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Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights

“After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”*…

 

A Victorian-era mathematical genius, [Ada] Lovelace was the first to describe how computing machines could solve math problems, write new forms of music, and much more, if you gave them instructions in a language they could understand. Of course, over the ensuing 100-plus years, dudes have been lining up to push her out of the picture (more on that below).

Lovelace is hardly the only woman to be erased from the history of her own work…

From computer programming to nuclear fission to the paper bag machine, it’s time to stop erasing these women from their great works.  Mother Jones restores eight female creators from their undeserved obscurity: “Ladies Last: 8 Inventions by Women That Dudes Got Credit For.

* Ann Richards

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As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that it was on this date in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, that Sojourner Truth electrified the gathering with an extemporaneous talk that has come to known as the “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech.

Born (c. 1797) into slavery in New York, Belle Baumfree (as she was born) escaped with her daughter to freedom in 1826.  She went to court to recover her son in 1828, and became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.  She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her”– a hope that she expressed as a fervent abolitionist and champion of women’s rights.

In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”

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Written by LW

May 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn”*…

 

In February of 1966, Bobbi Gibb received a letter in her mailbox from the organizers of the Boston Marathon. She expected to find her competition number inside the package. Instead she found herself reading a disqualifying letter. It stated that women are “not physiologically able to run a marathon.” The Amateur Athletics Union prohibited women from running farther than 1.5 miles, and the organizers just couldn’t “take the liability” of having her compete.

Refusing to take no for an answer, two months later the 23-year-old hid in a forsythia bush near the marathon start line. Disguising herself in a hoodie and her brother’s Bermuda shorts, she joined the throng once half the men had already started running. Her identity was soon obvious, but she only received encouragement, spectators yelling, “Way to go, girlie!”

Three hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds later, Gibb tore through the finish line ahead of two-thirds of the male competitors…

The remarkable tale in toto at “The Woman Who Crashed the Boston Marathon.”

* Gloria Steinem

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As we cheer her on, we might send similarly admiring birthday greetings to Jane Morris Goodall; she was born on this date in 1934.   A primatologist and anthropologist, her (over 55-year) study of the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania have made her the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

Born and raised in Kenya, she reached out to the archaeologist and palaeontologist Louis Leakey, who was coincidentally looking for someone to study primate behavior.  With his support, she became the eighth person to be allowed to study for a PhD at Cambridge University without first having obtained a BA or BSc– after which, she returned to Africa and her life’s work.

She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.  She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996.  In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace.

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“Nevertheless She Persisted”*…

 

In 1987 the US Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month. This creates a special opportunity in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities to recognize and celebrate the too-often-overlooked achievements of American women.

The 2018 National Women’s History theme presents the opportunity to honor women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their tireless commitment to ending discrimination against women and girls. The theme embodies women working together with strength, tenacity and courage to overcome obstacles and achieve joyful accomplishments.   Throughout this year, we honor fifteen outstanding women for their unrelenting and inspirational persistence, and for  understanding that, by fighting all forms of   discrimination against women and girls, they have shaped America’s history and our future.  Their lives demonstrate the power of voice, of persistent action, and of believing that meaningful and lasting  change is possible in our democratic society. Through this theme we celebrate women fighting not only against sexism, but also against the many intersecting forms of discrimination faced by American women including discrimination based on race and ethnicity, class, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, and many other categories. From spearheading legislation against segregation to leading the reproductive justice movement, our 2018 honorees are dismantling the structural, cultural, and legal forms of discrimination that for too long have plagued American women.

Meet the honorees at the National Women’s History Project‘s “Themes and Honorees.”

See also: “Voices in Time: Epistolary Activism– an early nineteenth-century feminist fights back against a narrow view of woman’s place in society.”

* This phrase was born in February 2017 when Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, was silenced during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for Attorney General. At the time, Warren was reading an opposition letter penned by Coretta Scott King in 1986. Referring to the incident, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, later said “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.” Feminists immediately adopted the phrase in hashtags and memes to refer to any strong women who refuse to be silenced.

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As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that women’s challenges in America have a painfully long history; it was on this date in 1692 that  Sarah GoodSarah Osborne, and Tituba are brought before local magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, beginning what would become known as the Salem witch trials.

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“Ah this indeed is music–this suits me”*…

 

When Bebe and Louis Barron got married in 1947 they received a wedding gift from the future. Louis’s cousin was an executive at 3M and his present was one of the first tape recorders in the United States, plus a steady supply of reels of newly created magnetic tape. Bohemians, musicians, and tinkerers, the Barrons took their gear with them to Manhattan, where they set up a legendary electronic studio for the avant-garde at 9 West 8th Street…

Pressing [Anaïs] Nin readings to red vinyl and collecting “small sounds” for John Cage didn’t really pay the bills, so they jumped at the chance to make sounds for Hollywood… Rather than compose, though, they built…

Norbert Wiener was fixated on the possibility that delegation of weapons control to machines running game theory models would likewise wipe out the human race. But in their studio, Bebe and Louis were inventing a different and more interesting kind of future, a greenhouse of messy, perverse electronics that coexist with us, a population of cybernetic familiars and kinds of minds all singing together…

From the always-fascinating newsletter Passing Current, “The Overload.”

* Walt Whitman

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As we tweak the gain, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the Senate and then sent to the states for ratification.  The ERA, as it became known, prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, stating, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” and that “the Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”  Although 22 of the required 38 states quickly ratified the Amendment, opposition arose, ostensibly over concerns that women would be subject to the draft and combat duty, along with other legal concerns.  Despite an extension of the deadline to June 1982, the ERA eventually failed (by 3 states) to achieve ratification.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

Orange Is The New Black (Ink)…

 

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This year Sweden closed four prisons and a detention center… there simply aren’t enough prisoners to justify them.  Sweden has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world.  And they seem to mean to do even better: though the crime rate is rising, the government is investing in prevention, not detention.

Conversely, the U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate (not counting North Korea, on which data is not available– though the Committee on Human Rights estimates that the rate is roughly equal to America’s).  And though there are a few states (like Pennsylvania) in which prison populations are falling, it’s not looking to shrink overall.

Among the reasons: private prisons.  Virtually nonexistent until the 1980s, private jails have spread across the nation, as for-profit corporations have built new facilities and bought older ones from cash-strapped states, operating them on contract.  Lately, these companies have prevailed on their customers– the states– to agree to minimum guarantees.  Some examples: Arizona has three private prison contracts requiring 100 percent occupancy; Oklahoma has three contracts at 98 percent occupancy;  Louisiana and Virginia have occupancy rate minimums at 96 and 95 respectively.

As In the Public Interest (ITPI) reports

These contract clauses incentivize keeping prison beds filled, which runs counter to many states’ public policy goals of reducing the prison population and increasing efforts for inmate rehabilitation… some worried the terms would encourage criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the occupancy rates required by a contract…

Bed guarantee provisions are also costly for state and local governments.  As examples in the report show, these clauses can force corrections departments to pay thousands, sometimes millions, for unused beds — a “low-crime tax” that penalizes taxpayers when they achieve what should be a desired goal of lower incarceration rates.  The private prison industry often claims that prison privatization saves states money.  Numerous studies and audits have shown these claims of cost savings to be illusory, and bed occupancy requirements are one way that private prison companies lock in inflated costs after the contract is signed…

Read ITPI’s full report (pdf), “How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits Guarantee Profits.”

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As we rattle our chains, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, fresh back from a stint in the Raymond Street jail, reopened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn, NY– the first birth control clinic in the U.S.  Sanger had been shut down and arrested before for obscenity (she offered a booklet called “What Every Young Woman Should Know,” explaining the female reproductive system and several contraceptive methods).  This time, the police leaned on her landlord to evict her, and the clinic closed almost as soon as it reopened.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

November 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

By Hand…

 

Alastair Simms – Cooper

Photographer Steve Kenward celebrates the craftsmen and women who fashion things by hand…

Amanda Winfield – Stained Glass

Andy Doig – Neon Signs

Many more elegant photo essays at “Made Not Manufactured.”

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As we contemplate craft, we might recall that it was on this date in 1872 that Susan B. Anthony cast a ballot in the presidential election at her local polling station in Rochester, NY– an act for which she was arrested two weeks later.  The presiding judge at her trial (U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ward Hunt) refused to let her testify directly, explicitly ordered the jury to return a guilty verdict, refused to poll the jury afterwards, and read an opinion he had written before the trial even started; Ms. Anthony was convicted.  But her public defense of her action, rooted in the recently-adopted Fourteenth Amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”) generated sufficient public support to accelerate her campaign for women’s rights.  And while her sentence was a fine of $100, the U.S. government never tried to collect.

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Firing blanks…

 

Since the early 70s, academics and NGOs concerned with population growth have understood that the single most effective “lever” a society can pull to achieve population “control” (short of authoritarian birth bans, a la China) is the enhancement of women’s roles in the economy and society– the better educated, the more engaged a country’s women, the lower its fertility rate– and almost always, the more robust its economy, the more stable its polis, the healthier its environment, etc., etc. [c.f., e.g., here].

While experience continues to support this understanding, research is also suggesting that there may be another, complementary force at work; Pacific Standard reports that “French Semen Is Not What It Used To Be.”:

French men are losing sperm, and not in the fun way, according to a new study in Human Reproduction. Researchers examined semen samples given by 27,000 French men at fertility clinics, and found that the average sperm concentration fell more than 32 percent between 1989 and 2005.

Those findings echo a growing heap of research going back to the 1970s suggesting that the semen quality of men in industrialized countries is steadily declining. The most commonly-cited explanation is chemicals in the environment. Bear in mind, though, the supposed sperm-concentration drop is not a settled matter – many of the studies over the years were poorly designed, had overly-small sample sizes or were otherwise flawed. But if the ranks of men’s sperm are being thinned, for whatever reason, it could have serious implications for couples’ chances of conceiving.

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As we ponder potency, we might send biological birthday greetings to Erasmus Darwin; he was born on this date in 1731.  Erasmus was an accomplished doctor (he declined an offer to be personal physician to Charles III), but is better remembered as a key thinker in the “Midlands Enlightenment”– a founder of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and author of (among other works) Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life, which contained one of the first formal theories of evolution… one that foreshadowed the theories of Erasmus’ reader– and grandson– Charles.

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Written by LW

December 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

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