Her’s Day Thursday

hersday thursday2

 

The other night, I was watching PBS (a nightly ritual before I go to bed…sheesh, how old am I?!) and a local program came on, highlighting influential women in history that were from Oklahoma. One of them was Kate Barnard.

kate barnard

Catherine Ann “Kate” Barnard was born in Geneva, Nebraska in 1875. After her mother passed away when she was little, her father sent her to live with relatives and he joined the Land Run in Oklahoma. After staking his claim, Kate journeyed to Oklahoma to live with her father. In 1895, she attended a Catholic school and earned a teaching certificate, teaching until 1902.

When she quit teaching, Kate took a business course and became a secretary for the territorial legislature. She was chosen to represent Oklahoma at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It was there that she met Jane Addams and other social reformers. This was the first time Kate had been exposed to city life, and experienced first-hand the slums and terrible living conditions the poor had to endure. When she returned to Oklahoma, she was determined to help bring about social change.

250px-Catherine_Ann_Barnard,_1912

She threw herself into aid and charity work, participating in Farm Labor meetings and even being elected the Charities and Corrections Commissioner. Through her appointment, she enacted essential education laws, helped create programs to support poor widows, and a state ban on child labor. Kate also advocated for safe working conditions and the eradication of “blacklisting” union members. She was also a voice for abused Native American children. Through her incredible speeches, she was able to convince politicians that there was a deep need to increase federal protection for members of the Five Tribes. Her most notable achievement has been noted as uncovering the abuse of Oklahoma prisoners being held in Kansas. Kate discovered the prisoners were being subjected to torture and forced labor in coal mines. Because of her findings, it forced the governor to return the prisoners to Oklahoma and resulted in the building of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlister.

220px-Katebarnard

Kate’s political career ended during her second term in office. She fought so diligently for the needs of Native Americans who were being cheated out of their land. Because of her devotion to righting this wrong, she made many enemies, including William H. Murray who convinced the state legislature to defund her office. In her book, A Chief and Her People, Wilma Mankiller quoted Kate: “I have been compelled to see orphans robbed, starved, and burned for money. I have named the men and accused them and furnished the records and affidavits to convict them, but with no result. I decided long ago that Oklahoma had no citizen who cared whether or not an orphan is robbed or starved or killed – because his dead claim is easier to handle than if he were alive.”

Kate died in 1930, due to many lingering health problems and was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982.

Thank you, Kate, for your amazing work for Oklahoma!

 

 

 

 

 

Her’s Day Thursday

Her's Day Thursday3

Last week, I noticed that Google had a new doodle on its homepage honoring Mary Pickford:

Mary Pickford

Intrigued, I clicked on it to learn more about the lady in the drawing. I learned a lot about this awesome lady and want to share it with you!

Mary Pickford (given name: Gladys Louise Smith) was born Toronto, Canada on April 8, 1892, the oldest of three children, to John and Charlotte Smith. When Mary was about seven years old, her father passed away. In order to make ends meet, Mary’s mother began taking in boarders for income. One of her first boarders was a theatrical stage manager. He immediately saw something in little Mary and was able to have her cast in two plays.

mary pickford 2

Soon, acting became a family business. Mary, her mother, and her siblings traveled around taking parts wherever they could get them. Mary was growing frustrated. She decided that if she did not land a big role soon, she was going to quit acting for good. Not long after this declaration, Mary earned a role in the Broadway play, The Warrens of Virginia. It was in this play that Mary met Cecil B. deMille, another actor (and future famed director). After the play’s run was over, Mary was out of work again. She screen tested for a film, but was not chosen. However the director, D.W. Griffith, was taken with her and encouraged her to try out for more films. Because of this push, she was eventually cast in 51 films in 1909 alone!

mary pickford 3

Her career soared and she went on to form the independent film production company United Artists with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks. Mary went on to be a producer as well as win an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929.

mary pickford 4

Mary broke down barriers in an industry which still, to this day, is very much male-oriented. But kudos to Mary–aka, “The Girl With the Curls”–and the other women who are determined to follow their dreams and get more women on screen!

 

 

 

 

 

Her’s Day Thursday

hersday thursday2

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an amazing lady in history, so I thought I’d fix that today! Our wonderful woman was a daredevil who pushed boundaries and didn’t let racism or sexism get in her way! Today’s BAMF is Bessie Coleman!

Pioneer Aviator Bessie Coleman

 

Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892–the tenth of thirteen children–in Atlanta, TX. When Bessie was a young child, she would walk to school everyday (four miles!). Her school was a small, one-room, segregated schoolhouse. Bessie excelled in reading and math. When she was older, she saved up her money and enrolled at Langston University in Langston, OK. Sadly, she was only able to finish one year because she ran out of money.

When she was 23, Bessie moved to Chicago and lived with three of her brothers. She made ends meet by working as a manicurist. Knowing she was meant for more, Bessie took a second job to pay for flying lessons. Because American flight schools didn’t allow blacks or women, she was encouraged by a friend to study abroad. So, with her friend helping her financially, she left the U.S. for France.

Bessie COleman 3

On June 15, 1921, Bessie became the first African American woman to earn her pilots license! When she came back to America, she was a media sensation. Bessie was an extrordinary pilot and knew how to keep an audience’s attention. She was an amazing daredevil, performing such tricks as figure eights, loops, and near-ground dips which kept air show crowds in awe.

Because of her popularity, Bessie was offered a role in the movie Shadow and Sunshine. She was excited to be a part of a major motion picture and hoped it would break barriers for women and people of color. However, she soon found out that her character was going to be portrayed in tattered clothes, carrying a pack over her shoulder. She walked off the movie set, refusing to perpetuate the derogatory image that Hollywood seemed so keen on to portray blacks in America.

Bessie knew where her destiny lie, in the clouds. She’s quoted as saying, “The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation. . .”

Bessie Coleman

Sadly, Bessie’s avionic dreams came to a halt on April 30, 1926. On her way to an air show, Bessie was in her Curtiss JN-4 aircraft with her co-pilot. Her plane had been worked on by a mechanic earlier in the day who said that he had to make three forced landings because of faulty maintenance from the previous owner. Undeterred, Bessie wanted to take her plane to the show. She did not have her seatbelt on while in the plane, as she needed to look over the co-pilot’s shoulder for his readings. As she did this, the plane took a sudden nose dive, spinning. Bessie was thrown from her aircraft and fell 2,000 feet to her death. Later, a wrench had been found inside the engine, accidentally left by the mechanic. She was just 34.

Her life was short, but her legacy is huge. Bessie broke down barriers of race and gender. Bessie Coleman, you are an inspiration to us all!

 

 

 

Her’s Day Thursday

 

hersday thursday2

 

During the Oscars this past Sunday, GE debuted an awesome new commercial. Didn’t see it? No worries! I’ve got it right here:

 

I. LOVE. THIS.

(Also, the irony that this commercial was played during an awards show honoring celebrities was not lost on me)

I wish great women like Millie Dresselhaus were held to the same esteem as celebrities. And Millie deserves it! She was the first female professor at MIT (she taught physics and electrical engineering) and has won several awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science (among more than a dozen others)!

You can learn more about Millie here!

Her’s Day Thursday

hersday thursday4

Y’all, today’s BAMF is absolutely amazing! I’m just going to jump right in because I am so excited to share her story with you!

Lyudmila Pavlichenko (whom I will refer to here on out as “Mila”) was born on July 12, 1916 in Bila Tserkva, Russia. When she was 14 years old, she moved to Kyiv and joined a shooting club. She became an amateur sharpshooter while she worked at the Kyiv Arsenal Factory. Mila went through university and eventually graduated with a Master’s Degree in history in 1937.

lyudmila-pavlichenko-3

Mila continued her education at the Kyiv University and, in June 1941, was aghast when Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union and bombed her beloved school. She was one of the first volunteers to step inside a recruiting office, requesting to join the infantry. First, she was offered a position as a nurse, but she turned it down. Soon, however, she was assigned to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division.

lyudmila

She was one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army, though only 500 or so survived the war. Mila was sent all over, racking up a total of 309 kills, which included 36 enemy snipers! In 1942, Mila was wounded by mortar fire and taken off the front lines. She was gaining much notoriety and the leaders of the Red Army were afraid for her safety.

She spent much of her time after that visiting Allied countries and was invited to the White House (the first Soviet to ever be received by an American president) by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She met Eleanor Roosevelt and the two formed a great friendship.

lyu-and-eleanor

While in the U.S., Mila was shocked by the questions she received by journalists. She is quoted as saying, “One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat.” During a speaking engagement in Chicago, Mila decided she had had enough. She said, ““Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?” (Tell ‘em, girl!)

Mila eventually went back to the Soviet Union, where she earned the rank of Major. She never saw combat but trained snipers until the end of the war. Mila was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, got her picture on a postage stamp, and was even written about in song by Woody Guthrie!

lyu

Mila proved that it didn’t matter that she was a woman; she was tough as nails and could fight fascism just as well (or even better!) than anyone else!

lyud

 

Her’s Day Thursday

hersday thursday4

 

Its a new year and I’ve got a new lady from history who went “beast mode” before there ever was such a term! Today’s BAMF is Violet Jessop (AKA, the woman with amazing luck!).

violet-jessup-3

 

Violet Jessop was born on October 1, 1887 to Irish immigrants. Violet was soon joined by eight other siblings (sadly, only 6 survived). When Violet was young, she was hit with tuberculosis. Her condition was so severe that doctors did not believe she would live. She proved them wrong by coming through the illness just as strong as ever.

After her father passed away from complications to a surgery, Violet, her mother, and the younger children moved to England. There, Violet attended a convent school and cared for the children while her mother worked as a stewardess at sea. Not long after, Violet’s mother became ill. She left school and became a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line aboard the ship Orinoco in 1908.

Two years later, Violet was given a job aboard the RMS Olympic (a luxury ship; the largest at the time). On September 20, 1911, the Olympic left its port at Southampton and collided with the HMS Hawke, a British war ship. Thankfully, there were no fatalities and the Olympic was able to get back to port without sinkingThis would not be Violet’s only harrowing adventure at sea.

violet-jessup

The next April, 1912, Violet began working as a stewardess aboard the RMS Titanic. Oh yes, Violet was there on the fateful night that the Titanic hit an iceberg. Violet was working below deck when she was ordered to come up, as to be an example to non-English speakers of how to behave calmly. Violet was put onto a lifeboat where one of the boat’s officers handed her a baby. She, and the others on her lifeboat, were rescued the next morning by the Carpathia. While aboard the Carpathia, Violet was still holding the baby she was given the night before. A woman came up to her (most likely the child’s mother) and took the baby from her arms.

You would think THAT experience would be enough to deter Violet from ever boarding a ship again. Nope. During WWI, Violet worked as a stewardess for The British Red Cross.

vilet-jessup

She was aboard the Britannic on November 21, 1916 when the ship either hit a mine hidden by German troops or was blasted by a torpedo. The large ship had sunk in less than an hour, taking 30 lives with it. But it did not take Violet. She made it to a lifeboat in time, though she had to jump out of it and swim for her life as the ship’s propellers were sucking lifeboats under the waves.

Again, Violet was not turned off by the sea. She went to work for Red Star Line and made two tours around the world. She later retired in 1950. Want to tell your kids about Violet? Check out this video!

 

You can also grab a copy of Violet’s memoirs here!

 

I think Molly Brown should give her nickname to Violet Jessop–the woman who wouldn’t go down with the ship!

Her’s Day Thursday

Her's Day Thursday3

 

Though it is very historic that, this year, a woman has become her party’s candidate for the presidential election, another woman holds the title of first woman to run for President of the United States. That distinction goes to today’s leading lady: Victoria Claflin Woodhull.

hith-victoria-woodhull-e-copy

Victoria was born in 1838 in rural Ohio, the seventh of ten children, to Roxanna and Reuben Claflin. Her mother was illiterate and her father was an abusive con man, making his money as a snake oil salesman. When she was just a few days past her fifteenth birthday, Victoria married her first husband with whom she had two children. She later divorced him, finding out he was an alcoholic and womanizer. Back in the 1850’s, divorce was scandalous and was much stigmatized for the woman. This catapulted Victoria into becoming a voice for women who were forced to stay in loveless and often abusive marriages.

Victoria began working to support herself and her children as well as fighting for women’s rights. She and her sister, Tennessee, became the first female stock brokers in 1870, and opened their own firm. Victoria ended up making a fortune on stocks and helped Cornelius Vanderbilt make his millions.

victoria-woodhull-1-sized

Victoria decided to amp up her fight to gain the right to vote for herself and all American women. She testified before a House Judiciary Committee and argued that the 14th and 15th Amendments already gave women the power to vote, they just needed to act on it. She pointed out that the Amendments protected the right to vote for all citizens. After this, Victoria was sought out by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Isabella Beecher Hooker to become a part of their movement that was gaining momentum.

wst-woodhull_02-980x560-c-default-copy

That same year, Victoria and her sister founded a newspaper—Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly. Most of the articles focused on women’s issues of the day such as suffrage and women’s education. However, it has become best known for exposing the hypocrisy of Pastor Henry Ward Beecher who preached fidelity in his masses, but was secretly having an affair with a church member. The article prompted criminal charges to be filed against Beecher and a trial (which ended in a hung jury) soon followed.

Victoria was nominated for president in 1872 by the Equal Rights Party, with Frederick Douglass named as her running mate. (Douglass never commented on the nomination.) Victoria and her sister were arrested the day before the election for “publishing an obscene newspaper” because of the story on Beecher’s affair. They were held for a month in jail, thus preventing Victoria from attempting to vote in the election. Unshaken, Victoria continued her fight for women’s equality and ran for president years later in 1884 and 1892.

hqdefault-copy

Victoria fought for women and for their voices to be heard until her dying day. She truly has earned the title of Kick-A Woman in History!