August 30, 2015


My Granddaughter, Elizabeth,
Rocking the Vote at MOHAI
      Fortunately, we made it to the MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) exhibit on “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” when the tour came to Seattle. I learned more the impact women had on the enactment of the two amendments to the Constitution regarding prohibition: first the eighteenth amendment to prohibit it, and later the twenty-first amendment to repeal the earlier amendment and permit alcohol consumption once again.

     I had known that the Suffrage Movement and the Prohibition Movement coincided and both were led by women, but I had not realized before how intertwined they were. Alcohol consumption in the early part of the twentieth century was much more extreme than it is today. The average drinker guzzled the equivalent of 90 bottles of 80-proof liquor a year (four shots a day), and its impact was felt largely by women. The women (and men) who pushed for prohibition used grisly statistics, emphasizing the deleterious effects of alcohol on family and on women. They asserted that men went into saloons, where women were not allowed, drank up their paychecks, came home affected by liquor, and wreaked havoc and even abuse on home life. Alcohol directly endangered women and their children, so the movement was led largely by women.

     Women, however, were not na├»ve. They knew they were unlikely to persuade men to give up their alcohol and men made the laws. Men even held political meetings in saloons, where women were barred. Women had long wanted the vote, but realized that the time was ripe to renew the fight for suffrage. And so the two were wed. The eighteenth amendment banning alcohol took effect in 1920. The nineteenth amendment, granting women the right to vote, was ratified later that same year.

     If anyone remembers stories of the history of the 20’s, they were swinging times and yet alcohol was forbidden for the entire decade and a few years beyond. Access to inebriating beverages, however, did not disappear. Some alcohol was legal. Sacramental wine was exempt and so was alcohol for “medicinal” purposes. The number of drugstores and pharmacies increased and women were able too purchase Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a 14-oz. bottle with 10.6% alcohol, for “female complaints.”

     Illegal alcohol also abounded. Homemade brew became acceptable, as did the speakeasy, a place where, with the right password or nod of the head, one could be admitted to clubs filled with dancing and liquor. The irony was that women were allowed in the speakeasy, whereas they hadn’t been allowed in saloons. So, women gained the right to vote and the right to drink as well. Perhaps this is why women were as active in the movement to repeal prohibition as they had been in the efforts to secure its implementation. And perhaps, once they had gotten inside a drinking establishment, it was their tempering influence that kept alcohol consumption below the levels of the early part of the century, even after the amendment was repealed.

August 4, 2015

A Woman's World in 1960

Offbeat is a website with slide shows, surrounded by ads. Sometimes they are clever art, sometimes historical facts, sometimes the inevitable cat pictures. In order to grab attention, they often have eye-catching titles, like “30 Terrifying Mythical Monsters that People have actually Believed in” or “19 Historical Coincidences that sound too Bizarre to be True—but are.”

Recently, thanks to Facebook, I encountered a quiz about what women could and could not do in 1960. Here’s a partial list:


·      A woman could not cohabitate with her boyfriend.
·      A woman could not serve on a jury.


·      A woman could not have a credit card in her own name. The account had to be in
          her husband’s name.
·      A woman could not become an astronaut.
·      A woman could not attend Princeton or Yale as an undergraduate.
·      A woman could not run in the Boston Marathon.


·      A woman could not charge her husband with rape.
·      In some states, a woman did not have the right to use contraceptives with her husband.


·      A woman could be denied paid maternity leave.
·      A woman could not sue her workplace for sexual harassment.
·      A woman could be fired when she got pregnant.
·      AND, a woman could be denied a job—for being a woman.

For those women who don’t remember 1960, ask your grandmothers about that year. This is how life was for them. It was only 55 years ago. Thank them for helping to bring about the changes that keep women from living under these same conditions today.

July 26, 2015

Mark Kelly, Husband

In the days of my young adulthood women were identified in conjunction with their husbands. For example, a newspaper might mention “Mary Brown, wife of John Brown.” Times have changed and many women stand in their own right, without reference to husbands or partners, but I was surprised last Friday to hear the tables turned.

On the PBS Newshour, during the part of the program my husband and I refer to as “the pundits’ section,” Judy Woodruff, while talking with commentators Mark Shields and David Brooks, referred to a statement made by “Mark Kelly, wife of Gabby Giffords.” Not Mark Kelly, former astronaut. Not Mark Kelly, former Navy captain. Not Mark Kelly, brother of Scott Kelly, who is in space for a year, while Mark comprises the control group back on this planet. No, “Mark Kelly, wife of Gabby Giffords.”

Granted the topic was gun control and Mark Kelly, after his wife was almost assassinated, is now an advocate for some gun control measures. For that reason, it was a natural description, but it was so unusual it surprised me. Do you think Bill Clinton will become the “husband of Hillary Clinton?”

June 28, 2015

What a Soccer Star Looks Like

          In a recent issue of Time, Alex Morgan was the subject of the magazine’s featured interview. Even those readers like myself who don’t usually keep up with soccer, might have heard her name recently. The United States soccer team has just won the World Cup quarterfinals, and Alex Morgan is one of the team’s stars.  

          In 2011, she was the youngest player on the United States team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 2012, she scored the game-winning goal in a semifinal match against Canada and became an Olympic gold medalist. That same year she joined Mia Hamm’s record in accumulating goals and assists. This was the year that she was honored as one of the top three women players in the world.

          In the Time interview, she recalls attending the FIFA World Player of the Year event in 2012, where she learned that Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, did not know who she was. One of the top three women in soccer and the head of the soccer organization did not know her. Now many of you may know the name Sepp Blatter because, even though you—like myself—may not follow soccer, his name has been plastered all over the news recently when he resigned as president of FIFA after the organization was exposed for taking bribes when awarding the site for the World Cup.

          This little blog post is an effort to help make Alex Morgan’s name better known outside her usual circle of enthusiastic fans. Maybe she will become as well known as Sepp Blatter. (It’s so hard not to make a disgusting pun on that name!) And maybe she will be famous for good sportsmanship, rather than dishonesty.

April 12, 2015

Book Recommendation: Women in World War II

Kathryn Atwood’s book Women Heroes of World War II is a story of the strength of women in even the most terrifying circumstances. The book’s subtitle explains the content: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. Women from seven European countries and the United States are included.

In short readable chapters, filled with tension, Atwood tells the tales of women who hid Jews, engaged in espionage, went into ghettos and tuberculosis asylums to rescue children, and spread forbidden propaganda. The women also worked in the Resistance throughout Europe, were recruited into Britain’s SOE and the United States’ OSS (precursor of the CIA), sent coded radio messages, rescued airmen, and provided false identification papers. They entertained, and reported, comforted and cured. They organized and provided leadership. Some were later acknowledged and rewarded. Some were killed for their efforts, but a surprising number of those in the book lived to what we call a “ripe, old age.”

It made me wonder if the adrenalin that must have flowed through their bodies as they were almost captured and risked their lives might be a secret elixir of life. But, then perhaps it is simply a matter of perspective. There are only 26 stories in this book, but there must be many more. Perhaps only those who lived long lives could finally put their dangerous and gruesome memories behind them and tell their stories.

February 27, 2015

Keeping Things in Perspective

We are remodeling our kitchen and family room—and have been for two months now. It was a gut-and-start-over process. Our living and dining rooms are filled with boxes and furniture, all under plastic, and we have been relegated to the upstairs. The guest bedroom is now a pantry with a microwave. The guest bath is now a kitchen, and the bedroom contains our dining area. It is inconvenient and crowded but I can’t help believing we are fortunate, and not just because we have the means to do this.

Our “kitchen” sink is hardly large enough for one plate, but we have hot water and soap. I picture the women in Vietnam, squatting on their haunches outside their homes, washing dishes in cold water from an outdoor faucet. And I believe I am blessed!

Our refrigerator holds only a tiny tray of ice cubes and not much else, but there is room for the white
wine bottle. I picture the women of Africa who must walk miles each day to find water, then cook over an open fire, waving their fans to keep away the bugs. And I believe I am blessed!

Our “dining” table is in our bedroom, not really big enough for both of us to read the morning paper. I picture the women who crowd their entire families into one room where they all sleep together. And I know I am blessed!

With a tiny refrigerator (and the tiny food prep area in this picture) we must grocery shop almost
every day and I give thanks for the blessing of being able to refrigerate food at all. Shopping so often seems a burden; I wonder why it’s such a pleasure when we are in Italy. The hardest part has been making an effort to eat our usual diet of healthy food. It is no wonder some women must feed their children substandard diets. Most of all, I have missed fresh vegetables. They just don’t taste the same coming out of a microwave or as a side dish in a restaurant. Blessings on the neighbor who invited us over the other day for squash and asparagus!

The plants from downstairs had to be moved. The cactus moved to the master bath, but it was not happy as you can see from the yellow leaves. It did bloom, however--three whole blossoms. Perhaps it was trying to keep up with the orchid. Or perhaps just giving us another blessing!

January 27, 2015

Women's Share is Growing: Is it Enough?

According to a report just issued by the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO), women’s representation in leadership of the workforce is growing. The number of businesses owned or managed by women is increasing, with women heading 30% of businesses in the world. 

Source: dianabuja's blog
Women, however, are most often found at the helm of small businesses, many of them micro ventures; and the larger the business the less likely a woman will head it. Only 5% of the world’s largest corporations are run by women.

On the corporate board level, all-male boards are decreasing. In Norway, over 13% of the companies have women as company chairpersons. And next is Turkey.

Biggest Surprise? The highest percentage of women managers is in Jamaica.

No Surprise: The lowest percentage of women managers is in Yemen.

Our Ranking: The United States is 15th

Deborah France-Massin, director of the ILO’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities, says that the inclusion of women is the “biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness.” However, she warns, at our present rate, “it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top.”