Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)

“Women must pay for everything. They do get more glory than men for comparable feats, but, they also get more notoriety when they crash.”

When 10-year-old Amelia Mary Earhart saw her first plane at a state fair, she was not impressed. "It was a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting," she said. It wasn't until Earhart attended a stunt-flying exhibition, almost a decade later, that she became seriously interested in aviation. A pilot spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing, and dove at them. "I am sure he said to himself, 'Watch me make them scamper,'" she said. Earhart, who felt a mixture of fear and pleasure, stood her ground. As the plane swooped by, something inside her awakened. "I did not understand it at the time," she said, "but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by." On December 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave her a ride that would forever change her life. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground," she said, "I knew I had to fly."
Although Earhart's convictions were strong, challenging prejudicial and financial obstacles awaited her. But the former tomboy was no stranger to disapproval or doubt. Defying conventional feminine behavior, the young Earhart climbed trees, "belly-slammed" her sled to start it downhill and hunted rats with a .22 rifle. She also kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering.
After graduating from Hyde Park High School in 1915, Earhart attended Ogontz, a girl's finishing school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She left in the middle of her second year to work as a nurse's aide in a military hospital in Canada during WWI, attended college, and later became a social worker at Denison House, a settlement house in Boston. Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow. Earhart named the plane "Canary," and used it to set her first women's record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet.
One afternoon in April 1928, a phone call came for Earhart at work. "I'm too busy to answer just now," she said. After hearing that it was important, Earhart relented though at first she thought it was a prank. It wasn't until the caller supplied excellent references that she realized the man was serious. "How would you like to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic?" he asked, to which Earhart promptly replied, "Yes!" After an interview in New York with the project coordinators, including book publisher and publicist George P. Putnam, she was asked to join pilot Wilmer "Bill" Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis E. "Slim" Gordon. The team left Trepassey harbor, Newfoundland, in a Fokker F7 named Friendship on June 17, 1928, and arrived at Burry Port, Wales, approximately 21 hours later. Their landmark flight made headlines worldwide, because three women had died within the year trying to be that first woman. When the crew returned to the United States they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York and a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
From then on, Earhart's life revolved around flying. She placed third at the Cleveland Women's Air Derby, later nicknamed the "Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers. As fate would have it, her life also began to include George Putnam. The two developed a friendship during preparation for the Atlantic crossing and were married February 7, 1931. Intent on retaining her independence, she referred to the marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control."
Together they worked on secret plans for Earhart to become the first woman and the second person to solo the Atlantic. On May 20, 1932, five years to the day after Lindbergh, she took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Paris. Strong north winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems plagued the flight and forced her to land in a pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. "After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood," she said, "I pulled up in a farmer's back yard." As word of her flight spread, the media surrounded her, both overseas and in the United States. President Herbert Hoover presented Earhart with a gold medal from the National Geographic Society. Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross-the first ever given to a woman. At the ceremony, Vice President Charles Curtis praised her courage, saying she displayed "heroic courage and skill as a navigator at the risk of her life." Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in "jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness and willpower."

In the years that followed, Earhart continued to break records. She set an altitude record for autogyros of 18,415 feet that stood for years. On January 11, 1935, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Chilled during the 2,408-mile flight, she unpacked a thermos of hot chocolate. "Indeed," she said, "that was the most interesting cup of chocolate I have ever had, sitting up eight thousand feet over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, quite alone." Later that year she was the first to solo from Mexico City to Newark. A large crowd "overflowed the field," and rushed Earhart's plane. "I was rescued from my plane by husky policemen," she said, "one of whom in the ensuing melee took possession of my right arm and another of my left leg." The officers headed for a police car, but chose different routes. "The arm-holder started to go one way, while he who clasped my leg set out in the opposite direction. The result provided the victim with a fleeting taste of the tortures of the rack. But, at that," she said good-naturedly, "It was fine to be home again."
In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a monumental, and final, challenge. She wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. Despite a botched attempt in March that severely damaged her plane, a determined Earhart had the twin engine Lockheed Electra rebuilt. "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it," she said. On June 1st, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami and began the 29,000-mile journey. By June 29, when they landed in Lae, New Guinea, all but 7,000 miles had been completed. Frequently inaccurate maps had made navigation difficult for Noonan, and their next hop--to Howland Island--was by far the most challenging. Located 2,556 miles from Lae in the mid-Pacific, Howland Island is a mile and a half long and a half mile wide. Every unessential item was removed from the plane to make room for additional fuel, which gave Earhart approximately 274 extra miles. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca, their radio contact, was stationed just offshore of Howland Island. Two other U.S. ships, ordered to burn every light on board, were positioned along the flight route as markers. "Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available," Earhart said.
At 10am local time, zero Greenwich time on July 2, the pair took off. Despite favorable weather reports, they flew into overcast skies and intermittent rain showers. This made Noonan's premier method of tracking, celestial navigation, difficult. As dawn neared, Earhart called the ITASCA, reporting "cloudy, weather cloudy." In later transmissions earhart asked the ITASCA to take bearings on her. The ITASCA sent her a steady stream of transmissions but she could not hear them. Her radio transmissions, irregular through most of the flight, were faint or interrupted with static. At 7:42 A.M. the Itasca picked up the message, "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." The ship tried to reply, but the plane seemed not to hear. At 8:45 Earhart reported, "We are running north and south." Nothing further was heard from Earhart.
A rescue attempt commenced immediately and became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history thus far. On July 19, after spending $4 million and scouring 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States government reluctantly called off the operation. In 1938, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory. Across the United States there are streets, schools, and airports named after her. Her birthplace, Atchison, Kansas, has been turned into a virtual shrine to her memory. Amelia Earhart awards and scholarships are given out every year.
Today, though many theories exist, there is no proof of her fate. There is no doubt, however, that the world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women. In a letter to her husband, written in case a dangerous flight proved to be her last, this brave spirit was evident. "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards," she said. "I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Betty Friedan (1921 - 2006)

“It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.”

Voice of Feminism's 'Second Wave'
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Betty Friedan, the writer, thinker and activist who almost single-handedly revived feminism with her 1963 book "The Feminine Mystique," died of congestive heart failure yesterday, her 85th birthday, at her home in Washington.
Her insights into what she described as the soul-draining frustrations felt by educated, stay-at-home women in the 1950s, "the problem that has no name," startled a society that expected women to be happy with marriage and children. Her book became an instant and controversial bestseller, and Friedan became the leading spokeswoman for a revitalized women's movement.
One of the most recognized names and faces of the late 20th century, Friedan pushed for equal pay, sex-neutral help-wanted ads, maternity leave, child-care centers for working parents, legal abortion and many other topics considered radical in the 1960s and 1970s.
Impatient that the federal government, in implementing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, did not appear to be taking equal pay for women seriously, she helped found in 1966 the National Organization for Women, the largest and most effective organization in the women's movement, and served as its first president. She led the 500,000-person Women's Strike for Equality in New York in 1970, on the 50th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
She was a founder of the National Women's Political Caucus in the 1970s and of the abortion rights organization now known as NARAL-Pro Choice America. She was an organizer and director of the First Women's Bank and Trust.
"Many of us think of her as one of the mothers of the modern women's movement," said Kim Gandy, NOW president. "She played a very pivotal, very critical role in launching the second wave of the modern women's movement."
"She was a giant in the 20th century for women and most significantly was a catalyst for change in the American culture," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "She defined the problem, and then she had the courage to do something about it."
Friedan's was a voice that was loud, insistent and sometimes divisive. She split with NOW in the 1970s after she came to believe that the organization focused too many resources on lesbian issues and that too many feminists hated men. Her 1981 book "The Second Stage" prompted some feminists to denounce her as reactionary.
Her 2000 memoir, "Life So Far," said that her husband, Carl, beat her during their marriage. He strenuously objected, and Friedan amended the declaration to say that both of them fought physically during their marriage, which ended in divorce in 1969. He died in December.
She turned to other issues, focusing on ageism, family issues and economic empowerment. "It isn't that I have stopped being a feminist, but women as a special separate interest group are not my concern anymore," she said in 1993.
Friedan's cousin, Emily Bazelon, said: "Her feminism was an aspect of her humanism, and she really cared about the economic well-being of families and of all people," Bazelon said yesterday.
Bettye Goldstein was born Feb. 4, 1921, in Peoria, Ill., the Jewish daughter of an immigrant jeweler and a mother who quit her job as an editor of the local newspaper's women's pages to become a homemaker. She skipped second grade and was a high school valedictorian, then moved 1,000 miles east to attend Smith College. She edited the college newspaper and graduated summa cum laude in 1942.
She did graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley but turned down a prestigious fellowship in psychology, afraid of outperforming her boyfriend. After the romance ended, she gave up graduate work and moved to New York's Greenwich Village to work for a labor newspaper. She married and had a child, but when she became pregnant with a second child, she was fired.
Struggling as a freelance writer, she found that the editors of women's magazines deleted references to her subjects' interests outside the home, telling Friedan that the readers did not want to explore those topics. She was working on a survey of her Smith College classmates for their 15-year reunion, when she added a few questions and discovered that the highly educated and talented housewives in their mid-30s were dissatisfied and distraught, drugged by tranquilizers, misled by psychoanalysis and ignored by society.
No magazine would publish her article. Five years later, after significantly more work, she published "The Feminine Mystique" as a book and "pulled the trigger on history," as futurist Alvin Toffler said. She pitched it on "The Jack Paar Show," she did question-and-answer interviews in magazines and she took every opportunity to alert the world to the crisis she perceived. The book sold more than 2 million copies in paperback and remains a staple of college history courses.
Daniel Horowitz, a Smith College professor who wrote "Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminist Mystique," said that although Friedan presented herself at the time as a housewife who had an "aha!" moment, her ideas were partly rooted in the humanistic psychology that she had studied at Smith and in the labor movement of the 1940s.
She shared a Feb. 4 birthday with Rosa Parks, and both Friedan and Coretta Scott King were at the convention of the Progressive Party in Philadelphia in 1948, Horowitz said.
"All three of them have their political roots in the struggles for social justice, for African Americans, for women and for working people in the 1940s. Friedan was deeply embedded in and engaged with issues raised on the left in the labor union movement," Horowitz said yesterday. "In 1943, she wrote, 'Men, there's a revolution brewing in the American kitchen.' "
During the next several decades, the highly recognizable Friedan was often seen at demonstrations, protest marches and news conferences. She suffered insults, not just for her ideas, but for her appearance, which she readily admitted was "not pretty."
"That great head, the hooded eyes, the broad features of a woman the French might describe as une jolie-laide , which refers to a magnificent kind of ugliness that can be attractive, even beautiful," wrote Washington Post reporter Megan Rosenfeld in 1995. "The head, looking sometimes like a snapping turtle and at others like a lion with a white mane, sits atop a surprisingly short body, out of which comes the voice of a foghorn in heat. She is always carefully dressed in a New Yorky, nouveau-Bohemian style, with lots of interesting jewelry and spunky little shoes. (She loves to shop, say her friends.)"
Never an organization person, she alienated many who worked with her by insisting on holding the floor, claiming credit and running roughshod over her assistants. She insisted that the women's movement remain in the mainstream of American life, objecting to the "bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm school." Younger leaders took over NOW, and after the publication of "The Second Stage," authors as different as Susan Brownmiller and Susan Faludi accused her of reversing the revolution.
Friedan declared herself past feminism and went to work on ageism, publishing "The Fountain of Age" in 1993. But she never entirely left the feminist field, showing up at the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston to second a resolution on lesbian rights, teaching at numerous colleges, including the University of Southern California, and serving on the White House Conference on the Family.
She lived in New York and Washington and had a summer home in Sag Harbor, N.Y. Bazelon said services will be held tomorrow at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York.
Survivors include three children, Daniel Friedan of Princeton, N.J., Jonathan Friedan of Philadelphia and Emily Friedan of Buffalo; a brother; a sister; and nine grandchildren.
"She's leaving a legacy that's living beyond even her wildest dreams in the '60s," Smeal said. "She wanted to change the world, and she did."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)

“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad's "conductors." During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she "never lost a single passenger."

Tubman was born a slave in Maryland's Dorchester County around 1820. At age five or six, she began to work as a house servant. Seven years later she was sent to work in the fields. While she was still in her early teens, she suffered an injury that would follow her for the rest of her life. Always ready to stand up for someone else, Tubman blocked a doorway to protect another field hand from an angry overseer. The overseer picked up and threw a two-pound weight at the field hand. It fell short, striking Tubman on the head. She never fully recovered from the blow, which subjected her to spells in which she would fall into a deep sleep.

Around 1844 she married a free black named John Tubman and took his last name. (She was born Araminta Ross; she later changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.) In 1849, in fear that she, along with the other slaves on the plantation, was to be sold, Tubman resolved to run away. She set out one night on foot. With some assistance from a friendly white woman, Tubman was on her way. She followed the North Star by night, making her way to Pennsylvania and soon after to Philadelphia, where she found work and saved her money. The following year she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister's two children to freedom. She made the dangerous trip back to the South soon after to rescue her brother and two other men. On her third return, she went after her husband, only to find he had taken another wife. Undeterred, she found other slaves seeking freedom and escorted them to the North.

Tubman returned to the South again and again. She devised clever techniques that helped make her "forays" successful, including using the master's horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn't be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger. Tubman even carried a gun which she used to threaten the fugitives if they became too tired or decided to turn back, telling them, "You'll be free or die."

By 1856, Tubman's capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South. On one occasion, she overheard some men reading her wanted poster, which stated that she was illiterate. She promptly pulled out a book and feigned reading it. The ploy was enough to fool the men.

Tubman had made the perilous trip to slave country 19 times by 1860, including one especially challenging journey in which she rescued her 70-year-old parents. Of the famed heroine, who became known as "Moses," Frederick Douglass said, "Excepting John Brown -- of sacred memory -- I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than [Harriet Tubman]."
And John Brown, who conferred with "General Tubman" about his plans to raid Harpers Ferry, once said that she was "one of the bravest persons on this continent."

Becoming friends with the leading abolitionists of the day, Tubman took part in antislavery meetings. On the way to such a meeting in Boston in 1860, in an incident in Troy, New York, she helped a fugitive slave who had been captured.

During the Civil War Harriet Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse, and even a spy. After the war she settled in Auburn, New York, where she would spend the rest of her long life. She died in 1913.