hundred and twenty pennies,' he said.
      "Aliena was horrified. 'But you just paid a pound for a sack!'
      " 'It's because of the quality.'
      " 'You paid a pound for poor quality (mine is mixed quality and better)!'
      " 'Half a pound,' he repeated stubbornly...
      " 'Tell me why,' she insisted. 'There's nothing wrong with the wool, is there?'
      " 'No.'
      " 'Then give me what you paid those two men.'
      " 'No.'
      " 'Why not?' she almost screamed.
      " 'Because nobody pays a girl what they would pay a man.'
      "She wanted to strangle him... It was outrageous. If she accepted his price, all her work would have been for nothing. Worse than that, her scheme for providing a livelihood for herself and her brother would have failed, and her brief period of independence and self-sufficiency would be over."

(Thank you, Ken Follett, for having summed up the agenda of those who oppose equal pay for comparable work: "Her... independence and self-sufficiency would be over."
      Yes, low wages for women is one of the prime methods men has utilized to keep women from independent action and thinking.
      Although no man in the U.S. today would OPENLY dare admit to such bigotry, less pay/money/respect, etc., continue sub rosa through today. Even though there are supposedly laws against it, wage prejudice against women is still commonplace.

Almost a thousand years after the above quote, the battle for equal wages for equal work continues as women today only earn 70 cents to a man's $1.)

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Women and the Right to Die

As a woman, you just think you have the same federally guaranteed right to die with dignity as a man if you are felled by a fatal illness. You just think you will be able to decline life- sustaining medical machines or treatments that sustain the body's functions without hope of recovery - regardless of pain and suffering and cost.
      A study by law students showed that most men were allowed to die in accordance with their wishes without torturous and expensive life-extending methods because the judges took what they said in conversations as serious opinions. The study showed that women's stated opinions were referred to in written legal decisions as "frivolous" and were most often denied. Many judges have ruled that women only have "opinions" in such matters while men have "beliefs."
      Also, even when the family agrees to "pulling the plug" if the patient is unable to communicate, many "religious" people and groups are using friendly judges to stop fatally ill people from being allowed to die with dignity - and again it is women who seem to carry the brunt of the interference because of their potential for bearing a child even while in a vegetable stage. Several comatose women have been raped in medical or nursing facilities and have borne children without ever regaining consciousness.
      Although it is claimed that a lawyer is not necessary to make out or file the federally guaranteed right-to-die forms (also known as "living wills"), these forms do vary from state to state and it is a good idea to consult with your lawyer. It may be wise to make sure it is witnessed by more than just your immediate loved one. A copy of the completed form should be filed with your physician as well as friends/members of your family. Making several "originals" also is wise. Your lawyer or your physician should have the forms or she may tell you where they may be obtained. If not, call the local medical board. After a flurry of information when the law was passed several years ago, almost no mention is ever made.
      Make sure you make your wishes are known and are recorded - especially if you have a serious medical problem or are involved in risky or dangerous pastimes. They may never be needed, but like a regular will to dispose of property, a formal declaration of your intentions and instructions will help assure that your wishes are followed.
      The notarized right-to-die form and forms regarding permissible treatment (also called "medical powers of attorney," "health care surrogate" appointments, and "advance directives") are particularly important in the lesbian community because chances are likely that your state does not recognize a lesbian partner as "family" and too many judges/doctors/hospitals automatically discount their presence, wishes, or commitments.
      Also, with the proper documents, life and death decisions are not put on the shoulders of your loved ones who will be made to feel guilty, no matter which way they decide. [For more information, and to check the legal particulars in your state, see the lawyer who prepared your will.]

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B. 09-21-1855, Sara Delano Roosevelt, autocratic social matron who was overly protective and the proud mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Regardless of the many criticisms of her, she did raise the most far-and fair-sighted U.S. president to his time who showed amazing respect for women. She was critical of her daughter-in-law Eleanor Roosevelt who was terrified of her. SDR was haughty, domineering, and completely devoted to her son - traits that were considered admiral in a man but historically condemned in a woman.

B. 09-21-1855, Etta Semple, American writer who became the target of an assassin for her freethought views. In the surprising location of Ottawa, Kansas, she organized and headed a freethought state-wide organization and produced a freethought magazine, She also wrote several novels, married twice, and raised two sons. Her obituary read:
"She did not believe in the general idea of God or of the existence of a soul. Her idea of the hereafter was that a person s life will have a good or evil influence after death, wholly dependent upon the life lived by the person. Believing in this faith she strove to live a conscientious life, helping the sick, afflicted and distressed...
      "She believed that a good life will inspire others to be better and will have influence for the betterment of the world. This was her idea of the soul."
      ES had built a three-story osteopathic hospital with 31 rooms to aid the lame and sick. She was known to have never turned away anyone who was hungry or "no fallen woman has been kicked down by (me)."
      In spite of her philanthropy, many opposed her. According to a biographical sketch in Annie Laurie Gaylor's Women Without Superstition-No Gods-No Masters, "When a Christian woman said Etta was little better than a whorehouse madam, she replied: 'If heaven is composed of such hatred, such abuse, such tyrannical onslaughts, such Christian love, I don t want to go there. Hell is far preferable.' "
      In 1905 a woman patient was killed at her hospital and authorities were convinced that the bludgeoning death was meant for Etta Semple. However, years later when she died, the town shut down for her funeral.

B. 09-21-1858, Annie Sturges Daniel, pioneering U.S. physician who developed the "out-practice" service in New York City, the system of physicians going to the homes of the poor, usually the tenements of the lower east side.
      She continued the work for 60 years not only treating illnesses as had been done by her male predecessors, but she changed the environment that caused so much of the illness. Social medicine was a radical concept at the time and was due primarily the entrance of women into the medical field.
      ASD realized that unsanitary living conditions, poor nourishment, and ignorance were the triple threats to health and life. She spent her life eradicating them through preventative medicine and hygiene educational programs.
      She particularly fought the household sweat shops where the poor - mostly women and children - were forced to use their limited living space to produce clothing. However, because she was one of the foremost authorities on tenement living, she did not try to eliminate home sweat shops because the income was vital to the families. Instead, she lobbied various city and state committees to regulate the conditions and force a raise in the wages for the work.
      One of her most effective methods was to publicize the working conditions under which the clothing was manufactured and to warn consumers of the threat of disease being carried in the clothing.
      A born crusader, ASD's report on women in the prison system led to the segregation of prisoners from indigents as well as setting up a matrons program so women were supervised by women, not men who too often took sexual advantage of women or treated them with the grossest of contempt and abuse. She was also active in the suffrage movement.
      ASD continued to operate NYC's out-practice department into her 80s and she continued to make housecalls. She also taught extensively at the Women's Hospital. One of her brightest students was Dr. Jo Baker (B. 11-15-1873) who lowered the death rate of infants so dramatically.

B. 09-21-1887, Grace Harriet Spofford, U.S. music educator. An injury cut her concert career before it began and caused her to write in her diary, "I was rather bossy... and loved administrative work."
      That administrative work would eventually lead her in 1935 to Lillian Wald's Henry Street Settlement where she developed its music school into a major cultural feature of New York City. As a conservatory school, it taught musical skills to thousands of young people at little or no cost. Noted performers were drawn to the school and acted as unpaid instructors. Aaron Copland wrote a special opera to be performed by the school's students and Orson Welles directed the production.
      GHS assisted the formation of other schools/conservatories of music throughout the country.
      Graduating from Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, she taught piano there until 1918 and served as executive secretary of the conservatory 1917-1924. She was the first dean of the Curtis Institute of Music. She either taught or was administrator/ manager for a number of other projects in New York City before (and after) the Henry Street Settlement appointment.
      Her emphasis was on training, never competition, believing that music was for the people at little or no cost.
      In her later years she served in several music relation capacities internationally with women's groups as well as the National Council of Women of the U.S. She was instrumental in getting the music of several women composers recorded.

B. 09-21-1907, Helen Snow, British journalist and author whose book about the history of the Chinese Communist Party was used widely at a text in Chinese schools.
      The best known of her dozens of historically important books about China was Red Dust (1952), recounting the lives of the top 24 communist leaders. She lived in China from 1931 until 1940, witnessing the Japanese takeover and then escaping to safety to the communist held territories.
      Her Electronic Telegraph obituary said HS and her husband
"were as much the engines of history in China in these years as they were recorders of it. In 1938 the couple joined and led a campaign to develop light industry inside and outside communist-held areas through workers' co-operatives. Their purpose was to sustain the economies of regions where Red military operations were under way." Both HS and her husband retired to England where they divorced.

B. 09-21-1930, Dawn Addams, renowned English actor.

B. 09-21-1944, Susan Maureen Fleetwood, British actress who was a mainstay of the British classical theatre for almost 30 years. She was particularly acclaimed for her dozens of roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre

B. 09-21-1947, Marsha Norman, U.S. playwright. Her 'Night Mother won the 1983 Pulitzer prize for drama. She also wrote the book and lyrics for the 1991 Tony award winning musical The Secret Garden for which Lucy Simon wrote the music.

B. 09-21-1949, Ellen Futter, ninth president of Barnard College.

B. 09-21-1955, Ann Dacyczyn, publisher of Tightwad Gazette, a newsletter about thrift as an alternate lifestyle.

B. 09-21-1968 Ricki Lake, TV personality.

Event 09-21-1981: the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Event 09-21-1983: Ronald Reagan's Interior Secretary James Watt said in a speech: "We have (in my department) every kind of mixture you can have. I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." He apologized but was forced to resign.

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      "The outcome of the Thomas hearing would have been different had there been women - or even ONE woman - on the Judiciary Committee. But, as we watched the hearings day in and day out, the questions we wanted to ask... the issues we thought should be addressed never surfaced.
      "We didn't have a voice."
            -- U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun who upset Senator Alan Dixon, a pro-Thomas supporter in the Illinois primary and then went on to become the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She lost her bid for reelection in 1998 because of some scandals attached to her earlier years in the Senate - and a heavily financed opponent.

      "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise."
            -- Barbara Jordan, 1977

      "So at an early age I witnessed the fact that work was of the first importance and that it justified rather inhuman behavior...
      "Because of his need to concentrate absolutely on his work, (my father) had developed extreme resistance to anything that might prove disturbing, such as my mother's health or lack of it...
      "[My mother] became for me an island of light, fun, wisdom where I could run with my discoveries and torments and hopes at any time of day and find welcome."
            -- May Sarton, American poet, novelist, essayist, and journalist.

      "If I deny the existence of a God if I deny the idea of a gold paved city with pearly walls and jasper gates somewhere out of knowledge and space and prefer to die and trust to the unfaltering laws of nature if, in plain words I don t want to go to (your concept of) heaven, whose business is it but my own?"
            -- Etta Semple (see above)

      "...the lady / ought to do exactly for her lover / as he does for her, without regard to rank; / for between two friends neither one should rule."
            -- Marie de Ventador, c.1165, as quoted in The Woman Troubadours, edited by Meg Bodin, 1976.

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