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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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

I am dipping my toes into this world of photography challenges.  Here is my entry for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge for this week.  The challenge is a black and white photo of flowers.

 

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018 – A BAND OF SISTERS

We are celebrating Memorial Day this weekend.  It is a day set aside to celebrate the men and women in the armed forces who so bravely worked and gave their lives to protect our democracy.  The following is an article from Military.Com about some famous women Veterans.

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In honor of Women’s History Month, Military.com highlights these seven female veterans who played large roles in the history of the U.S. armed forces, and beyond. Ranging from the Civil War to the present day, and covering all the services, these women broke barriers, made a difference, and are now role models for all future generations.

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Bea Arthur

Best known for her roles on the popular television shows “Maude” and “The Golden Girls,” the late Bea Arthur was also once a truck driver in the Marine Corps. She was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve and aside from driving military trucks, she was also a typist. Arthur enlisted at the age of 21 in early 1943 under her original name, Bernice Frankel. Appraisals from her her enlistment interviews described her conversation as “argumentative” and her attitude and manner as “over aggressive” — fitting, given the cantankerous characters she would play later in life. In a handwritten note, the Marine interviewer remarked, “Officious–but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”

Arthur was stationed at Marine Corps and Navy air stations in Virginia and North Carolina during her career, and was promoted from corporal to sergeant to staff sergeant. She was honorably discharged in September 1945, married a fellow Marine (Private Robert Aurthur) shortly afterwards, and changed her name to Bea Arthur before enrolling in the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York in 1947. After a successful Broadway career that included a Tony award, Arthur made a splash as “Cousin Maude” in the classic TV series “All in the Family” in the early ’70s, and went on to star in her own sit-com, and cement her celebrity fame in the long-running “Golden Girls.”

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Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody

The first woman to serve as a four-star general in both the Army and the U.S. armed forces, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody joined the Army in 1974, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps in 1975. Her first assignment was as supply platoon leader, 226th Maintenance Company (Forward, Direct Support), 100th Supply and Services Battalion (Direct Support), Fort Sill, Okla. Her biggest impact was as commander of the Army Materiel Command, or AMC, one of the largest commands in the Army, employing more than 69,000 employees across all 50 states and 145 countries.

“It was Ann’s most recent role, as commander of the AMC, in which she unified global logistics in a way [that has never] been done,” said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno . “She capitalized AMC’s fundamental logistics functions to maximize the efficiency and services they provided of supply, maintenance, contact support, research and development, base and installation support, and deployment and distribution. She connected AMC not only to the Army, but ensured the joint force was always ready and supplied as well.” “From the very first day that I put my uniform on, right up until this morning, I know there is nothing I would have rather done with my life,” she said. “Thank you for helping me make this journey possible.”

At her retirement ceremony in 2012, Dunwoody said, “Over the last 38 years I have had the opportunity to witness women Soldiers jump out of airplanes, hike 10 miles, lead men and women, even under the toughest circumstances,” she said. “And over the last 11 years I’ve had the honor to serve with many of the 250,000 women who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on battlefields where there are no clear lines, battlefields where every man and woman had to be a rifleman first. And today, women are in combat, that is just a reality. Thousands of women have been decorated for valor and 146 have given their lives. Today, what was once a band of brothers has truly become a band of brothers and sisters.”

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Grace Murray Hopper

Known as “Amazing Grace,” Commodore Hopper’s importance in U.S. naval history is apparent everywhere you turn: a destroyer was named after her (USS Hopper, DDG-70), as was the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer. As founder of the COBOL programming language, a precursor to many of the software code approaches of today, her work is legendary among computer scientists and mathematicians.

In 1943, during World War II, she joined the United States Naval Reserves. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project. There she became the third programmer of the world’s first large-scale computer called the Mark I. When she saw it, all she could think about was taking it apart and figuring it out. “That was an impressive beast. She was fifty-one feet long, eight feet high, and five feet deep,” said Hopper. She mastered the Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III. While trying to repair the Mark I she discovered a moth caught in a relay. She taped the moth in the log book and from that coined the phrase “a bug in the computer”. During her career she she mastered the UNIVAC I, the first large-scale electronic computer, and created a program that translated symbolic math codes into machine language. This breakthrough allowed programmers to store codes on magnetic tape and re-call them when they were needed — essentially the first compiler.

In 1966, Hopper retired from the Naval Reserves as a Commander, but was called back to active duty one year later at the Navy’s request, to help standardize its computer programs and their languages. She was promoted to Captain in 1973 by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations. And in 1977, she was appointed special advisor to Commander, Naval Data Automation Command (NAVDAC), where she stayed until she retired. In 1983, a bill was introduced by Rep. Philip Crane (D-Ill.) who said, “It is time the Navy recognized the outstanding contributions made by this officer recalled from retirement over a decade and a half ago and promote her to the rank of Commodore.” Rep. Crane became interested in Hopper after seeing her March 1983 60 Minutes interview. He’d never met Hopper, but after speaking with several people, was convinced she was due the added status of being a flag officer. The bill was approved by the House, and at the age of 76, she was promoted to Commodore by special Presidential appointment. Her rank was elevated to rear admiral in November 1985, making her one of few women admirals in the history of the United States Navy.

By the time of her death in 1992, Hopper was renowned as a mentor and a giant in her field, with honoree doctorates from over 30 universities. She was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Eileen Collins

As a young child, Eileen Collins loved to sit with her dad in the family car and watch airplanes take off and land. The roar of the powerful engines and the grace of the aircraft as they seemed to float in the air always held excitement and enchantment for the young daughter of Irish immigrants. That love of flying would lead the Air Force colonel to be honored as the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, STS-93, in July of 1999, and place the NASA astronaut into the history books.

Colonel Collins joined the Air Force in 1979 and served as a T-38 flight instructor until 1982. From 1983 to 1985 she was a C-141 Starlifter aircraft commander and instructor pilot. She was assistant professor of mathematics and T-41 instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy from 1986 to 1989 and graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1990. While attending the Test Pilot School, Collins was selected by NASA for the astronaut program and became an astronaut in July 1991. In 1995 Col. Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle and in 1999 she was the first woman shuttle commander. She has over 5,000 hours in 30 different types of aircraft and has spent over 537 hours in space.

“I was very excited and happy,” said Collins, who applied for both a pilot and mission specialist slot with NASA. “But even though I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life, it really didn’t sink in until I graduated. I knew that there had never been a woman shuttle pilot before. Now, I’d be the first.”

After four successful shuttle missions, Collins retired in 2006. “I do miss being in space,” she said, “but I flew four times, and all four missions were very busy because you’re constantly working and under stress. You have a mission; your boss is the people of the country and you don’t want to disappoint the people. Usually toward the end of the mission, you can let your hair down a little bit because the primary mission’s done and everything is put away. That was when you could put your face against the glass, stretch out your arms, and you don’t even see the ship around you, just the Earth below, and you feel like you’re flying over the planet.”

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Harriet Tubman

One of the most celebrated heroines in American history, Harriet Tubman is best known for ushering slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad in the 1850s. But not everyone knows that Tubman, who escaped slavery in 1849, set up a vast espionage ring for the Union during the Civil War. She served as a cook, a nurse, and even a spy for the Union during the Civil War, and also was the first woman in American history to lead a military expedition.

In one of her most dramatic and dangerous roles, Tubman helped Colonel James Montgomery plan a raid to free slaves from plantations along the Combahee River in South Carolina. Early on the morning of June 1, 1863, three gunboats carrying several hundred male soldiers along with Harriet Tubman set out on their mission. Tubman had gathered key information from her scouts about the Confederates’ positions, and knew where they were hiding along the shore. She also found out they had placed torpedoes — barrels filled with gunpowder — in the water. Ultimately, her group freed about 750 slaves — men, women, children, and babies — and did not lose one soldier in the attack. Reporting on the raid to Secretary of War Stanton, Brigadier General Rufus Saxton said, “This is the only military command in American history wherein a woman, black or white, led the raid, and under whose inspiration. it was originated and conducted.” Sadly, Tubman was paid only $200 during her three years of service and was denied a pension for her spy work.

AVNURS, pho 1 Elsie Ott, who made the first air evacuation (?), was also the first to receive the Air Medal. Shown in photo receiving the award from Brig Gen Fred W. Borum, who made the presentation at Bowman Field, KY, in 1943 (?). Credit Photo to the National Museum of the USAF

Elsie S. Ott

During World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps pioneered military medical care through the development of air evacuations of wounded personnel. Contributing to this was 2nd Lt. Elsie S. Ott, a flight nurse on the first intercontinental air evacuation flight that demonstrated the potential of air evacuation. Born in 1913 in Smithtown, N.Y, Ott attended Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in New York City after completing high school. After several positions in area hospitals, Ott joined the Army Nurse Corps in September 1941. She was commissioned as a second lieutenant soon after and had assignments to Louisiana and Virginia before being sent to Karachi, India. It was during this assignment that she would participate in the first air evacuation. Originating from Karachi, India, patients were evacuated to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Ott was assigned to the flight with only 24 hours’ notice. Prior to this she had no flying experience and had never flown before. She gathered blankets, sheets and pillows for the trip, but the only medical equipment available to her was nothing more than a first aid kit. No medical professional screened the patients who were to fly with Ott, and she and a sergeant with a medical background were the only people on board to care for patients. The plane left Karachi with five wounded personnel Jan. 17, 1943. Of those five, two were paralyzed from the waist down, one suffered from tuberculosis, another with glaucoma and the fifth was suffering manic-depressive psychosis. After stops along the way for refueling, the plane reached its destination nearly a week after beginning — normally a three month trip by ship.

Ott knew that her report on the trip would be crucial for further planning, and she immediately sat down to make notes for future flights. Among the suggestions she listed were the need for oxygen, more wound dressing supplies, extra coffee and blankets. She also noted that wearing a skirt was impractical for this kind of duty. Two months later, Ott received the first U.S. Air Medal, the first given to a woman in the U.S. Army, for her role in the evacuation flight. She would later be promoted to captain before being discharged in 1946. Nearly 20 years later in 1965, Ott was selected to christen a new type of air ambulance: the C-9 Nightingale.

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Sarah Emma Edmonds

Union soldiers during the Civil War knew a comrade known as Franklin Flint Thompson, but in reality Thomspon was really a woman — Sarah Emma Edmonds — and one of the few females known to have served during the Civil War. Edmonds was born in Canada in 1841, but desperate to escape an abusive father and forced marriage, moved to Flint, Michigan in 1856, where she discovered that life was easier when she dressed as a man. Compelled to join the military out of sense of duty, she enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a male field nurse.

As “Franklin Flint Thompson” Edmonds participated in several battles the took place during the Maryland Campaign of 1862, which included Second Battles of Manassas and Antietam. As a field nurse she would be dealing with mass casualties, especailly at Antietam which is known as one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. She is also said to have served as a Union spy and infiltrated the Confederate army several times, although there is no official record of it. One of her alleged aliases was as a Southern sympathizer named Charles Mayberry. Another was as a black man named Cuff, for which she disguised herself using wigs and silver nitrate to dye her skin. And yet another was as Bridget O’Shea, an Irish peddler selling soap and apples.

Malaria eventually forced Edmonds to give up her military career, since she knew she would be discovered if she went to a military hospital and her being listed as a deserter upon leaving made it impossible for her to return after she recovered. Nevertheless, she still continued serving her new country, again as a nurse, though now as a female one at a hospital for soldiers in Washington, D.C.

In 1865, Edmonds published her experiences in the bestselling Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, and went on to marry and have children. But her heroic contributions to the Civil War were not forgotten and she was awarded an honorable discharge from the military, a government pension, and admittance to the Grand Army of the Republic as its only female member.

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THANK YOU LADIES FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY.  YOU ROCK!

Thank you for taking the time to read about these remarkable women and if you have a story you would like to share about a woman veteran, please feel free to leave your link in the comments section.

bernadette

 

 

 

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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

 

I was paging through a fashion magazine this week and happened to glance at a young woman standing in tree pose.  It was an advertisement for yoga attire but it told a snippet of the story of the young woman.  It told how she had been in a coma for three years and was considered to be in a vegetative state.  I immediately looked up Victoria’s story because having had a child who was diagnosed as vegetative, I am drawn to these success stories.  Victoria’s story is one of amazing determination by her and her family.  Here is her story in her own words.

One small step: My 10-year journey from a wheelchair to walking

Victoria Arlen
Frederick M. Brown/Getty ImagesParalympian swimmer Victoria Arlen attends The 2013 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

I was told it couldn’t be done. My dream was impossible. But on March 3, 2016, after spending 10 years in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down, I took my first steps without assistance. That was no easy task.

But first, let me take a step back.

When I was 11, I got sick. My back and side ached, so doctors took out my appendix. Then my legs began giving out. My foot dragged. Within two weeks, I lost all feeling and function in my legs. Next, my hands stopped working. I couldn’t control my arms, couldn’t swallow properly or find the right words when I wanted to speak. It was as if someone was slowly shutting down the switches on the circuit board that controlled my body and brain. I was slowly slipping away from my family.

Then everything went dark.

Two years later, I woke up inside a body that could not move. I was locked in. I could hear the conversations going on around me, but I had no way of alerting anyone that I was aware they were there.

It took three years for doctors to diagnose me with two equally rare conditions: Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, autoimmune disorders that caused swelling in my brain and spinal cord. I’ve since learned that, had my doctors diagnosed me correctly in 2006, a steroid injection could have prevented all of this. But at the time of my diagnosis, they offered my family little hope. They told them I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. I heard those conversations.

But my parents believed in me. They set up a hospital room in our house in New Hampshire, and took care of me. My three brothers — I’m a triplet and we have an older brother — talked to me and kept me in the know about what was going on outside of my room. They empowered me to fight and get stronger. They didn’t know I could hear them, but I could.

Then, in December 2009, I made eye contact with my mom. Slowly over the next year, I began coming back to life. Raw sounds became words, became sentences. A twitch of my index finger became the wave of my hand. The ability to swallow pudding eventually led to me mowing on a steak. I learned the name Justin Bieber, held my first cell phone and learned what it meant to “poke” someone on Facebook. But despite daily progress, one thing never returned: my legs. I was told the swelling had caused permanent damage to my spinal cord and I would be paralyzed from my belly button down for the rest of my life. Every specialist told me the same thing: “You need to get used to being in a wheelchair.”

I’d already overcome the impossible. I’d woken up and re-learned to live. My idea of what is possible had changed. When my doctors said I would never walk, I didn’t believe them. I knew I wasn’t meant to spend my life in a chair.

Although I believed I would walk again, I knew it would be a long, difficult road littered with challenges I couldn’t foresee. I remember coming home from high school one day crushed because kids were bullying me because of my chair. I had been so happy to return to school and after that day, I didn’t want to go back. As my crying subsided, my parents promised they would do whatever it took to help me to walk again. They kept that promise. They never lost hope.

At some points, hope was the only thing I had. When I began my journey toward walking again, I clung to hope like a life raft. There is a Helen Keller quote that I saved in a journal I’ve kept along this journey. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” I had hope; I was still working on confidence.

Growing up, I was a water baby. We lived near a lake, had a pool in our backyard and as soon as I was old enough, I joined a swim team. By 10, I was winning local events. As I began to heal from my illness, I came to the sad realization that I would never swim again. I didn’t think I could swim without my legs. But my brothers disagreed, so in 2010 they threw me into our pool. I was terrified. But it was a turning point in my life. It was the “jump” I needed to get back to my life. When I was swimming, I was free from the chair. And to my surprise, I was still good. In the water, I found freedom — and my confidence.

In 2012, at 17, I made the USA Paralympic swim team and competed at the London Games. I brought home three silver medals and a gold in the 100-meter freestyle. I set a world record in the 100-meter free. When I returned home, I was met with quite a bit of fanfare. All of a sudden, my chair and I were thrust into the spotlight. I was invited to speaking engagements and appearances. People recognized me at the grocery store. I began telling my story to television reporters and newspaper writers, becoming a beacon of hope to so many around the world. But I never lost my hope and vision for getting out of that chair.

As I pushed toward my goal of walking, I found the hope I needed at Project Walk, a paralysis recovery center based in San Diego. Through the Dardzinski Method, an activity-based therapy, Project Walk has helped many people dealing with paralysis to regain function and even walk. My mother and I temporarily relocated to San Diego and lived with family so I could train every day. We realized this was the place that could help me, but we didn’t want to live hundreds of miles away from my brothers and dad. So, keeping their promise, my family decided to open the first Project Walk franchise on the East Coast. This way, I could train every day and achieve my goal, while others in my hometown could regain the hope they needed, as well. In 2013, my mother had asked one of my specialists what the possibility was of me ever walking again. He told her, “I wouldn’t mortgage the house.” Well, my parents mortgaged our house and in 2015, they opened Project Walk Boston.

It became my refuge. Despite agonizing frustration, I put in everything I had every day, spending thousands of hours working and fighting for one flicker of a sign that my legs were still alive. For the longest time, I didn’t see even a twitch of movement below my level of injury.

Then, on Nov. 11, 2015, I took a small step. I was strapped into a harness above a treadmill and two trainers worked to move my legs. It had been six years since I “woke up” and my legs had shown no life. Most doctors say if there is no improvement after two years, there will be no improvement. Still, I showed up every day, for up to six hours a day, and worked. That day, one of my trainers noticed a flicker, a small movement from within my right leg. It wasn’t much, but it was all the hope I needed. I harnessed that flicker and fanned the flame. Slowly, I began regaining movement in my legs. As they became stronger, I began sitting less and walking with the aid of forearm crutches and leg braces more frequently.

Five months later, on March 3, 2016, I let go of the crutches and put one foot in front of the other. I haven’t stopped since. I sometimes feel like the Will Ferrell character Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. Without my chair, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.”

That’s not to say every day is perfect. Walking is still challenging and I still have significant impairment. I wear leg braces, follow a training program for two-to-three hours per day and on the days when my legs feel more paralyzed, I have my chair or crutches on standby. But my struggle is now less visible. Only my trainers, those closest to me and I know the extent of the damage and the effort it takes for me to continue to progress each day. Only they see the thousands of hours of training, 15 different pairs of leg braces, three wheelchairs and all the blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes my recovery and the regimen I have to keep feels like a second job. But it’s all worth it. It’s been 10 years since I was able to look someone in the eye instead of staring at everyone’s butts all day.

Without the chair, there is no obvious evidence of my journey, no wheelchair or pink crutches to explain the past 10 years. They were such a reminder of what had happened to me that with them; I never felt I could truly move on or be free. But standing was scary, too. I was incredibly nervous about announcing this news. I was unsure how people would react to me. But then I realized this is my journey and nobody else’s and maybe it can give hope to people who need it most.

For the past two months, I’ve been finding my new identity and reflecting on a turbulent 10-year journey. I’m 21. I’m in the public eye. My identity to many is that of a girl in a wheelchair, a Paralympic gold medalist, a television personality for ESPN and a survivor. Standing upright felt like drastically changing my hair and then worrying what everyone else would think. I wondered if I would be accepted without my chair. But I needed to be comfortable and at peace with my new identity before I could ask the same from others.

So far, the reaction has been incredible, so many tears and hugs and so much support. It’s been fun surprising my family and friends and giving them a proper hug. I didn’t do this on my own, and I am grateful for everyone who has helped me to this point. Each day, I become more comfortable with my new reality. I thought taking those steps on March 3 would be my finish line. But really, they were only the beginning.

One month after taking my first steps, I posed for a new ESPN portrait without my wheelchair.

VICTORIA ARLEN YOU ROCK!

If you have a story about an inspiring woman, please feel free to leave a link to it in the comments section.

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A #Mother’sDay (Cautionary) Fairy Tale #Humor PLUS contest~FREE autographed paperbacks!

Another one of my favorite writers who always tells the truth with humor. Enjoy!

Barb Taub

For more humor, kids, pets, death, and other (mostly) funny stuff, please check out my new book! [click on image for previews, reviews, and buy links from Amazon]

CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY WITH A FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies.

Winners of three autographed paperback copies will be randomly drawn from those commenting on this post within the next week.

Happy Mother’s Day!


A Mother’s Day (CAUTIONARY) Fairy Tale

Once upon a time (and we’re talking LONG time), there was a poor Mom named CinderBarb, who married her academic-gypsy prince and moved to Illinois, where CinderBarb began to look for a castle. She soon found that in central Illinois, castle basements came in two forms—finished (floors) and unfinished (not so much). Unfinished basements had exposed plumbing and wiring, dirt (or, in some newer castles, cement) floors, and regular floods. Finished basements had…

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Conversation with…My Book…resisting physical changes in older age

Cathi, writes about a lot of issues of aging in a hilarious but inciteful manner. She reminds me of Erma Bombeck. I am sure if you purchase this book you will throughly enjoy her unique stories.

OVER THE HILL on the YELLOW BRICK ROAD

Traveling Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, I’ve had conversations with lots of weird people and things while passing through the Neighborhood of the Empty Nesters, the Avenue of Ages and Stages, climbing over Makover Mountain, visiting the Career Change Cafe, and looking back on my life in Reflecting Ridge. So…I put all those conversations together in a book, along with a story that ties everything together. Here it is! The only problem is, my book is being a hypochondriac.  While I was setting up links to Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, my book screamed at me: 

over_the_hill

BOOK: Ah!!!! Don’t make me travel across the internet!

Why not?

BOOK: Because I’m filled with conversations about growing older. I feel really fragile and responsible. If something happens to me on the way to Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, I’ll never forgive myself.

What can happen?

BOOK: If someone clicks on me, it could…

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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

MOTHER’S ROCK!

It is Mother’s Day this Sunday in the United States.  To be honest this is not one of my favorite holidays because it is a day that seems set aside to make everyone feel inadequate about not appreciating their mothers enough.  My feeling has always been come for dinner, call me, tell me you love me once in a while, not just one day of the year.  Anyway…. here is a quirky list of mothers of famous people that I thought you might enjoy.

Ludwig van Beethoven

As a girl, Maria Magdalena Keverich worked as a chambermaid in the homes of the wealthy. Johann van Beethoven was her second husband. She was described as “rather tall, longish face, a nose somewhat bent, spare, earnest eyes and kind. A little colorless perhaps — raised to a passion only for the occasional quarrel with the neighbors.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Eliza Grace Symonds Bell was the daughter of a surgeon in the British Royal Navy and was a talented portrait painter. Although somewhat deaf, she played the piano well. Her deafness inspired her son’s research into hearing, although it was said she did not have a lot of faith in his work.

Dwight David Eisenhower

Though poor, Ida Stover was determined to go to college. She scraped together enough money to attend Lane College in Lecompton, Kan., where she met fellow student David Eisenhower. She was known as a firm but gentle disciplinarian and was deeply religious. It is said she once won a prize for memorizing 1,365 Bible verses. As a pacifist, she was not in favor of her son attending West Point but decided to let him go.

Henry Ford

Mary Litogot grew up on a farm, and met her future husband, William Ford, when she was 12 and he was 26 and came to work on the farm. They married nine years later. Mary was self-sufficient and a diligent worker. Henry later attributed his clean factories to her belief in cleanliness. She encouraged his interest in machines early on. He later said, “I have tried to live my life as my mother would have wished. I believe I have done, as far as I could, just what she hoped for me.”

Napoleon

Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte grew up during the Corsican struggle for independence from Genoa and imparted to her children an early interest in politics. When Napoleon was crowned emperor in 1804, she was feted everywhere as “Madame Mere.” At one time, she had three sons who were kings and one daughter as a queen, but she continued to obsess over accumulating wealth. “I may one day have to find bread for all these kings I have borne,” she said. Letizia outlived most of her famous children.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Alberta Williams King was both the daughter and the wife of Baptist preachers. She taught her children to “always remember you are as good as anyone.” Violence and tragedy became a part of her life. In 1968, Martin Luther Jr. was shot; in 1974, her son Alfred drowned; and in 1974, she herself was killed by a deranged gunman while she was playing the organ in church.

Louisa May Alcott

Abigail May became the patient and long-suffering wife of Bronson Alcott and supported him in all his radical views on education and utopian living. She served as the model for Marmee in “Little Women,” but Louisa always claimed that “Marmee, good though she was, was still not half good enough to do justice to the real woman who inspired her.”

Al Capone

When her son, Alphonse, was found guilty of tax evasion, Teresa Capone came to see him in jail with a big dish of macaroni, tomatoes and cheese. Teresa, who came from Italy as a young woman, could not speak much English, and when her son was transferred to the Atlanta Penitentiary, she could only look at him and mutter a few words; foreign languages were not permitted. She always maintained that Al was “a good boy.”

George Washington

Mary Ball Washington was a strict, authoritarian figure. George always addressed his letters to her with “Honored Madam.” When he wanted to join the British Navy, Mary refused her permission. Shortly after that, George left to live with his brother at Mount Vernon. When news came that he was elected president, he stopped on his way to the capital to give his mother the news — it was the last time he ever saw her.

The Marx Brothers

Minnie Schoenberg was the daughter of a magician and a harpist in Germany. She left that country as a teen to come to New York, where she married a somewhat successful tailor. She encouraged her sons to go into vaudeville. In 1923, although Groucho did not agree with her, she figured they were ready for Broadway — and they were. While being fitted for a dress for opening night, Minnie fell and broke her leg. She was carried to the theater on a stretcher for the opening night show.

Source: “Mothers: 100 Mothers of the Famous and Infamous,” edited by Richard Ehrlich; Paddington Press Ltd.

I invite you to share a story about an inspiring woman in the comments section. Just leave us a link to your post. We can never read too many stories about inspiring women. 

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The quotes in this article came from: “Mothers: 100 Mothers of the Famous and Infamous,” edited by Richard Ehrlich; Paddington Press Ltd.

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SUPERMOMS – FOSTER MOMS

I am reposting this writing this morning because it will soon be Mother’s Day and I want to celebrate again the Foster Moms, Adoptive Moms and all the Moms of the world today.

 

A few years ago, Mother’s Day found me temporarily raising my one year old granddaughter.  My friends and family were very quick to tell me what a wonderful person I was to take on this responsibility.  But aside from the very real physical hardship of raising a one year old (try getting up off the floor at 65), I really felt nothing but love and a kind of awe that I had been given this opportunity to mother another member of my family.  But as any Grandmother can attest, you fall in love with your grandchildren as easily as you fell in love with your own children.  So, really I was living a lie.  I wasn’t this super wonderful person taking on this responsibility – I was just a grandmother loving a granddaughter.

My granddaughter has been adopted bymy son and daughter-in-law.  And I want to dedicate this blog to my daughter-in-law and all the other mothers in the world who love with their whole hearts a child who has come to them another way.

These women are true heroes.  They open their hearts and give much needed love and guidance to a child who they did not carry under their hearts.  These wonderful women don’t shrink from giving this love and taking on all the hard work of raising a child while living with the possibility that the child may end up being taken away from them.  To paraphrase Brian Andreas – they wake up every morning and love the child all over again.  And getting up every morning and loving all over again is really the definitive explanation of what a mother does.  She slays the dragon of the everyday hard work of raising a child and wakes up every morning and loves the child all over again.

Happy Mother’s day to you beautiful heroes.  Like spring, you give the gift of renewed hope and beauty to this world.

Sending my love to all mothers,

Bernadette

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