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March is National Women's History Month!  For this entire month we will recognize, celebrate and honor women around the world.  We will celebrate their diverse and historic accomplishments, as well as their rich and varied contributions to the history and culture of the United States and around the world.  

The idea to honor women was established in this country in 1978 and it began as "Women's History Week".  In 1981 Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) co-sponsored a joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming "National Women's History Week", which was passed.  However, Congress expanded the week to a month (coincides with Int’l Women’s Day - which will be celebrated on March 8th).  According to the National Women's History Month Project Organization the theme for this years' month long celebrations is: "Women’s Art: Women’s Vision."  This theme represents the originality, beauty, imagination and multiple dimensions of women's lives

Last month we celebrated Black History Month, and as you know history was and is still being made before our eyes.  We have chosen to continue celebrating black history this month, but will focus on celebrating and recognizing the bold and daring achievements of notable African American Women who have impacted history.

Recognizing and Celebrating Women's Accomplishments throughout History - “National Women’s History Month”

This week we honor African-American Women who are "Firsts" during the 18th century (1700-1799) and 19th Century (1800-1899)

1700s

1746: Lucy Terry Prince (Poet) was the first African American women that composed a poem.  Her poem "Bars Fight, is her only poem that has survived.  Ms. Prince was stolen from African as an infant and was sold into slavery.  Her freedom was purchased by Abijah Prince who was a prosperous free black man, whom she married and had 6 kids with.  She was a very good speaker and captivated many.  She used her speaking skills to defend her family's rights and property, which she did on many occasions.  She also used her skills to argued unsuccessfully before the trustees of Williams College for the admission of one of her sons, skillfully citing scripture and law "in an earnest and eloquent speech of three hours."  Later, when a Colonel Eli Bronson attempted to steal land owned by the Princes, the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. Lucy argued against two of the leading lawyers in the state, one of whom later became chief justice of Vermont -- and she won. Samuel Chase, the presiding justice of the Court, said that her argument was better than he'd heard from any Vermont lawyer.  She died in 1821.

PhyllisWheatley.jpg (15159 bytes)1773: Phyllis Wheatley (Founder of African-American literature) was the First African American woman to publish a book of Poems on Various Subjects "Religious and Moral. ".  Ms. Wheatley was from Senegal, Africa and was sold into slavery at the age of seven as a servant  and attended to her mistress Susannah Wheatley from Boston.  She grew up with the Wheatley's children and learned to read and write English at 12 and was reading Greek and Latin classics and passages from the Bible.  She wrote her first poem at 13, and she became a sensation in Boston when she wrote a poem on the death of an evangelical preacher in 1770.  There years later 39 of her poems were published in London  as "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, which was the first book to be published by a black American. 

1800s

Harriottubman.jpg (8125 bytes)Harriett Tubman formally Armanita Greene was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1820 or 1821. She later took her mother's name," Harriet". She was forced to work at the age of five. Harriet was a very smart and strong-willed individual. When she was 13, her head was accidentally injured by a rock that was thrown at someone else, causing her to experience blackouts throughout her life.  In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, a free black man. She was allowed to sleep in his cabin at night, but her slavery continued.  A few years later the plantation owner died. She knew she would be sold to the even harsher conditions of the deep South if she did not escape. She made her way on foot to Pennsylvania, some 90 miles, stopping at churches and aided by other sympathizers in the network known as the Underground Railroad.  She worked hard for two years, saving money to return to Maryland for her sister and her two children. Soon she was making regular trips, each one riskier than the last. She had shrewd planning skills and always chose a different route and used disguises to avoid being caught. There were rewards totaling $40,000 offered for her arrest, but she was never caught.

During the Civil War, she worked as a nurse and scout for the North. She was honored more than once by the Union Army, although she did not receive a pension for years. Eventually she led about 300 people to freedom in Canada and became known as the "Moses of Her People".

In her later years, she continued to serve others by establishing a home for the elderly in upstate New York, where she died, in poverty, in 1913. The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People in Auburn is now a museum.  Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman who, despite physical hardship and her own lack of education, dedicated her life to saving the lives of others. She is a hero to those she rescued and to millions who never met her, including Julia Abel.

Edmonialewis,Sculpture.jpg (16624 bytes)Edmonia Lewis was the first African American and Native American woman to gain fame and recognition as a sculptor. At a time in America when slaves were just freed, she found inspiration in the lives of abolitionists and Civil War heroes. In a world which didn’t encourage women of color, through incredible determination and sense of purpose, Ms. Lewis created great art and received world acclaim.  Her early work commemorated abolitionists and heroes of the Civil War, such as the medallions she created to honor abolitionist martyr John Brown. She also made a bust of Col. Robert Shaw, leader of an all-Negro regiment, and sold hundreds of plaster copies to raise funds for underpaid black Union soldiers. Her marble statue, Forever Free, depicting a freed black man and woman, became one of her most famous, and was displayed at the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

HarriottWilsonTheNig.jpg (6406 bytes)1859: Harriett Wilson First African American Novelist.  Ms. Wilson a mulatto woman from New Hampshire published a novel in 1989 with the stated hope of earning sufficient money simply to survive. Instead, her novel Our Nig; or Sketches From the Life of A Free Black, became a powerful and controversial narrative that continues to touch and unsettle readers around the world.

1862: Mary Jane Patterson was the first African American woman to receive a B.A. Degree from the established American College - Oberlin College.  She was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, she was the oldest of seven children.  In 1856, she and her family (The Paterson's) moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where they joined a growing community of free Black families who worked to send their children to the college.  Her family boarded large numbers of Black students in their home.  In 1862, she graduated from Oberlin College, becoming the first Black woman to receive a B. A. degree from an established American college. Eventually, four Patterson children graduated from Oberlin College, all becoming teachers.  Ms. Patterson first known teaching appointment was in 1865, when she became an assistant to Fanny Jackson in the Female Department of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia.  In 1869, Ms. Patterson accepted a teaching position in Washington, D. C., at the newly organized Preparatory High School for Colored Youth later known as Dunbar High School. She served as the school's first Black principal, from 1871 to 1874. 

1864: Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black women to receive an Medical Degree in the U.S.  She was born and raised by her aunt who influenced her to go into the medical profession since medical care for the needs of poor blacks was almost non-existent..  She worked as a nurse in Charleston, MA between 1852-1860 and She pursued an M.D. which she earned and graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864.  This was a significant achievement at the time "because she was in the first generation of women of color to break into medical school, fight racism and sexism," said Manon Parry, curator at the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division. "It was common theme that minority females went into the profession to provide medical care for underserved communities.

CathyWilliamsfemale_buffalosoldier.jpg (22602 bytes) 1866: Cathy Williams was the first recorded African-American female in the U.S. Army.  Ms. Williams was born in Missouri in 1844, her mother was a slave and her father was a free person of color.  As a young girl she worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation in Jefferson City, MO and was freed in 1861.  At 17 Ms. Williams was impressed into the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  For the next several years she traveled alongside the infantry accompanying the soldiers on their marches throughout AK, LA, & GA.  She was present at the battle of Pea Ridge and Red River Campaign.  She officially enlisted in 1866 and joined up with the U.S. Regular Army in St. Louis, MO, after passing the physical exam she signed up for a three-year tour of duty under the name William Cathay, she disguised herself as a male for many years.  However she was discovered after 2 years and was discharged in 1868.  Ms. Williams' story first became public knowledge when a reporter from St. Louis heard rumors of a female African-American who had served in the military, and came to hear her story. A brief description of Williams' life and military service, told in her own words, was published in the St. Louis Daily Times in early January 1876.

saragoodecabinetbed.jpg (7950 bytes)1885: Sarah E. Goode was the first African-American women to receive a patent for a bed that folded up into a cabinet.  Ms. Goode was born into slavery in 1850. She was the first African American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for her invention, the cabinet bed, on July 14, 1885.  Freed at the end of the Civil War, Goode moved to Chicago and became an entrepreneur. As owner of a furniture store she noted that city apartment dwellers often had little space for beds. She conceived the design of what we know today as the "hide away" bed. She described the design as "a folding bed" whose hinged sections were easily raised or lowered. When not in use as a bed, Goode's invention could also be used as a desk.

Dr.MatildaArabellaEvans.jpg (8698 bytes)1897: Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans was the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina.  The Dr. graduated from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) in 1897.  Her survey of black school children's health in Columbia, South Carolina, served as the basis for a permanent examination program within the South Carolina public school system. She also founded the Columbia Clinic Association, which provided health services and health education to families. She extended the program when she established the Negro Health Association of South Carolina, to educate families throughout the state on proper health care procedures.

Dr.ElizannGrier.jpg (8074 bytes)1898: Dr Eliza Ann Grier became the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of GeorgiaDr. Grier was an emancipated slave who faced racial discrimination and financial hardship while pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. To pay for her medical education, she alternated every year of her studies with a year of picking cotton. It took her seven years to graduate.  Although she was plagued with financial difficulties throughout her education and her career, she fought tenaciously for her right to earn a living as a woman doctor.

 

Senator Barack Obama and his camp worked long and hard on this weeks' primaries and caucuses.  The fight became a bit difficult a few days before the primaries/caucuses, due to old nasty politics we are so familiar with.  However, thousands and thousands of folks went out and voted for Senator Obama.  He won the primary in Vermont by a large margin, but placed 2nd in the other states.  He was very close in Texas 48%, a state that he was behind approximately 20 points (Senator Clinton won with 51%).  As for the Caucus in TX he is ahead 56%, but the final result has not been released yet, apparently it's still being counted.

Overall per CNN (as of today 3/7/08) Senator Obama is still maintaining a substantial lead in Delegates.  He has a total of 1520 delegates (1,321 Pledged and 199 Super delegates, and Senator Clinton has a total of 1,424 (1,186 Pledged and 238 Super delegates)  The total delegates needed to get the nomination is 2,025.           

As you know the accusations, attacks, maliousness, distortions and hatefulness has taken over and has come to the forefront, so the struggle continues and is growing very difficult.  The road on this journey is indeed long and hard for Senator Obama and his camp, but we have strong hopes and know that he is wise, inspires, projects sincerity and patience.  We also know he has envisioned the goal and has concrete solutions to the many problems plaguing America.  There is no doubt that he appeals to all races, so I am convinced he will continue succeeding, he absolutely has the ability and wisdom to move us forward, and he will bridge the gap on many issues.  

We are all proud of Senator Obama, and know that he will prevail.  The overall "Change", and the need for new we all are seeking will be delivered.  We have had enough with the old politics, the old tactics, and the rhetoric.  We are just tired of the same old mess with the government and old families who have been in power for over 20 years. 

I'm sure this great momentum will continue for Senator Barack Obama, and in all the other states the upcoming primaries and caucuses are scheduled to be held, WILL indeed result in wins for him.  

  This Saturday, March 8th is Wyoming Democratic Caucus and on March 11th is Mississippi 's Primary.   Those who believe Senator Obama will be the next great President of America must go out and keep up the momentum by voting for Senator Barack Obama, so that he maintains his current position as the front-runner in this democratic race; which will allow him to be the democratic nominee and ultimately win the General election and become the next President of the United States.  Let’s continue making history together!!!

Let me leave you with a letter that was written in late January to Senator Obama from Toni Morrison, the Legendary novelist, editor, Professor, Pulitzer Prize winner, and the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.  Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this letter.

tonimorrison_t1.jpg (18260 bytes)

Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

 

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