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December 13

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This document has been taken from emailed versions
of Women of Achievement. The complete episode
will be published here in the future.

More from Listening, by Sey Chessler

The Winter Solstice


QUOTES by Katherine Anne Porter, Robin Morgan, and Hester Mundis.

by Sey Chessler

      "At home one night after dinner, I sat down to read the paper, as usual, while my wife went into the kitchen to do the dishes. I could see her in the kitchen. She looked happy, or at least not unhappy, there in the pretty kitchen she had designed - and she was probably appreciating the change of pace after a hard day as chief of service in a mental hospital dealing with a staff of three or four dozen employees and a hundred or more patients, some of whom threatened her from time to time.
      "Yes, she was using the time well, since she had no hobbies to break the tension. I was feeling comfortably and happily married, when - CLICK - the view changed, and I saw a hardworking woman doing something she'd rather not be doing just now.
      "When my wife finished and sat down near me, I kissed her with a special tenderness, I thought. She didn't. As a matter of fact, she turned the other cheek. Something was going on in both our heads. The next night I decided to do the dishes and she read the paper. At the sink, I began to think about male arrogance. Why did I have the choice of doing or not doing the dishes, while my wife did not? By the same token, why had she had to wait until our children (and I always thought of them as HER children when they were small and dependant) were in school to exercise her 'free' choice of working at her career? Our jobs were equally pressured and difficult (hers more harrowing than mine) and yet, if I chose to sit and read after dinner, I could. She could not, unless I decided she could by OFFERING to do the dishes. My definition of freedom was based on a white male conception: the notion that because I am free, because I can make choices, anyone can make choices, I was defining 'anyone' in my terms, in masculine terms. I am anyone, unqualified. She is anyone, gender female.
      "So you take your tender kisses and shove them."

[Another excerpt from this essay can be found in WOA 12-12.]

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The Winter Solstice

      Until the calendar reform, the winter solstice fell on this date. Many religious observances in December are built around the "rebirth of the sun" and the older ones continue to be celebrated on the old day, including the Feast of Saint Lucy and Lucia Day in Sweden.
      'Tis said that on the eve of her day, Lucia is seen coming across the snow-covered fields with a crown of light around her hair. Some areas have torchlight processions, bonfires, or processions carrying candles - all built around the summoning back of the sun which has disappeared. Usually the DAUGHTERS of the household are the ones who lead the celebrations.

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B. 12-13-1818, Mary Ann Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, raised as a Southern lady protected and genteel, her life became a tragedy: she was the victim of vicious gossip during the Civil War, her husband was shot at her side, two of her children died, and one of her sons had her declared insane (which was set aside some months later).
      She was genuinely a disturbed woman, who today could have been treated. Actually, to have lived through all that happened to her and not go insane is a mark of her inherent strength. As a Southerner during the Civil War in the White House she was subject to horrible gossip and slander by Washington insiders.

B. 12-13-1833, Belle da Costa Greene, librarian, for 40 years supervised and collected the manuscripts and books for the famed Morgan Library. It was the Morgan money but the Greene insight that determined the materials and developed the world-famous institution.

Event 12-13-1853, the first woman's infirmary that was staffed by women physicians was the New York Infirmary of Women and Children, New York City "to provide for poor women the medical advice of competent physicians of her own sex." The physicians were Drs. Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Blackwell, and Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska.

B. 12-13-1871, Emily Carr, Canadian painter of Indians and landscapes of western Canada, now regarded as a major Canadian artist although during most of her life she was laughed at and scorned.
      She was a preservationist of native ways and traveled extensively to far flung Indian villages to record the vanishing traditions. She studied art in both London and France. While in Paris she adopted the impressionist style, which developed into her own art that could be described as a mixture of Renoir and Van Gogh through the eyes of Gauguin.
      Her sweeping paintings of the vast Western Canada went unappreciated and she was forced to earn her living by doing crafts such as weaving and pottery. Finally, in her late 50's as the appreciation of modern art came to Canada, she resumed painting but still without commercial success.
      She turned to writing in her late 60's and her book Klee Wyck published when she was 70 was only the first of many successful publications. Joyfully, in 1994 according to Canadian historical writer Susan E. Merritt, when Emily was 72, she was given an exhibition in Montreal and 57 of her 60 paintings were sold. She died at 73, finally recognized as a great artist and admired as a fine writer.
      The Vancouver Art Gallery displays the work she willed to the Province of British Columbia. She never married.

B. 12-13-1879, Eleanor Robson Belmont. At 32, after a renowned acting career, married fabulously wealthy 57-year-old August Belmont and became one of the great patrons of the arts in the US. She was one of the founders of the American Woman's Association.
      ERC was the first woman to deliver a commencement address at New York University in its long history and organized the Metropolitan Opera Guild (1935) to coordinate efforts to stabilize income for the Metropolitan. Her mother and grandmother were stars of the British stage.

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      "Adventure is something you seek for pleasure, or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; ...but experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you."
            -- Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) American writer

      "I'm just a person trapped inside a woman's body."
            -- Robin Morgan

      "There is no such thing as a non-working mother."
            -- Hester Mundis

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