Women’s History

March 29, 2016

Medal of Freedom Winner

Harjo receives Medal of Freedom in 2014
Medal of Freedom Winner,
Native American Public Policy Advocate & Journalist

Suzan Shown Harjo (1945 – Present)

Suzan Shown Harjo is a Native American activist whose 50- year career includes work in journalism, poetry, curating, and policy advocacy. Descended from Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee Nations, her accomplishments include helping Native peoples regain more than one million acres of tribal lands.

Harjo’s activism dates back to the mid 1960s when she co-produced the nation’s first Native American news radio show. It was also around this time that Harjo began her work with museums, first working with the Museum of the American Indian in New York, where she helped return sacred garments to their tribes and helped the museum change its policies to more respectfully present Native artifacts. Harjo has continued working with museums throughout her career, including working with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004. In the 1970s Harjo and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. where, after a few years working as a legislative assistant, she was appointed Congressional liaison for Indian Affairs by President Jimmy Carter. Her tireless lobbying efforts led to the 1978 passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. From 1984-1989, Harjo served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, where she continued to fight for the return of Native lands. She also successfully secured increases in appropriations toward Native American education programs.

Throughout her career, Harjo has spoken out against negative and stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans in movies and on television. A leader in efforts to remove negative Native names and images from sports teams; by 2013 her public campaigns had succeeded in more than two-thirds of teams moving away from Indian mascots. In 1984, Harjo founded the Morning Star Institute in memory of her late husband. Still serving as the organization’s president today, Harjo continues to promote sacred land claims and traditional cultural rights. In 2014, Suzan Shown Harjo received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…
The Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. You can visit the Wesleyan Chapel where the meeting was held and explore exhibits covering 150 years of the women’s rights movement.

March 24, 2016

Longest Serving Woman in Congress

Longest Serving Woman
in the U. S. Congress

Barbara Mikulski (1936 – Present)

Barbara Mikulski is the Senior Senator from Maryland representing the Democratic Party. Starting her career as a social worker, In Congress Mikulski has championed such efforts as equal pay, a woman’s right to choose, improving health care for and medical research on women, and subsidizing child-care for low-income families.

Mikulski earned a master’s of social work degree from the University of Maryland in 1965 and returned to her hometown of Baltimore to work with at-risk children and educate seniors about Medicare. Her work soon evolved into community activism when she successfully organized communities against a plan to build a 16-lane highway through the heart of Baltimore.

Mikulski used her community activism momentum to win her first election to the Baltimore City Council in 1971. After serving Baltimore for five years, Mikulski won her first Congressional campaign in 1976, representing Maryland’s 3rd district for the next 10 years. In 1986, Mikulski ran for Senate and won, becoming the first Democratic woman Senator elected in her own right. She was re-elected with large majorities in 1992, 1998, 2004 and 2010.

A leader in the Senate, Mikulski is the Dean of the Women – serving as a mentor to other women Senators and working to form bipartisan coalitions. On January 5, 2011, Mikulski became the longest serving woman Senator in U.S. history and on March 17, 2012 she became the longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress. Of these milestones, she says, “It’s not about how long I serve, but about how well I serve my state and my nation.”

In November 2015, Mikulski received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Senator Barbara Mikulski will retire after finishing her fifth Senate term in December 2016.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…

  • In 1965, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Hawaii.
  • In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from New York.
  • In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman Vice Presidential candidate of a major political party.

March 22, 2016

Mother of the Hubble Telescope

Mother of the Hubble Telescope
1st NASA Woman Executive

Nancy Grace Roman (1925 – Present)

Nancy Grace Roman is an astronomer and was the first women executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Roman is known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her contributions to establishing the Hubble Space Telescope. Throughout her career Roman has been an outspoken advocate for women in the sciences.

Roman showed interest and talent in the sciences from an early age, but like many women of her time she was discouraged by teachers at all levels who thought women were not suited to study science. Roman persevered, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Swarthmore College in 1946, and completing a PhD in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949. Roman stayed at the University for six years working as a researcher and instructor, but left due to the limited opportunities for women.

Dr. Roman worked at the Naval Research Laboratory before being hired by newly-formed NASA in1959 to create the organization’s space astronomy program. Roman worked at NASA for 21 years and then rorked as a consultant for companies that contracted with NASA. She fully retired in 1997, and began extensive volunteer work including conducting science programs in underserved Washington, D.C. schools.

Nancy Grace Roman’s career was groundbreaking not only as a woman scientist, but also in her research discoveries and the programs she created. She discovered the first clues to the evolution of the Milky Way galaxy, mapped the sky at 67 centimeters, and helped improve the accuracy of measurements to the distance of the moon. At NASA Roman led a program that launched more than 20 satellites and three orbiting solar observatories. Roman laid the early groundwork for the Hubble Space Telescope, setting the program’s structure, recruiting astronomers, and lobbying Congress to fund it. Roman’s many awards and honors include The Federal Woman’s Award (1962), NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award (1969), and the NASA fellowship in astrophysics is named in her honor.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…
The Association for Women in Science was founded in 1971 to address job discrimination and lower pay for women scientists. Since then there has been a steady increase in efforts to empower girls and women in the sciences.

March 17, 2016

First Woman Elected Governor

Photo from stamfordadvocate.com
First Woman Elected Governor of any U.S. State

Ella Tambussi Grasso (1919 – 1981)

Ella Grasso was the first woman elected governor of a U.S. state in her own right, serving as Governor of Connecticut from 1974 through 1980. Grasso’s political career spanned over 45 years and she won all ten elections she ever ran in. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Ella Tambussi gained a commitment to public service at her alma mater Mount Holyoke College. After serving as a speechwriter for the Connecticut Democratic Party during the 1940s, Grasso first ran for elected office in 1952 and won a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly.

Serving in the CT Assembly until 1959, she became the first woman elected Floor Leader in 1955. Elected CT Secretary of State in 1958, she was reelected twice and served in this role until 1970. In 1970 Grasso won election as a US Representative and served 2 terms in the United State House of Representatives. Grasso then won election as CT Governor in 1974 and was reelected to a second term. Grasso resigned in 1980 after being diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.

As governor Grasso had to make many challenging and unpopular decisions, but her commitment to creating a more effective government, balancing the budget, and adhering to the democratic process proved fruitful and she won the admiration and trust of her constituents. She led CT through tough economic times, making controversial cuts but also attracting new industries and companies to the state, and the state economy steadily improved under her leadership.

Ella Grasso is remembered as a trailblazing woman and a champion of marginalized groups including minorities, women, young people, the elderly, and the working class. Many believed Grasso would go on to serve in a national leadership role such as Vice President or cabinet member. Sadly, Grasso’s career and lifelong commitment to public service were cut short by her illness.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…

  • In 1887, Susanna Salter was the first woman mayor, elected in Argonia, Kansas.
  • In 1896, Martha Hughes Cannon was the first woman elected as a State Senator, serving in Utah.
  • In 1917, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to U.S. Congress, serving the state of Montana.

March 15, 2016

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Photo from erraticimpact.comNOW Co-founder
First Woman Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC

Sonia Pressman Fuentes (1928 – Present)

Sonia Pressman Fuentes is a lawyer, author, speaker and a pioneering feminist leader who fought for women’s equality in the work force and helped initiate the Second Wave of the Women’s Rights Movement.

Fuentes was born in 1928 in Berlin, Germany. She immigrated to the U.S. as a child to escape the Holocaust, arriving in New York with her parents and brother in 1934. In 1957 Fuentes graduated first in her class from the University of Miami School of Law.

She was the first woman attorney in the General Council’s Office at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency dedicated to enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. While there, she became the staff person responsible for articulating and enforcing the EEOC’s interpretation of the sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As the person who created many of the initial landmark guides and decisions of the EEOC, Fuentes played an extremely significant role in increasing the number of women who entered the work force in the second half of the 20th century.

Fuentes was also one of the original founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as the advocacy group Federally Employed Women (FEW). In 1998, she published a memoir “Eat First – You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter.” Fuentes has also served on the advisory committees of Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) and the Longboat Key Education Center.

Fuentes has dedicated her whole life into making equal rights in the work force, as well as in other arenas of society, a reality rather than just a promise. A key pioneer during the Second Wave of the women’s rights movement, the enduring impact of her work is still evident today.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…
In 1967, NOW started lobbying the EEOC to end sex-segregated want ads. The EEOC ruled the practice illegal in 1968 and in 1973 the Supreme Court ruled sex-segregated want ads unconstitutional.

March 10, 2016

Godmother of Title IX

Women’s Rights Activist
“Godmother of Title IX”

Bernice Sandler (1928 – present)

Bernice (Bunny) Sandler is a women’s rights activist, best known for her groundbreaking work fighting sexual harassment and discrimination on college campuses. Labeled the “Godmother of Title IX,” Sandler both led efforts for the legislation’s enactment and became a national expert on the law’s implementation.

Despite holding a doctorate degree, Sandler was unable to obtain a full-time faculty position because of the institutional sexism facing women in academia. In the1960s.women held more terminal degrees than ever before, yet female professors were routinely denied faculty jobs and tenure. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment based on sex, it excluded educational institutions. Determined to legally fight collegiate sexism, Sandler used an obscure Executive Order, issued in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson prohibiting sex discrimination by federal contractors, to file the first federal sex discrimination lawsuits against every college with federal contracts, about 250 in all.

The Lawsuit

Dr. Sandler’s lawsuit got the attention of Congresswoman Edith Green (D-Oregon), who assembled the first Congressional hearings on sex discrimination in education and employed Sandler as an expert. From there the idea for a law banning sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs was born. Cosponsored by Congresswoman Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), Title IX passed two years later and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972.

The Impact

Title IX immediately ended overt sex discrimination in educational admissions and hiring practices. But in 1974, Sandler and others realized that the law could also cover discrimination in scholastic athletics, ending a system in which women’s programs were rarely funded or even offered. The law has more recently been used to better address sexual violence on campus. Through her long career Bunny Sandler has written three books and more than 100 articles, given more than 2,500 presentations, and served as a media expert on sex discrimination in education.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…
According to Title IX, schools have a legal obligation to prevent and respond to any reported sexual harassment or misconduct.

March 8, 2016

Meet Dorothy C. Stratton

DorothyStratton1st woman in the U.S. Navy
WWII Director,
Coast Guard Women’s Reserve
National Girl Scouts Executive Director

Dorothy C. Stratton (1899 – 2006)

Dorothy C. Stratton was a trailblazer throughout her career, but is perhaps best known for being Director of SPARS, the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve during World War II. Prior to joining the military, Stratton was Purdue University’s first full-time Dean of Women (1933 -1940). When Stratton greatly expanded the female curriculum beyond Home Economics, female enrollment at Purdue nearly tripled. She was made a full professor in 1940, but took a leave of absence in 1942 to enter the armed forces.

Groundbreaker: U.S. Navy

Stratton was the first woman to be accepted for service in the U.S. Navy after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the amendment creating a women’s reserve program. After completing her initial training, she was assigned as the Assistant to the Commanding Officer of the Radio School for enlisted WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) at Madison, WI. On November 14, 1942, she transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard and became the director of the Women’s Reserve.
Her major and lasting contribution to the Coast Guard was the development of the SPAR program, which allowed women to join the Coast Guard for the first time in history. Enlistment in the program grew rapidly in a short span of time; during the remaining years of the war more than 10,000 enlisted, and 1,000 officers served their country through this program. By 1944, one out of every 15 persons enlisted in the Coast Guard was a woman.

Leader of Women and Girls

After the war, Stratton became the first Director of Personnel at the International Monetary Fund, serving in that capacity until 1950. She then went on to become the National Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of America, remaining in that position for ten years before retiring in 1960. In 2001, the Coast Guard Women’s Leadership Association named the “Captain Dorothy Stratton Leadership Award” in her honor. Dorothy Stratton died in 2006, at the age of 107.

From National Women’s History Project 2016 Gazette

Did You Know…
Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (R MA) introduced legislation creating the women’s military units and fought for their equal pay and benefits.

August 26, 2015

The Power of Febb

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Today we tip our hats (and our hearts) to the woman behind the man — Febb Burn.  Hopefully, you know the story about how freshman Tennessee legislator Harry Burn became the deciding vote on the 19th Amendment.Photo of Febb Burn's note to son Harry

At the last minute, he made a career-ending decision (politically speaking). He switched his red rose to a yellow one and changed his vote to “Aye” on the amendment. This historic decision came because Rep. Burn received a note from his mom, Febb Burn, urging him, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage.”

That note, those words, and the courage embodied in the leadership of both mother and son brought the vote to women 95 years ago.

There is a lot more to the story, of course, and it’s an important one to share.

But today, think about the part of the story that is Febb: a mother who changed history with a note. 

Photo of Febb BurnFebb showed the same kind of leadership that so many mothers do.  Her simple words, written from her home and shared in a note across a distanc
e resonated in her son’s heart.  But it was the leadership behind the words that made the difference.

This woman behind the man relied on the years of principles she had instilled in her son to enable him to hear her message behind the words. With her words, she led him to make a powerful, and unpopular, decision. She led him through a lifetime of teaching and role-modeling. Like mothers do.

Like we all do. No matter whether we lead from the front of a company, or, like Febb, by raising leaders, we must remember the power we exert as role models, as mentors, and as teachers.

And honor that.  Like Febb did.
Bethlehem Times announcing Suffrage wins in TN

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