(Roughly) Daily

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself”*…

 

Foudray-tables-credit-excerpt

 

Elbertie Foudray did well playing an unfair game.

Between 1920 and 1945, she became one of the United States’ most important actuaries. World class experts scheduled meetings to talk statistics with her. The life insurance industry, the developing welfare system, and the first generation of American state planners all relied on her research. Foudray’s reputation grew. And her salary also grew too. Still she did not earn even half as much as she should have and despite two decades of celebrated service and significant responsibility, Foudray couldn’t escape the ranks of the “assistant” class…

In many ways, Foudray resembles one of the “hidden figures,” whose stories Margot Lee Shetterly so wonderfully told and director Theodore Melfi brought, with delightful verve, to a theater near you. Even though Foudray’s whiteness extended her privileges not available to Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, or Katherine Johnson, like them she made crucial contributions to a major national project only to have those contributions forgotten…

America’s elite population researchers trusted Foudray, identifying her with her tables. They trusted “the Foudray life tables,” which appeared in multiple / key / works of interwar demography. When Foudray (rather typically, it seems) challenged some assumptions made in calculations by Pascal K. Whelpton—the most important population forecaster of the day—he responded that he “surely will see Miss Foudray the first time I am in Washington…” He took her seriously…

Historian Dan Bouk tells the remarkable story of an unsung hero of modern America: “Elbertie Foudray and the Adventure of Life.”

* Joseph Campbell

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As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer observed “Indian activity” and prepared his troops for the engagement that unfolded the following two days– the most prominent battle in the Great Sioux War of 1876, in which Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors annihilated five companies of the U.S. 7th Cavalry led by Custer.  Known by its Native American participants as the “Battle of the Greasy Grass,” and by most American history books as the “Battle of Little Big Horn,” it culminated with “Custer’s Last Stand” on June 26, 1876.

600px-Charles_Marion_Russell_-_The_Custer_Fight_(1903)

The Custer Fight by Charles Marion Russell

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