Her’s Day Thursday

Hers Day Thursday Girl

 

The other night, I was watching PBS (big shocker; that’s my nightly ritual. Yes, I’m basically an 80-year-old in a 32 year old’s body) and there was a special about a woman named Lydia Mendoza.

Lydia or, “La Alondra de la Frontera,” (The Lark of the Border) was born in Houston, Texas in May 1916. Her parents were very musical–her mother and grandmother actually taught her how to play guitar when she was a toddler! When Lydia was just four years old, she built her own guitar out of wood, nails, and rubber bands. Lydia and her sister performed with her parents in a family band named La Cuarteto Carta Blanca on the streets of Houston. One day, Lydia’s father found an ad in a local Spanish newspaper, looking for musical acts. The family performed and won the chance to travel to San Antonio to record for the Okeh record label.

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Not long after, Lydia and her family moved to Michigan as migrant workers. They quickly built up a large fan base within their migrant community, with Lydia shining bright. The Mendoza family eventually moved back to San Antonio and resumed performing. In the early 1930’s, Manuel Cortez (a pioneer in Mexican-American broadcasting) saw Lydia perform and was immediately taken by her talent. He signed her and she recorded her first single, Mal Hombre. It was an instant success! Lydia toured the country with her family in tow.

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Lydia accomplished great success in her career which spanned over 60 years, 50 records, and more than 200 songs. Her soulful style, 12-stringed guitar, and ability to write deep, meaningful songs has made her a pioneer and a legend within the Spanish-speaking music community. Lydia continued to perform–even playing at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration–and tour until she suffered a stroke in 1998. She has received numerous awards and acknowledgements: the National Heritage Fellowship Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Folk Alliance International. And, in 2013, Lydia was honored with a commemorative stamp from the United Postal Service.

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Gracias, Lydia, for your beautiful voice and amazing legacy!

Her’s Day Thursday

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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. . .”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Her’s Day Thursday

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When I opened my internet this morning, I got a glimpse of today’s Google Doodle:

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Intrigued, I clicked on the picture and learned that today is Hertha Marks Ayrton’s 162nd birthday. Who is Hertha Marks Aytron? I’ll tell you!

 

Phoebe Sarah Hertha Ayrton was born on April 28, 1854 in Hampshire, England. The third of eight children, Hertha (as she was later called) helped her mother care for her siblings when her father unexpectedly died in 1861. Hertha’s aunts invited her to attend a school they ran in London, knowing that Hertha would need an education to gain employment, thus helping to support the family. Hertha joined her aunts’ school and quickly found she had an affinity for math and science.

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After completing her education, Hertha worked for a short time as a governess and then pursued a college degree at Girton College, Cambridge University. She passed all the necessary exams to earn a Bachelor’s of Science, however was awarded a “certificate” instead, as Cambridge did not give degrees to women at the time. Hertha went to the University of London, took the same exams, and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree.

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Hertha continued her work in mathematics, even getting published in Educational Times. In 1884, she patented a line-divider a drawing device for engineers that divides lines into any number of equal parts. This invention was not only used by engineers, but also artists and architects. This would not be her only invention. Until her death in 1923, Hertha registered twenty-six different patents!

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Hertha was a pioneer in the field of engineering. She was awarded the Hughes Medal for her works in engineering–and, as of last year, is only one of two women to ever win the award! In 2015, she was named by the Royal Society as one of the ten most influential British women in science.

 

Go, Hertha!

Her’s Day Thursday

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Today’s HDT cool chick is half my age but has already lived a lifetime!

 

Malala Yousafzai was born in July 1997 in Pakistan. At the time, her family ran a chain of schools in the region. When Malala was around 11 years old, she wrote a blog for the BBC that told all about her life under Taliban rule.

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She spoke of the terrorist group trying to take control of the area and the brutal treatment of women and those who would not comply to the Taliban’s orders. She frequently spoke out in favor of girl’s education and opposed the Taliban.

 

Malala gained more media attention as she participated in interviews and conferences. She was even nominated by Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

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On October 9, 2012, Malala got on her school bus to go home when a man also boarded the bus. He asked for Malala by name, pointed his gun at her, and fired three times. One bullet hit Malala on the left side of her forehead. She remained unconscious and in critical condition for days. When she improved, she was sent to England to receive care and rehabilitation.

 

Malala miraculously improved and got right back into her activism. She spoke in front of the United Nations in 2013, she spoke at Harvard University, and met the president, confronting him on his use of drone strikes in Pakistan. In July 2014, she talked at the Girl Summit in London, a conference that advocates rights for girls.

Malala Yousafzai, 16-year-old Pakistani campaigner for the education of women, speaks during a news conference with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (not pictured), celebrating International Day of the Girl in Washington October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

When Malala turned 17, she was co-awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest ever) for her resistance against the oppression of children and young people and for fighting for the right for all children to have an education. She shared the prize with a children’s rights activist from India.

 

A movie about her life, He Named Me Malala, is scheduled for release in the United States on October 2, 2015. Watch the trailer below!