Archive for the ‘Education & Resources News’ Category

#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).


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


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.

#HistoricalWomenWhoRocked: Shirley Temple

September 30th, 2013

Shirley Temple is a great example of an historical woman who rocks!  She rose to fame as a result of her innate ability to sing, dance and act, in addition to her vivacious personality. Her mother recognized her daughter’s talents and directed her towards a career in dance and film. Shirley was born in Santa Monica, California, to George Francis Temple and Gertrude Amelia Krieger on April 23, 1928,

Her breakthrough came at age six, when she debuted in Stand Up and Cheer, as well as Bright Eyes, in 1934, followed shortly after by a series of highly successful films including The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Just Around the Corner.  All of these films won her widespread public adulation, allowing her to become the top grossing star at the American box-office during the height of the Great Depression.

She became equally as famous for her hairstyle, which is today referred to as  “Shirley Temple Curls.” Shirley’s mother and stylist ensured that she had exactly 52 ringlets in her hair for every take in each movie that she filmed.   Her name also entered the language as a non-alcoholic drink for children, usually served in a cocktail glass with fruit to resemble an adult cocktail.

Shirley Temple worked very hard as a child, making some forty films and fifty television programs before retiring at age 17.   She married actor John Agar and had her first child, Linda Susan Agar, on January 30, 1948.  One year later, she filed for a divorce and married California businessman Charles Alden Black, whom she met on a vacation in Hawaii.  Charles and Shirley had two children, Charles Alden Black Jr., born in 1952 and Lori Black, born in 1954.

In her later life, Shirley Temple Black became deeply involved in Republican politics. In 1967 she ran for Congress against California Representative Pete McCloskey, on a platform of defending America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  She lost but was appointed by Republicans to numerous political posts.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations, and in 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed her as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana.  In 1976, the last year of the Ford administration, she became the first female Chief of Protocol, which put her in charge of coordination of protocol issues with all U.S. embassies and consulates.  She served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Shirley Temple Black is a prominent female not only in entertainment but also in politics.  She has published two autobiographies, My Young Life (1945) and Child Star (1988).

#FoodieFriday: A Cooking Lesson with Julia Child

September 27th, 2013

In this week’s #FoodieFriday we’re paying homage to America’s beloved chef, Julia Child, with a lesson on how to cook the french classic Boeuf Bourguignon:

Bon Apetite! Stay tuned for next weeks #FoodieFriday

#ThrowbackThursday: The Woman Behind the Men

September 26th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Out of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol, only nine are of women.  Most of the statues there and elsewhere in the Capitol are of men who have been deemed great and important enough to be on display in the building that represents our nation.  Though women are underrepresented in the number of statues, there is one woman who is behind the creation of three of those that stand there.

Vinnie Ream was born on September 25, 1847 in Missouri.  As a child, she was taught how to draw and paint by Winnebago Indians.  Her family eventually moved to Washington, DC, where she began to study with DC-based sculptor, Benjamin Paul Akers. During the Civil War, Ream took up other work with the US Postal Service and also volunteered with war relief efforts. In 1863, Missouri Congressman and friend, James Rollins, introduced her to well-known sculptor, Clark Mills, who offered her a job as his apprentice.  Under Mills, Ream flourished and began creating busts of some of Washington’s important people, including Thaddeus Stevens.

In 1964, Ream got James Rollins to ask President Abraham Lincoln’s permission for her to sculpt him while he was working in his office. Lincoln, after learning that she came from a poor background like he did, agreed to let her create a bust of him.  Ream later said of Lincoln, “He had been painted and modeled before, but when he learned that I was poor, he granted me the sittings for no other purpose than that I was a poor girl.  Had I been the greatest sculptor in the world, I am sure he would have refused at that time.”  Ream visited the White House for 30 minutes a day everyday for five months to sit with Lincoln, until he died in April 1865.  She said her time with Lincoln and his death impacted her life. Read the rest of this entry »

“NWHM de Pizan Hat Auction: The Margaret Bourke White Hat”

September 25th, 2013

By: Laura Spears

As a young girl, Margaret Bourke White a child with broad interests. She was interested in photography, and with the encouragement and instruction of her father, it became one of her hobbies. She was also interested in science, and wanted to be a zoologist that studied jungle reptiles. As a university student, Margaret majored in herpetology, and used her gift as a photographer to fund her college degree. However, after taking a photography course at Cornell, she decided to switch career paths.

Margaret Graduated from Cornell University at the age of 23 and relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. There, she established herself as a professional photographer, running her own business out of her one bedroom apartment. She used her bathtub as a chemical bath for her photos and stored her supplies in kitchen cabinets. She specialized in photographing architecture and new buildings for businesses. As a hobby, she also photographed subjects she was interested in, like the Otis Steel plant. She developed a very dramatic, unique style of photographing industry and architecture.

It was this style that caught the attention of the publishers of a new periodical, Life Magazine. In 1936, Margaret shot a photo essay for the very first issue of the magazine. Her subject was the construction of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. The publishers were so impressed with her work, that she became part of their journalistic staff. In the years of the Great Depression, Margaret would shift the focus of her work away from industry and production and become more interested human subjects. Her photo essays at this time dealt mainly with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Read the rest of this entry »

“NWHM de Pizan Hat Auction: The Eleanor Helin Hat”

September 23rd, 2013

By: Laura Spears

When Eleanor Helin began her studies as a scientist, she probably did not imagine that her interest in geology and land formations would lead to a career in space exploration. Her curiosity in the mineral make up or rocks formed on earth led her to study fragments of rock that formed elsewhere in the solar system and fell to earth, also known as meteorites.

Early in her career, Eleanor specialized in minerals and landforms. While at CalTech, she was the in charge of their meteorite collection. She studied their composition, chemistry and formation. Eleanor soon focused her research on the surface of the moon. Specifically, she studied the landforms of the moon and researched how the surface of the moon came to be so pockmarked with craters. She was hired by NASA in the 1960’s because of this specialization. With her research partner, Dr. Bruce Murray, she set up a laboratory at CalTech to further examine the surface of the moon. This would be the first lunar laboratory in the United States. Using telescopes and photographs Eleanor’s laboratory was able to create a more detailed image of the moon’s surface. Her research helped NASA prepare for the first moon landing in 1969.

Eleanor was also the principle investigator for NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program. Established in 1995, it was the first autonomous observing program. None of the jet propulsion laboratory’s personnel needed to be present at the observation sight. Eleanor and her team programmed a computer to observe the night sky and then transmit the data to the JPL each morning for review. NEAT’s purpose was to find and track any asteroid that could come close to hitting earth. NEAT discovered 31 near earth asteroids, two comets, and thousands of other unique objects. The program was retired in 2007.

The design of this hat is inspired by Helin’s discoveries, asteroids and comets, which both travel in an orbital pattern around the sun. The unique structure of this hat makes it appear that the bias binding the brim is orbiting the head. The boom in space exploration had a significant influence on 1960’s and 70’s fashions. The French designer, Pierre Cardin is credited with beginning what is now known as the space age fashion trend. Futuristic style clothing, featuring strong geometric shapes and lines became popular. The fashion could be taken to the extreme by incorporating unusual materials, such as plastics, into the design. The popularity of science fiction in television and movies, such as the original Star Trek series, was also an influence on space age fashions.

“NWHM de Pizan Hat Auction: The Dolley Madison Bonnet”

September 20th, 2013

By: Laura Spears

In 1801, when Dolley Madison first came to Washington, construction of the city had only begun nine years previously, and Washington was still a swampy wilderness. The buildings were few and perfunctory. At this time, The Federalist and Republican parties were so polarized, that the various boarding houses they returned to each evening were divided along party lines. Political disputes were often settled in a physically violent nature, whether in the chambers of Congress or outside the city at the Bladensburg dueling grounds.

As the wife of the Secretary of State, and then later the First Lady, Dolley helped soothe political tensions. By entertaining both Federalist and Republicans at parties and dinners hosted in her home, Dolley created a bipartisan social sphere in Washington where politicians could visit with each other. Her feminine influence and talent for civility brought much needed refinement to the rugged new city. Every Wednesday night during the Madison administration, Dolley hosted a public reception where all were welcome. She served punch and ice cream. These parties became so popular and crowded that they became known as Mrs. Madison’s “squeezes.”

Dolley is most remembered today for an act that has become a scene in American legend. In 1814, she was one of the last inhabitants of the capital to flee the invading British army. When Dolley left the White House, hours before it was torched along with much of the city, she rescued many important documents and artifacts of state, among them the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: You Don’t Own Me

September 19th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

When 17 year old Lesley Gore reached the top spot on the pop charts with “It’s My Party” in 1963, she instantly became one of the most popular pop acts of the early 1960s.  Her sound was similar to the very successful “girl groups” of the era and her music resonated with high school kids across the country.

In 1964, Gore released “You Don’t Own Me.”  The song keeps the same bubblegum pop sound she became famous for, but the lyrics contain more social commentary that her earlier releases and most of the songs (especially women’s songs) at the time. During the early 1960s, many girl groups and female singers’ songs were about love and devotion to the men in their lives.  For instance, Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” (1963) contains the lyrics, “I will follow him, follow him / Wherever he may go…For nothing can keep me away / He is my destiny,” and  The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” (1962) even seems to condone staying in an abusive relationship with the lines, “He couldn’t stand to hear me say / That I’d been with someone new / And when I told him I had been untrue / He hit me / And it felt like a kiss.”  When “You Don’t Own Me” came out, it turn the role of song’s female protagonists around.  With lyrics such as the following, the song was an early source of the feminist consciousness that was coming to fruition.  “You Don’t Own Me” opened the doors for later women’s liberation songs to have their place in popular music.

“And don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display ’cause

You don’t own me
Don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you”

For the 2012 election, Gore and other celebrities brought “You Don’t Own Me” back when they recorded a music video PSA for the song.

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

Sources: Biography, Billboard, History

“NWHM de Pizan Hat Auction: The Lois Long Hat”

September 18th, 2013

By: Laura Spears

“My girlish delight in barrooms…which serve the best beefsteaks in New York, received a serious setback a week or so ago in a place which shall, not to say should, be nameless. The cause was a good, old-fashioned raid. It wasn’t one of those refined, modern, things, where gentlemen in evening dress arise suavely from ringside tables and depart, arm in arm with head waiters no less correctly clad. It was one of those movie affairs, where burly cops kick down the doors, and women fall fainting on the tables, and strong men crawl under them and waiters shriek and start throwing bottles out of windows. A big Irish cop regarded me with a sad eye and remarked, ‘Kid, you’re too good for this dump,’ and politely opened a window leading to the fire escape. I made a graceful exit.”

This excerpt from The New Yorker’s weekly column, Tables for Two sets the scene for a typical night out on the town for Lois Long, known to her readers simply as “Lipstick.” Lois began her career as a columnist at The New Yorker in 1925, at the age of 23. As Lipstick, she chronicled the social club life of New York speakeasies during Prohibition.

Early in her writing career Lois Long would often go undercover. Her goal was to blend with the usual clientele of the Jazz clubs and maintain her anonymity. For two years, the identity of Lipstick was unknown to her readers. Her cover was blown with the newspaper announcement of her engagement to the cartoonist, Peter Arno, with whom she worked at The New Yorker. Hired in 1925 by, Harold Ross, Lois became the pulse of the magazine. Her lifestyle as a glamorous, witty, party girl was exactly the persona that Ross wanted his readers to associate
After the success of her column Tables for Two, Ross made Lois the magazine’s fashion. Unlike previous fashion reporting, Lois’ column covered ready to wear fashions instead of the expensive couture fashions from French salons. The boom in economic prosperity of the 1920’s, along with the new trend of department stores had created a new kind of consumerism. Clothes, hats, make-up, handbags, were all now mass-produced, which in turn drove the prices of these items down. The fashions that the department stores were selling were often based of the latest silhouettes coming from Paris designers such as Coco Chanel or Jean Patou, but the growing middle class of America could now afford them. Read the rest of this entry »

#HistoricalWomenWhoRocked: Bertha Knight Landes

September 17th, 2013

Bertha Knight Landes was a political pioneer and an #HistoricalWomanWhoRocked. She was the first woman mayor of Seattle and the first woman mayor of a major American city. She and her family moved to Washington in 1895 when her husband Henry became a faculty member at the University of Washington.  Landes was the mother of three children and was active in various women’s clubs.  For example, she founded the Women’s City Club and was president of the Washington State League of Women Voters.  In 1921, the Seattle mayor appointed her to serve on a commission studying unemployment.

Landes and Kathryn Miracle became the first women to serve on the Seattle City Council in 1922.  After being re-elected in 1924, Landes became the Council President.  Two years later, in 1926, she ran for mayor of Seattle.  Running on a platform that stressed law enforcement, reform, and morality, she defeated incumbent Edwin J. “Doc” Brown.

Both as the City Council President and as mayor, Landes supported issues like city planning and zoning, improved public health and safety programs, and better hospitals and recreation programs.  She supported public ownership of utilities.  Landes’ administration focused on caring for Seattle’s moral, social, and physical environment.

Even though her administration went well and received high marks, the issue of her sex consistently superseded her accomplishments in office; most people believed a city as large as Seattle should have a male leader.  Knight was defeated for reelection in 1928.  When asked what she saw as the future for women in politics, she said, “Women now wield considerable power along political lines and I believe each succeeding year for some time to come will find them wielding that power more effectively.  But…at present men in general are not ready to yield to women the privilege and right of holding high political office.”

After her political career, Landes wrote extensively for national magazines, encouraging other women to become involved in politics.  Landes wanted women to be treated equally with men and called for public service to be gender-neutral.  She wrote, “Let us, while never forgetting our womanhood, drop all emphasis on sex, and put it on being public servants.”