Archive for August, 2012

Votes for American Women: Hard Won and a Hard Sell

August 27th, 2012

by Cathy Pickles, NWHM Staff Member

I hope everyone took a moment to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on 8/26/12, the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment becoming law. On that day in 1920, American women won the hard-fought battle to vote. I envisioned crowds of hat-and-gloved women standing in long lines to cast their ballots in the 1920 presidential election. I was excited to see if I could find hard evidence of my suffragist fantasy, especially since I will be casting my own ballot in about 70 days.

My vision could not have been more wrong.

I found an exceedingly interesting article (to me, women’s history geek that I am), by J. Kevin Corder and Christina Wolbrecht titled, Political Context and the Turnout of New Women Voters after Suffrage (The Journal of Politics, Vol. 68, No. 1, February 2006, pp. 34–49). It is a thorough analysis of the political and social forces at work in the 1920s which kept newly-enfranchised women away from the polls. Much of the prevailing “wisdom” of the day assumed that newly-minted female voters would wreak chaos because they were “uneducated” in the rules and customs of polling or were uninterested in politics. But Corder and Wolbrecht point out that women faced a challenge unique from other new voting populations: they were taught from childhood that they were, by nature, unsuited for politics. The social conventions which bound them exclusively to home and hearth and kept them away from the ballot box prevailed for decades beyond the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The 1976 presidential election was the first where the proportion of female voter turnout was within a percentage point of the male proportion. Granted, voting statistics were not formally recorded before 1964, but it was not until the mid-20th century that women began voting in equal numbers as men.  In 1980, women first surpassed men in voter turnout percentages. Ever since then, the gap has been widening in favor of women: in 2008, approximately 70 million American women voted, while just 60 million men did.

No matter what political party you belong to, history tells us that women have gradually become the prevailing voting group in our country. When you reflect on the amount of change – legal, political and cultural – it took for us to get here, it seems more important than ever to vote on November 6th.

First Female Members Admited to Augusta National Golf Club

August 22nd, 2012

History was made on Monday, when the Augusta National Golf Club ended its longstanding policy that excluded women as members. The Club admitted former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Business Executive Darla Moore of Lake City, South Carolina.

According to CNN,Augusta’s membership, which includes titans of industry and finance, has been male-only since its opening in 1932. The policy, which had become a lightning rod issue, had been upheld as recent as  April when Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the issue was a private matter.

“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club,” Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different.”

Click here to read the full story.

Women’s Rights Activist Betty Friedan Changed The Landscape of Pronouns

August 21st, 2012

The lasting impact of Betty Friedan’s 1963 novel “The Feminine Mystique” is undeniable–women’s lives have been influenced by her lucid telling of the struggles and anguish of many housewives during the 1950s. Friedan poignantly writes, “as she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question–is this all?”

But one unexpected area of influence that Friedan’s book has had is its effect on a shift in language that very much reflects the extraordinary changes in women’s lives. The use of feminine pronouns such as “her,” “herself,” and “she” in “The Feminine Mystique” dramatically changed the landscape of pronoun use. “According to a new study, the “he-she” gap in books–one that has always favored the masculine–has dramatically narrowed since the release of Friedan’s feminist classic.”

Three university researchers were able to track gender pronouns from 1900 to 2008 and drew from nearly 1.2 million texts in the Google Book archive. According to their findings, the ratio of male to female pronouns was roughly 3.5 to 1 until 1950. After this period the gap began to widen as women stayed home after World War II and peaked around 4.5 to 1 in the mid-1960s. The ratio shrank to 3 to 1 by 1975 and less than 2 to 1 by 2005.

According to San Diego State University psychology professor, Jean M. Twenge, “these trends in language quantify one of the largest, and most rapid, cultural changes ever observed: the incredible increase in women’s status since the late 1960s in the US.”

Source: The Washington Post article “Thanks for Betty Friedan, ‘she’ is just one of Us”

Former Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, Helen Gurley Brown, dies at 90 Years Old

August 15th, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazines’ 64 international editions and one of the world’s most influential editors, died Monday at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. She was 90-years-old.

Brown had an enormous influence on popular culture and society, which first began with her best-selling book “Sex and the Single Girl” in the early 1960s, and later with her almost forty decade tenure as Editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.

For more about the life of Helen Gurley Brown, Click here.

‘Twilight’ director joins Women’s History Museum for vampire-free PSA

August 7th, 2012

The Washington Examiner

by: Jenny Rogers, Staff Reporter

The National Women’s History Museum is out with a new PSA featuring adorable young girls dressed up as famous women in history. And in a departure from her usual gothic-tinged fare, “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke is behind it.

Hardwicke came up with the idea for the spot, according to museum spokesperson Jan Du Plain, and she also contributed to the script. No vampires appear, but there are some pretty cute kids dressed as Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart. Actress Alfre Woodard narrates.

Woodard and Hardwicke are Hollywood’s latest to be tapped by the museum — Meryl Streep is an honorary spokesperson, and Geena Davis, Kate Walsh and Amy Brenneman all serve as ambassadors.

Source: The Washington Examiner

A Women’s Event in Easton on Oct. 5-7, 2012

August 6th, 2012

Create a memorable weekend for yourself and your friends. Join interesting women during the glorious fall time in Historic Easton on the Eastern Shore for a sophisticated, inspiring Columbus Day weekend at A Women’s Event. Delve into the arts, explore nature-related topics, or learn more about how to enhance your well-being. Make your own schedule, selecting topics/activities of interest among 30 stimulating lectures, engaging workshops and fun classes, as well as special events. Topics range from painting , poetry, and photography, to bird watching, garden design, and green roofs, to yoga, slowing aging and improving balance in women’s lives.

Explore, relax, be pampered, and have fun with friends, old and new. Book early. Accommodations will be in high demand, as October is a favorite season for hunting, boating, and watching migrating birds. To register, or for further information, visit: Registration will close around September 24.

As part of the Nature Track of A Women’s Event, internationally acclaimed landscape architect Barbara Paca (photo) will lecture on extraordinary women gardeners who left their mark on gardens and on landscapes since the 17th century.

This non-profit event, hosted by the Town of Easton, targets culturally interested women from the Mid-Atlantic, urban areas and local region. It is being sponsored by Easton Main Street, which is a volunteer-driven organization that is part of the National Trust Network geared to revitalizing downtown areas in historic towns.

And the Google Science Fair Winner is….17 Year-old Brittany Wenger

August 3rd, 2012

Last week Google announced that its science fair grand prize winner was 17-year old Florida native, Brittany Wenger. For her project, the high school student devised a better way to diagnose breast cancer using massive amounts of data and cloud computing.

Brittany Wenger first learned about artificial intelligence during a seventh-grade school project. She was so fascinated by the technology that she bought a book on programming and taught herself how to code.

According to CNN, that combination of drive, passion for science and a desire to do something good was common at this year’s event. Organizers of the online science fair received thousands of entries from 100 countries, including India, Ukraine, Malta and Swaziland. Google picked 15 finalists and, at a final gala in an airplane hangar in Palo Alto, announced the winners in three age categories, along with a grand-prize winner.

Click here to view an interview with Wenger.