A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – OPENING

Nancy Merrill’s  challenge this week is opening.  This photo was taken in an ice palace with my grandson on an ice slide.  I like how the blocks of ice create a frame for the slide and I really like the colors.  I didn’t enhance the colors.  They are as taken that day.

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CEE’S BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE – TRAINS AND TRACKS

TRACKS ON TRACKS ON TRACKS! 

The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues.  If you get a chance walk the High Line.  It is a fantastic experience.

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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

Something a little different for Feminist Friday, a wonderful thank you note from a feminist father for allowing him to be the father to his daughter that he desires.

Thanks, feminist movement, for making Father’s Day better for dads’s

UPDATED 

Sunday was Father’s Day. My second as a dad, though the first one where I actually got to spend all day with my daughter. Since I’ve taken this job, I’ve discovered this amazing thing called The Weekend, which I now have free.

We went to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx on Saturday, then Sunday to a local street fair and the park, and it was all pretty blissful. One of the most remarkable things about fatherhood, something I did not fully comprehend before I became a father, is just the genuine joy I get from hanging out with my kid. You could have tried to explain this to me before became a father, but I wouldn’t have quite gotten it.

I now look forward to spending time with Ryan the way I looked forward to playing a little league game when I was nine. Or going to a great concert when I was 21. The thing I want to do with my time is hang out with my daughter, hang out with my wife, spend time together as a family. And as I was going to bed last night, thinking about what an awesome Father’s Day I had because I got to spend more time with my family, I remembered this incredible study that Pew had done.

What you see there is how mothers and fathers spent their time nearly 40 years ago. Fathers spent most of their time working, very little time doing housework, and even less time with their kids. Only two and a half hours a week, on average. Moving up toward present day, it’s still an unequal society, but it is vastly more equal. The time fathers spend with their kids has nearly tripled since 1965.

The numbers from the 1960s show us the complete divide in the roles of parents of the pre-feminist era. Men go outside the home and earn money. Women look after the children and do housework. This was how mothers and fathers spent their time. The great demand of social revolution that was feminism was to equalize those roles. To push them more in line with each other. Today, we think about the feminist revolution as being largely defined by women transitioning to work outside the home.

Mothers spend an average of 21 hours per week at work, up from eight hours per week in 1965. And another recent Pew survey showed that in four out of ten households, women are the breadwinners. It’s a concept so foreign to many in the male power structure, that it made conservative heads explode.

But the evidence tells us that these dudes should really calm down. The Pew study shows us the opposite of feminism killing the family unit and our social order. Feminism made the family stronger. The amount of time both parents spend with their kids is double what it was in 1965. So, while the primary takeaway of feminism is how the movement affected women’s lives,the other side of it is the tripling of the time dads get to spend with their kids. It’s an incredible transformation both for men and for their kids, a huge net benefit in human happiness.

And I think about walking around my neighborhood in New York, seeing all these new dads my age, with kids on bikes, or being pushed in strollers, or hanging off them in some baby harness contraption. We have all been blessed with the gift of a society whose confines and restraints and structures were broken apart before we became dads.

This is the great gift of feminism to men: It took a sledgehammer to the must stultifying parts of patriarchy, including a vision of fatherhood in which dads were expected to be distant, stoic, removed creatures from their kids’ lives. And we have now a new and better social model, one that encourages fathers to be equal parents, and nudges them towards spending more of their time doing something that is going to make them happier: spending time with their kids.

So to all the dads out there, Happy Belated Father’s Day. And to all the mothers, grandmothers and daughters and feminist agitators—thank you for helping to make it possible.

CHRIS HAYES YOU ROCK!

 

So for this week if you have a post about an inspiring man, please leave a link to it in the comments section.

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All Challenge Hosts

For those who like to challenge and for those of us who take up the challenge See has generously offered to take up the baton where WordPress has put it down.

Cee's Photography

Since WordPress’s Event page is now out of date and I you can’t add any new challenges to it, I have come up with an idea.

Hosts, if you send me information of your challenge, I will host a page on my blog for all challenges.  You can link back to my page so other members can find your challenges or other like it.

Click here to see link where I am setting this up.

Here is the information I would like:

  • Challenge Name
  • Host Name
  • Host Blog (URL)
  • Type of Challenge (Photography, Writing, General or come up with your own Type)
  • Short description of challenge (one or two sentences)
  • Day challenge is published and frequency (example Thursday, Weekly)
  • There are a few challenges that run monthly or yearly, please make note of that also.
  • If you have a badge, please attach that as well.

Email me through my contact…

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A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: LIGHT

This is my entry for Nancy Merrill’s photo challenge – light.  It was taken in St. Maarten the summer before the hurricane came and totally destroyed this little piece of paradise.

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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

 

With graduation season upon us I thought I would share with you one of my favorite writer’s commencement address.  Anna Quindlen writes with heart and this address is a perfect example of her character and personality.

 

Anna Quindlen’s Commencement Address at Villanova

The following is from Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen’s commencement address to Villanova University, Friday 23 June 2000:

It’s a great honor for me to be the third member of my family to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university. It’s an honor to follow my great-uncle Jim, who was a gifted physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman. Both of them could have told you something important about their professions, about medicine or commerce.

I have no specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a disadvantage, talking to you today. I’m a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.

Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office.” Don’t ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen, I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So here is what I wanted to tell you today:

Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.

Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night.

And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.

All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid’s eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago.

Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this:

Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.

Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too, a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Here you could learn in the classroom. There the classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office. I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months.

He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule; panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.

And I asked him why. Why didn’t he go to one of the shelters? Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view.”

And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that’s the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You’ll never be disappointed.

ANNA QUINDLEN YOU ROCK!

I invite you to share a link to a post that you have written about an inspiriting woman in the comment section.

CEE’S WHICH WAY CHALLENGE

My entry for Cee’s Challenge.  This photo was taken in Greece.  I have never visited any other country that has such spectacular vistas of blue and white.

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018


“We can have feminist icons, but the real heroines are just quietly doing what is needed.”  Osyth

I love to cook and I am an avid reader of various cooking sites.  One of this sites is Cooking which is the New York Times site.  For me reading about the James Beard Awards is mandatory.  I was richly rewarded by this article written about this year’s award winner for Best Pastry Chef.  And to “sweeten” the pot, I am also attaching her award winning recipe.  Enjoy!

An Alabama Chef and Her Beloved Desserts Hit the Big Time

Dolester Miles, who was named Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation in May, has worked for more than 30 years at the Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Ala.Bob Miller for The New York Times

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Dolester Miles bought a pair of black slacks and a sequined blouse to wear to the James Beard Foundation awards ceremony in Chicago this month. She wanted to look nice, even though she didn’t think she was going to be chosen pastry chef of the year.

She was up against some heavy hitters. There was Margarita Manzke, whose desserts at the bistro République were declared “terrific” by Jonathan Gold in The Los Angeles Times, and Meg Galus of Boka in Chicago, whose recipes made use of toasted milk and the funk of fermented black lime.

Why in the world would the 600 or so Beard Foundation voters pick a self-taught, 61-year-old cook from a small steel-making town who has spent the past 30 years making Southern-influenced desserts for the same Alabama restaurant?

Ms. Miles, who prefers you just call her Dol, had been nominated twice before, so she was used to losing. So was Frank Stitt, who had hired her 36 years ago to make salads at the Highlands Bar & Grill. For the 10th time, his place was up for restaurant of the year.

Instead of planning acceptance speeches, the team from Alabama used the trip as a nice break. The night of the awards, Ms. Miles put on her new outfit, slipped on a favorite pair of earrings (she has a thing for earrings) and took a seat in the Lyric Opera House. When her category came up, she was as calm as a cat. “I’m waiting for them to call out one of the other names,” she recalled during an interview here in Birmingham.

Instead, she heard hers. “At first I couldn’t move. I was just in disbelief,” she said. She made it to the stage somehow, barely holding back tears. She thanked the Beard voters. She thanked Frank Stitt and his wife, Pardis, and her pastry crew back home, adding, “That’s all I got to say.” She was done in less than 30 seconds.

The win, along with the Highlands’ victory as restaurant of the year, was part of a sweeping adjustment to the Beard Foundation lens. More women and minorities won this year than ever before, and many of them weren’t from the kinds of restaurants that get a lot of media attention.

Many diners have come to know Ms. Miles by way of her pecan coconut cake, which has a rich filling made from sweetened condensed milk, egg and coconut. She makes it and all the desserts for Frank Stitt’s three Birmingham restaurants in the kitchen of Bottega, his Italian place.Bob Miller for The New York Times

The radical shift was rooted in a cultural moment. The restaurant business is reckoning with issues of gender and race in unprecedented ways. To be sure, there has been plenty of debate over whether this year’s awards were an anomaly driven by social pressure or the start of an enduring shift in what the James Beard officials — and perhaps diners — consider the elements of a great restaurant.

Still, amid all the hand-wringing over politics and privilege, it was Ms. Miles’s win that somehow captured hearts. In her own small way, she was like Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, at the royal wedding: a secondary character in a larger, predominantly white narrative who emerged as an African-American beacon.

“Her honor acknowledges and celebrates generations of restaurant and home cooks whose recipes got lost in the their employers’ brands,” said Toni Tipton-Martin, a food journalist whose 2015 book, “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks,” explored the history of black cooks in America.

Bill Addison is the national restaurant critic for the website Eater and the chairman of the Beard Foundation’s restaurant-award committee, which develops the list of nominees but doesn’t know the winners until the ceremony. That night in Chicago, he said, he cried “big, salty tears” when he heard Ms. Miles’s name.

Mr. Addison was moved because his committee’s effort to put forth a more diverse slate of candidates had paid off, and also because he, himself a former pastry chef, loves Ms. Miles’s peach cobbler with a passion that borders on fanaticism.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “It’s the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. All of her cobblers are great, but the peach is the one that makes my soul burst into four-part harmony.”

John T. Edge, the food writer and historian who directs the Southern Foodways Alliance, has long been a devoted fan, too. Like many, he came to know Ms. Miles by way of her coconut pecan cake, a rich cousin of a traditional Southern coconut cake, dressed up in Chantilly cream frosting.

Ms. Miles prefers the tang of citrus desserts like this lemon meringue tart, a recipe she learned from her aunt.Bob Miller for The New York Times

Although she now is making 60 a week — double what she made before the award — it is by no means her favorite dessert. She prefers something with the tang of citrus, like her lemon meringue tart. But she doesn’t eat many sweets. She was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, and does her best to consume them judiciously.

Mr. Edge holds Ms. Miles in high regard for her ability to be thoroughly modern with some desserts but also to reach back into African-American baking traditions and bring forth impeccable renditions of classic Southern cakes and pies. “She has to meet the standards of a diner’s grandmother,” he said. “But Dol also meets the expectation of the fine-dining customer. That straddle is hard to manage.”

Ms. Miles was taught to bake by her mother, Cora Mae Miles, who died five years ago, and her aunt, Queen Ester Harris, 85, who spent a career cooking at the high school cafeteria in Bessemer, a small town about 15 miles southwest of Birmingham whose nearby iron and steel plants once pulled many African-American families into the middle class.

Mrs. Harris is the kind of woman who might make nine cakes at a time and deliver them to people in nursing homes. It was a good birthday if you got one of her cakes.

Her brown sugar poundcake was a favorite when Ms. Miles was growing up. Unlike a cadre of Southern women who find power in refusing to share a recipe, Mrs. Harris was always generous with her knowledge.

“I didn’t mind showing nobody how to cook anything,” she said in a phone interview. “It was a joy.”

Ms. Miles, the youngest of five children and always a hard worker, was an eager student. “Everything that tastes good, she was interested in it,” Mrs. Harris said. (Ms. Miles recalls it more as an interest in getting to the spatula and the beaters before her cousins.)

Family being family, Ms. Miles did not escape some teasing when word of the award made it to Bessemer.

Frank and Pardis Stitt traveled with Ms. Miles to Chicago to attend the James Beard awards. The couple’s Highlands Bar & Grill was named Outstanding Restaurant.Bob Miller for The New York Times

“I said, ‘I’d accept it if you said you were the best in Birmingham, but not America,’” her aunt said. A cousin took it one step further: She looked online and saw how much Ms. Miles’s desserts sold for at the restaurants.

“She said she is going over to eat one of them $9 slices of cake because she wanted to know what does a $9 slice of cake taste like,” Mrs. Harris added.

Ms. Miles didn’t plan on a cooking career. After high school, she headed to college to study computer science, but came home to have a baby. (Her daughter, LaToya Phillips, now grown and with two children of her own, traveled to Chicago to support her mother at the awards ceremony.)

One day in 1982, Ms. Miles heard about a new restaurant that a young chef named Frank Stitt was opening in Birmingham’s progressive Southside neighborhood.

Mr. Stitt had left the South to pursue an education that took him to Tufts University, the University of California, Berkeley, and eventually France, working as the food writer Richard Olney’s assistant. Mr. Stitt, who is white, came home and started something that would change the face of Birmingham.

“Frank was a son of the gentry and a son of the country and a socially aware Southerner who left the South and returned with a new perspective,” Mr. Edge said. “When he began that restaurant, he invested in African-Americans in and around Birmingham, and those investments from long ago are now yielding some national recognition.”

All Ms. Miles knew was that something big was happening and she wanted to be a part of it from the moment she met him. “If you talk to him you’re like, oh my God, you’ve got to go work for him, you’ve got to get in on that,” she said. “He’s so excited even by a little piece of garlic or a piece of ginger.”

She started as the pantry chef. She and Mr. Stitt still laugh about the early days, when he would send her to the store for leeks and she had no idea what she was looking for, or how he urged her to taste arugula and watercress.

“I am like, ‘This looks like some weeds or something,’” she said. “He’d turn his back and I’d throw it in the trash and he’d ask how was that and I’d say, ‘Oh that was great.’ But now I love that kind of stuff.”

He soon recognized her talent with butter and sugar. Over the years, she has learned to interpret Mr. Stitt’s unwavering devotion to seasonality and his vision for the kinds of desserts he wants at each of his restaurants: a provincial French approach at his Chez Fonfon, Italian sweets at Bottega and elevated Southern offerings for the Highlands Bar & Grill.

As a result, she can toggle from chocolate pots de crème to polenta poundcake tiramisù to blueberry cobbler with ease.

Some of it is just managing Mr. Stitt, who on a recent Monday came into the pastry kitchen with a page torn out of a hospitality magazine showing off a dessert inspired by Italy’s Friuli region. He liked the way it had been plated, in a dramatic horizontal stripe peppered with pistachios and kumquat slices.

“Maybe we could do that with strawberries,” she said.

“Or peaches,” he countered.

She comes up with her own ideas, too. She reads cookbooks, and found inspiration in the royal wedding. She got up at 6 a.m. to watch the whole thing, and made special note of the wedding cake — a spongecake stunner with elderflower syrup and a curd filling made from Amalfi Coast lemons.

“I might have to try something like that,” she said.

But don’t expect her to make a big deal about her work. Ms. Miles is so shy that she acquiesced to her first interview only two years ago, after the magazine Southern Living persisted. But she is easing into her newfound celebrity.

“She’s just blossoming,” said Ms. Stitt, who manages the front of the house in the Stitt empire.

Dessert orders are way up at the restaurants, as are reservations, she said. A couple drove all the way from Minneapolis the other night just to eat at the Highlands because of the Beard win.

But the surge of interest in a steady, understated Southern restaurant with a French sensibility may be broader than one award. At a time when stark political divisions are driving headlines, a place like the Highlands and the solid appeal of Ms. Miles’ desserts have a new luster.

“There been kind of a reckoning, especially after this election, of all of us recognizing our own privilege and what led us here, but also a recognition of the importance of the intimacy of shared meals,” said Ava Lowery, who teaches film at the University of Mississippi and who made a short documentary about Ms. Miles for the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Food, she said, can be a subversive vehicle for social change.

Mr. Stitt suspects the newfound appreciation for his restaurants is part of what he calls “a renewed hunger for character.”

“I would like to think that what we’re about is integrity and respect and quality and pursuit of beauty in our work and for our guests,” he said.

But a person can overthink these things. Sometimes, dessert is just dessert and a job well done is its own reward, Ms. Miles said.

“Just do hard work and keep reading books and keep learning,” she said. “That’s what I do every day because that’s my philosophy.”

Coconut Pecan Cake Recipe

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper, then dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. Finely grind the coconut in a food processor, then transfer to a bowl. Add pecans to the food processor, along with 2 tablespoons sugar, and finely grind them.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in coconut and pecans.
  4. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, cream of coconut and the remaining sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary, then beat in coconut extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the coconut milk, starting and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter between the pans and smooth the top of each with a spatula. Bake until cakes are golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake, invert onto rack, and remove the parchment. Let cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, make the filling: Place egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, combine condensed milk, butter and cream of coconut and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until hot, about 4 minutes. Whisk 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg yolks. Transfer egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until mixture has the consistency of pudding, about 4 minutes. Do not let the custard get too thick. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the shredded coconut. Let cool completely.
  7. Make the simple syrup: In a saucepan, heat sugar and 1/2 cup water, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
  8. Assemble the layer cake in a pan: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan, moisten the top with 2 to 3 tablespoons simple syrup and spread 1/2 cup of the coconut filling in a thin, even layer with an offset spatula. Repeat to make 2 more layers of cake and filling, then place the last layer on top. Refrigerate cake for about 1 hour. To unmold, run a spatula around the edges, invert a cake plate over the top, and flip the cake over onto the plate.
  9. Make the icing: Whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar and coconut extract until stiff peaks form. Spread on the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

DOLESTER MILES YOU ROCK!
Please feel free to leave a link to an article you have written about an inspiring woman.

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HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

The Unconventional Life of Mary Walker, the Only Woman to Have Received the U.S. Medal of Honor

Dress reformer, women’s rights activist, and all-around pioneer.

Mary Walker, with her Medal of Honor on her lapel, 1873.

Mary Walker, with her Medal of Honor on her lapel, 1873. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/ LC-DIG-BELLCM-25836

On a summer day in 1866, Mary Edwards Walker exited a milliner’s store on Canal Street, in New York, and was promptly arrested. A report the following day stated, “The lady wore a long coat or robe and a pair of cloth pants, and the guardian of the public peace, imagining that there was something wrong about this, and that a lady ought not be allowed to dress as she pleases, undertook to arrest her.”

The 19th-century dress reform movement had started 16 years earlier with the “bloomer,” a billowing, tapered pant that had been adopted, briefly, by middle-class women as an alternative path to gender equality. The bloomer’s popularity was, for the most part, short-lived, largely on account of the ridicule and harassment faced by the women who wore them, but for Walker, a physician, dress reform was critical to women’s emancipation.

Consider the typical outfit for women of a certain class in the late 1850s: a chemise and drawers, a tight-fitting corset, a crinoline cage underskirt, petticoats, a dress, stockings, and slippers. The long skirts dragged in the dirt, spreading disease; crinolines were flammable; corsets were constricting; and fabrics were frequently dyed with arsenic. It was a hazardous and uncomfortable time for women’s fashion, and Walker wanted to change that.

Mary Walker grew up on a farm in Oswego, New York, into a family of abolitionists who emphasized education and equality. They were anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco, and her father believed corsets were damaging to health. After working as a teacher, Walker attended medical school in Syracuse and graduated, with honors, in 1855. At her wedding in 1856, to fellow medical student Albert Miller, she wore the “reform costume”—a skirt over pants—and she did not follow the traditional vows and promise to “obey” her husband.

Mary Walker, 1860.
Mary Walker, 1860. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/ LC-DIG-PPMSCA-19911

Walker began to lecture and contribute to the reform magazine Sibyl: A Review of the Tastes, Errors and Fashions of Society. She urged women to “go to a smith and have their dressical and dietetical chains severed so they may go forth free, sensible women.” Although an ardent support of women’s rights in general, dress reform was her priority. “The greatest sorrows from which women suffer today are … caused by their unhygienic manner of dressing. The want of the ballot is but a toy in comparison!”

Unlike other suffragists, Walker argued that women already had the right to vote, on the basis that the words “We the People” are not gender-specific. To her, there was no need to enshrine in the Constitution a right already given.

After the wedding, Walker and Miller established a private practice, but neither that nor the marriage was a success. The practice failed, reportedly, because patients did not want to see a female physician, and the marriage due to her husband’s infidelity. She left them both in 1859.

Two photographs of Walker, taken between 1860 and 1865.
Two photographs of Walker, taken between 1860 and 1865. NATIONAL ARCHIVES

In July 1861, after spending time in Iowa (in an attempt to capitalize on the state’s more lax divorce laws), Walker moved to Washington, D.C., where she applied for a military surgeon’s contract in the Union Army. She was denied, and instead was offered a position as a nurse, which she refused. Walker continued to petition for a surgeon’s role while volunteering as a doctor. In December 1862, the New York Tribune wrote, “Dressed in male habiliments … she can amputate a limb with the skill of an old surgeon, and administer medicine equally as well. Strange to say that, although she has frequently applied for a permanent position in the medical corps, she has never been formally assigned to any particular duty.”

Eventually, in 1864, she was assigned as the acting assistant surgeon to the 53nd Ohio Volunteers, an appointment that the director of the medical staff called a “medical monstrosity.” She wore an officer’s uniform, with small modifications, and carried two pistols. In April 1864, she was captured behind enemy lines and kept at the Confederate prison Castle Thunder for four months, until she was released through a prisoner exchange.

Following the war, Walker continued to advocate for dress reform. She designed a “dress reform undersuit,” which, she declared, was a solution “to cruel corsets, tight garters and other underpinnings.” She also claimed, dubiously, that the garment prevented seduction and rape.

Walker's "dress reform undersuit."
Walker’s “dress reform undersuit.” LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/ LC-USZ62-60517

She also traveled to England to state her case to crowds in London and Manchester. In London, her address began “Gentlemen and Ladies,” and in the same speech, she said that “she was one of those who thought it was better and easier to live out their own individual lives, and to use the powers specially bestowed upon them, than to live according to other people’s notions—to live, in fact, the lives of other persons.”

Walker’s speeches also drew attention to the double standards women faced. A report from Edinburgh in 1867 noted, “She also thought the press often did not do so much justice to women as they might. They often criticized women severely when they allowed men to pass, saying very little about them.”

A cartoon depicting the "eminent women's rights activist" Walker during her visit to meet President-Elect Grover Cleveland in 1885. A "strong minded woman" who "crossed her legs just like a man," it stated."
A cartoon depicting the “eminent women’s rights activist” Walker during her visit to meet President-Elect Grover Cleveland in 1885. A “strong minded woman” who “crossed her legs just like a man,” it stated.” NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY/ PUBLIC DOMAIN

Back in the United States, the suffragists were wary of Walker, both because of her controversial attire and her perspective on the need for a constitutional amendment. For a few years, she lived with lawyer and activist Belva Lockwood. Together with five others, they tried to register to vote, and failed. By the 1870s she had adopted the attire that she would wear for the rest of her life: trousers, vest, coat, and top hat. She was harassed in the street. A woman set her dog on Walker and, on one occasion, she was pelted with eggs. To support herself, she wrote two books, and toward the end of the 19th century, agreed to appear in dime museums—popular but lowbrow attractions.

Mary Walker, c. 1911.
Mary Walker, c. 1911. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/ LC-USZ62-48794

Walker radically challenged 19th-century gender norms. Of her choice of wardrobe, Walker stated, “I don’t wear men’s clothes, I wear my own clothes.” She kept her maiden name, saying “a woman’s name is as dear to her as a man’s is to him.” She argued that the pensions of wartime nurses should equal those of veterans. And, a century before the women’s liberation movement, she argued that women should be able to support themselves and receive equal pay for equal work, as well as recognition for their work in the home: “Too well do women know the great mass of men feel that if they earn the money, they have performed nine-tenths of living, and whatever a women does is only of minor consideration.”

To this day, Walker remains the only women to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the country’s highest award for wartime valor, although it did not come without controversy. In 1865, President Andrew Johnson* awarded it to her along with 910 other civilians (all men) for their duty in the Civil War. Walker’s citation mentioned her service treating the sick and wounded at several battles, as well as her time as a prisoner of war. But in 1917, a change to eligibility meant that any medal not earned in “actual combat” was revoked. Walker ignored the change and continued to wear the medal on her lapel until her death. Sixty years later, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored the award, which is today on display at the Pentagon.

Walker died the year before women obtained the right to vote. She was buried at the family plot in Oswego, in a black suit.

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