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  • GirlSpring.com, Interview, Shero, Sheroes, work

    Shero Debra Des Vignes, Indiana Prison Writers Workshop

    Debra Vignes photo

    We are always on the lookout for Sheroes and stumbled across Debra Des Vignes and this very cool program and wanted to share!

    1) Can you explain in layman’s terms what exactly is the Indiana Prison Writers Workshop?
    Indiana Prison Writers Workshop is a not-for-profit whose mission is to improve the lives of those incarcerated through creative writing and expression. Through a 12-week curriculum volunteer instructors provide 15-minute writing prompts to prisoners on a range of topics and themes and share prose by literary greats like Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and Maya Angelou. Each workshop includes discussion of the elements of writing and offenders read their work aloud and hear constructive criticism on their work. In between weekly classes, offenders spend time on bigger writing assignments. The goal is for them to use their critical-thinking skills and gain greater empathy by understanding differences through stories and experiences.


    2) How did you get into this line of work?
    I became interested in working with this underserved population after volunteering at a correctional facility. It was there that I could see the true power of words. I believed it could be transformative and healing for the men. And so, I began the creative writing workshop in October 2017, and was able to spend one-year working with the same group of offenders each week. It became a safe space. Since then, the program has spread into three Indiana correctional facilities – in partnership with Indiana Department of Correction – and my support team includes three talented and dedicated writing volunteers – who also bring in monthly guests such as poets, rappers, and community leaders. And while I no longer lead group workshops, I support the volunteers under the program who do and help share the written work produced in their classrooms.


    3) What has been the most positive outcome of this experience for the participants?
    To learn that people do believe in them and to see their achievements come out in the stories they write. We had one offender write a novel in prison and gave credit to the workshop for accomplishing this. I enjoy engaging with program followers who view the prisoners as talented and creative beings.

    4) What has been the most rewarding part of it for you?
    To see the glimmer of hope in a man’s eyes after he’s written or expressed something challenging or difficult to write about. To know these men can re-write their own life’s script. To watch a man leave the program better equipped to face the world.


    5) What is your advice to girls who may have parents that are incarcerated – in terms of forgiveness?

    Stay strong, but also find forgiveness and understanding in your heart. We all make mistakes; some are greater than others. Write about your pain or talk to someone.

    Debra Vignes Photo

    6) Do you feel like you are personally ever at risk working with inmates?
    No, they treat me with respect. It means a lot to them to be accepted.


    7) What is your advice to girls who want to pursue non-traditional fields?
    Follow the path you are most interested in and know that it’s OK to change the direction of your life at any time. Complacency is foreign to me. There’s risk in pursuing something new. Oftentimes, the things we’re most passionate about take us out of our comfort zone. It did for me. There was a lot of discomfort and growing pains until it evened out and I started to believe in my own work and see the value in it. Go all in! An offender once told me, “Go big or go home.” He was referring to a decision to get a tattoo – but you see my point. When I “went big” and started building the prison creative writing program – that’s when things really started to change for me. At first, I tried to run the program while holding down a full-time job. I’m also a wife, mother, and a boxer. I realized I couldn’t do it all. This must be a challenge all creatives face at some point as they enter a new space. It takes a good deal of inner-strength, grit, and perseverance. One may get disapproving eyes and/or feel the weight of making enough money. But know, we need more creatives in the world. We desperately need these game-changers.

    A woman with drive is a strong woman.
    A woman who remains playful and focused is a strong woman.

    Nigerian Poet Ben Okri in his book, “A Way of Being Free” wrote: “The artist should never lose the spirit of play. It is curious how sometimes the biggest tasks are best approached tangentially, with a smile in the soul.”

    8) Did you ever see yourself doing this when you were in high school?
    No. In high school I had no direction. I had no clear path, vision, or goal of what my future would look like. I was sort of a rebel. I was fortunate that in college (California State University Northridge) I was selected as an apprentice at ABC-7 News, a television news station in Los Angeles. It was there that my love for journalism began. I went on to work as a Television news reporter for a decade covering the crime and courts beat at different stations around the country. In a way, I was destined to do this work; to help offenders prepare for re-entry through writing – having covered crime for so long. You can’t break the cycle unless you head into the ring.

    — Find Indiana Prison Writers Workshop on Facebook to learn of activities, happenings, and events and also read stories written by offenders.


    — Read their stories in a book I just published, Sunday Sweet Sunday, available on Amazon.


    — Find us at inprisonwritersworkshop.org

  • Book Review, Celebrities, GirlSpring.com, Shero, Woman's History

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Book Review Michelle Obama

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Although Becoming was released in November of 2018, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had the opportunity to read it. A memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Becoming is organized into three sections, “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More,” that bring readers on Mrs. Obama’s journey through several key elements of her life, including her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her marriage and life with Barack Obama and their daughters, and her experience as the First Lady of the United States of America. I have always loved hearing Michelle Obama speak, and that same strong, intelligent, and elegant voice is portrayed in her writing. I found Becoming to be a very engaging memoir, and there were many important takeaways I had from reading it.

    1. Be aware of your surroundings and any changes that may be occurring: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always a very observant and opinionated individual. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama discusses that the area wasn’t always as Black-populated as it is now. When she was in elementary school, her class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School had a fair number of white students as well, but the number of non-black students dwindled significantly as the years passed because more and more white families were moving to the suburbs. Through her observations and awareness of the concept of race from a young age, Mrs. Obama was able to become a more thoughtful and societally-competent individual. She would take these experiences and ideas into the future as a law student and woman of great power.

    2. People with authority may not always be correct: When Michelle Obama was in her senior year of high school and applying to colleges, her school guidance counselor told her that she wasn’t “Princeton material.” Instead of taking this as a set-back, Mrs. Obama stayed confident and reached out to other individuals in her school and community to help support her through the process. She successfully gained admission to Princeton University, the school of her choice, proving to herself (and to her guidance counselor) that she was, in fact, Princeton material. Big takeaway: it’s important to always believe in yourself and not let one’s title intimidate you.

    3. Don’t underestimate yourself just because the people around you seem smarter. At Princeton, Michelle Obama found herself to be a definite minority, both as an African American student and as a woman. Princeton, primarily white and male, was intimidating at first and Mrs. Obama felt that she may not belong. However, as she immersed herself in her classes and participated in the discussions, she realized that although the other students may have had a stronger educational foundation than she did, that didn’t make them smarter than her. Michelle Obama realized that she was a valuable member of the classroom, and this helped her succeed as a student at Princeton.

    4. Do what makes you happy. Life may be shorter than you think. One of Michelle Obama’s closest friends at Princeton was a woman named Suzanne Alele. Joining college as a pre-med student to satisfy her parents’ wishes, Suzanne soon realized that it wasn’t the path for her. She was lighthearted and loved parties, and she did what made her happy. Suzanne decided to travel after her years at Princeton, and Michelle Obama initially thought Suzanne wasn’t making the best use of her Princeton education. However, when Suzanne lost her fight to cancer and died at a very young age, Mrs. Obama felt that it was good that Suzanne had spent her life being free-spirited and doing the things she loved. Life may be shorter than we think, so we should always work to live each day the way we want.

    5. It’s okay to not always have a plan: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always very keen on organization and having a plan. Describing her journey from Princeton to Harvard Law School to her job as a lawyer at the firm Sidley Austin, she tells readers that she compared her accomplishments to checking off boxes on big list of plans for her life. However, this changed after she met Barack Obama, who was spontaneous and chose to pursue his interests and take life as it came. Mrs. Obama realized that life didn’t always have to be so planned out, and sometimes success could be achieved by taking advantage of opportunities that came one’s way and through hard work.

    6. It’s okay to ask for help. The transition to the White House was understandably difficult. Through words of encouragement and support from her brother Craig, Michelle Obama made the decision to move to the White House with her husband and family. She requested her mother to help her take care of Malia and Sasha during this process, allowing her to ultimately take control of and adjust to the situation without feeling extremely overwhelmed and burned out. Receiving help can allow an individual sort out their life and can actually help them be more productive.

    Both an interesting and informative read, I learned many important life lessons from Becoming. This is a very empowering book, especially for young women. Becoming is definitely a must-read, and is a great book for the summer if you haven’t already read it!

    Find it here, https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Michelle-Obama/dp/1524763136

    Looking for more good books? Check out our other book reviews, like this one by @bella_the_book_fairy, https://www.girlspring.com/?s=book+thief

    Or, check out your local library where everything is free!

  • Shero

    Faces of Feminism

    We had the honor of interviewing these two amazing young ladies, Olivia Bokesch and Callan Burton-Shore, the co-founders of Faces of Feminism after discovering them on Instagram. Their website, https://facesofeminism.org features tons of interviews with people who are asked to speak about what feminism means to them.

    Can you tell us why you wanted to start this project?

    We wanted to start this project because we experienced daily dismissal of feminist issues by people who think the cause does not pertain to them. The group that we saw this in the most was men because they often think they can’t be feminists since the traditional definition of feminism is about equal rights for womxn. We want men and others to understand that just because they have the privilege to ignore the feminist cause, does not mean they cannot still support a progressive movement for womxn’s rights. Another group that often distances themselves from feminism is the queer community, especially non-binary people, femmes, and trans women. This is because these people have historically been excluded and in some cases oppressed by feminists. We want Faces of Feminism to not only teach less educated activists about intersectional feminism and privilege, but make a space where people of all genders, sexual orientations, cultures, ethnicities, races, and levels of ability can be included in the fight for justice, especially those people who have been historically oppressed within the movement. Ultimately, we started this project to change the face of feminism. 

    Can you tell us in your own words what you think feminism is and isn’t?

    Callan: Feminism is intersectional; feminism is not exclusive. Feminism is ever changing; feminism is not stagnant. Feminism should make you think; feminism is not always comfortable.

    Olivia: Feminism is a progressive movement of open-minded, but not always like-minded people. Feminism changes over time to become more intersectional and include new definitions of what being a woman/femme/non-binary person means and to include their lifestyles.  Feminism is not made for only one gender to take part in and is not made to make anyone in the human race better than another. At its core, feminism is the equality of genders, and at its peak, feminism is the equality of all humankind.

    Can men be feminists?

    Callan: Men can absolutely be feminists. We try to get as many men involved with FOF as we possibly can! It’s a total misconception that men can’t be feminists, and it’s similar to the misconception that white people can’t fight racism. However, just like it must be when white people act against racism, when men are feminists they must take a step back and let womxn speak/act first. In every instance of inequity, there is the oppressor and the oppressed, so to be a good ally/ feminist when you are the oppressor, you must realize that the oppressed group has been fighting this war far longer than you have, and you must let them take center stage.

    Olivia: Men can be feminists because anyone can be a feminist! One of the central goals of FOF, is to teach others that you don’t have to be a cisgender woman to fight for equal rights in the name of feminism. However, like Callan said, it is important for men to know when to take a step back and listen to womxn and let them take charge of their own rights.

    Who are some feminists you admire both from history and from modern day?

    Callan: I admire activist Mona Chalabi who uses her knowledge as a data analyst to prove that injustice still exists (in spades) in the world. She makes extremely creative and captivating graphics to the present the data. I also admire Marsha P. Johnson. She was a black, transgender activist who fought in the Stonewall riots and started one of the first organizations to support non-binary and transgender youth. Lastly, I admire Stacey Abrams because she has made strides in a state that often turns red in elections. She also always prioritizes womxn’s and marginalized community issues, despite the challenges she faces as a black woman in politics. 

    Olivia: A feminist I admire from history is the writer and black queer activist, Audre Lorde. She helped to kickstart a new wave of intersectional feminism that involves any and every womxn. I highly recommend the book Sister Outsider, a collection of her personal essays and poems. A modern feminist I admire is Rebekah Bruesehoff, a 12-year-old transgender girl. After having the privilege to see her speak, I was moved to become a better and stronger ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Her powerful story and voice is constantly used to further equality for all, something this world could use a bit more of.

    What would success look like in terms of equal rights for all?

    Callan: I think full equality is a long way away, but it is important to celebrate the little successes along the way. Examples of these successes will be when equal pay is established, when queer individuals are given access to all rights and resources they need, when there is representation of ALL marginalized groups in media, when the disabled community is seen and heard, when disproportional gun violence affecting POC communities is eliminated, and when religions, such as Islam, and their places of worship are respected fully. Ultimately though I believe that it is equity, not equality, we should be striving for.

    Olivia: Full equality is a one step forward, two steps back type of deal. Progress is gained and lost daily, especially under the current United States government administration. Although it is more likely than not that the world will never reach it, full equality starts when the privileged acknowledge their historical oppression of minorities, like slavery, as well as acknowledging that many systems this world is built off of systematically oppress and take advantage of marginalized groups. Equal rights for all will take many more decades of unlearning and relearning the world as we know it today.

  • Shero, Sheroes, TRENDING, Video

    Check Out Our SherOCTOBER Sheros!

    GirlSpring is seeking extraordinary girls (13-18) to be featured in our Sheroctober video series! 31 videos of sheroes will be selected and displayed on our website and social media throughout the month of October. This is your chance to shine! Build up your digital portfolio and let others know what you are doing that is special! All participants will be part of a compilation video celebrating girls in Birmingham!

    A shero is someone extraordinary and is in general making the world a better place! This could be someone who has started a community initiative, shown academic achievement, overcome adversity, is enhancing the wellbeing of others or using their artistic talents to be a positive change agent in this world. The possibilities are endless!

    Shero Criteria:

    • Girls ages 13-18 years old
    • Nomination from a non-relative
    • Access to an electronic device with video and audio features
    • A standout reason for her sheroism

    How to Submit:

    • Create a video clip (2 minutes max) acknowledging that you (can be more than one person) has been recognized as a shero, addressing what you do that makes you a shero, explain why we need sheroes in the world, and if you have any heroes in your life.
    • Videos should be interview-style, but feel free to be creative with background music and any other artistic and fun elements! MAKE IT FUN!
    • If using a cell phone, please turn horizontally when filming.
    • Upload videos to youtube, vimeo, or dropbox and include public link on the application form.
    • In addition to the Shero video, all submissions must include a second, separate video clip with the following phrase “My name is __________. I am a shero. We are Birmingham.”
    • Submit a nomination form and link to videos by September 28th to be considered.

    Nominees will be notified by October 1st if their video is going to be featured.

    Questions? Email [email protected]

  • Shero, TRENDING, Woman's History

    FAMOUS FIRSTS IN WOMEN’S HISTORY

    American women’s history has been full of pioneers: Women who fought for their rights, worked hard to be treated equally and made great strides in fields like science, politics, sports, literature and art. These are just a few of the remarkable accomplishments that historians not to mention people across the United States celebrate.

    What “Famous Firsts” will American women achieve next?

     

    First women’s-rights convention meets in Seneca Falls, New York, 1848

    In July 1848, some 240 men and women gathered in upstate New York for a meeting convened, said organizers, “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” One hundred of the delegates–68 women and 32 men–signed a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, declaring that women, like men, were citizens with an “inalienable right to the elective franchise.” The Seneca Falls Convention marked the beginning of the campaign for woman suffrage.

    Wyoming Territory is first to grant women the vote, 1869

    In 1869, Wyoming’s territorial legislature declared that “every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may at every election…cast her vote.” Though Congress lobbied hard against it, Wyoming’s women kept their right to vote when the territory became a state in 1890. In 1924, the state’s voters elected the nation’s first female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross.

    Californian Julia Morgan is first woman admitted to the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris, 1898

    The 26-year-old Morgan had already earned a degree in civil engineering from Berkeley, where she was one of just 100 female students in the entire university (and the only female engineer). After she received her certification in architecture from the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, the best architecture school in the world, Morgan returned to California. There, she became the first woman licensed to practice architecture in the state and an influential champion of the Arts and Crafts movement. Though she is most famous for building the “Hearst Castle,” a massive compound for the publisher William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon, California, Morgan designed more than 700 buildings in her long career. She died in 1957.

    Margaret Sanger opens first birth-control clinic in the United States, 1916

    In October 1916, the nurse and women’s-rights activist Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth-control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Since state “Comstock Laws” banned contraceptives and the dissemination of information about them, Sanger’s clinic was illegal; as a result, on October 26, the city vice squad raided the clinic, arresting its staff and seizing its stock of diaphragms and condoms. Sanger tried to reopen the clinic twice more, but police forced her landlord to evict her the next month, closing it for good. In 1921, Sanger formed the American Birth Control League, the organization that eventually became Planned Parenthood.

    Edith Wharton is the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, 1921

    Wharton won the prize for her 1920 novel The Age of Innocence. Like many of Wharton’s books, The Age of Innocence was a critique of the insularity and hypocrisy of the upper class in turn-of-the-century New York. The book has inspired several stage and screen adaptations, and the writer Cecily Von Ziegesar has said that it was the model for her popular Gossip Girl series of books.

    Activist Alice Paul proposes the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time, 1923

    For almost 50 years, women’s-rights advocates like Alice Paultried to get Congress to approve the amendment; finally, in 1972, they succeeded. In March of that year, Congress sent the proposed amendment–“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”–to the states for ratification. Twenty-two of the required 38 states ratified it right away, but then conservative activists mobilized against it. (The ERA’s straightforward language hid all kinds of sinister threats, they claimed: It would force wives to support their husbands, send women into combat and validate gay marriages.) This anti-ratification campaign was a success: In 1977, Indiana became the 35th and last state to ratify the ERA. In June 1982, the ratification deadline expired. The amendment has never been passed.

    Amelia Earhart is the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane, 1928

    After that first trip across the ocean, which took more than 20 hours, Earhart became a celebrity: She won countless awards, got a ticker-tape parade down Broadway, wrote a best-selling book about her famous flight and became an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1937, Earhart attempted to be the first female pilot to fly around the world, and the first pilot of any gender to circumnavigate the globe at its widest point, the Equator. Along with her navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart successfully hopscotched from Miami to Brazil, Africa, India and Australia. Six weeks after they began their journey, Earhart and Noonan left New Guinea for the U.S. territory of Howland Island, but they never arrived. No trace of Earhart, Noonan or their plane was ever found.

    The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.

    – Oprah

     

    Frances Perkins becomes the first female member of a Presidential cabinet, 1933

    Perkins, a sociologist and Progressive reformer in New York, served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor. She kept her job until 1945.

    The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League becomes the first professional baseball league for female players, 1943

    Women had been playing professional baseball for decades: Starting in the 1890s, gender-integrated “Bloomer Girls” teams (named after the feminist Amelia Bloomer) traveled around the country, challenging men’s teams to games–and frequently winning. As the men’s minor leagues expanded, however, playing opportunities for Bloomer Girls decreased, and the last of the teams called it quits in 1934. But by 1943, so many major-league stars had joined the armed services and gone off to war that stadium owners and baseball executives worried that the game would never recover. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was the solution to this problem: It would keep ballparks filled and fans entertained until the war was over. For 12 seasons, more than 600 women played for the league’s teams, including the Racine (Wisconsin) Belles, the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Chicks and the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daisies. The AAGPBL disbanded in 1954.

    The FDA announces its approval of “The Pill,” the first birth-control drug, 1960

    In October 1959, the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle applied for a license from the federal Food and Drug Administration to sell its drug Enovid, a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, for use as an oral contraceptive. FDA approval was not guaranteed: For one thing, the agency was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing doctors to prescribe drugs to healthy people; for another, the young bureaucrat assigned to the case was fixated on moral and religious, not scientific, objections to the pill. Despite all this, Enovid was approved for short-term use in October 1960.

    Janet Guthrie is the first woman to drive in the Indy 500, 1977

    Guthrie was an aerospace engineer, training to be an astronaut, when she was cut from the space program because she didn’t have her PhD. She turned to car racing instead and became the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Mechanical difficulties forced her out of the 1977 Indy race, but the next year she finished in ninth place (with a broken wrist!). The helmet and suit that Guthrie wore in her first Indy race are on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

    President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first woman on the Supreme Court, 1981

    O’Connor was confirmed that September. She did not have much judicial experience when she began her Supreme Court term—she had only been a judge for a few years and had never served on a federal court—but she soon made a name for herself as one of the Court’s most thoughtful centrists. O’Connor retired in 2006.

    Joan Benoit wins the first women’s Olympic Marathon, 1984

    At the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Joan Benoit (today known as Joan Benoit Samuelson) finished the first-ever women’s marathon in 2:24.52. She finished 400 meters ahead of the silver medalist, Norway’s Grete Waitz.

    Manon Rheaume is the first woman to play in an NHL game, 1992

    Manon Rheaume, a goalie from Quebec City, Canada, was no stranger to firsts: She was well-known for being the first female player to take the ice in a major boys’ junior hockey game. In 1992, Rheaume was the starting goalie for the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lighting in a preseason exhibition game, making her the first woman to play in any of the major men’s sports leagues in the U.S. In that game, she deflected seven of nine shots; however, she was taken out of the game early and never played in a regular-season game. Rheaume led the Canadian women’s national team to victory in the 1992 and 1994 World Hockey Championships. The team also won silver at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

    Madeleine Albright becomes the first female Secretary of State, 1997

    In January 1997, the international-relations expert Madeleine K. Albright was sworn in as the United States’ 64th Secretary of State. She was the first woman to hold that job, which made her the highest-ranking woman in the federal government’s history. Before President Bill Clinton asked her to be part of his Cabinet, Albright had served as the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In 2004, Condoleezza Rice became the second woman–and first African-American woman to hold the job. Five years later, in January 2009, the former Senator (and First Lady) Hillary Rodham Clinton became the third female Secretary of State.

    Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, 2010

    The American film director Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 film “The Hurt Locker” garnered six Oscars on March 7, 2010, including the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Written by Mark Boal, a former journalist who covered the war in Iraq, the movie follows an Army bomb squad unit as they conduct dangerous missions and battle personal demons in war-torn Baghdad. Bigelow, whose previous films include “Strange Days” and “Point Break,” was the first woman to take home the Best Director distinction. She triumphed over her former husband, James Cameron, whose science fiction epic “Avatar” was another presumed front-runner.

    Hillary Clinton becomes first female presidential nominee of a major party, 2016

    On July 26, 2016, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state was officially nominated as the Democratic nominee, becoming the first woman from a major party to achieve that feat. Clinton had previously mounted an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008 (before losing to Barack Obama in the Democratic primary), and fought off a strong challenge by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 before clinching the glass ceiling-breaking nomination.

  • Shero, TRENDING, Woman's History

    WOMEN WHO FOUGHT FOR THE VOTE

    On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. For almost 100 years, women (and men) had been fighting to win that right: They had made speeches, signed petitions, marched in parades and argued over and over again that women, like men, deserved all of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The leaders of this campaign did not always agree with one another–in fact, sometimes their disagreements threatened to derail their movement–but each was committed to the enfranchisement of all American women.

    SUSAN B. ANTHONY, 1820-1906

    Perhaps the most well-known women’s rights activist in history, Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, to a Quaker family in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts. Anthony was raised to be independent and outspoken: Her parents, like many Quakers, believed that men and women should study, live and work as equals and should commit themselves equally to the eradication of cruelty and injustice in the world.

    Did You Know?

    Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived in a part of upstate New York that would become known as the “Burnt District” or the “Burned-Over District” because it was home to so many religious revivals, utopian crusades and reform movements: They swept through the region, people said, as unstoppably as a forest fire.

    Before she joined the campaign for woman suffrage, Anthony was a temperance activist in Rochester, New York, where she was a teacher at a girls’ school. As a Quaker, she believed that drinking alcohol was a sin; moreover, she believed that (male) drunkenness was particularly hurtful to the innocent women and children who suffered from the poverty and violence it caused. However, Anthony found that few politicians took her anti-liquor crusade seriously, both because she was a woman and because she was advocating on behalf of a “women’s issue.” Women needed the vote, she concluded, so that they could make certain that the government kept women’s interests in mind.

    In 1853, Anthony began to campaign for the expansion of married women’s property rights; in 1856, she joined the American Anti-Slavery Society, delivering abolitionist lectures across New York State. Though Anthony was dedicated to the abolitionist cause and genuinely believed that African-American men and women deserved the right to vote, after the Civil War ended she refused to support any suffrage amendments to the Constitution unless they granted the franchise to women as well as men.

    This led to a dramatic schism in the women’s-rights movement between activists like Anthony, who believed that no amendment granting the vote to African Americans should be ratified unless it also granted the vote to women (proponents of this point of view formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association), and those who were willing to support an immediate expansion of the citizenship rights of former slaves, even if it meant they had to keep fighting for universal suffrage. (Proponents of this point of view formed a group called the American Woman Suffrage Association.)

    This animosity eventually faded, and in 1890 the two groups joined to form a new suffrage organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was NAWSA’s first president; Anthony was its second. She continued to fight for the vote until she died on March 13, 1906.

    ALICE PAUL, 1885-1977

    Alice Paul was the leader of the most militant wing of the woman-suffrage movement. Born in 1885 to a wealthy Quaker family in New Jersey, Paul was well-educated–she earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College and a PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania–and determined to win the vote by any means necessary.

    While she was in graduate school, Paul spent time in London, where she joined the suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst’s radical, confrontational Women’s Social and Political Union and learned how to use civil disobedience and other “unladylike” tactics to draw attention to her cause. When she returned to the United States in 1910, Paul brought those militant tactics to the well-established National American Woman Suffrage Association. There, as the chair of NAWSA’s Congressional Committee, she began to agitate for the passage of a federal suffrage amendment to the Constitution like the one her hero Susan B. Anthony had wanted so badly to see.

    On March 3, 1913, Paul and her colleagues coordinated an enormous suffrage parade to coincide with–and distract from–President Wilson’s inauguration. More marches and protests followed. The more conservative women at NAWSA soon grew frustrated with publicity stunts like these, and in 1914 Paul left the organization and started her own, the Congressional Union (which soon became the National Woman’s Party). Even after the U.S. entered World War I, the NWP kept up its flamboyant protests, even staging a seven-month picket of the White House.

    For this “unpatriotic” act, Paul and the rest of the NWP suffragists were arrested and imprisoned. Along with some of the other activists, Paul was placed in solitary confinement; then, when they went on a hunger strike to protest this unfair treatment, the women were force-fed for as long as three weeks. These abuses did not have their intended effect: Once news of the mistreatment got out, public sympathy swung to the side of the imprisoned activists and they soon were released.

    In January 1918, President Wilson announced his support for a constitutional amendment that would give all female citizens the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, making it law.

    In 1920, Alice Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. (“Men and women,” it read, “shall have equal rights throughout the United States.”) The ERA has never been ratified.

    ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, 1815-1902

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the foremost women’s-rights activists and philosophers of the 19th century. Born on November 12, 1815, to a prominent family in upstate New York, Elizabeth Cady was surrounded by reform movements of all kinds. Soon after her marriage to abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840, the pair traveled to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where they were turned away: Female delegates, they were told, were unwelcome.

    This injustice convinced Stanton that women needed to pursue equality for themselves before they could seek it for others. In the summer of 1848, she–along with the abolitionist and temperance activist Lucretia Mott and a handful of other reformers–organized the first women’s-rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Some 240 men and women gathered to discuss what Stanton and Mott called “the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” One hundred of the delegates–68 women and 32 men–signed a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, declaring that women were citizens equal to men with “an inalienable right to the elective franchise.” The Seneca Falls Convention marked the beginning of the campaign for woman suffrage.

    Like Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was a committed abolitionist; however, she too refused to compromise on the principle of universal suffrage. As a result, she campaigned against the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed black men the right to vote but denied it to women.

    After the fight over the 14th and 15th Amendments, Stanton continued to push for women’s political equality–but she believed in a much broader vision of women’s rights. She advocated for the reform of marriage and divorce laws, the expansion of educational opportunities for girls and even the adoption of less confining clothing (such as the pants-and-tunic ensemble popularized by the activist Amelia Bloomer) so that women could be more active. She also campaigned against the oppression of women in the name of religion–“From the inauguration of the movement for woman’s emancipation,” she wrote, “the Bible has been used to hold her in the ‘divinely ordained sphere’”–and in 1895 published the first volume of a more egalitarian Woman’s Bible.

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902. Today, a statue of Stanton, with fellow women’s rights activists Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott stands in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

    LUCY STONE, 1818-1893

    Lucy Stone, born in Massachusetts in 1818, was a pioneering abolitionist and women’s-rights activist, but she is perhaps best known for refusing to change her last name when she married the abolitionist Henry Blackwell in 1855. (This tradition, the couple declared, “refuse[d] to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being” and “confer[red] on the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority.”)

    After she graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, Stone became a traveling lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society–advocating, she said, “not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex.” She continued her activism on behalf of abolitionism and women’s rights until 1857, when she retired from the anti-slavery lecture circuit to care for her baby daughter.

    After the Civil War, advocates of woman suffrage faced a dilemma: Should they hold firm to their demand for universal suffrage or should they endorse–even celebrate–the 15th Amendment while they kept up their own campaign for the franchise? Some suffragists, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, chose the former, scorning the 15th Amendment while forming the National Woman Suffrage Association to try and win the passage of a federal universal-suffrage amendment. Stone, on the other hand, supported the 15th Amendment; at the same time, she helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association, which fought for woman suffrage on a state-by-state basis.

    In 1871, Stone and Blackwell began to publish the weekly feminist newspaper The Woman’s Journal. Stone died in 1893, 27 years before American women won the right to vote. The Woman’s Journal survived until 1931.

    IDA B. WELLS, 1862-1931

    Ida B. Wells, born in Mississippi in 1862, is perhaps best known for her work as a crusading journalist and anti-lynching activist. While working as a schoolteacher in Memphis, Wells wrote for the city’s black newspaper, The Free Speech. Her writings exposed and condemned the inequalities and injustices that were so common in the Jim Crow South: disfranchisement, segregation, lack of educational and economic opportunity for African-Americans, and especially the arbitrary violence that white racists used to intimidate and control their black neighbors.

    Wells’s insistence on publicizing the evils of lynching, in particular, won her many enemies in the South, and in 1892 she left Memphis for good when an angry mob wrecked the offices of The Free Speech and warned that they would kill her if she ever came back. Wells moved north but kept writing about racist violence in the former Confederacy, campaigning for federal anti-lynching laws (which were never passed) and organizing on behalf of many civil rights causes, including woman suffrage.

    In March 1913, as Wells prepared to join the suffrage parade through President Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural celebration, organizers asked her to stay out of the procession: Some of the white suffragists, it seemed, refused to march alongside blacks. (Early suffrage activists had generally supported racial equality–in fact, most had been abolitionists before they were feminists–but by the beginning of the 20th century, that was rarely the case. In fact, many middle-class white people embraced the suffragists’ cause because they believed that the enfranchisement of “their” women would guarantee white supremacy by neutralizing the black vote.) Wells joined the march anyway, but her experience showed that to many white suffragists, “equality” did not apply to everyone.

    Wells continued to fight for civil rights for all until she died in 1931.

  • Articles, Fashion, Shero

    Teen Fashion Designer: Chloe Miller

    How long have you been designing?

    As long as I can remember, I have always had sketchbooks and various other stuff to design with. My parents encourage my passion, they gave me my first mannequin when I was eight, which I still use today. Fashion has always been something that has caught my eye.

    What inspires you to make a new piece?

    I really, really enjoy creating stuff from something that has already been made. The coat/vest that Im wearing, I found at a thrift store. It was a gross, huge coat and I just saw that it had potential to be this new cool thing. I like reusing or recycling something that I am inspired by.

    What piece was featured in Birmingham Fashion week?

    The rules that they gave us to enter into the contest was to create something without using normal sewing material. No sewing machine, fabric, tread, nothing. So it forced us to create outside of the box and it made me want to go in an avant garde direction. The theme for this past year was the future of fashion. So I created the dress that was made entirely out of plastic bags, it was floor length. It was about 350 bag from head to toe. The great thing about it was it didn’t look plastic at all.

    My whole idea behind it was that I wanted to create something out of recycled products. But have it not look recycled because that is a really big issue that is plaguing the fashion industry right now. There is so much waste and consumerist mindset of not caring about your clothes after they aren’t trendy anymore or if they aren’t special to you and you just throw them out. Fast fashion is popping up and creating really cheap stuff that you throw out after 6 months, it’s almost on the level with oil production and how horrible it is for our environment. So I was really thinking in that realm for the dress.

    The fast fashion industry completely prays on impoverished women and Eastern Asia countries that don’t have any other option. They put them in horrible working conditions and all these terrible things that just aren’t necessary.

    When it comes to style:
    “Do what makes you feel like you are the best version of yourself.”

    How did it feel to have your work on display?

    It was fantastic! I really loved it and I made a lot of really meaningful connections through fashion week. Just the atmosphere of a fashion show is really wonderful to me. It’s a female dominated industry, it is highly focused on women helping women, we are all doing this together. Also it is completely insane backstage, you have hair, makeup, models, and clothes everywhere. Its really interesting to see that controlled chaos that go into a step by step process. From the movement and steps of the model to the way the clothes move, its all completely planned out.

    Do you want to continue and make fashion your career?

    I don’t know yet. With college, I would really like to major in Environmental Science and minor in fashion design. I have to find a school that will let me take that direction. What I would really like to do, at some point, is create a brand that is made of a sustainable source and recycled products. Ever since I started working with plastic bags, they have just captivated me, because right now they aren’t recyclable so there isn’t anything we can really do with them. I would really lie to find a way to incorporate those into some kind of material because fabric can be made from plastic. So figuring out the problem with plastic bags is one of my dreams.

    How do you feel about the fashion industry being so focused on having the ideal size?

    I think it is incredibly problematic, at this point in time and as it always has been, because there isn’t an ideal or standard size. There is no perfect person. I think it’s really toxic and really horrible for everyone even for the people who are idealized. I feel like it is getting better, The Body Positive Movement and the brands that are not using Photoshop and more diverse size model are coming into the main stream. I don’t like saying “normal” size model because there isn’t a normal size person. I think that models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence are really pushing the industry forward with modeling because they are both absolutely stunning and intelligent women. They are shameless being like “Here I am, This is me.” They are starting to do editorial as well, which is really great because for a while it has only been very, very skinny women. Even brands like Aerie, which is a swimsuit and lingerie brand, are using models with less makeup and no Photoshop.

    Is that something that you would incorporate into your brand?

    I would like to do that, yes. I would mostly start out as an online store and have my friends model for me.

    What advice do you have for girls when they are trying to find their own style?

    Just play around with it and have a good time. Search everywhere for inspiration. Style, to me, is an outside form of self expression. I think if you outlaw some shops to yourself, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You can find stuff that peaks your interest almost anywhere if you look hard enough. Also wear things that make you happy. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, you look so much better when you are confident and happy with how you are presenting yourself to the world. If you are happy wearing clothes that aren’t trendy, thats okay be a trendsetter.