Archive for the ‘Education & Resources News’ Category

Historical Women Who Rocked: Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)

December 4th, 2013

Margaret Bourke-White was born in New York. She completed her undergraduate education at Cornell University in 1927 and was an original staff member of Fortune and Life magazines. She became the first western photographer allowed to photograph inside the Soviet Union and covered the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Army as well as the Italian Liberation. In 1945, she accompanied United States troops as they liberated Buchenwald Concentration Camp. She covered Gandhi’s campaign of non-violence in India and apartheid in South Africa. Since her death in 1971, her photographic works have been used by the United States Postal Service as postage stamps and her life as been portrayed on television and on the movie screen.

Happy Thanksgiving from NWHM!

November 26th, 2013

We hope you’ll take a moment to watch this special video that explores the origin of  Thanksgiving and the work of Sarah Josepha Hale, the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” in establishing it!

Gobble, Gobble!

Historical Women Who Rocked: Ruby Bridges

November 19th, 2013

At just 6-years old young Ruby Bridges became the face of school integration.

Ruby Bridges was born on September 8, 1954. She was born to Lucille and Abon Bridges, who had four other children, giving Ruby three brothers and one sister. At age two, Ruby and her family moved from Tylertown, Mississippi, where her family had been sharecroppers, to New Orleans, Louisiana, because her parents sought better work opportunities.

In New Orleans, Ruby went to a segregated kindergarten. However, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1954, the year that Ruby was born, that all schools must desegregate.   The decision was made in the case of Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education, when the parents of another grade-school girl, Linda Brown, sued the school system of Topeka, Kansas, because Linda had to attend an all-black school outside of the neighborhood where she lived.

The law was put into place in Louisiana at the beginning of Ruby’s first grade year. Ruby and five other African-American girls were given the opportunity to attend a school made up of only Caucasians, after they passed psychological and educational tests. Ruby’s parents were faced with a critical decision.

For this reason, Lucille wanted to send Ruby to the new school. Lucille wanted to give her daughter the opportunities she never had, but Abon, Ruby’s father, was not eager to send Ruby to the new school because he did not want to endanger his family. Over time, though, Lucille convinced Abon that sending Ruby to the new school would be the best thing to do. Read the rest of this entry »

#FoodieFriday: A 1950s Housewife’s Guide to Grocery Shopping

November 15th, 2013

This week’s #FoodieFriday takes us back to the 1950s and more specifically to an educational video that instructs women on how to shop for their families. This type of video would probably have been shown in a home economics class. Do you remember watching videos like these when you were growing up?

#ThrowbackThursday: Nellie Bly’s Investigative Journalism

November 14th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, known as “Nellie Bly,” reached international celebrity status when she traveled around the world by ship, train and burro in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes, ahead of the fictional hero of Jules Verne’s popular book “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Her journey began today in 1889.

Bly’s big break, though, came two years before her round-the-world trip, when she faked insanity to study an asylum from the perspective of a patient. After months of rejection from editors on the basis of her sex, Bly received the opportunity to investigate the insane asylum from the New York World. Jean Marie Lutes, a scholar of women journalists, argues that Bly’s success with this story was, in part, due to her “female-ness.” Lutes suggests that because Bly was a woman, and therefore already outside the traditional image of a “reporter” in 1887, she was able to go beyond the limits of traditional reporting for her story:

“Bly’s reportage exulted in the concrete specifics of one individual’s experience and scorned the relative abstraction of disinterested observation. By adopting the hysteric’s hyperfemale, hyperexpressive body, she created her own story and claimed the right to tell it in her own way. Moreover, impersonating insanity allowed her to flaunt the very characteristics that were being used to bar women from city newsrooms: her female-ness, her emotional expressiveness, her physical—even her explicitly sexual—vulnerability.” (1)

On the basis of her diversity—by virtue of being, as a woman, an outsider to the profession—Bly was able to generate huge success. Her success was not just a personal achievement. Bly changed the field of reporting entirely with her innovative investigative techniques, and paved the way for important works of investigative journalism in the early 20th Century: for example, Ida Tarbell’s The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904) and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906). Nellie Bly’s career is a powerful example of how diversity in the workplace can strengthen a business (or, in this case, an entire profession) in unexpected ways.

Click here to read more about Nellie Bly.

(1) Lutes, Jean Marie. “Into the Madhouse with Nellie Bly: Girl Stunt Reporting in Late Nineteenth-Century America.” American Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 2 (June 2002). Page 218. Emphasis added.

#Throwback Thursday: “Peace is a Woman’s Job” and Republican Motherhood

November 7th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

On this day in 1916, Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first U.S. congresswoman. She represented Montana twice: from 1917-1919 and from 1941-1943. In Congress, Rankin was known for her pacifism. She was one of just 50 members of Congress to vote against entry into WWI in 1917, and the only Congressperson to oppose declaring war on Japan in 1941. This gave her the distinction of being the only person in Congress to vote against both world wars.

Rankin was a proponent of female participation in the government and the public sphere. This post will examine how Rankin advocated for this progressive cause by drawing on more conservative rhetoric: in particular, the argument of “Republican Motherhood.”

The phrase “Republican Motherhood” was developed in the late 20th century by historians to name a particular opinion about women’s roles that was influential from the colonial era through the early 20th century. It described the notion that motherhood was a civic duty, and that women’s primary responsibility was to impart ideals of republicanism onto the next generation. It imbued women’s work in the private sphere—childrearing, in particular—with meaning and significance to the nation, thereby rendering women’s political activism and work beyond the home superfluous. Read the rest of this entry »

A History of Halloween

October 31st, 2013

By: Katherine Dvorack, NWHM Volunteer

Long before it was the mass marketed, slightly kitschy but always fun holiday we know and love today, Halloween was an ancient Celtic festival to the dead known as Samhain. The most important holiday on the Celtic calendar, Samhain marked the day when the veil between the living and the dead was at its weakest and the souls of those who passed during the year would journey to the underworld. Celebrated with bonfires and crop sacrifices, the festival marked the end of summer and the beginning of a long winter.

As with many pagan holidays, in an effort to convert Celts to Christianity, Samhain was appropriated by the Catholic Church in the early first century A.C.E. and renamed All Saints Day. But despite the Church’s best efforts, many of Samhain’s traditions and rituals remain. While the Church transformed the Celts’ pagan deities into malevolent spirits, people still left offerings for the dead and dressed up to appease the spirits. It was this mixing of beliefs that lead All Saints Day to become All Hallows Eve before finally becoming Halloween. Read the rest of this entry »

#Throwback Thursday: The Lizzie Borden Trial of 1892

October 31st, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Happy Halloween from NWHM!

Yearning for a spooky tale from the annals of American women’s history? Look no further than the gruesome (and yet-unsolved!) double homicide that took place at the Borden household in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892. You may have heard of the case through a famous old nursery rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

The rhyme embellishes a bit, but you get the gist. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were found dead in their home, both crushed by the blows of a hatchet, 11 and 19 times respectively.

Andrew Borden’s 32-year-old daughter, Lizzie, was present in the house at the time of the murders. She was arrested a week later. Although Lizzie was acquitted (in fact, Massachusetts eventually elected to not charge anyone with the murders), her name remains inextricably linked to the case, and she lived out the remainder of her life as a shunned member of the Fall River community. Read the rest of this entry »

#Throwback Thursday: Ma Rainey and the blues

October 24th, 2013

By: Emily McAfee, NWHM Intern

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, 1917

In the early 20th Century, the American working and middle classes began searching for modes of self-identification beyond their occupations, and a burgeoning mass entertainment industry set an example for how to fill this identity void. Performers—of different genders and various races—publicly enacted the identities they wanted, as opposed to the identities they had been given. This new entertainment culture was platform upon which all kinds of Americans reinvented the parameters of their self-expression and reclaimed (if only briefly) ownership of their public identities. A brilliant example of this phenomenon can be found in female blues singers. During its heyday in the 1920s, the blues were a forum in which black women could seize control of their public identity and redefine it on their own terms.

A powerful figure in this movement was Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, one of the earliest professional female blues singers—and one of the first to record. She was known for her deep, raspy voice, and the incredible impression she would make before she even began to sing. Blues women like Ma Rainey seized ownership over the freedom of the black female body: to travel, to be public, to love and lust. These themes—of freedom, mobility, and sexuality, are prominent in Ma Rainey’s blues.

Mobility
During the early 20th Century, the movement of African-Americans to urban spaces in the North was a massive demographic shift that redefined part of the African-American experience. This change was reflected in the blues genre, as women like Ma Rainey sang representations of black displacement and the liberating aspects of a newfound mobility. Female blues singers stressed the different experiences of black men and women, not only in migration, but also in domestic spaces, and in life more generally.
Notable songs: “Traveling Blues,” “Runaway Blues,” and “Lost Wandering Blues”

#ThrowbackThursday: Mary McLeod Bethune and the Education of Young Black Girls

October 3rd, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was an educator, civil rights activist, and political advisor to multiple US presidents. She became president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1924 and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Her most notable political appointment was as part of President Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” She served as Roosevelt’s Director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs from 1935-43. During her time with the National Youth Administration, she helped to create programs “which prepared [black youth] for skilled, high salaried positions in the labor market, and total equality for Negroes in every facet of the American society,” (Ross, 1975: 6). Bethune worked tirelessly for equal treatment of blacks and their full integration into American life. In particular, she believed economic equality, and the ability to vote and have access to the political process would provide racial uplift for black Americans (McCluskey, 1997; Linsin, 1997). Her efforts “[placed] her within the broad spectrum of the racial uplift ideology that so engaged educated African Americans during the early 1900s,” (McCluskey, 1997: 201).

As an educator, Bethune sought to produce a young generation of New Negro Women. With $1.50, she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida on October 3, 1904. The school would later merge with the all-male Cookman Institute to form what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University. When Bethune’s school first opened, Daytona was a segregated city, where its black citizens had unequal opportunities, especially when it came to education. Black schools had inadequate facilities and resources, black children, if they enrolled in school at all, were in classrooms for less hours of the day than white students, white teachers earned higher salaries than black teachers, and the state spent a fraction of the money they spent on white schools on black schools – all in all, “by 1904 the town of Daytona had no viable school system for blacks,” (1997: 203).
Despite the difficult surrounding environment, Bethune’s school for young girls would soon flourish, promoting the “dual purpose that Bethune envisioned: to teach both academic and practical skills to black girls,” (1997: 206). The school provided girls with domestic science courses, as well as business and liberal arts courses, which would enable students “to support themselves while they simultaneously strove toward better opportunities,” (1997: 209) before and after graduation. As a postsuffrage woman, Bethune encouraged her students and blacks in the Daytona community to “exercise their voting power,” (Linsin, 1997: 26) and “to get involved” with elections and campaigns (McCluskey, 1994: 214). She believed racial uplift started with the education of black girls and the instruction she provided her students with became “a prerequisite for the full participation of black women in public life and for their recognition as worthy women,” (1994: 211).

Audio: MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE: “WHAT DOES AMERICAN DEMOCRACY MEAN TO ME?” AMERICA’S TOWN MEETING OF THE AIR, NEW YORK CITY (1939)

Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below, on Facebook, or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtags #ThrowbackThursday and #TBT.

Sources:

Minnesota Public Radio

Linsin, Christopher E. “Something More than a Creed: Mary McLeod Bethune’s Aim of Integrated Autonomy as Director of Negro Affairs.” The Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 76, No. 1. Florida Historical Society, 1997. 20-41.

McCluskey, Audrey. T. “Multiple consciousness in the leadership of Mary McLeod Bethune.” NWSA Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. 69-81.
Ross, Joyce. “Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Youth Administration: A Case Study of Power Relationships in the Black Cabinet of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The Journal of Negro History. Vol. 60, No. 1. Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc., 1975. 1-28.