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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
March 4, 2011 · Comments Off  

No portraits of Eliza Lucas Pinckney are known to exist; this illustration was made for American Spirit magazine.

No portraits of Eliza Lucas Pinckney are known to exist; this illustration was made for American Spirit magazine.

Before cotton, there was indigo. The source of South Carolina’s wealth and a mainstay of the American colonial economy before the Revolution, the indigo industry was the brainchild of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793). She was one of the greatest agricultural innovators of colonial America.

The daughter of a British officer in the West Indies, Eliza Lucas was put in charge of her father’s three South Carolina plantations at the remarkable age of sixteen. Colonel Lucas obviously recognized that his daughter was a prodigy, and the ambitious young woman did not disappoint. Eliza loved botany and was fascinated by agricultural experimentation. She thought in terms of the big picture: she knew that South Carolina needed a cash crop to complement rice, and she saw that the burgeoning world trade in textiles was creating new markets for dyes. Using indigo seeds her father sent her from the West Indies, she embarked on a series of agricultural experiments in growing the new crop. Once she had succeeded in developing a strain of indigo that could be grown commercially in Carolina, she set about mastering the process of rendering and manufacturing the all-important dye.

By 1744, Eliza was ready to share her seeds and her knowledge with other South Carolina planters. The result was an agricultural revolution. In 1745-1746, South Carolina exported 5,000 pounds of indigo dye. By 1748, that number had jumped to 134,118 pounds. By 1775—the eve of American independence—South Carolina was exporting more than a million pounds of indigo every year. …continue reading

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
March 3, 2011 · Comments Off  

Anne Hutchinson defied the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts.

Anne Hutchinson defied the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts.

Anne Hutchinson (c. 1591-1643) was at the center of the first great theological crisis in Puritan New England: the Antinomian Controversy. A brilliant and outspoken woman who refused to bow to male supremacy, Hutchinson challenged the tyrannical Puritan government and championed freedom of conscience. She has been called the first feminist in the New World, but she was also a model for the religious and civil liberty of all citizens.

The short essay about Hutchinson in Harvard Magazine is excellent, as is the following brief biography from the Library of Congress: …continue reading

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
March 2, 2011 · Comments Off  

This engraving is the only known portrait of Pocahontas rendered from life. During her stay in England in 1616, Dutch engraver Simon van de Passe captured her likeness. She was about 21.

This engraving is the only known portrait of Pocahontas rendered from life. During her stay in England in 1616, Dutch engraver Simon van de Passe captured her likeness. She was about 21.

Pocahontas (c. 1596-1617) stands at the beginning of written Anglo-American history. She welcomed the English to Jamestown, acted as peacemaker between her tribe and the newcomers, married one of the colonists, and even represented her people in England. But who was she really?

Thanks to Disney, most people think of Pocahontas as a cartoon princess in a buckskin mini-dress who falls in love with Captain John Smith. The truth is quite different. Pocahontas was an eleven-year-old child when the English arrived in 1607, John Smith was a crude and violent adventurer, and there was no love affair between them. Even the story about Pocahontas saving Smith’s life was probably false; historians (both Anglo and Native) strongly suspect Smith invented the tale much later.

Pocahontas’s real name was Matoaka—Pocahontas was a nickname—and she was the daughter of the man known as Powhatan, the paramount chief of the Powhatan Indians. She was certainly a highly privileged little person, but not exactly a princess in the European sense. Powhatan society was matrilineal, so power passed from the chief to his sister’s children, not to his own offspring. (Women could also be chiefs; this was not a patriarchal society.)

As a child Pocahontas was very friendly to the English colonists at Jamestown, making a strong impression with her high spirits, generosity, and poise. When she reached marriageable age she wedded a Powhatan man named Kocoum. According to the oral history preserved by the Mattaponi tribe (descendants of the Powhatans), she bore a child referred to as Little Kocoum. …continue reading

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
March 1, 2011 · Comments Off  

The Agricultural Revolution:  life at Çatal Hüyük (illustration by Jaume Bosch Martínez)

The Agricultural Revolution: life at Çatal Hüyük (illustration by Jaume Bosch Martínez)

March is Women’s History Month, and here on the EVE blog we’ll be celebrating with posts about famous and not-so-famous women in history. But I’d like to start off with a nod to a group of very important women whose names we’ll never know, but to whom we owe everything: the foremothers who invented the very foundations of human civilization.

When I was a kid, it was commonplace to hear boys say silly things like, “Women have never invented anything!” It’s still pretty common, in fact, if a cursory glance at various internet forums is any indication. Even adults who really, really ought to know better can fall into the trap: as recently as 2007, a remarkably ill-informed psychologist gave a talk at the APA convention asserting that men have invented virtually everything in the entire history of human existence (technology, art, science, religion, medicine, trade, etc.), while women’s contribution has consisted of…giving birth.

So let’s set the record straight. Modern anthropologists and prehistorians believe that it was women who invented most of the foundational technologies of human civilization. The evidence for this comes from multiple lines of inquiry: archaeology (what do bones and artifacts tell us?), history (what was the situation when the first records were made?), ethnography (how have people in various farming and foraging cultures organized their lives?), mythology (what do stories and legends say about who invented what?), and even primatology (what can we learn from our primate cousins about how archaic hominids may have behaved?). The striking thing is that all of the evidence from all these directions points to the same conclusion: that it was women who were at the cutting edge of the earliest human technologies. It was women who invented agriculture, women who domesticated plants, women who invented the hoe and irrigation and the first plow. Women are also widely credited with the invention of the fiber arts (spinning, weaving, basketry), pottery, and the vast number of technologies associated with food preparation and cooking. And that’s not all: strong arguments have been made placing women at the forefront of medicine (plant-based!), art, construction techniques, the development of the wheel, and even—in deep, deep prehistory—the taming of fire.

So while we’re thinking about women’s history this month, let’s bear in mind that the story didn’t just start a couple of centuries ago. Women were, in every sense, the mothers of civilization. Their ingenuity made our world possible.


Further reading:

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

by Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
February 28, 2011 · Comments Off  

The Montgomery County chapter of NOW (Maryland) is sponsoring a Women’s History Month essay contest focused on the EVE website. Students in the eighth grade are invited to visit our website and prepare an essay about the experience. They are also invited to attend a Women’s History Month talk by EVE’s president, Dr. Lynette Long, at the Wheaton Library on March 7, 2011.

Here’s the text of the announcement from Montgomery County NOW:


Women’s History Month Essay Contest

Sponsored By

The Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women in conjunction with Equal Visibility Everywhere

Montgomery County NOW invites all students in the eighth grade in Montgomery County Schools to enter an essay contest on the theme “Thoughts on a Visit to the Website EVE–Equal Visibility Everywhere.” To enter, you need to:

(1) visit the EVE website (equalvisibilityeverywhere.org),

(2) spend time exploring what it offers,

(3)  think over what you have learned, and

(4) write an essay about your visit.

The essay should be your response to the experience of the website.  It may take the form of a plan of action for your school or neighborhood or Montgomery County.  It may be a reflection about how you felt.  It may disagree with the website’s argument and explain why.  Or, you may think of another angle.  We really want to hear what you think.

A bonus feature—if you have the time—is a talk by EVE founder, Dr. Lynette Long which will be given on March 7, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Wheaton Library and sponsored by Montgomery County NOW.

If you have questions, please call or e-mail Jill Brantley at 301-933-5368 or niebran@attglobal.net.

The essay should be typed and should not exceed 300 words.

Entries should be postmarked or e-mailed by March 31, 2011.

Mail to
MCNOW
P.O. Box 2301
Rockville, MD 20847-2301

E-mail to  info@mcmdnow.org

All serious entrants will receive a certificate of merit; book tokens redeemable at Barnes and Noble Booksellers will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and the schools of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners will receive an appropriate addition to their libraries from MC NOW.

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History

Dr. Lynette Long will be the featured speaker at a “A Strategy Session on Public History,” presented by the Montgomery County chapter of NOW (Maryland) in honor of Women’s History Month. The program is scheduled for the evening of March 7, 2011, at the Wheaton Regional Library:

Time: Monday, March 7, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Wheaton Regional Library
Meeting Room downstairs
11701 Georgia Ave, Wheaton MD 20902

A Strategy Session on Public History. Dr. Lynette Long, the founder of Equal Visibility Everywhere (EVE), will explain the strategies her organization is using to promote more permanent public recognition of women’s achievements through the naming and renaming of public places and the establishment of public commemorative days. It challenges us to think what we can do in Montgomery County to achieve more public recognition of women’s achievements here.

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Suzanne Scoggins, Director of Women's History
Delegate Susan C. Lee

Delegate Susan C. Lee

Big news! After months of mostly behind-the-scenes work, the Harriet Tubman Statue Project is about to move into the spotlight. Maryland Delegate Susan C. Lee will announce the introduction of bill HB455/SB351 to place a statue of Harriet Tubman in National Statuary Hall. She will be joined by Senator Catherine Pugh, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

When: Tuesday, February 8, 2011, at 11:00 am.
Where: Room 406 Lowe House Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401

EVE and Maryland NOW are co-sponsors of the project, so Dr. Lynette Long (president of EVE) and Linda Mahoney (president of Maryland NOW) will also be at the press conference. Other top leaders of women’s and community organizations will be in attendance as well.

Here’s the full text of the press announcement from Delegate Lee’s office.

Senator Catherine Pugh

Senator Catherine Pugh

EVE and Maryland NOW began approaching state lawmakers last fall about advocating for this legislation in the 2011 session. Delegate Lee, who is the President of the Maryland General Assembly’s Women’s Caucus, and Senator Pugh, Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, agreed to sponsor the bill.

The legislation calls for the statue of John Hanson to be returned to Maryland and displayed “in a place of honor” in Annapolis, the state capital. A commission will be appointed by the Governor to choose the sculptor for the Harriet Tubman statue, and funds will be raised from a coalition of non-profit groups and private citizens. There will be no cost to the state or to taxpayers.

An impressive list of individuals and organizations have already endorsed the bill, including Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Congress of Black Women, Inc., the NAACP of Maryland, and many others.

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Jennifer Lee, California State Director for EVE

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was one of the most noteworthy leaders of the civil rights movement. The National Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee in Ruleville, Mississippi, is raising funds to erect a statue of Hamer beside her gravesite.

Eleven years ago Mississippi native Patricia Thompson saw the neglected and unkempt grave of Fannie Lou Hamer and “vowed that no one else would see it in that condition again.” She began to work with people who knew Hamer, including Charles McLaurin, who met Hamer during a voter registration drive in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.

Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic national convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964. (AP Photo/stf)

Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964. (AP Photo/stf)

Fannie Lou Hamer was a brave and courageous woman who, in McLaurin’s words, “never backed down.” When she registered to vote in 1962, she was thrown off the plantation where she worked as a sharecropper. In 1963 she was arrested in Winona, Mississippi, with other civil rights activists and was beaten severely by two policemen. She regularly sang hymns to other civil rights workers to bolster their courage, and was revered as a maternal figure by the northern college students who went south to work in the civil rights movement. In 1964 Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. Her testimony before the credentials committee at the convention was televised, and the nation was riveted by her words. Hamer’s accomplishments are numerous, yet she is not as well-known as she should be.

In December of 1999 Patricia Thompson, Charles McLaurin, and others began the work of maintaining the gravesite and started to talk with the city of Ruleville about their plans for the future. Now, where there was once a neglected grave, there is a garden. The Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden has a gazebo, fountains, shrubbery, and an area where a statue is planned. The city of Ruleville helps to maintain the garden.

In February of 2010 the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee was launched to raise funds for a statue to honor this great woman. Charles McLaurin is the Director of the project and Patricia Thompson is the Coordinator. Contributions are tax-deductible, with fiscal sponsorship provided by the National Black United Fund.

As Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, observes, “Black women are mostly invisible in the public statuary.” Please visit the committee’s website and help honor Fannie Lou Hamer with a statue. Send this information along to your friends and let’s make it happen. I passionately agree with Dr. Malveaux when she says, “Can the sister get a statue? She can if enough people support the cause.”

http://www.fannielouhamer.info/

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Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE

On December 1, 2010, Slate published, A Young Person’s Guide to Slate’s Culturally Relevant Octogenarians.  Of the eleven Americans selected, only two were women, Betty White, an animal rights activist and star of the Golden Girls, and author Mary Higgins Clark.   Women make up over fifty percent of the population and there is no shortage of noteworthy women writers and actors.  Why couldn’t Slate create a list of an even dozen “Culturally Relevant Octogenarians” (six men and six women) and for starters they could have included 82-year-old Maya Angelou.   Why not email Sam Schlinkert care of Slate, express your concern, and give him suggestions of women to include?  Only by calling out journalists who are blind to the issues of gender parity, can we change the destiny of the next generation of women.

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Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE

by Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE
November 30, 2010 · Comments Off  

On November 24, the day before Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Lily Blau wrote an interesting commentary for the Huffington Post on the almost total lack of female character balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (And You Thought You Had Thanksgiving Off: Gender Inequality in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade). Only ten giant female character balloons have been built since the inception of the parade in 1924. Macy’s has built 112 giant character balloons, yet less 10 percent of the balloons created are of female characters.  A dismal record considering over half the United States population is women and Macy’s primary customer base is women. You could argue that the dearth of female balloons is due to the fact that it took decades for Macy’s to introduce its first female character (Olive Oyl, 1982), but an analysis of the giant helium balloons showcased in this year’s parade paints an equally dismal picture.

There were 15 giant character balloons in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Buzz Lightyear, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Horton the Elephant, Kermit the Frog, Pikachu with Pokeball, Pillsbury Doughboy, Kung Fu Panda, Ronald McDonald, Sailor Mickey, Shrek, Smurf, Snoopy as Flying Ace, Spider-Man, Spongebob SquarePants and Super Cute Hello Kitty. Note that the only female character balloon in this year’s parade was Hello Kitty.  There were thirteen male character balloons and one sexually ambiguous balloon (Pikachu with Pokeball).  In terms of percentages only seven percent of this year’s giant balloon characters were female while eighty seven percent of the giant character balloons in this years parade were male.  That’s an eighty percent visibility gap (87% – 7% = 80%), not the kind of number anyone raising a daughter wants to see in 2010.   In addition to giant character balloons, this year’s Macy’s parade also included 43 smaller novelty balloons and balloonicles.  This year’s new additions included a balloonicle of  Kool-Aid Man,  and smaller balloons of Takashi Murakami’s sexually ambiguous Kiki and KaiKai,  and Yes, Virginia, modeled after nine year old Virginia O’Hanlon,  who wrote the editor of the New York Sun about the existence of Santa Claus.

What I find particularly disturbing in Macy’s selection of balloon subjects is Macy’s selection of “only half” of famous pairs.  Macy’s built its first balloon of Mickey Mouse in 1934 and has created a total of four giant Mickey balloons, the most recent being Sailor Mickey which appeared in this year’s parade.  Yet Macy’s has never built a balloon of Minnie Mouse, even though Disney currently presents Mickey and Minnie as a pair in their theme parks.  Similarly, Macy’s created a balloon of Donald Duck (1962), but never created a balloon of his sweetheart Daisy.  Fred Flintstone has his own balloon but his wife Wilma does not.  Macy’s has built three balloons of Superman (1939, 1966, 1982) and two balloons of Spiderman (1987, 2009), but Macy’s has never built a balloon of Wonder Woman or any other female super hero.  There’s a balloon of a Smurf (2008) but not of Smurfette.  Bart Simpson is represented by a giant helium balloon but his sister and counterpart, Lisa Simpson, was passed over.  Macy’s created a balloon of Charlie Brown (2002), and even built a giant balloon of the elusive football to accompany Charlie, but Macy’s forgot to build a balloon of girl who held the football, Lucy. Lots of famous cartoon characters and toys have their own balloon including Mr. Potato Head (2005) but Macy’s did not build a balloon of Mrs. Potato Head.  Macy’s also built two versions of Kermit the Frog (1977, 2002) but has not created a giant helium balloon of the colorful and beloved Miss Piggy.  Why does Macy’s ALWAYS pick the male part of a famous pair?

Who is the most re-introduced character in the Macy’s giant balloon line-up?  It’s Snoopy!  Macy’s has built six different versions of this male dog including Flying Ace Snoopy which appeared in this year’s parade.  Not a single female character has been introduced more than once.   It’s interesting to note that if you add the number of renditions of Mickey and Snoopy produced by Macy’s, it is equal to the total number of female character balloons created in the entire history of the parade.  Finally in the interest of patriotism, Macy’s has created a balloon of Uncle Sam in 1938 and then introduced a new version of Uncle Sam seventy years later but has never created a balloon of Lady Liberty.

As a psychologist, do I think the omission of giant female character balloons from the Macy’s parade is important?  You bet.  It reinforces in the minds of the millions of girls that watch the parade a message they receive in subtle and insidious ways every single day.  Girls don’t matter.

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