FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.”

Pope Francis

 

The news this week of children being separated from their parents at our country’s border is so upsetting and heartbreaking.  I decided to let Lady Liberty speak about this policy.  I hope that we will consider her words a call to action and that many of us will contact our representatives and demand an immediate change.

 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

 

I invite you to take action to stop this abomination of American ideals.  A list containing the contact information for your representatives can be found at http://www.commoncause.org/find/lawmaker.

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.

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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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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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

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

I live in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania metropolitan area and was horrified and relieved to see the successful emergency landing of a Southwest plane last week at our airport.  As I listened to the pilot being interviewed, I heard a female voice.  Two things struck me, one – no one seemed to make a big deal out of the fact that this was a woman pilot.  Hooray for that I thought.  And second, who was this remarkable woman that fate chose to be at the helm of that plane.  So, here is Tammie’s story and it is all the more remarkable because, as usual, she had to overcome great obstacles because of her gender to become and pilot and save 149 lives.

Tammie Jo Shults, Who Safely Landed the Deadly Southwest Flight, Has Been Breaking Glass Ceilings for Years

When an engine exploded on Southwest flight 1380 Wednesday, pilot Tammie Jo Shults calmly alerted air traffic control and prepared for an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

“We are single engine,” Shults, a former U.S. Navy pilot, said, according to a recording of the correspondence. “Part of it’s missing,” she added. “They said there’s a hole and someone went out.”

Shults later landed the Boeing 737-700 jet with one engine and a shattered passenger window, with 144 passengers and five crew members on board. A horrific scene unfolded inside the cabin when the engine explosion blew open a passenger window, partially sucking out the passenger sitting next to it. That passenger later died in a hospital, according to a Philadelphia-based NBC affiliate, and seven others were injured during the ordeal.

As the crisis unfolded in her aircraft’s cabin, Shults alerted air traffic control about the “injured passengers” and requested medical professionals to be ready when the plane touched the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is currently investigating the event. Shaken passengers later praised Shults as a “hero” for her poise under pressure and her ability to prevent more deaths or injuries.

“This is a true American hero,” passenger Diana McBride Self wrote in a post on Facebook. “A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew.” Self said Shults “personally” spoke to passengers after they landed.

“She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her,” passenger Alfred Tumlinson told the Associated Press. “I’m going to send her a Christmas card — I’m going to tell you that — with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.”

In a statement late Tuesday, Shults and Southwest Airlines First Officer Darren Ellisor, one of the other crew members on board flight 1380, said they were “simply doing our jobs.”

“On behalf of the entire Crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss,” the two said in a statement.

When reached by phone Wednesday morning, Shults’ husband, Dean Shults, said they were both unable to comment.

Shults is one of a small percentage of female pilots in the commercial airline industry. Just 6.33% of commercial pilots are women, according to 2016 data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). And starting at a young age, Shults faced adversity throughout her career as she navigated the male-dominated field.

Here’s what to know about the barrier-breaking pilot.

She was one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots

Courtesy of Linda Maloney

Before she became a Southwest pilot, Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy. Shults initially had limited options in the Navy due to combat exclusion laws that prevented women from flying combat aircraft. But when the law was repealed in 1993, she became one of the first women to fly the Navy’s combat jets.

She then learned to fly the F/A-18 Hornet — a newer Navy fighter jet at the time, she wrote in a passage for the book Military Fly Moms, which features insights from female pilots. But she still had to do so in a support role. “Women were new to the Hornet community, and already there were signs of growing pains,” she wrote. She struggled with her training unit, she said, due to their lack of “open-mindedness about flying with women.” But that mentality was hardly anything new for female pilots at the time.

“Not only is Tammie Jo a great pilot but she is a person of character and integrity,” said Linda Maloney, who flew with her in the 1990s in the Navy and who wrote Military Fly Moms, told MONEY.

“She is one of the best … personable, warm, caring and just an amazing person,” Maloney added.

She faced adversity as a female pilot from the get-go

By even expressing interest in aviation, Shults was met with adversity. As a senior in high school in New Mexico in 1979, she attended a lecture from a retired colonel on aviation as part of a vocational day program, she wrote in Military Fly Moms.

“He started the class by asking me, the only girl in attendance, if I was lost,” she wrote. “I mustered up the courage to assure him I was not and that I was interested in flying. He allowed me to stay but assured me there were no professional women pilots.”

From there, she struggled to understand her desire to fly, as the field wasn’t very accepting of women. She had limited opportunities for most of her career in the Navy before the combat exclusion law was repealed, and she still lands in the minority as part of a small percentage of female pilots for commercial airlines.

“Tammie Jo’s professionalism and skill doesn’t surprise me at all,” Kathryn McCullough, a retired Northwest Airlines captain and member of the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, told MONEY in an e-mail. “That is what baffles me … Why don’t more airlines want women pilots? We are calm, capable and more than qualified.”

The Air Force didn’t want her

Indeed, when starting her career, the Air Force “wasn’t interested in talking to” her, she wrote in Military Fly Moms. “But they wanted to know if my brother wanted to fly,” she noted.

The Navy “was a little more charitable,” she said, and allowed her to fill out an application for aviation officer candidate school. It wasn’t until a year after she took her Navy aviation exam did she find a recruiter to process her application. “Within two months, I was getting my hair buzzed off and doing pushups in aviation officer candidate school in Pensacola, Florida,” she wrote.

Other women inspired her to pursue her goals

While attending MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas, Shults found new inspiration to become a pilot. She met a woman who received her Air Force wings, therefore having the ability to operate an Air Force aircraft. “I set to work trying to break into the club,” Shults wrote.

In the Navy, Shults worked for Commander Rosemary Mariner, the first female commander of the Point Magu, California-based VAQ-34, a tactical electronic warfare squadron of the U.S. Navy that is no longer active.

“Commander Mariner opened my eyes to the incredible influence of leadership,” Shults wrote. “She was a shining example of how to lead.”

 

TAMMIE JO SHULTS YOU ROCK!

The information in this post came from a n article written by Marty Martinez for Money Magazine.

 

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

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

“Where will our country find leaders with integrity, courage, strength-all the family values-in ten, twenty, or thirty years? The answer is that you are teaching them, loving them, and raising them right now.”   Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush was considered by many to an example of a hopelessly antiquated woman.  But I have always admired her way of navigating a very public life and staying true herself.  The world has lost a woman who had true power and used it for the good of her family and the world.  What follows is an article that appeared in the New York Times this week that I believe gives us a glimpse of the woman behind the persona.

 

Barbara Bush, a First Lady Without Apologies

By Jon Meacham

She knew who she was, and she saw no need to apologize for it. In the spring of 1990, the administration of Wellesley College invited Barbara Bush, then the first lady of the United States, to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree. Students at the women’s college protested, declaring in a petition that Mrs. Bush had “gained recognition through the achievements of her husband,” and adding that Wellesley “teaches us that we will be rewarded on the basis of our own merit, not on that of a spouse.”

And so a generational battle was joined. As her husband, George H. W. Bush, put it in his private White House diary, Mrs. Bush was being attacked “because she hasn’t made it on her own — she’s where she is because she’s her husband’s wife.” Mr. Bush added: “What’s wrong with the fact that she’s a good mother, a good wife, great volunteer, great leader for literacy and other fine causes? Nothing, but to listen to these elitist kids there is.” To the young women of the last decade of the 20th century, Mrs. Bush, who had dropped out of Smith College to marry, seemed a throwback to a less enlightened time.

Mrs. Bush, who died on Tuesday at age 92, never flinched, appearing at Wellesley and using her commencement address to explore the complexities of life’s choices. There was no single path, she told the graduates; one followed one’s heart and did the best one could. “Maybe we should adjust faster, maybe we should adjust slower,” she said. “But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children — they must come first. You must read to your children, hug your children, and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”

The loudest applause came when she remarked that perhaps there was someone in the audience who would, like her, one day preside over the White House as the president’s spouse. “And I wish him well,” Mrs. Bush said.

It was classic Barbara Pierce Bush: politically skillful, balanced — and good for her husband, for she presented herself as at once reasonable and reasonably conservative, which was the essence of Mr. Bush’s own political persona.

Barbara Bush was the first lady of the Greatest Generation — a woman who came of age at midcentury, endured a world war, built a life in Texas, raised her family, lost a daughter to leukemia, and promoted first her husband’s rise in politics, and then that of her sons. As the wife of one president and the mother of another, she holds a distinction that belongs to only one other American in the history of the Republic, Abigail Adams.

It’s neither sentimental nor hyperbolic to note that Barbara Bush was the last first lady to preside over an even remotely bipartisan capital. She and her husband were masters of what Franklin D. Roosevelt once referred to as “the science of human relationships.”

Part of the reason grew out of the generational and cultural disposition that had prompted the Wellesley protesters to speak out. Born in New York City in 1925, raised in Rye, N.Y., and long shaped by the WASP code of her mother-in-law, Dorothy Walker Bush, Mrs. Bush was reflexively hospitable. The elder Bushes governed in a spirit of congeniality and of civility, a far cry from the partisan ferocity of our own time. In her White House — and at Camp David and at Walker’s Point, the family’s compound on the coast of Maine — Democrats and Republicans were welcomed with equal frequency and equal grace.

She had always known what she was getting into, for George H. W. Bush saw life as both a great adventure and as a long reunion mixer. After graduating from Yale in 1948, Mr. Bush drove himself to Odessa, Tex., sending for Barbara and George W., who had been born in 1946, once he’d rented half a duplex they were to share with a mother-daughter team of prostitutes. It was the first of 27 moves the Bushes would make on their American odyssey.

Writing her parents from Odessa to thank them for sending $25 to pay for nursery school for George W., Mrs. Bush reported that “G.W.B. has a wee bit of the Devil in him. This a.m. while I was writing a letter early he stuck a can opener into my leg. Very painful and it was all I could do to keep from giving him a jab or two.” They would lovingly tease each other for decades; George W. Bush often said he had inherited his father’s eyes and his mother’s mouth.

And her tongue could be sharp. In 1984, after she unwisely described Geraldine Ferraro, who campaigned against her husband as Walter Mondale’s vice-presidential running mate, as a word that rhymed with “rich,” she acknowledged that her family was now referring to her as the “poet laureate.”

She was tireless in her advocacy for literacy, and in 1989, at a time when AIDS was still shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding, Mrs. Bush visited a home for H.I.V.-infected infants in Washington, and hugged the children there, as well as an infected adult man. It sent a powerful message — one of compassion, of love, of acceptance. Her popularity as first lady was such that, in 1992, some voters sported buttons with a final plea for the World War II generation: “Re-Elect Barbara’s Husband.”


 

BARBARA BUSH YOU ROCK!

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

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

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

The following post was written by Darlene Foster who writes at Darlenefoster.wordpress.com.  It is the tale of her two great-grandmothers who made a fulfilling life for themselves and their families while enduring great hardships.  What struck me about this story, of these two real heroines, was that Darlene said that because of the legacy of these women it has given her the confidence and courage to know that she can thrive under any circumstance.

A Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke

I was fortunate to know both of my maternal great-grandmothers. They passed away when I was in my early teens but I remember them well. They were formidable women with hearts of gold. One thing was for sure, you didn´t mess with either of them.
Both great-grandmothers were born into German immigrant farmer families living in South Russia and came to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century to help populate and develop the Prairie Provinces. They certainly did their part in populating the area as they had twenty-four children between the two of them!


The Hoffman family upon arrival to Canada

My grandmother´s mother, Katharina (Herrmann) Hoffman, arrived in Canada in 1909 from South Russia with her husband, three small children and another on the way. Being German, they could no longer safely stay in a country on the verge of a revolution. The Canadian government needed robust, hardy folks to settle the prairies. The steppes of Russia were very similar to the Canadian prairies, the price was right at one dollar and they needed a place to live.

The brave family took the onerous three-week journey across the Atlantic on a cattle ship to Halifax, then on a train to their homestead in southern Alberta. A stop had to be made in Winnipeg so Katharina could give birth to her fourth child, my grandmother. They eventually arrived at their destination; a desolate piece of land with no house, trees, water or neighbours. A temporary house, built from sod blocks carved out of the earth made do until a wooden house was eventually built. The sod was plastered with mud and cow dung inside and out and then whitewashed.


Katharina Hoffman and her Family

Great-grandmother decorated the walls with designs from a cut out potato dipped in beet juice. Katharina had seven more children once settled in Canada. Not all survived childhood as was the case in those days. A great cook, I recall her delicious German baking vividly. She grew a large vegetable garden, her home was kept spotless at all times and she made clothes for her children from flour sacks. She was a plucky, hardworking and resourceful woman who loved her family above all else. I am so lucky to have her blood running through my veins.

Katharina Mehrer and her family

My grandfather´s mother´s story is similar. Also named Katharina (Stoller) Mehrer, she arrived in Canada from South Russia in 1911 with her husband and four children under four, the youngest only six weeks old. With these small children, they travelled through Europe by train, crossed the Atlantic by boat and then across the United States by train before arriving at their homestead in South East Saskatchewan.

This young woman left behind a life of comfort and had to deal with homesickness, extreme climate, a new language and the death of an infant. Not only did she go on to have another nine children, she acted as a midwife to other members of the community, attending over fifty births. She also helped her husband in the fields. There was no time for self-pity. No matter the hardships, she just got on with it. I recall she was a tiny woman full of energy and determination.
I love this story my great-aunt shared about an experience her mother, Katharina Mehrer, had in April of 1912, the first year they were in Canada.
Her husband was out turning sod when he had some trouble with the horses. He called to Katharina, who came across the road, leaving the little ones in the house, thinking she would only be a few minutes. It took a long time before she returned – to an empty house. Panic-stricken she rushed out, calling for the little ones but all that greeted her was silence. After searching the yard she returned to the house wondering what she could say to their father.
In the Kitchen, on one of the walls, there were six large hooks on which to hang heavy garments. On one of these hooks hung the long, black wool coat that her husband had brought from Europe. A long bench sat underneath. As she entered the kitchen she noticed a slight movement of the coat. She pulled it to one side and there sat four little people, sleeping and perspiring. Five-year-old John holding the baby and a little sister on each side of him. He explained to his mother that she was gone so long that he decided to keep them safe in case someone came to take them away.

The little boy, John, was my dear grandfather who passed those nurturing habits on to my mother and me.

Family was everything to my great-grandmothers who handed this value on down the line. These women believed in education and encouraged their children to get a good education and do well in life. Consequently, there are many successful people in our family. Both ideal role models, the Katharinas provided the attributes of determination, steadfastness and tenacity to the subsequent generations.
Whenever I think of these two remarkable women, I appreciate the trail they blazed for the rest of us and am eternally grateful. I am who I am because of them. When I set a goal, I will do everything to achieve it. I am not afraid of hard work and my bosses have often commented on how much work I could accomplish and not break a sweat. I even made the trip back across the Atlantic to live in another country. Mind you, I did it without small children in tow and on an airplane, not a three-week boat journey. Most important, I had a choice. A freedom I also owe to both Katharinas.
When things seem to go wrong for me and I have a bad day, I remind myself of what my great-grandmothers went through and carry on. I believe the strength of our ancestors does sustain us.

The Hoffman, Mehrer and Foster Women Rock!

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FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

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

The New York Times went one step further and solicited stories about the “real heroines”.  I know you are going to enjoy these stories and the love of the writers telling their stories.

 

Readers Nominate Their Overlooked Grandmothers for a Times Obit

Times readers submitted photographs of their overlooked grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

When we published the first installment of the Overlooked project two weeks ago, we asked readers to suggest people they felt deserved, but didn’t get, New York Times obituaries.

By now, we have received close to 2,500 submissions. Among these were about 30 from readers who told us of their own grandmothers or great-grandmothers who often fought strong institutional prejudice against them.

We found their stories moving, fascinating and inspiring and wanted to share them with you. A selection of these tributes, submitted by the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the subjects, is below.

The biographical details of these submissions have been independently verified or corroborated by reviewing news reports and source material. We have also condensed and edited them for clarity.

Dr. Anita V. Figueredo with Mother Teresa, in Kolkata. Dr. William J. Doyle

Dr. Anita V. Figueredo
1916 to 2010

My grandmother was one of the most remarkable female physicians of the 20th century. Born in Costa Rica, where the idea of a woman doctor was far-fetched, she declared her intent to pursue medicine when she was 5. Her mother believed in her, and the two set sail for New York, where they settled in Spanish Harlem.

At 19, Dr. Figueredo was one of only four women at Long Island College of Medicine. She was one of the first two female surgical residents at what is now known asMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her 4-foot-11-inch frame required her to use a step stool to perform surgery.

As San Diego County’s first female surgeon, she maintained an oncology practice throughout motherhood (she and her husband had nine children; legend had it she sometimes went right from operating room to maternity ward). She was credited with introducing the Pap smear to the West Coast, having been trained by George Papanicolaou himself.

An article about Dr. Figueredo in Look magazine.

Her other great passion was humanitarianism, which produced a long friendship with Mother Teresa, who called her “The Smiling Apostle of Charity.” These details represent the tip of the iceberg of Dr. Figueredo’s life. (I have not, for example, mentioned the time she rode the New York subway with a severed head in a paper bag.) —Submitted by Lila Byock, Los Angeles

Peggy Jean Connor with her grandson RJ Young Amanda Reagan

Peggy Jean Connor
1932 to 2018

She sued the governor of Mississippi and other state officials in 1965 for voting rights reapportionment and finally won. She was secretary of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the all-white Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City alongside Lawrence Guyot and Fannie Lou Hamer.

She’s a Carter G. Woodson award recipient. She has a research grant named in her honor at the University of Southern Mississippi. She passed in January 2018. She is my grandmother. —Submitted by RJ Young, Tulsa, Okla.

Dr. Marguerite Rush Lerner with her husband, Aaron. Courtesy of Lane Rush Lerner

Dr. Marguerite Rush Lerner
1924 to 1987

My grandpa Aaron B. Lerner received a New York Times obituary in 2007, but my grandma never received similar recognition, though they worked as a team and she had incredible achievements in her own right. I think their relationship dynamic is what allowed both to achieve great things together.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” was published by Prentice-Hall in 1963.

Her parents did not believe women should have careers, so she worked as a typist during World War II to save money for her education. She began her medical degree at Johns Hopkins but transferred to Case Western Reserve to be closer to my grandpa.

She was the first female chief of Yale University Health Services’ dermatology clinic in 1971; was a very successful author who wrote children’s books centered around public health and diversity, as well as medical texts; performed early research in breast cancer; and raised four boys.

Behind the scenes, she significantly helped my grandpa’s team showcase its groundbreaking discovery of melatonin. Sadly, she passed away from early onset Alzheimer’s, which shortened her career. —Submitted by Lane Rush Lerner, Chicago

Erica Laros with her grandmother Mafalda Caliri. Sherry Caliri Ferdinandi

Mafalda (Muffy) Katherine Vessella Caliri
1912 to 2015

My great-grandmother had only an eighth-grade education, yet was a woman of wisdom. She lived at home, cooked meatballs on Sunday and shoveled snow until age 99. She adored her family and was close to God. She nurtured plants and people, loved music and saved aluminum foil in perfectly neat little squares.

She was born to two Italian immigrants from Caserta. In 1935, she married a Sicilian cobbler, Antonio Caliri, in a simple wedding with just three orchids as a bouquet. Around the same time, she registered to vote to cast a ballot for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made an impression on her when he spoke in Providence.

When I was 30, she said she wanted to show me something and led me to her dresser drawer. Wrapped in a silk handkerchief was a dinner roll, shrunken from its original size and fossilized by time. “It was blessed by the spirit of St. Anthony,” she said. “It’s over 60 years old and it’s good luck — I carried it in my suitcase everywhere, even to Italy.”

When Mafalda got sick and needed long-term care, I hid the dinner roll in my own dresser, periodically checking to make sure it was still there. When she was laid to rest, next to her husband, Antonio, so too was the magical roll. —Submitted by Erica Laros, Cranston, R.I.

Julia Bardmesser, second from left, with her mother, daughter and grandmother, Tatyana Y. Kosolapova.Boris Kosolapov

Tatyana Y. Kosolapova
1918 to 2016

My grandmother was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and died in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was a material scientist, with books translated into English and Japanese. She headed a lab at the Institute for Problems in Materials Science, one of the premier research institutes in Kiev.

She was involved in the design for, among other projects, the Soviet space program and the Chernobyl reactor cover. When she died, her colleagues in Kiev held a one-day conference in her memory.

She accomplished all this as a Jewish woman in the Soviet Union, going through World War II and Stalin’s repressions; an aunt and uncle arrested in the 1930s were sent to Siberia for 10 years. She had an incredible work ethic, writing her books and dissertation at night after a full day of work and caring for her family.

She emigrated here in 1995, after she retired. She was the best example of the Russian intelligentsia I can think of: well read, intellectually curious, kind, helping other people as much as she could. —Submitted by Julia Bardmesser, New York City

Mary Stanley Low in 1936, holding her favorite pistol. Juan Breá

Mary Stanley Low
1912 to 2007

Mary Low was my grandmother.

She was a political activist, poet and teacher born in London. She was a co-author, along with her Cuban first husband, of “Red Spanish Notebook,” a very early English-language eyewitness account of Barcelona at the start of the Spanish Civil War.

She wielded both a pistol and a pen to fight fascism when it still had no name, helping organize a women’s militia. She escaped Franco and the Nazis, to Cuba, where she lived for 25 years, leading a surrealist movement and a Trotskyist group. She then escaped to Miami, where she taught Latin and the classics.

I grew up with stories of George Orwell (she said he was very brave), Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Breton and Wifredo Lam — all artists and writers — told amid songs she sang about anarchists and workers. (And she really loved the Beatles.)

As a grandmother, she was equally doting and eccentric. She hand drew me playing cards of French monarchs; I think I was the only 8-year-old who knew the entire Plantagenet lineage. She once decorated my bedroom in the style of Caesar’s army tent.

“Three Voices,” a book of Mary Low’s poetry published in 1957. Courtesy of Laylah Bulman

But she was most proud of “Red Spanish Notebook,” written in the midst of a civil war. People need to know a woman told that story, risking her life to do so. She can inspire other women to shine a light and tell the truth to the world. —Submitted by Laylah Bulman, Miami

Bertha Klausner Courtesy of Rebecca Spence

Bertha Klausner

1901 to 1997

One of the earliest female literary agents, Bertha Klausner represented such figures as Upton Sinclair, Eleanor Roosevelt, Basil Rathbone, Robert Payne, Marcel Marceau and Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

For decades she worked out of her New York apartment on 40th Street and Lexington Avenue, and in the late 1940s she set up a satellite office in Los Angeles, at a time when few women operated on the business side in Hollywood, selling radio television, and film scripts.

Known for her loyalty to writers, Klausner worked until two months before she died, at the age of 96. She was my great-grandmother. —Submitted by Rebecca Spence, Taos, N.M.

Dr. Priscilla Frew Pollister Penelope Jane Pollister Price

Dr. Priscilla Frew Pollister
1903 to 1992

My grandmother was a biology researcher and professor at Brooklyn College at a time when there were few full-time professional women scientists.

She and my grandfather were from a mill town in Maine and did their undergraduate studies at Bates College; she went to grad school at Columbia University with a specialization in invertebrate biology and got her Ph.D. there in 1936. She spent several summers doing research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

I have been told she was an effective and inspiring lecturer; undoubtedly there are students who remember her. I recall her sharp wit and cackling laughter. In later life, her overall look and demeanor did little to dispel the notion among neighborhood children that she might be a witch — and this absolutely delighted her! —Submitted by Penelope Jane Pollister Price, Souderton, Pa.

Mary Sherwood Wright Jones in 1972 Courtesy of Anne Sherwood Pundyk

Mary Sherwood Wright Jones
1892 to 1985

My grandmother was an artist and illustrator who created original, sequential illustrations for the children’s classroom newspaper My Weekly Reader from 1928 to 1960. Her weekly contributions supported the publication’s pioneering reading readiness program and reached millions of readers.

Illustrations that appeared in the children’s classroom newspaper My Weekly Reader. Courtesy of Anne Sherwood Pundyk

Using pen, ink and brush, she created several hundred short narratives for children featuring, among others, her earnest, enterprising character Peek the Brownie.She illustrated many other books as well, including “A Child’s History of the World” and was my first mentor in my own career as an artist.

Her legacy will continue as she was honored in 2015 by the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, which accepted her work into its permanent collection. —Submitted by Anne Sherwood Pundyk, New York City

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

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

I have watched with great interest and a very happy heart the young activist from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School working to make a change in the gun control policies in the United States.  They have been unstinting in their efforts to try to make a change that would guarantee the right to safety at school to every student in our country.  I have always been curious about who the people are that schools are named after.  Imagine how please I was to read about Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  This school is named after a very inspiring activist.  I guess the students come by their activism honestly.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s 1947 best seller, The Everglades: River of Grass, raised America’s consciousness and transformed the Florida Everglades from an area that was looked upon as a useless swamp – to be drained and developed commercially – to a national park that is seen as a valuable environmental resource to be protected and preserved. After this successful campaign to preserve the Everglades as a national park, Douglas continued her work by founding the Friends of the Everglades, a conservation organization still active today.

Always ahead of her time, Douglas graduated from Wellesley College as an English major in 1912. A few years later, Douglas went to Miami to be a reporter for her father’s newspaper, which later became The Miami Herald. During World War I, she served with the American Red Cross in Europe. After the war, she launched her career as a newspaper editor at her father’s paper. Many of her editorials focused on what she perceived to be Florida’s increasing problem of rapid commercial development. In the 1920s, she left the newspaper to launch a second career as an author. Over the years she published many books and short stories, both fiction and non-fiction – most for adults but several for children – especially focusing on women, the history and life in southern Florida and environmental issues. She also engaged in a number of other campaigns and charity work to improve society: campaigns against slum-lords and for improved housing conditions, for free milk for babies whose parents needed aid, and for the ratification of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment.

Most important, she dedicated her life to preserving and restoring the Everglades. She lived long enough to witness great successes. In 1996, for example, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that held polluters primarily responsible for cleaning up the Everglades. And the Florida and federal governments have authorized multimillion-dollar projects to restore and expand the Everglades. In recognition of her tireless and successful struggle, the state of Florida named the headquarters of its Department of Natural Resources after her.

Awarding Mrs. Douglas the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993, President Clinton recognized her achievements. Upon her death in 1998 at the age of 108, President Clinton said: “Long before there was an Earth Day, Mrs. Douglas was a passionate steward of our nation’s natural resources, and particularly her Florida Everglades.”

MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS YOU ROCK!

 

I invite you to leave a link in the comments section to an article you have posted about an inspiring woman.

The information in this article was obtained from Wikidpedia.

FEMINIST FRIDAY 2018

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS!

 

Happy Woman’s Day

I went in search of another story about an inspiring girl and didn’t have to look very far.  Please read about Gitanjali Rao who at 12 years old recognized that water polluted with lead was a massive problem for many people worldwide and set out to help.  She has invented a lead detection system.

Gitanjali Rao, a seventh grader from Colorado, has been awarded the title of “America’s top young scientist” for designing a compact device to detect lead in drinking water, which she believes can be faster and cheaper than other current methods.

The 12-year-old’s invention was inspired by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water that contained lead and other toxins.

It also won her a $25,000 prize, for which Rao already has plans: “I plan to use most of it in developing my device further so that it can be commercially available soon,” she told CNN.

An invisible enemy

“After I learned about Flint,” said Rao, “I continued to research and follow it for the next couple years. Then, I saw my parents testing for lead in our water and that is pretty much what sparked the idea. I realized that using test strips would take quite a few tries to get accurate results and I wanted to do something to change this, not only for my parents but for the residents of Flint and places like Flint around the world.”

Since lead does not affect the taste, smell of appearance of water in any way, the only way to detect it is with a test. There are currently two main ways to do so, home testing strips or lab testing. The strips generally cost between $15 and $30, can detect various contaminants and offer quick results, but they are not designed for maximum accuracy. That requires the more rigorous lab testing, which involves collecting a sample of water at home — specific kits are sold for around $10 — and then sending it to a lab to get detailed results, which can cost an additional $20 to $100, according to the EPA.

Rao thinks her device could become a competitively priced alternative: “The prototype cost just over $20 to make, but all of the materials were custom-manufactured. At bulk, I expect the production cost to be significantly less than that.”

How it works

The device, called “Tethys” after the Greek Titan goddess of fresh water, uses carbon nanotubes, microscopic cylindrical structures that have a range of unusual properties and innovative applications. Inspired by an MIT project that employs them to detect hazardous gases in the air, Rao decided to try them in the water: “My solution uses carbon nanotubes to detect lead in water faster than any other current techniques. It has a carbon nanotube sensor, to which special atoms are added that react to lead,” she said.

The Tethys device prototype.

The Tethys device prototype.

When dipped in contaminated water, the special atoms react with lead molecules and add resistance to a flow of current in the nanotubes, which is then easily detected by the device: “The amount of resistance is proportional to the amount of lead in the water. The processor includes an attachment that sends the measurements over Bluetooth to a smartphone. The smartphone app, that I custom developed, captures this data and shows the results on a user-friendly scale.”

Rao thinks that Tethys will be better than both lab testing and strips: “Testing water in labs is the most accurate test available today, however, it takes time and requires expensive equipment not easily accessible to everybody. On the other end, test strips are easy to use, but they do not quantify the contamination and are sometimes inaccurate requiring multiple tests.”

“My solution addresses all of the above issues. It uses a disposable cartridge that can cost as low as a dollar, it is fast, accurate and it shows lead contamination levels on a regular smartphone, that are easy to interpret and take appropriate action,” she said.

The prize

The seventh-grader, who attends the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, originally submitted the idea to the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual youth science and engineering competition for middle school students in the US, inaugurated in 2008. She was awarded a 3-month mentorship with Kathleen Shafer, a research specialist who develops new plastics technologies: “Gitanjali’s concept was at a very early stage at the beginning of our mentorship. She had thought of this idea earlier this year, only a few weeks before the submission deadline,” Shafer told CNN.

Gitanjali Rao with Kathleen Shafer.

Gitanjali Rao with Kathleen Shafer.

Along with nine other finalists, she then presented her work to a panel of 3M scientists and school representatives from across the country, and won: “I think the judges recognized the significant progress Gitanjali made over the summer, advancing her project from a cardboard box prototype to building out Tethys’ software and 3D-printed hardware. She also initiated some fundamental lab studies to investigate how aspects of her proposed sensor could work in the future,” said Shafer. She remains cautious about the commercial future of the device: “For commercial products, it’s important to establish technical feasibility, manufacturing feasibility, and a strong business case. As mentors we really focus on supporting the finalists in the early research phase of technical feasibility.”

Rao, on the other hand, has clear plans: “I hope to make it commercially available in the next year so that it’s in everybody’s hands.”

GITANJALI RAO YOU ROCK!

The information came from CNN.

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