Archive for August, 2013
By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
A pioneer of women’s history, Dr. Gerda Lerner helped to shape this field of study through narrative, theory, and activism for over 40 years. In the 20th century, Lerner played a central role in the establishment of women’s history as a formal academic field. She also founded the first graduate studies program in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1972. Quoted by President Carter in his proclamation of the first National Women’s History Week, Dr. Lerner proclaimed, “Women’s history is women’s right—an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long range vision.”
Dr. Lerner’s groundbreaking efforts and theories in the field of American history helped to advance the study of history in the second half of the 20th century. By demanding that attention be paid to the study of women’s roles, contributions, and experiences in society, she contributed to the successes of the feminist movement, the struggle for gender and racial equality in the United States, and the diversification and development of historical research. Lerner passed away on January 2, 2013 at the age of 92.
Check out our video series The Keepers of History: The Women Who Preserved One Half of Our Nation’s Story, which explores the life of Dr. Gerda Lerner and other pioneer women historians who spent their lives trying to carve out a place for women in the telling of our national story.
By: Lily Liu, AARP Historian/Archivist
This summer, I had a chance to speak with college students who are interning at AARP, where I work. We talked about applying to college and having to write those personal essays in response to questions such as one I faced during my college application process: “If you could have dinner with one person, dead or still living, who would it be and what would you talk about?”
I know I answered this question back then with an eye to how my response could set me apart from the thousands of other high school seniors jockeying for acceptance at that same institution of higher learning. I know I was trying to elicit a certain reaction from the Admissions Office staff: “Wow, this is so creative!” “Gee, how original!” “This young lady’s essay reflects a maturity beyond her mere 17 years!”
Ah, the innocence of youth!
Now, fast forward a few decades and I really DO wish I COULD have dinner with the woman who founded AARP, Ethel Percy Andrus (1884-1967). She began her professional career as a teacher and then in 1917 was chosen as the first woman high school principal in California. In retirement in the mid-1940s, she became a champion of and advocate for the interests and needs of the elders in society after discovering a retired teacher forced by poverty to live in a chicken coop. In an essay published in the book Who is My Neighbor (1960), Dr. Andrus recalled that pivotal moment when she found another retiree “lonely, unneeded and forsaken.” Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s #FoodieFriday comes from a recent CNN article that highlights the top five women owners of food companies who have totally revamped the way they market their food products. Check them out below:
Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time. Each month, we meet two women at the top of their field, exploring their careers, lives and ideas.
(CNN) — How do you reinvigorate a heritage brand? It’s a question that has long marred CEOs, business strategists and some of the world’s most astute marketeers.
This month CNN’s “Leading Women” sits down with Denise Morrison, the CEO and President of Campbell Soup Company to discuss how she took the firm forward by reinventing the iconic brand. In addition to Morrison, CNN also charts the evolution of four female-led food and drink brands.
Denise Morrison — CEO and President, Campbell Soup Company
Denise Morrison joined the 144-year-old soup company a decade ago. Since being named CEO in 2011, she’s made it her mission to revamp the brand and ensure it appeals to a Millennial generation.
While at the helm, Morrison orchestrated one of the largest acquisitions in the company’s history when it bought Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion in July 2012. The move allowed the company to expand its offering into healthy beverages as well as the highly profitable $12 billion arena of package fresh products.
While innovation is at the heart of Campbell Soup’s strategy, Morrison says the company will also continue to focus on what they are known for. Over the last 12 months Campbell’s has added a further 32 soups to their range on offer including Moroccan-style chicken with chickpeas and spicy chorizo flavors to satiate a generation of more adventurous food lovers.
Consumers can also expect 200 new products to hit shelves over the next year. Read the rest of this entry »
by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant
This past Tuesday marked the 102nd anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball, a veteran of television, film, radio, and stage. Her most notable role, Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy (1951-1957), became one of the most well-known and adored characters in television history, and turned Lucille Ball into a household name who continues to entertain generations of people worldwide. She has received a countless number of accolades, including winning four Emmy Awards (Best Comedienne, 1952 and Best Actress in a continuing Performance, 1955 for I Love Lucy, and Outstanding Continuing Performance by an Actress in a leading Role in a Comedy Series, 1967 and 1968 for The Lucy Show), being the first female inductee into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame and later being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Citation from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1986, and being posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.
Lucille Desiree Ball was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, NY. Her father, Henry, died when she was three years old, so she was raised by her mother, Desiree, a concert pianist, and her maternal grandparents. Her grandparents instilled in her both a commitment to hard work and a love for the theater. She began performing in school plays as a child and decided to pursue a show business career at age 15. As a blonde and under the stage name, Diane Belmont, she tried her luck as a Broadway chorus girl during the 1920s. She had some brief luck in this endeavor but was ultimately fired from four different shows. She was repeatedly told by people in the industry and acting coaches that she should give up because she did not have enough talent. This did not deter her, however, and after illness prohibited her from working for a period of two to three years, she returned to New York City, looking for work under her own name. She took various jobs modeling in department stores, which eventually landed her a Cigarette Girl gig in Chesterfield Cigarette’s national advertising posters in 1933. Read the rest of this entry »
Rep. Carolyn Maloney tells us why “Women are also part of US History” in an article featured in “The Hill”August 5th, 2013
Women are also part of US history
Many Americans have heard of Nathan Hale, an undercover spy and hero during the Revolutionary War. But they should also know about “355”— the code for “lady” in the Culper Ring encryption system — a still-unknown woman who was an undercover agent who supplied Gen. George Washington with critical information on British transgressions in the New York area during that same war.Most Americans can probably identify Susan B. Anthony as a suffragette who fought for the right of women to vote. But did you know that the first woman to cast a vote was Lydia Chapin Taft of Uxbridge, Mass., who as a property owner, after her husband and son died, was allowed to vote on Oct. 30, 1756, on the issue of critical financial support of the French and Indian War? When tourists come to visit to our capital city, they learn much about our nation’s history. There is Pierre L’Enfant’s brilliant city plan, the wonderful monuments and a peerless array of museums: public, nonprofit and for-profit. There’s an Air and Space Museum, a Spy Museum, a Textile Museum, a Postal Museum, even a Crime & Punishment Museum.
But there is no museum in our nation’s capital that honors the full scope of American history: the amazing, brilliant, courageous, innovative and defiant women who have helped to make this country what it is.
It’s time to change that.
That’s why I’ve introduced a bill, along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), to establish a federal commission to study the potential creation of a National Women’s History Museum. The bill, H.R. 863, would require the commission to submit to the president and Congress a report containing recommendations for the establishment and maintenance of a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C., on or close to the National Mall. The bill has 32 bipartisan co-sponsors. Read the rest of this entry »
#FoodieFriday: 5 Kitchen Appliances and Food Creations that Transformed Women’s Live in the 20th CenturyAugust 2nd, 2013
By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
1. The Refrigerator
Refrigerators started popping up in some middle-class households as early as the early 20s. The conventional methods that women used to store food (ice boxes, root cellars) gradually became a thing of the past. In 1923, the cheapest refrigerator on the market cost about $450!
2. The Electric Stove
Electric stoves were still uncommon during the 1920s, even though they had originated around the turn of the 20th century. Fewer than one in 10 US homes were wired for electricity at this time. As America began to “plug in” more and more especially during the 1930s due to decreased cost of electric power, the electric stove gained popularity.
3. The TV Dinner
The modern frozen dinner entered the American home in 1953, when Swanson and Sons figured out a way to address the irksome conundrum of leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. TV Dinners did more than just feed families, their convenience and quick cook time gave women (who usually did all or most of the cooking) more time of their own to pursue jobs and other interests, while still providing a hot meal for their families.
4. Electric Appliances
Electric appliances like cake mixers, waffle irons and toasters began to “pop up” during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The appliances helped to modernize American kitchen’s and make women’s easier!
5. Canned Foods
In the 1920s, many middle class housewives who did their own grocery shopping and cooking relied on new easy-to-prepare dishes and used newly available packaged and commercially processed foods like Wonder Bread, Wheaties, and canned pork & beans.
by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant
In 1951, Bette Nesmith Graham was a single mother working as an executive secretary at Texas Bank & Trust when she invented Liquid Paper. She and other secretaries at the bank used electric typewriters, which were becoming increasingly common in the workplace. While electric typewriters made typing easier and faster, its ribbon made correcting errors difficult. She came up with the idea to create a liquid that would allow her to paint over her mistakes, much like an artist could do by applying an additional coat. In her kitchen blender, Nesmith Graham concocted a mixture of water-based tempera paint and made it match the color of the bank’s stationery. She brought the mixture into work with a thin paintbrush, began covering up her mistakes, and thought nothing of it, even though the results were so successful that her boss had no idea she was using a correcting liquid.
Eventually, other secretaries at the bank began asking her if they could use some of her paint mixture. She started giving the product, which she called Mistake Out at first, to them in little bottles. In 1956, she realized the product had enough potential for her to begin selling it. She started the Mistake Out Company and continued making and selling the mixture out of her home. In 1957, she was selling about 100 bottles of Mistake Out per month and in 1958, was fired from the bank because she was devoting too much of her time to her company. She renamed her product Liquid Paper, received a patent for it, and was soon getting promotions in magazines and orders from large companies. With a net-worth of about $1 million, Nesmith Graham built Liquid Paper’s headquarters and factory in Dallas, Texas in 1968. She sold Liquid Paper to the Gillette Corporation in 1979 for $47.5 million.
As the owner of her own company, Nesmith Graham insisted Liquid Paper’s headquarters offer a childcare facility and a library, and created an environment where all employees could have a say in company decisions. She also used part of her Liquid Paper money to establish two charitable foundations that help women in need. Since her death in 1980, her son, Michael Nesmith, who is known best as one of The Monkees, has continued to contribute to Nesmith Graham’s charities.
2. The dishwasher
Though it would be a nicer story if Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwasher to relieve herself and other women, who were most often responsible for washing dishes, from the task, that is not the case. Cochrane was a wealthy socialite who owned expensive fine china that had been in her family since the 1600s. She grew increasingly displeased with her servants when she found the china was chipping due to their carelessness in scrubbing the dishes. She told them she was going to wash the dishes from then on, but soon found the chore to be beneath her.
Previous attempts at building a working, practical dishwasher were unsuccessful. One patented model had to be cranked by hand and the dishes inside often moved around, which caused them to break. Cochrane believed she could come up with a better one and she got to work on building it. She measured all her dishes and made compartments for each that sat atop a motor-powered wheel above a boiler, which aimed jets of soapy water at the dishes so they would get cleaned. Her invention proved successful and, on December 28, 1886, Josephine Cochrane received a patent for her dish washing machine.
Cochrane presented her dishwasher at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to great reviews and an award for design and durability. She established a company to make and sell the dishwasher, which evolved into KitchenAid after her death in 1913. Mostly only hotels and restaurants bought the product in its first few decades of existence, though. It was not suited well for homes, in part, because residential hot water heaters at the time were not capable of producing as much hot water as was needed to run the machine. In the 1950s, advancements in technology improving Cochrane’s machine and the beginning of the shift in women’s consciousness leading up to the Women’s Movement in the 60s and 70s, meant more dishwashers were being sold to households than ever before. They continue to be one of the most popular and desired kitchen appliances.
3. The disposable diaper
Marion Donovan spent a lifetime inventing items to make people’s lives easier. When she was in elementary school, she came up with her first invention – a tooth powder to improve dental hygiene. After graduating from college, she worked for Vogue magazine for a short time before giving up her career upon marriage to be a housewife and mother. Motherhood actually, though, allowed Donovan to come up with the two inventions she is most well-known for.
In 1946, Donovan was taking care of her newly born second child when she came up with the idea to improve upon the diaper. Both of her children had made a habit of wetting their diapers as soon as Donovan had changed them and laid them down in their cribs. This may not sound like a major inconvenience today but in 1946, it was. Cloth diapers leaked and, when a child wet one in their crib, it required not only changing the baby’s diaper, but changing the sheets as well and also washing both. There were rubber pants for young kids on the market at the time, but these were known to cause diaper rash. Donovan took her shower curtain, cut it to the right size, and sewed a reusable cover for her kid’s diapers. She added snaps to close the cover, so there was no need to use safety pins like the ones that fastened cloth diapers. The cloth diapers were inserted into the waterproof covers, which kept the babies and their surroundings dry. She named the covers Boaters because she thought they looked like boats and they helped babies “stay afloat.” As an independent inventor, she manufactured and marketed her product herself until someone was willing to buy it from her, which someone did. Keko Corporation purchased Boaters from Donovan for $1 million in 1949 and began selling them in Saks Fifth Avenue later that year. They became an instant success.
After Donovan received the patent for Boaters in 1951, she set her sights on inventing the disposable paper diaper. Though her design worked, it was not a commercial success like her previous invention. Executives thought her design was an unnecessary convenience. Ten years later, Proctor and Gamble used Donovan’s invention to create Pampers, which continue to this day to be one of the best selling disposable diaper brands. Donovan’s other inventions include, “Zippity-Do,” an elastic zipper extension that made it easier for women to zip up their clothes, and “Big Hangup,” a compact clothes hanger. At age 41, she received a degree in architecture from Yale and went on to design her own house in Connecticut.