Archive for July, 2013

#FoodieFriday: Five Pioneering Female Chefs whose Names You Should Know

July 26th, 2013

By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator

1. Cristeta Comerford

Cristeta Comerford became the first female White House Executive Chef in 2005 and also the first executive chef of Asian descent.

2. Julia Child

Julia Child was a well-known American chef, author, and television personality. Her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is credited with

bringing French cuisine to the American public and their kitchens.

3. Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich is a widely-recognized American chef, author and Emmy Award Winning TV show host. Her specialty is Italian and Italian-American cuisine and she has regularly contributed to public television cooking shows since 1988.

4.  “B.” Smith (Barbara Smith)

B. Smith is a well-known American restauranteur, author and TV show host. She owns three eponymously named  restaurants in Washington, DC’s Union Station, NYC and Long Island. Smith’s specialty is southern-style cuisine.

5. Alice Waters

Alice Louise Waters is a well-known American chef, author, restaurateur, and activist. She is the owner of Chez Paisse, in Berkley, California. The restaurant is known for its locally-grown and organic ingredients. Waters opened the restaurant in 1971 and its has consistently ranked among the world’s best restaurants.

#ThrowbackThursday: Helen Thomas, a pioneer for women in journalism

July 25th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Helen Thomas, the White House reporter who covered every president since JFK, died this past weekend at the age of 92. Though the end of her career was shadowed in controversy, there is no denying Thomas broke down barriers for many female journalists.

Helen Thomas knew she wanted to be a reporter since she worked on her high school’s newspaper.  In 1943, after graduating from college, she got a job as a “copy girl” with what is now known as United Press International (UPI).  As was happening in other industries, UPI hired a small number of women to fill the void in their staff left by men going off to fight in WWII.  When the men returned home after the war was over, UPI felt they did not need women workers anymore, so they fired all of them – except Thomas.  She was promoted to writing light pieces about women’s issues, society, and celebrities for the radio.  In 1960, she got her big break when she was sent by UPI to cover President-elect John F. Kennedy who was vacationing with his family.  From this time until 2010, she was part of the White House Press Corps.  Early in her career, she was one of about five women who covered the White House regularly.  She made a name for herself asking politicians the tough questions they did not necessarily want to answer, regardless of what party they belonged to.  In 1962, she got President Kennedy to invite women to the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the other accomplishments she racked up over her career read as a long list of “first”s and “only”s: Read the rest of this entry »

Rep. Carolyn Maloney Urges House Colleagues to Support NWHM’s Bill

July 24th, 2013

Historical Women Who Rocked: Josephine Baker

July 22nd, 2013

A native of Missouri, Josephine Baker is remembered for her sultry and comedic stage routines that captivated audiences across the European continent as the Jazz Age unfolded in the United States. During World War II, however, the dancer and singer known as “Black Venus,” “Black Pearl,” or “Creole Goddess” performed a much more important role for her adopted country of France: that of undercover operative in the French Resistance.

In addition to serving as a sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary of the French Air Force, Baker maintained an exhaustive performance schedule throughout the war, entertaining both French and American troops. These appearances in many of Europe’s wartime cities provided an excellent cover for the different covert activities she undertook on behalf of the Allied cause.

On at least occasion, Baker smuggled secret military intelligence reports into Portugal from France that had been written in disappearing or invisible ink on her sheet music. (As an element of tradecraft, invisible ink has proved to be a valuable operational tool throughout history. Part of its longevity can be traced to some of the simple and readily available sources for the ink: milk, vinegar, lemon juice, and even urine. In the 20th century, more sophisticated inks resulted from the discovery and introduction of different chemical ingredients.) Read the rest of this entry »

#FoodieFriday: Edna Lewis’ Traditional Southern Cuisine

July 19th, 2013

By: Sydnee Winston, Project Coordinator

African-American chef Edna Lewis spent her lifetime celebrating southern cooking, and she published cookbooks that revived the art of refined Southern cooking while simultaneously offering America a window into African American farm life in the early 20th century.  Ms. Lewis was born  in April of 1916 in a Freetown, Virginia. She spent most of her childhood growing up on her family’s farm that had been granted to her grandfather, a freed slave. There, the family would gather and prepare food using improvised methods including measuring baking powder on coins.

Her cookbook The Taste of Country Cooking is considered a classic study of southern cooking and helped dispel the popular image of southern cooking as unsophisticated. In an interview in 1989 with the New York Times Miss Lewis commented that “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.”

During the 1940s, Miss Lewis left Virginia to relocate to New York. It was there that she became friends with John Nicholson, an antiques dealer, who opened up a restaurant on the East side of Manhattan. Miss Lewis’ cooking delighted the pallets of people who came to eat at Cafe Nicholson and the restaurant quickly became popular among bohemians and artists. Her cheese souffles and roast chicken were especially popular.  She worked at the restaurant until the late 1950s.

In the mid-1970s, she began writing her acclaimed cookbook and in the mid-90s she founded the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food.

Check out this wonderful documentary about Miss Lewis’ mission to preserve  and pass on the rich tradition of southern cooking to future generations.

#ThrowbackThursday: The First First Ladies – Dolley Madison

July 18th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

4. Dolley Payne Todd Madison, wife of James Madison (1768-1849)

Much more so than her predecessors, Dolley Madison embraced the role of First Lady as we think of it today.  In fact, she pretty much created it, setting the bar upon which all later First Ladies have been judged.  While Abigail Adams acted as a private adviser to her husband, Dolley was a very public partner to James.  In the eulogy he gave at her funeral in 1849, President Zachary Taylor called Dolley “the first lady of the land for half a century.”  It was the first time a president’s spouse had been referred to as a “first lady,” although the term did not become an official title until the 1860s when newspapers began using it for Mary Todd Lincoln.  When she died, Dolley Madison was the last public figure from America’s founding generation.

Dolley was born to John and Mary Coles Payne, both strict Quakers, on May 20, 1768.  She was raised in the Quaker faith, which taught equality between women and men.  Dolley took that teaching with her throughout her life, never seeming to act like she was of lesser status because she was a woman.  Her parents relocated the Payne family to Philadelphia when Dolley was young and it was in that city in 1790 that she married John Todd.  The Todds had two children, John Payne and William.  The yellow fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia in 1793 took the life of John on the same day the infant William died.  Though John had made Dolley the executor of his will, her brother-in-law kept everything from her and left her in near-poverty until she took legal action to obtain what was rightfully hers.  Because she was a woman, she also had to fight in court to be the guardian of her own surviving son. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating America’s Parks and Recs

July 16th, 2013

By: Katherine Dvorak, NWHM Volunteer

In 1985 the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) declared July Park and Recreation Month to celebrate the countless public parks, open spaces and recreation locations spread out across the country. These are the places where communities come together for everything from recreation sports to neighborhood gatherings to family picnics.

In addition to local parks America is home to over 400 national parks, 550 natural landmarks, and 2,000 historic landmarks across the United States all in the care of the National Park Service. These are locations dedicated to the continued beautification of America and preserved in the name of the American public and those who visit.

My personal history with parks is long and varied, a history I’m sure is similar to many. As a kid my local park was where I spent countless weekend mornings playing recreational soccer and softball, riding bike trails and having neighborhood picnics. In high school I would run along nature trails and play fetch with our always-energetic family dog Striker. And currently I volunteer as an interpretive guide for Arlington House.

Built from 1802-1818 by George Washington Parke Custis and dedicated as a historic landmark in Robert E. Lee’s name in 1925. Arlington House sits atop a hill in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking Washington, DC, one of many of sites dedicated to the preservation of America’s history. Everyday thousands of people visit Arlington House interested in its place in history, eager for stories of the family who lived there and to enjoy the beautiful grounds surrounding it.

Parks, both national and local, play a role in all of our lives. Whether as a rural community’s gathering place, a city dwellers escape into nature, or a place dedicated to the country’s history and beauty, parks serve as a place to get away and come together; a place to preserve our history and a place to create new memories. And they are always there for us to come back to.

To find an event sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association visit their website here. To find a National Park you can visit, check out the National Park Service website here.

Historical Women Who Rocked: Laura Bridgman

July 15th, 2013

Half a century before famed Helen Keller, the “Original Helen Keller,” Laura Dewey Bridgman, became the first deaf and blind person to learn a language. By the time that Keller became famous in the early twentieth century, Bridgman’s story had faded and been forgotten — but like Keller, Bridgman moved souls around the world by triumphing over her multiple disabilities.

Laura Dewey Bridgman was born in the expansion period of the United States on December 21, 1829, just shy of President Andrew Jackson’s message to Congress to relocate the Native American tribes west of the Mississippi River.  With her parents, Daniel and Harmony Bridgman, Laura resided in Etna, New Hampshire, just a few miles east of Vermont.  Although Native Americans had moved from that area decades earlier, it remained rural.

When she was two, Laura contracted scarlet fever, which eradicated both her hearing and her sight, while seriously damaging her senses of taste and smell.  Touch was the only one of the five senses that was not impaired.

Her early means of communication and expression were through imitation by touch. Laura learned to perform tasks by following her mother’s hands; she even learned to sew that way. However, it was Asa Tenny, a local handyman, who taught her to begin communicating using a system of signs.  That attracted the interest of a professor at Dartmouth College, nearby in Hanover, New Hampshire, and he wrote a newspaper article about Laura. Read the rest of this entry »

#FoodieFriday: First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts “Kid’s State Dinner”

July 12th, 2013

By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator

First Lady Michelle Obama is no stranger to our #FoodieFriday series. She made an appearance in our White House edition a few weeks ago for her vegetable garden on the  white house lawn, with its more than 55 varieties of vegetables and fruits. This week she’s back again after hosting the second annual “Kids State Dinner” at the White House on Tuesday, July 9th.  54 kids from across the country made their way to Washington for a very special state dinner. The lucky kids, aged 8-12, who got to participate in the dinner were winners of a nationwide contest that had more than 1300 entries. The contest was a part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative to promote healthy eating and exercise as a lifestyle in our nation’s youth.

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge invited families to create an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and delicious, and follows the nutritional guidelines of MyPlate. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges from the organizations that teamed up with Mrs. Obama on this initiative; Epicurious, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture. Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: The First First Ladies – Martha Jefferson

July 11th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

3. Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, wife of Thomas Jefferson (1748-1782)

Of the first four First Ladies, we know the least about Martha Jefferson.  Though she died about 18 and a half years before Thomas Jefferson became president, she is still considered a First Lady because she is the only spouse he had.  No portrait of her is known to exist and, like Martha Washington did with her letters to and from George, Thomas destroyed nearly all their personal communication after her death.

Martha Wayles was born in Virginia on October 19, 1748 to the well-off family of John and Martha Eppes Wayles.  Her mother died shortly after she was born due to complications from the birth.  She was raised by her father, two stepmothers, and tutors.  As a child, she was well educated.  She became an accomplished musician who played the pianoforte and spinet, and also sang.  When she was 18, she married Bathurst Skelton with whom she had a child named John.  Less than two years after the marriage, Bathurst became ill and died in 1768.

After the acceptable period of mourning was over, the wealthy and beautiful (all physical accounts of her describe her as such) new widow began attracting many suitors, including Thomas Jefferson.  Thomas fell in love with Martha nearly straightaway, however, she did not share the same feelings for him when he first started calling on her.  Neither did her father, who did not approve of the lower status Thomas Jefferson’s interests in his daughter.  Thomas proposed to Martha in early 1771, but she did not accept.  Thanks to an encouraging letter written to him by a friend, Mrs. Drummond, Thomas continued to pursue the relationship.  According to family lore, two men waiting outside the Wayles’ house to see Martha heard her and Thomas, who got there before the other men, playing music and singing together.  Upon hearing this, they gave up and went home.  Bonding over things, such as their mutual love of music and literature, Martha accepted Thomas’ proposal by June, 1771.  Unlike marriages of generations past that considered monetary and social reasons for tying the knot over romantic feelings, the couple was one of a growing number of couples getting married out of love. Read the rest of this entry »