April 3, 2024

My Duty Is to Love

 Through the years of reading biographies and books focused on Princess Diana—in my studies of women’s history and royal archetypes—I always held royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith as a fair and trustworthy voice. So I was surprised and disappointed recently when she appeared to join misogynistic and patriarchal-leaning writers by referring to strong women as “domineering” and deeply feeling men as “weak.”

On a promotional tour for her new book, another about the British royal family, Bedell Smith compared King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Calling Harry “weak” like the Duke of Windsor—because, if I’m understanding her reasoning, both men fell in love with strong women—and saying that “in some respects Meghan and the Duchess of Windsor have similar qualities: very narcissistic, very controlling, very dominating”—because, again, if I’m understanding her premise, that they were/are strong women. (Et tu…even you, Sally?)

However, people who know Meghan Markle—and those more inclined to take the high road— would describe her qualities as “confident, assured, and being a leader.” And she was vilified for that—like other women who dared to step outside the narrow Windsor box. As I see it, Meghan, this accomplished, heart-guided woman, fell in love with a man of great heart—compassionate, caring, sensitive, courageous—a man who was a fellow activist motivated by creating a kinder world, all in the name of love. (And a man who inherited his mother’s “exquisite sensitivity of feeling,” in the words of Jungian analyst Jim Fitzgerald, and is committed to continuing her humanitarian vision.)

[Click here to read the entire article posted on MEDIUM]

March 8, 2024

International Women's Day...Month...Always

Our History is Our Strength 

International Women's Day 

In 1977, when the women who would establish the National Women’s History Alliance began planning a women’s history week, March 8th, International Women’s Day, was chosen as the focal date. 

The selection was based on wanting to ensure that the celebration of women’s history would include a multicultural perspective, an international connection between and among all women, and the recognition of women as significant in the paid workforce.

United States women’s history became the primary focus of the curriculum and resources developed. At that time, there were no school districts in the country teaching women’s history. The goal, although it most often seemed a dream, was to first impact the local schools, then the nation, and finally the world. It is a dream that is becoming a reality.

Women’s History Week, always the week that included March 8th, became National Women’s History Week in 1981 and in 1987 National Women’s History Week became National Women’s History Month. The expansion from local to national and from week to month was the result of a lobbying effort that included hundreds of individuals and dozens of women’s, educational, and historical organizations. It was an effort mobilized and spearheaded by the National Women’s History Alliance. 

National Women’s History Month is now recognized throughout the world. Women from Germany, China, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, Russia, the Ukraine, and several African nations have visited the National Women’s History Alliance’s office or attended its events. One result from this contact has been the establishment of a women’s history program and museum in the Ukraine. 1989 The National Women’s History Alliance accepted an invitation from the government of Spain to address an international women’s conference on the importance of women’s history and the impact of National Women’s History Month. In 2001 a sistership with the Working Women’s Institute of Japan was established resulting in the National Women’s History’s posters and display sets being featured in the organization's first exhibit.

The National Women’s History Alliance’s website reaches the global community. The Alliance receives emails from individuals throughout the world. Each year hundreds of National Women’s History Month posters are distributed to military bases and Department of Defense schools throughout the world for special programs and events that celebrate and recognize women’s accomplishments. It is the hope of the National Women’s History Alliance that the celebrations at these different venues will ignite a sense of celebration and recognition that honors women of all nations.

[reprinted from the NWHA newsletter.]

February 24, 2024

Second-Class Citizen, Part II: 'That Vote Has Been Costly'

Women picket the White House, 1917, quoting President Wilson from his war message on their banner.The demonstrations, led by Alice Paul, challenged Wilson on his inaction; the daily picketing began in January 1917 and continued for 18 months, despite weather, harassment, and arrest.

Carrie Chapman Catt may be a name less familiar to some than the name of her mentor Susan B. Anthony, yet with her considerable organizational skills — a brilliant strategist and former teacher — she was the most recognized name in the U.S. suffrage movement in the early twentieth century. Catt led the National American Woman Suffrage Association in its final, exhaustive push to win the vote for women in the summer of 1920. In her brilliant book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote published in 2018, Elaine Weiss described the scene when Catt finally returned to her home in New York once the Nineteenth Amendment was signed into law. Catt sat at her desk and, looking out at her garden, wrote “a poignant charge to the women voters of the nation”:

The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guaranty of your liberty. That vote of yours has cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women. Women have suffered agony of soul which you never can comprehend, that you and your daughters might inherit political freedom. That vote has been costly. Prize it!

The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully. Progress is calling to you to make no pause. Act!

With 33 years of suffrage work behind her, Carrie Chapman Catt moved on to voter registration and voter education through the League of Women Voters, an organization she helped launch. (Eleanor Roosevelt was one of Catt’s protégées.) When she turned her energies back to anti-war efforts, Weiss explained, Catt was “monitored by the FBI,” possibly for the rest of her life. “Alarmed by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933, she organized Jewish support groups and lobbied the U.S. government to ease immigration restrictions for refugees.” Mrs. Catt, as she was respectfully known by many, died of a heart attack in 1947 at the age of 88 after a lifetime of service for you and me and the women of the world.

The new century brought many “uppity, contrary women” into the public sphere.... [Continue reading on MEDIUM.] Part II of V.

February 14, 2024

January 1, 2024

Marriage and the 'Prospect of Happiness'

"The Unequal Marriage" by Vasili V. Pukirev, 1862

Historically, given the patriarchal nature of most world cultures, the happy expectations that many brides may have imagined at their wedding fell far short during their marriage—disappointment often began before the honeymoon phase, if there was such a thing. To cope with the lack of attention or even abuse by their husbands, women around the globe had limited choices—especially since ill-treatment of wives was often sanctioned by their religions and governments. “A bride,” nineteenth-century journalist Ambrose Bierce said, “is a woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.” Indeed, for eons, a married woman’s “prospect of happiness” was a dilemma.

In the middle of nineteenth-century England “marriage was the subject of much contemporary debate,” wrote best-selling author Kate Summerscale. Divorce laws were being investigated and reformists were “campaigning to improve the lot for married women.” One such reformist, novelist and poet Caroline Norton, even wrote to Queen Victoria—a happily married woman and mother—about the “injustices of wedlock,” as shared by Summerscale:

 “A married woman in England has no legal existence...her being is absorbed in that of her husband.” A wife could not undertake legal proceedings, or keep her own earnings, or spend eons own money as she wished. She “has no legal right even to her clothes or ornaments; her husband may take them and sell them if he pleases.” A wife’s identity was subsumed in that of her husband....

And Caroline Norton should know. “When she left her unfaithful, bullying, profligate husband in 1836,” wrote Summerscale, “he had kept her children from her and had confiscated the money that she earned through her writing.”

[Continue reading this short chapter excerpt on Medium...enjoy!]

October 26, 2023


Judy Chicago at the New Museum in NYC as seen in The New York Times

Judy Chicago is at it again! "The pioneering feminist artist rules the New Museum with a six-decade survey, but she shares the stage with her sisterhood." (See Melena Ryzik's article in the NYTimes, Judy Chicago Makes 'Herstory'.)

Click here for a preview of the exhibit on the New Museum website. (The Herstory exhibition has been extended until March 3, 2024.)