Monthly Archives: August 2012

Excuse Me… You So Did Not Say Feminazi!

I’ve been asked about the purpose of those odd title lines buried in my last post.  You know the ones I mean – those little reminders of how bad TV commercials can be in terms of stereotyping and their annoyance factor.

The titles started wanting to pop in about the time I finished typing the second paragraph:

For a woman of today, the opportunity to voice an opinion with a vote is something that is very often taken for granted, but enfranchisement just wasn’t always so.  It was such a short time ago that we American women gained that right.

Gonna Have To Get Militant On You

I badly wanted to add more to that paragraph.  I badly wanted to say that without the first baby step of the 19th Amendment, women today wouldn’t have many of the things we take for granted.  I easily could have gone into a really preachy sermon on birth control and managing our own reproductive rights, laws enacted regarding rape and violence against women, about women’s shelters, and about equal opportunity, to name more than a few.

And that last subject is a biggie as well, don’t ever think otherwise.  Just within my lifetime we’ve seen some changes.  I could’ve gone on at length on the subject of women in the workforce.

Here’s a scenario – all of a sudden you find that you’re a single parent.  What are you going to do?  Sit around and hope the child support gets paid while trying to survive on welfare payments and food stamps?  No, you’re going to have to get a job, and not just a low-wage, low-self esteem job – a real job.  You’re going to need the knowledge and possess the ability to compete for that job, and you’re going to have to carry on the fight for the women that come after you.

Let’s go back a few years and take a look at the way American women stepped out of the home and into the factories during WWII.  They weren’t keeping the home fires burning, they were keeping ‘the boys’ supplied with guns and ammunition, planes and jeeps,  tanks, ships and uniforms, and they managed to do it all while living on ration stamps.   When the war was over and the men came home, they took those jobs back from their wives and sweethearts – and with a pat on the head and a not-so-gentle shove, women found themselves right back where they started, grateful that their menfolk had returned, but back in the kitchen nonetheless.

File:We Can Do It!.jpg

1942 Poster for Westinghouse
By J. Howard Miller

Rosie the Riveter was created during that war, but she wasn’t just another poster gal, she later became the embodiment of a movement – “We can do it!” – became a collective shout aimed at women everywhere.

May 1943 Saturday Evening Post
Cover by Norman Rockwell

Rosie as portrayed by Norman Rockwell: he posed Rosie in a position similar to the prophet Isaiah as painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel.  Rockwell continued to play with symbolism and put a copy of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler underneath Rosie’s foot, clad in red sock à la Van Johnson, (a popular film actor of the era) and penny loafer.

Stepping Down From The Soapbox

I enjoy keeping house (okay, that’s a lie), and I enjoy planning and cooking meals (now that’s a really big lie), and I take a lot of pride in my job and the knowledge that I’ve gained over the course of my working years (ah – here’s a nugget of truth).   But all the while I remind myself that to the women of my mother’s generation, most of the opportunities that I enjoy were not available.

Let’s wrap this thing up: those tag lines from commercials were simply indicators that a more cynical side of me was trying very hard to be heard, and that I was having a bit of a struggle suppressing it.  Now the cat’s out of the bag and if you stayed with me through this post, you have the answer to that mystery (and you got at least part of the sermon after all).

It’s Shake ‘n Bake™ – And I Helped!

This morning I’m still thinking about family – and wondering about the women in particular – in conjunction with the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.   I’ve been trying to imagine how becoming politically enfranchised might have impacted their lives.

For a woman of today, the opportunity to voice an opinion with a vote is something that is very often taken for granted, but enfranchisement just wasn’t always so.  It was such a short time ago that we American women gained that right.

On June 4, 1919 the 19th Amendment was passed; it was then ratified by Congress August 18, 1920.  Ninety-two years ago this month.  In a nutshell, the amendment prohibited any U.S. citizen being denied the right to vote based on sex.

Mom… Our House Smells Funny.  New Wizard™ Air Freshener Will Cure House-itosis!

My grandmother on the paternal side of the family would have been 34 years old at that time, and if a contemporary were to describe her you would probably hear something along the line of:  Ida, wife of James, mother of four, homemaker.  All you would need to encapsulate her life for a headstone would be to insert “faithful” and/or “beloved” somewhere.

James and Ida

Now really, looking at the woman in this photo (pictured with her husband James who always looks to me like the proverbial cat that ate the canary), do you think she’d willingly let herself be limited by that definition?  I’d like to think she wouldn’t.

ring around the collar!  RING AROUND THE COLLAR!!

If we switch over to the distaff side of the family, you might be interested to hear about Dr. Ella Green Ware, my first cousin twice removed.  Ella was 50 years old at the time we’re talking about and had already been practicing medicine as a country doctor for twenty-one years.

Ella was the first woman in the state of Texas to practice medicine after graduation from the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston in 1899.  It was said that she had been offered a prestigious professorship, something more suited to a lady doctor, but the position was gratefully declined.  (Note: other sources disagree with the graduation date of 1899.  Karen Mac Smith in her book On The Watershed Of The Ecleto And The Clear Fork Sandies cites the date as 1898.)

Dr. Ella Green Ware

Encouraged by her father, Ella stepped outside of the traditional boundaries set for a women of the day.  During the fifty years she practiced, she not only delivered 6,000 babies, but treated injuries and illnesses as any male doctor would.

Who Jacked This Post And Reminds Us Of Stereotyped Women And Bad TV Commercials?

Would the ratification of the 19th Amendment have changed anything in a woman’s day-to-day life?  Probably not.  But it would certainly have influenced, I think at least subconsciously, how they raised and educated their children, more specifically their daughters, to believe that exercising their hard-won right to vote could help to make a difference.

Mother Pin A Rose On Me

Helen M. Saucier

I’m sure that every family has replayed a similar scene, a gathering of the clan.  The uncles and aunts with their respective spouses, all of the adults lingering in the dining room long after the dishes had been cleared.  Smoke curling from lit cigarettes, the ever-present bottle of Scotch, stories being told, jokes swapped, most of the content unsuitable for tender ears. Tender ears… that would be me, my sisters, my cousins, the kids who were supposed to be safely tucked in bed, and usually weren’t.  Not many of us could resist the lure of crouching in a dark hallway outside of the dining room listening to the grownups talk.  We knew better than to venture into the lighted room – bedtime was worse than Coventry when you’d been sent there for the second time.  Then the rules were strictly enforced. Helen was my father’s youngest sister.  Like all of the siblings, she was quick witted and had a fabulously dry sense of humor.  Long is my list of ‘Helen-isms’, and when I hear myself repeating them, I can see her face, the way she would strike a pose, or point her finger for emphasis. I was rummaging through old letters and documents today when I came across an article written and published by Helen.  Not sure that many in the family have seen, let alone ever read this particular story, I thought that I’d post it here.  If you’d like to read it, just click on Story Time.

Pretensions: A Quilter’s Haiku

In my world, quilting is a humble art. Originally, it was an article made for the home, something to cover a bed, warm the body, filler for a blanket chest or linen closet. Today quilting has blossomed into an art form. Fiber artists have taken the basic utility item and turned it into a fabulous creation of the imagination. But whether you make traditional quilts or art quilts, it’s a pastime that can overtake every moment in life, awake and asleep. Here’s the admission – I quilt.

Fabrics fragmented then sewn together
united with thread in a pattern imagined
warm the body and soul.

Quilting: A Cog In The Economic Machine

Once upon a time, home sewing was an economical way to put clothes on your back or decorate your home. Have you checked out the prices of fabrics lately? Granted, the so-called quilt quality fabrics are very nice, but hasn’t anyone besides me noticed that the price per yard has gone through the roof? I’ve seen some really beautiful fabric this year… at $11 a yard.

So you want to make a quilt big enough to sleep under.  8-10 yards to make the top, the back and the binding for a quilt, (oh come on, you can do the math here).  Crazy!

I am a ruler addict. I’ve got big ones, little ones, square rulers, rectangular rulers. Rulers to cut diamonds. Rulers to cut hexagons. Rulers rule.

Earlier this year I read an interesting book on quilting, Making History: Quilts & Fabric From 1890-1970 by Barbara Brackman. I highly recommend the book, an informative and entertaining read, a nice little overview of fabrics used in American quilts.

Have you seen How To Make An American Quilt? It has a stellar cast, Ann Bancroft, Alfre Woodard, Jean Simmons, Maya Angelou and Ellen Burnstyn for starters. Add Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney to the mix and what’s not to love? Beautiful cinematography. Warning: watching this movie while you piece will guarantee you a soggy block, so keep a box of tissues handy – a definite weeper.

Speaking of movies and quilts, have you ever noticed how many quilts are staged in movie sets? For me, quilts convey a sense of home, of comfort, and describe a basic sense of levelheadedness in a character. Look for them and you can spot quilts everywhere, in movies about urban dwellers (You’ve Got Mail), westerns (The Angel and the Badman), and period fantasy pieces (Nanny McPhee).


I wonder if Kevin Bacon has ever co-starred with a quilt and where exactly, would that lead me today?