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September 26

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

Presidential Medal of Freedom women


QUOTES by Ellen Goodman, Cynthia Tucker, Richard Gilman and Dale Spender.

Presidential Medal of Freedom Women

More and more women are being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. There have been less that 400 people given the award since its inception in 1964.
      Here are a three women who were honored by the Clinton administration:
      Antonia Pantoja. The driving force behind innumerable efforts to empower and strengthen the Puerto Rican community. AP founded ASPIRA 35 years ago. This organization promotes education, leadership training, and community service for Latino youth.
      Ginetta Sagan. Imprisoned and tortured during World War II, Ginetta Sagan has devoted her life to saving others from unjust and inhumane imprisonment. Through Amnesty International and her own Aurora Foundation, she has drawn the world's attention to the plight of prisoners of conscience and their families.
      Rosa Parks. By refusing to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man one evening 40 years ago in Mongomery, AL, Rosa Parks symbolized a civil rights revolution that forced our country to honor our ideals of equality adn justice. Parks continues to work to extend more opportunities for young people through the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in Detroit.
            -- Taken from a Hillary R. Clinton column saluting the Medal of Freedom Honorees who "reflect the best of the American character and spirit - and the best that our democracy has to offer."

      [WOA editors note: Rosa Parks had been a civil rights activist and leader for many years. Her honorary title of "mother of the civil rights movement" is based on actual work, not hype. There were dozens of women who "labored in the fields," i.e., the trenches of the black civil rights movement during the more dangerous days. Their names and accomplishments - and sometimes their deaths - have gradually been erased with the rise of the "superstar" male leaders.]

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09-26-1859, Adelaide Johnson - U.S. sculptor, feminist, and creator of the monument that salutes the women's movement. AJ financed her art studies from the settlement that she got when she broke her hip falling down an elevator shaft. She maintained a studio in Rome most of her life. She saw feminism as the greatest revolutionary force in history and "the mightiest thing in the evolution of humanity." Her particular role, she saw, was to immortalize the history of the women's movement.
      Her seven-ton sculpture of white Carrara marble entitled The Woman Movement containing portraits of Mott, Anthony and Stanton was presented to the nation on 02-15-1921. It was only one of many AJ planned. It was financed by Alva Belmont and her National Woman's party. The reception was the first ever given for a woman in the Capitol. AJ mutilated many of her scultures in later life when her financial condition became severe. Although she received some public support, her dream of a studio-museum of the women's movement never came to pass.
      AJ broke with Anthony over the placement of the monument (1904). Anthony wanted it in the Library of Congress, not the Capitol because she thought the library had more prestige.

B. 09-26-1875, Mary Elisabeth Dreier - U.S. labor reformer and suffragist. Although independently wealthy, MED won the trust of working women and became active in the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL).
      She walked the picket lines with striking women and she was arrested and treated as brutally by the police as regular working women were. (Claims of women being treated with dignity by the police in the olden days is a complete lie. They were usually treated more brutally, cared for less - and of course, subject to rape by guards and police.)
      MED was the only woman member of the New York State Factory Commission which made a comprehensive study of labor conditions and then drafted legislation that revolutionized laws governing the conditions for laborers. Her labor experiences with male unionists soon turned her into an ardent suffragist; MCD was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt who was also active in WTUL.
      In 1905 MED invited Frances Kellor, also a noted reform activist, to live with her. She supported Kellor and her activism as they shared a home for 47 years until Kellor's death in 1952. In 1908 she had bestowed a lifetime annuity on Leonore O'Reilly whom she met in 1899 when she was head of the Asacog House, a Brooklyn settlement house. MED was the sister of Margaret Dreier Robins, who also had a distinguished career in social reform. Katherine Dreier a noted artist who devoted her efforts on behalf of modern art exhibition and acceptance of women artists instead of her own art. Another sister was Dorothea Dreier, 1870-1923 was a noted post impressionist painter.

B. 09-26-1876, Edith Abbott - Dean of the University of Chicago School of Social Service, the first woman dean of a U.S. graduate school. EA was probably the most influential factor in the education of women for social work and the dominance of women in the field. She authored the authoritative Women in Industry (1909) and other studies in housing and education in Illinois and Chicago.
      EA was another part of the Jane Addams' Hull House group and sister of Grace Abbott. Her mother Elizabeth was a graduate of Rockford Seminary in Illinois (the alma mater of Jane Addams) and was a high school principal with progressive ideas and concern for the oppressed. She was also a proponent of equal rights for women.
      Edith worked her way through college until she was able to obtain a small fellowship to attend the University of Chicago where she earned her Ph.D. in economics with honors. She wrote more than 100 books and articles. She formed a long, close personal and professional friendship with Sophonisba Breckenridge, (see 09-06) was said to have had a brusque sense of humor and was an uncompromising teacher.

B. 09-26-1892, Marina Ivanovna Tsvetayeva - Russian poet. MIT is ranked as one of the greatest of modern Russian poets alongside Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam. Forced into exile after the Russian revolution in 1917 she returned to Russia at the beginning of World War II only to be subject to the same official persecution she had fled two decades earlier.
      MIT produced an immense body of work that was arranged and preserved by her daughter who had herself spent 16 years in Soviet prison camps. The task took most of her life. Several volumes of her work have been translated into English. MIT committed suicide in 1941 shortly after a violent argument with her son who accused her of being selfish and irresponsible by being a poet instead of a wife and mother. He blamed her for his father's imprisonment and his sister's sentencing to forced labor. MIT's husband had been a paid informant of the Soviet secret service, a fact Marina knew nothing about. It was the father's fault his children were imprisoned. The son was killed during World War II.
      She had a number of actual and platonic affairs with both men and at least one woman, never feeling fully alive unless she was in love. Her birthday is also recorded as 10-08-1892 (New style) although the September date is used in most biographical reviews. An excellent biographical reference is Feinstein, Elaine. Marina Tsvetayeva, Lives of Modern Women, London: Penguin Books, 1989.

B. 09-26-1893, Freda Kirchwey - U.S. activist and editor. FK helped found The Nation magazine and edited it from 1922 to 1955. Hers was one of the earliest voices raised against McCarthyism and the anti-communist hysteria that followed World War II. FK was active in civil rights and human rights organizations.

B. 09-26-1895, Fay Holden U.S. actor. A noted character actor on the stage, FH became the perfect stereotypical American mother in her screen roles.

B. 09-26-1899, Frances Elizabeth Cavanah - U.S. editor and writer. The fame of FEC rests on her historical books for children.

B. 09-26-1926, Julie London - U.S. entertainer. JL was a singer and actor who starred or was featured in a number of movies who was exploited for her beauty rather than her talent. Her mother was a vaudeville singing/dancing entertainer.

B. 09-26-1936, Sue W. Kelly - U.S. Representative from New York. SWK was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from 19th NY district (1995) and continues to serve in congress. She was noted for her advocacy of patients and nursing home residents.

B. 09-26-1946, Christine Todd Whitman - first woman governor of New Jersey. CTW was elected in 1993 and reelected 1997 by the slimmest of margins. The gender gap is credited by many for her wins. She was elected on a platform to reduce taxes 30% in two years. She accomplished the pledge but the state fell into a serious economic slump. Her proposals include privatizing some state departments at the cost of jobs. Her mother was vice-chair of the Republican National committee and her father comes from extreme wealth. While stating she is pro-choice, she has supported presidential nominees who favor constitutional amendments banning all abortions.

B. 09-26-1947, Lynn Anderson - U.S. country singer and songwriter. Dozens of her songs crossed over into mainstream fame. Her "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" went gold and won the Grammy for best female vocal. Her mother is Liz Anderson, a country singer and songwriter in her own right. Liz wrote Lynn's famed "Ride, Ride, Ride" (1966) and had her songs recorded by top male vocalists in the business.

B. 09-26-1948, Olivia Newton-John - Australian pop vocalist.One of the most popular singers of the 70s and 80s, her biggest hits was "Let Me "Be There." She also starred in the perennially popular movie Grease.

B. 09-26-1949, Jane Graves Smiley - U.S. novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner. She won the Pulitzer honor for her devastating One Thousand Acres that was later made into a movie but is best known for her novel Moo which has almost become a cult favorite. Her mother was also a writer and journalist.

B. 09-26-1956 Linda Hamilton - U.S. actor.

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      "But the rebellion glamorized by the 'gangsta' culture is so self-destructive because it dismisses model behavior as somehow not 'black' enough. Kids who make good grades, respect the King's English, and don't use profanity are 'trying to be white.' Imagine a culture so self-hating that is assigns all appropriate behaviors to another racial group.
      "While this peculiar social construct has untold hazards for black girls, it saves its greatest destruction for black boys. Look in the prisons. Look in the graveyards. Look in the crack houses. You will find disproportionate numbers of young black men in those places. You do not find nearly enough of them in college or in church. There is truth here that is staring us in the face: No matter how powerful a combination they may be, racism and poverty alone cannot account for that."
            -- Cynthia Tucker in her "As I see It" column "Resisting the Destructive Allure of 'Gangsta' Culture."

      "We known that 400 teenagers are impregnated by men over 25 every single day. We know that 20 percent of the fathers are six or more years older than teen mothers. We know that in California, which has the highest per-capita rate of teen- age pregnancy in the nation, as many as half of all teens who give birth are prior victims of sexual molestation or rape."
      "...Statutory rape laws are based on the notion that a girl below a certain age isn't mature enough to legally consent to sex. How then is she old enough to consent to marriage? Do we only care that a girl is unwed?"
            -- Ellen Goodman in a 1996 column. [Ed. Note - and few of those rapes which are statutory rapes are ever prosecuted. In fact, in 1997 officials in Orange County, California, were pressuring girls into marrying their rapists to keep them off the welfare roles - and refusing to prosecute rapists of young women!]

      "The nature of most language tells us more about the hierarchical structure of male-female relationships than all the physical horror stories that could be compiled ...that our language employs the words man and mankind as terms for the whole human race demonstrates that male dominance, the IDEA of masculine superiority is perennial, institutional, and rooted at the deepest level of our historical experience."
            -- Richard Gilman (1971:40-55) as quoted by Dale Spender (see below).

      "Anthropologists, for example, have long known the value of language structure in 'cracking the code' of another society even if they have not adopted a comparable approach to their own. That there is no Hebrew word in the old testament for Goddess, for example, provides a clue to the meaning of a deity in those times - at least, among those who were engaged in the task of writing (Stone, 1977:7), but that there is no word in the English language for a strong female does not seem to have been a factor which has interested many language scholars who wish to know more about our rules for making sense of the world...
      "To me, it seemed perfectly clear that the use of man and he as terms to denote a male, but on occasions to encompass a female, was an example of a sexist linguistic structure. Initially I saw it as a convenient means for making women invisible, for blanketing them under male terms. I also saw it as a means of creating difficulties for women because representing them with a male symbol on some occasions made this particular linguistic structure ambiguous for them. They were required to ascertain to whom this symbol referred.
      "....What are the implications of a society which has language based on the premise that the world is male unless proven otherwise? What is the result of eliminating the symbol of woman from the language? What are the effects of making a common linguistic structure ambiguous for half the population?"
            -- Spender, Dale. Man Made Language. London: Pandora. 1980.
      (WOA author often uses the following example of the way women are erased by English grammar. I postulate an imaginary, lengthy discussion of 100,000 women and one man discussing the statement "All MEN are created equal and endowed by THEIR creator..."
      The discussion is followed by a request by the moderator for all men to stand and stretch their legs and use the men's room if they want. The use of men as a pronoun for group of 100,000 women and one man is correct grammar. By the way, many "original intent," conservative legal scholars opine that only men are given basic human rights according to the U.S. Constitution because women are not mentioned. The question will continue to rise, when referring to all men is the reference to only men or to all persons.

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