Her’s Day Thursday

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Have you ever wondered what it could be like to be a “Bond Girl”? Well, two women knew what it was like to BE Bond—centuries before the British sex-pot spy was ever created!

 

During the American Revolution, a spy operation called the Culper Spy Ring functioned from 1778 to 1780 from NYC (which, at the time, was occupied completely by the British) all the way through Connecticut and west to none other than General George Washington’s headquarters at Newburgh, NY.

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The key spies operating the Culper Ring were Benjamin Tallmadge (Washington’s Intelligence Chief), Abraham Woodhull, Robert Townsend, John Jay, Caleb Brewster, and two women: Anna Strong and one known only as “Agent 355”.

 

Anna Strong would receive and distribute encoded messages to fellow members of the Culper Ring by hanging a black petticoat on her wash line when a message was ready. She would also include different colors of handkerchiefs to signal where and when the messages would be delivered. Go, Anna!

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There is much speculation, however, to the identity of Agent 355 but there is no denying her involvement or importance in the Culper Ring.

 

Agent 355, it is believed, was a member of higher society being born into a wealthy, British-supporting family. She lived in New York City and had easy access to members of British society as well as British officers.

 

Whenever she could, Agent 355 listened in on conversations between the officers—in that time, men held the belief that women were to have the same political views as their husbands (or, if unmarried, fathers) so they took no special precaution to censure their conversations. Because of this and her “beguiling charm”, Agent 355 was able to pass on sensitive information through the Culper Ring to General Washington. She is even credited with assisting in the outing of Benedict Arnold as a traitor!

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Agent 355–a woman on a mission!

 

Both of these ladies have been featured on the AMC series, Turn. Ever watched it? For more information on these awesome ladies, click here!

 

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Her’s Day Thursday

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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Since yesterday was International Women’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the awesome ways women have influenced the world! Here are some amazing women who invented some extraordinary things!

Stephanie Kwolek

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Kwolek, a chemist, discovered and invented the materials used to make Kevlar bulletproof vests!

 

Florence Parpart

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We ALL owe Florence Parpart a HUGE thank you! She’s the inventor of the refrigerator (aka, The Real Happiest Place on Earth)!

 

Josephine Cochrane

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Josephine Cochrane is an A+ in book. Why? She is the inventor of the dishwasher! Saving us all (and by all I mean ALL–not just ladies) from the horror that is washing dishes by hand!

 

Marie Van Brittan Brown

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Marie was a nurse who worked odd hours and frequently found herself at home alone during the night. She collaborated with her husband and invented the home security system!

 

Tabitha Babbitt

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Tabitha Babbitt lived in a Shaker community in Massachusetts which relied heavily on the forestry business. She observed that the men exerted a lot of energy but using the two-men pull saws. Because of this, she invented the circular saw!

 

Have you ever heard of any of these inventors? Know of any others? Share in the comments below!

 

Her’s Day Thursday

 

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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

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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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