Archive for November, 2012

We All Know About Rosie the Riveter, But What About The RCA Cadettes?

November 30th, 2012

Many of us have read the personal accounts of women who during WWII were called upon to work in factories, as American men were sent over seas to fight the war. But did you know that the Advanced Development Group of Radio Corporation of America, a Lockheed Martin heritage company known today as the Advanced Technology Laboratories, spearheaded a ground-breaking program that trained women to be engineers?

The RCA sent a group of promising women students with prior college experience off for intensive college-level training at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Other industry leaders, notably Curtiss-Wright, did the same.

The first group of RCA Engineering Cadettes, comprised of 86 women from 17 states, started classes on Purdue’s campus on May 1, 1943. They underwent forty-four weeks of intense training in mathematics, drafting, shop, electrical circuit theory, electronics, and radio theory, among others. They donned flannel work shirts on the shop floors and toiled alongside their male counterparts in other classes.

These wartime Cadettes were the first women to invade the inner sanctum of Purdue’s engineering department, and with predictable results, as wryly noted in the March 1943 edition of Purdue Engineer: “The advent of skirts, light footfalls, and the lilt of soprano voices into the heretofore masculine environment…caused many a head to rotate through the angle theta and many a neck to exceed all previously known elasticity constants.”

The Cadettes remained focused. In February 1944 the first graduating class of seventy-three Cadettes went straight into jobs as engineering aides in one of six RCA Victor plants around the country. By war’s end, 137 women had matriculated through the program and gone to work for RCA.


#GivingTuesday is Here!

November 27th, 2012

The Holiday shopping season has hit! This year NWHM is participating in #GivingTuesday, a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

We hope that you will consider purchasing a membership for a loved one this holiday season or donating to NWHM today to preserve the stories of ALL women! When we celebrate and understand our past, we inspire and empower future generations. Click here to support us:

Please view our #GivingTuesday page and YouTube video here:

A Night of Inspiration, Education and Fun at NWHM’s 2012 “de Pizan Honors”

November 15th, 2012

It was a celebration of historic and contemporary American women last night at NWHM’s 2nd annual de Pizan Honors awards ceremony at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC, as Dr. Maya Angelou, Senator Elizabeth Dole and Annie Leibovitz accepted this year’s Living Legacy Awards. 300 guests attended the gala to honor the achievements of these remarkable women and to help the Museum pay homage to the work of American women in building our nation.

This year’s award-winners were former  U.S. Senator and former President of the American Red Cross, Elizabeth Hanford Dole; legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz; renowned poet, author and playwright Dr. Maya Angelou. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes was honored with the Henry Blackwell Award. The comedy duo, Frangela, returned to emcee the event and were a major highlight of the show.

The de Pizan awards were established to bring women’s history to light, with the goal of educating people about the key role women have had throughout history and about the need to build a women’s history museum on the National Mall.

Women have woven the very fabric of this nation – -whether through the essential role of motherhood or in the fields of education, healthcare, business, technology – you name it and women have been there,” Joan Wages, NWHM CEO & President, said.  “It is beyond time for the women of our nation to be recognized.”

The Honors were established by NWHM in 2011 to celebrate the legends of pioneering women of the past by showcasing their achievements alongside the contributions of their modern inheritors.  Each of the recipients was recognized with a “living legacy” award named of honor of historic figures in the same professional, artistic, or political and governmental area they have established themselves in.

Dr. Angelou received the Gwendolyn Brooks Living Legacy Award, named after one of the best known American poets in history.  Dole received the Clara Barton Living Legacy Award, named after the founder of the American Red Cross.   Dole served as President of the American Red Cross from 1991 to 1999, becoming the first female head of the Red Cross since its founder, Clara Barton.

Leibovitz, one of the most acclaimed photographers in the world today, received the Dorothea Lange Living Legacy Award, named after Lange, an influential American photojournalist best known for her work for the Farm Security Administration whose works helped humanize the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes was recipient of the Henry Blackwell Living Legend Award, given in honor of Blackwell, a 19th century advocate for social and economic reform who was one of the founders of the American Women Suffrage Association and who published the Woman’s Journal, starting in 1870.

Rhodes, Dole, Leibovitz  gave remarks in acceptance of their awards, while Dr. Angelou’s poignant remarks were shown on screen, along with those of actress Meryl Streep, a long time spokeswoman for the NWHM.

Rhodes, whose book about actress Hedy Lamarr chronicles the life of the famous actress and her role in developing a radio anti-jamming device that would prove crucial during the Cold War.   Her research is now recognized as fundamental to today’s wireless technology.  In his remarks, Rhodes paid tribute to his wife and to all women. “Women hold the world together,” Rhodes said.

In addition to serving as President of the Red Cross, Dole was elected to the U.S. Senate and held Cabinet-level positions as U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Secretary of Labor.  She made humorous note of examples of how she had to break through the glass ceilings at various points in her career, recalling a time when she was at Harvard law school that a then fellow male law student who is now a well-known lawyer chastised her for taking a spot at the law school that should have gone to a man.  Dole also praised the NWHM’s leadership for “tireless efforts” to build a museum that will showcase the role of American women.

Leibovitz paid tribute to Lange’s work of photos such as that of the “migrant worker” taken during the era of the Depression, greatly influenced her career in which she became one of the world’s most famous photographers known for unique poses of famous people while working as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone and then Vanity Fair.

Dr. Angelou, who appeared by video, described the influence that Brooks had on her and her writing career and poetically  underscored the need for a women’s history museum to be established.

Dr. Angelou’s award was accepted on her behalf by her cousin, Dr. Gloria Herndon, who served as the evening’s co-chair and flew from Africa to accept Dr. Angelou’s award.  She also expressed strong support for the building of a National Women’s History Museum.

Nov. 14th – Our “de Pizan Honors” Gala Lives On…

November 14th, 2012

NWHM would like to thank Pamela’s Punch blog for posting this wonderful account of her experience at NWHM’s de Pizan gala on Nov. 14th. Click here to read the article.

Don’t Forget to join us on Next Wednesday at our “de Pizan Honors” Gala

November 8th, 2012

NWHM’s de Pizan Honors is literally just around the corner! On Wednesday, Nov 14th, the Museum will celebrate three game-changing women who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields and careers. The Honorable Elizabeth Dole, Annie Leibovitz and Dr. Maya Angelou are this year’s Living Legacy Award winners. Dr. Maya Angelou will accept her award  via video acceptance.

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 in the Amphitheater of the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.  A VIP dinner reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the honors ceremony at 7:15 p.m. All ticket holders will be invited to enjoy a desert reception immediately following the award presentations at 8:15 pm. Click here to purchase your tickets.

Leibovitz is receiving the Dorothea Lange Living Legacy Award, named after Lange, an influential American photojournalist best known for her work for the Farm Security Administration whose works helped humanize the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.

Leibovitz established a reputation as a leading photographer for the Rolling Stone and then for Vanity Fair. She is renowned for her often cutting-edge photos chronicling historic events and well-known personalities and historical figures.   She mounted an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, becoming the second living portraitist and first woman to show there.

Dr. Maya Angelou will receive the Gwendolyn Brooks Living Legacy Award, named after one of the best known American poets in history.  Dr. Angelou has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She has received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

Former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole will receive the Clara Barton Living Legacy Award, named after the founder of the American Red Cross.  Dole served as President of the American Red Cross from 1991 to 1999 and was the first female head of the Red Cross since its founder, Clara Barton.  Dole’s political career included serving as Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Transportation during the Presidency of George H.W. Bush.  She was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate from North Carolina and served from 2003 to 2009.

Women Making History: Rochelle Ballantyne

November 8th, 2012

Rochelle Ballantyne, a 17 year old student from Brooklyn, will be competing later this month at the 2012 World Youth Chess Championships in hopes of becoming the first black female chess master in the history of the game.  She and the other members of her school’s chess team (all males) were featured in the documentary, Brooklyn Castle, which was released last month.  Best of luck to Rochelle in the competition!

Read her interview with Teen Vogue:

Additional source:

WANTED: Susan B. Anthony

November 5th, 2012
As we near the 2012 election, ads and peers have been bombarding us to “get out there and vote.” But what about a time where you could get arrested FOR voting?

This was the case with Susan B. Anthony. Always one to champion the cause for women’s equality, Anthony registered to vote on November 1, 1872 for the upcoming election. If you noticed the year, this was decades before the passing of the 19th Amendment (which officially granted women the right to vote). Several days later on November 5th, Anthony voted and even remarked about her feat in a letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. On November 18th, only two weeks after casting her ballot, Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshall for “illegally voting.”

Anthony capitalized on her upcoming trial and went on a local speaking tour where one of her main points was, “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” She believed that under the 14th Amendment, no state could bar the rights of natural-born citizens, which included to Anthony the right for women to vote. In June of 1873, Anthony was brought to trial. She was unable to testify herself, as the judge barred her on account that “she is not a competent as a witness on her own behalf.” Her lawyer, Judge Selden, argued for her case, citing the 14th Amendment and calling the arrest gender discrimination.

She lost the case and was sentenced a $100 fine (in addition to the costs of the persecution) to which she declared, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” True to her words, Anthony never paid the fine for the rest of her life.

Lecture on Nov. 7th- “Woman-Made Women: American Designers, Taste, and Mid-Century Culture”

November 2nd, 2012

The National Women’s History Museum and The Wilson Center

invite you to a lecture in the series:

The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Women’s History

“Woman-Made Women: American Designers, Taste, and Mid-Century Culture”

Dr. Kathy Peiss

University of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 7, 2012– Lecture, 4-5:30 p.m. – Flom Auditorium, 6th Floor

Reception, 5:30-6 p.m., Sixth Floor Dining Room

Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20004

This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.

Please respond with acceptances only to

Please allow time to go through building security.

Directions to the Wilson Center are available at:

Nebraska third grader Dresses ‘in Character’ Every Day for School

November 2nd, 2012

From (CNN):Emanuella Grinberg

While most children Stella Ehrhart’s age are thinking about what they’re going to be for Halloween, this 8-year-old from Nebraska is thinking about who she’s going to be each day of the week.

But don’t misinterpret what she’s doing as “dressing in costume,” her mother said. Stella is dressing “in character” based on what she has in her closet and where her imagination takes her.

All it takes is a black dress and a red-tissue paper flower in her hair and she’s jazz singer Billie Holiday. Or, she’s Jane Goodall with a flannel shirt and stuffed chimp tucked under her arm. With a khaki shirt emblazoned with a police badge she’s her Aunt Pam, a police officer.

“She’s definitely drawn to characters that have overcome a lot, with a lot of inner strength,” her mother, Stephanie Anderson, said.

Her ideas come from books, people she learns about or even friends and relatives, she said. The list goes on and on because she hasn’t repeated a single costume since she started last year at the beginning of second grade, Stella and her mother say.
Stella was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series about a pioneer family’s life and wondered what the author wore. The next day she showed up to school in a dress with leggings, Stella said, starting a tradition that lasted the entire school year. She resurrected it this year as she began third grade.

It’s important to not repeat characters, Stella said in a phone interview, because doing so would mean fewer opportunities to try something new.

“I think it’s better to focus on as much as we can,” she said. “If I repeat an outfit five times that’s five times we don’t have for a new character.”

Not all of the characters are obvious or distracting, which minimizes their potential to disturb the classroom, her mother said. To the contrary, teachers and students love it because they tend to learn something new about the person Stella is emulating.

“I think its just in her genes,” said Anderson, who worked in local theater in Omaha before she had kids. Stella’s father is the director of Omaha’s Rose theater.

“She does this all on her own,” Anderson said in a phone interview. “I don’t costume her or buy anything special for this, we shop at Target and Goodwill for clothes.”

Stella shared insights into her five favorite costumes and what she has learned from them.

– Harriet Tubman: “I like her because she led people on the Underground Railroad, she was a slave. … I like how she helped 26 people and risked her life for them.”

– Helen Keller: “I like how she never gave up on learning and she kept trying until she learned how to read Braille.”

– Rosa Parks: “She said she had enough of it. She stayed on her seat on the bus. That was her way of saying, ‘No way, this is not fair and I don’t like it!’ ”

– Anne Frank: “People just think she’s the person who hid behind the door but she had to move three times. … You’ve got to do what you have to do.”

Jane Adams (activist): “It’s good to do what you have to do to help people, especially those in need.”

So, what is she going to do for Halloween?

“I’m not sure yet,” Stella said. “I haven’t really thought about it yet as a special day, so probably whatever I had planned.”


Click here to see a cute video of Stella on “Ellen:” 8-Year-Old Stella Wears a New Costume Every Day

New Book: “Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Slowe”

November 2nd, 2012

Lucy Diggs Slowe

Dr. Anne S. Pruitt-Logan has written a new book which explores the life of Lucy Diggs Slowe, one of the original sixteen founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the the first Dean of Women at Howard University.

According the Dr. Pruitt-Logan’s website:

“Faithful to the Task at Hand is an account of the life of such a woman – Lucy Diggs Slowe. It marches alongside her as she grows up in Jim Crow America. It explores the forces that called her to be a spokesperson for African- American women’s rights, an authoritative voice on the social and educational conditions of African Americans, and a legend in educational, social service and educational assemblies in the early decades of the Twentieth Century.

The story is bracketed on one hand by the litany of successes, problems and grievances embedded in Slowe’s experiences as the first dean of women at Howard University and on the other by the story of Slowe as an architect of women’s organizations. It shifts from her early years as “Lucy” to her more mature years as “Miss Slowe” and finally to her university-administrator years as “Dean Slowe.” Interspersed are her triumphs as principal of the first junior high school for African American children in the District of Columbia and as the first African-American woman tennis champion in America.”

Dr. Pruitt-Logan is Professor Emerita of Educational Policy and Leadership at the Ohio State University.

To learn more about the book click here.