Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hale, Sarah Josepha, A Different Thanksgiving Story (c) By Polly Guerin


Dear Sarah Josepha Hale: You were a Crusader in Crinoline and more than the Pilgrims, you gave us Thanksgiving. You also championed women’s rights, the advancement of women’s wages, better working conditions and the reduction of child labor and started the first day nursery. Sarah Josepha Hale was the Martha Stewart of the pre-Civil War era and as Lady Editor of the popular Godey’s Lady Book, a 19th Century magazine, she wielded a mighty pen from her editorial desk reaching a subscription list of over 150,000, the largest circulation of any monthly publication in the country. Hale was a woman determined to succeed at a time when a working woman of her stature was unprecedented.
HALE’S LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN
Sarah Josepha Hale’s relentless handwritten letter campaign spanned a period of almost three decades in which she urged that Thanksgiving be declared a national holiday. With tireless zeal she penned thousands of editorials and wrote handwritten letters to prominent, citizens, governors and went right to the White House, addressing the issue to United States Presidents. She never gave up on her campaign which had roots in the country’s unification.
CIVIL WAR UNIFICATION
As the dark days of the Civil War divided the country into two armed camps Mrs. Hale’s editorials became more vigilant. who wouold listen to a lone woman with her persistent plea for "just one day of peace amidst the blood and strife"? Eventually she came to see the nationalization of Thanksgiving not only as a day for counting our blessings, but as a logical bond of union, one more means of drawing the sympathies of the country together. Year after year without typewriter Hale continued to pour out her handwritten letters, which were sent to influential people urging them to join in establishing Thanksgiving the last Thursday in November.
LINCOLN DECLARES THE HOLIDAY
With the country gripped in the North and South divide, Mrs. Hale’s concept of unity finally caught the attention of one man in the White House. Prompted by a letter she had written to Secretary of State William Seward in 1863 President Lincoln recognized the urgency for unification and issued a proclamation appointing the last Thursday in November as a day of national Thanksgiving in America.
HALE, THE LADY EDITOR
Sarah Josepha Hale succeeded at a time when there were few opportunities for working women to escape the drudgery of domesticity. In addition, like other women of her era, she had been denied a formal education but found refuge in her father’s library, self-educating herself. After her husband died, leaving her penniless, she wrote and published a novel, Northwood, which captured the attention of a Boston publishing firm. She was offered editorship of one of their periodicals in 1836 and at the age of 40, with five children to support, she left her home town of Newport, New Hampshire and moved to Boston to assume the post of Lady Editor. Running one of the most powerful magazines in the country did not escape critics, but she always explained that she was forced to hold down a job to feed her children.
ARBITER OF WOMEN’S ISSUES
Sarah Josepha Hale, as Lady Editor, was the arbiter of parlor etiquette, fashion, manners and intellect. As a journalist, lobbyist, career woman and crusader in crinoline she spoke her mind and succeeded where others had failed. A petite woman, she dressed in the crinoline style of the 1800s. However, even in this cumbersome attire and the restrains of society she championed numerous women’s issue bringing about a number of important improvements in the lives of women in the Victorian era. She was the first to advocate women as teachers in public schools. She demanded for housekeeping the dignity of a profession and put the term “domestic science” into the language. Sarah Josepha Hale was to prove to be unique exception of her times.
AUTHOR OF MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB
In addition, she helped to establish Vassar College, the first college for women. Hale was civic minded and among her credits she promoted the movement to preserve Mount Vernon as a National memorial and raised the money that finished Bunker Hill Monument. She was the author of some two dozen books and hundreds of poems, including the best known children’s rhyme in the English language, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Sarah Josepha Hale stepped from the shelter of an early nineteenth century marriage untrained, unschooled and stepped forward to become the nation’s most celebrated Lady Editor. For her patriotic part in nationalizing Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

GRAY, Eileen Pioneer in Modern Design (c) By Polly Guerin




Dear Eileen Moray Gray: Celebrated for your pioneering style that proved highly influential in the Art Deco era, you became one of the foremost women in furniture design and architecture. Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was the one artist working in Britain who chose to develop her designs in the “new” material lacquer and later chrome, steel tube and glass furniture. Advantage in her favor she was born of wealthy Irish parentage and the stirrings of creativity had its roots in childhood when her father encouraged her artistic interests. A trip to Paris in 1900 to visit the Exposition Universelle further fueled her design ambitions. Eileen Gray was fired with creative ambition, a furniture designer and architect, a woman determined to succeed as a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture.
THE LACQUER ENCOUNTER
Eileen Gray spent her childhood in London and was the first woman to be admitted to the Slade School of Art where she took up painting in 1898 before undergoing an apprenticeship in a London lacquer workshop. While living in London Gray came across a lacquer repair shop in Soho where the owner showed her the fundamentals of lacquer work which had taken her fancy and later would become her m├ętier. Upon moving back to Paris in 1902 she met Seizo Sugawara, who originated from an area of Japan that was known for its decorative lacquer work. She worked closely with Sugawara and quickly established herself as one of the leading designers of lacquered screens and decorative panels.
REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN
During the 1920s and 1930s, Gray became a major exponent of the revolutionary new theories of design and construction and worked closely with many outstanding figures of the modern movement, including Le Corbusier and J P Oud. Her circular glass E1027 table and red, rotund Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus. Meant for lounging Gray’s Bibendum Chair was one of the 20th century’s most recognizable furniture designs with legs made of a polished, chromium plated, stainless steel tube. Its back/arm rest consists of two semi-circular, padded tubes encased in leather. The name Bibendum originated from the character created by Michelin to sell tires.
AN INNOVATIVE APARTMENT
At end of WW l Gray returned to Paris and was commissioned to decorate an apartment in the rue de Lota for millionaire; Madame Mathieu Levy, a trendy, modern woman. During this time Gray created the Bibendum chair along with most of the furniture, carpets and lamps, and installed lacquer panels on the walls. The Bibendum Chair was hardly like anything ever seen before and its originality was quite amazing at the time. The Art Critics loved the chair and the apartment’s minimalism and reviews in papers and magazines exclaimed that the furnishings were a “triumph of modern living.” Until her death in 1976, Eileen Gray continued to work on both major architectural projects and on a number of smaller furniture designs. In 1973 Gray granted the worldwide rights to manufacture and distribute her designs to Aram Designs, Ltd. London.
EILEEN GRAY’S HIGHLY ORIGINAL AND DARING DESIGNS ANTICIPATED MANY OF TODAY’S MODERN DESIGN TRENDS.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CARSON, RACHEL Mother of Environmental Movement (c) By Polly Guerin

Dear Rachel Carson: To you, society owes a measure of gratitude. In your book, “Silent Spring,” the first work to detail the dangers of pesticides and pollution you raised the alarm that the widespread of pesticides (and other chemicals) travel through the food chain, contaminate the environment, remain for many years in soils and waters, and accumulate in the human body. Although pesticide and chemical industries retaliated and mounted an intense publicity campaign against your findings, you remained steadfast, a woman determined to succeed in bringing the environmental message to the masses. As a scientist and activist you had a chilling vision and foresaw a time when “On the mornings that once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, wrens and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”
THE MODERN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
Rachel Carson is credited with starting the modern environmental movement. She was not exactly opposed to the use of insecticides and chemicals, only their indiscriminate, widespread use. Carson noticed that the unchecked use of DDT was no longer effective in killing insects as they were slowly developing immunities to the poisons. However, the pesticides were killing other animals. She feared this would cause an extreme ecological catastrophe. Further she pointed out, “The sprays, dusts and aerosols now applied universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes have the power to kill every insert, the good and the bad, to still the song of the birds, end the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film and to linger on in the soil---all this, though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects.”
GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES
Although Carson’s writings were attacked by chemical manufactures who tried to dismiss her as an alarmist and the book drew threats of lawsuits she had sounded the alarm and the Silent Spring caught the attention of the government. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy set up a special commission, the Science Advisory Committee, to investigate her findings. She testified before congress and called for new policies to protect human health and the environment, and this set the stage for the first legislation regulating pesticides, and her activism led to a ban on the use of DDT.
WHO WAS RACHEL LOUISE CARSON? (1907-1964)
The love of nature and the environment has its roots in Carson’s upbringing in the rural Pennsylvania community of Springdale, where she developed a love of nature. She studied biology and zoology in college and then went on to become the first woman to pass the civil service test for federal employment. In 1936, the Bureau of Fisheries hired her as a full-time junior biologist and she wrote several books on the environment, including Under the Sea Wind (1941) the The Sea Around Use (1951). The success of these books enabled Carson to leave the Bureau of Fishers in 1952 to pursue a full-time career in writing.
CARSON’S LEGACY
Carson said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Sadly Carson was battling breast cancer as she wrote the Silent Spring. She succumbed to the disease in 1964, after it became a best seller. Even today Silent Spring remains popular and influential. The name Rachel Carson, The Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement, would be proud to know that the US Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970. She is the namesake of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge near Wells, Maine a safe haven for wildlife and to protect the valuable salt marshes and establish sanctuary for migratory birds. www.wilderness.org. In 1980, Carson was award the presidential Medal of Freedom.
RACHEL CARSON’S WARNINGS IN THE SILENT SPRING SOUNDED THE ALARM THAT STILL APPLIES TODAY MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. ABOUT NATURE SHE ONCE SAID, “ONE WAY TO OPEN YOUR EYES IS TO ASK YOURSELF, WHAT IF I HAD NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE? WHAT IF I KNEW I WOULD NEVER SEE IT AGAIN?”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PERKINS, FRANCES: First Lady of Labor (c) by Polly Guerin


Dear Frances Perkins (Fannie Coralie Perkins 1882-1965): Fulfilling your destiny as a woman of social welfare and political action you overcame many of the restrictions and prejudices of your era and as an outstanding career woman you became an effective public official whose work profoundly changed the lives of Americans. You not only engaged in diverse social work but you committed yourself to the advancement of women, the concern for fair labor practices and the plight of working people, so it is no wonder that later in life you became the first woman, appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to serve in the cabinet. Typical of a woman determined to succeed beyond expectations you rose to the position of Secretary of Labor and served longer than any other Secretary of labor, from 1933 to 1945. Hail to you Frances Perkins, with your devotion to improving the plight of the working masses you are indeed recognized as the "First Lady of Labor."
THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT OF 1935
Early on as Industrial Commissioner of New York State Perkins worked hard to improve work regulations and related social programs. She fought for laws to set minimum wages, expanded factory investigations, reduced the work week to 48 hours for women and facilitated minimum wage and unemployment insurance. American citizens owe a debt of gratitude to Frances Perkins, especially when they receive their social security checks each month. Most notable she contributed to the creation of the Social Security system through her role as chairwoman on the President’s Committee on Economic Security. A report issued by the committee laid the basis for the Social Security Act of 1935. When the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 it was again Frances Perkins who had persuaded Congress to improve labor conditions and the well-being of workers. The law also established a minimum wage.
THE NEW DEAL
The current political arena would surely benefit from the services of a woman like Frances Perkins whose diligence and vision brought about necessary labor initiatives. As Secretary of Labor, appointed in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Perkins played a key role in writing New Deal legislation, which resulted in the National Labor Relations Act (1935), and the creation of the National Labor Relations Board which gave workers the right to collective bargaining. Perkins was a strong advocate for government intervention for the public good and brought to her office a deep commitment to improving the lives of workers. In 1945, after serving twelve years as Secretary of Labor during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency Perkins resigned and then joined the U.S. Civil Service Commission, an appointment by President Harry S. Truman.
WHO WAS FRANCES PERKINS?
Frances Perkins’ role as a political activist has roots in her belief that “poverty was preventable, destructive, wasteful and demoralizing.” Her hopes were focused on improving the quality of life for all and devoted most of her life to enhancing the public welfare. Early stirrings of political activism began when she took part in the women’s suffrage movement, marched in parades and gave street corner speeches. In 1910 w hen Perkins earned a master’s degree from pursued Columbia University Perkins she became head of the National Consumer’s League (NCL) where she lobbied for better working hours and improved working conditions.
THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FIRE
A pivotal event that impressed Frances Perkins into political action was the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, where the building in which immigrant females worked lacked fire escapes and one newspaper account recorded that even the exit doors were locked. Along with the stunned onlookers she witnessed 146 sweatshop-factory workers leap to their deaths. She said it was “a never-to-be-forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such a tragedy.” This incident inspired Perkins to lobby harder on behalf of the workforce.
FRANCES PERKINS: WE SALUTE YOUR TENACITY, YOUR VISION, YOUR DRIVE AND YOUR DEEP CONCERN FOR THE LABOR OF THE WORKING CLASSES. TO FRANCES PERKINS WE OWE A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY, FAIR LABOR PRACTICES AND THE NEW DEAL MANIFESTO.