“Every Great Dream Begins With A Dreamer”

March 8 is International Women’s Day, which originated during protests in the United States and Europe to honor and fight for political rights for working women. The first observance was on February 28, 1909 in New York. The following year, the International Women’s Conference suggested March 8 as “International Women’s Day,” which even became a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917 after women gained suffrage. Though mostly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day during the International Women’s Year in 1975. This year’s theme is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

Birthdays

Charlotte Whitton httpstcelive2s3amazonawscommediamedia69a

Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton OC CBE (March 8, 1896 – January 25, 1975) was a Canadian feminist and the first female mayor of a major city in Canada as mayor of Ottawa, serving from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964. She attended Queen’s University, becoming the first female editor of the Journal, the student newspaper. Whitton received many honorary degrees, including one from Smith College in 1955.

In 1920, Whitton became secretary of the Canadian Council on Child Welfare, serving as executive director from 1926 to 1941, advocating for improved and standardized child welfare legislation. Although Whitton advocated for women’s rights and improving social conditions for mothers and children, she advocated for eugenics, believing that immorality and criminality were genetic. She opposed immigrants considered “undesirable” and “feeble-minded” and those of “Oriental, Armenian, Jewish, or Central European, or lower-class British heritage.” Whitton also believed that juvenile immigrants were “physically, morally, and socially degenerate.” After resigning from the Canadian Council on Child Welfare in 1941, Whitton worked as a freelance writer and lecturer on social welfare.

Whitton never married and lived with her companion Margaret Grier, whom she met at Queen’s University for thirty-two years, until Grier died in 1947.

Beatrice “Tilly” Shilling OBE PhD MSc CEng (8 March 1909 – 18 November 1990) was a British aeronautical engineer and motorcycle racer. Shilling received her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, one of two female graduates in 1932 from the University of Manchester. University records list her as “Mr.” Beatrice Shilling because the entry form did not include any space for women. She received a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree by the end of 1933. Three years later, she joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and became the leading specialist in aircraft carburetors.

During the early years of the Second World War, Royal Air Force pilots discovered that the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines powering their Spitfires and Hurricane would stall, allowing enemy planes to escape. Shilling solved the problem by inventing the RAE restrictor, what became known as “Miss Shilling’s orifice”, a small, washer-like metal disc that restricted fuel flow to the carburetor helping prevent engine stall. The initial design drastically reduced engine stalling. Shilling received an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her war efforts.

In addition to her work on engines, Shilling raced motorcycles, breaking into another male-dominated field. She received the Gold Star for lapping the track at over 106 mph, faster than any other woman on two wheels.

Image

From: “Sylvia Wiegand, Grace Chisholm Young and Agnes Dunnett” Posted on February 19, 2013

Sylvia Margaret Young Wiegand (born March 8, 1945) is an American mathematician, who comes from a family of mathematicians. Her paternal grandparents Grace Chisholm Young (1868-1944) and William Henry Young (1863-1942) were mathematicians, her father, Laurence Chisholm Young (1905-2000), was the Distinguished Research Professor in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, and her aunt Cecily Young Tanner (1900-1992), wrote a Ph.D. thesis in mathematics at Cambridge University and taught at Imperial College, University of London. Young’s grandmother Grace was the first woman to earn a doctorate in Germany.

Sylvia Young was born in Cape Town, South Africa, while her father was Head of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. The family moved to Wisconsin a few years later when her father transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where Young also later took math courses. Young attended Bryn Mawr College and graduated in three years, and went on to complete a master’s degree at the University Washington in one year.

She and her husband Roger Wiegand worked in commutative algebra and were eventually hired at the math department at the University of Nebraska. Sylvia was initially an instructor, and became a full professor in 1987, the only female professor in the department at the time.

Wiegand advocates for women in mathematics at the University of Nebraska, including establishing a fellowship o honor her grandparents to support graduate research. In 1996, the math department began an annual summer mathematics camp for high school girls called All Girls/All Math, and in 1998, began the annual Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics. During that time, Wiegand became President of the Association for Women in Mathematics, promoting math and science issues on Capitol Hill and increased funding for math and science education and research. She is also a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

In addition to her mathematical career, Wiegand is a competitive runner, including the 100 mile Leadville ultramarathon which she finished in 29 hours, 35 minutes in 1994.

The Artist Speaks

March is Women’s History Month, after Congress passed a resolution on March 1, 1987. March first is World Book Day. Here are some historical events that occurred on March 1.

Events

"Court Trial of Witches," illustration by unknown artist, published in "Witchcraft Illustrated" by Henrietta D Kimball, circa 1892

“Court Trial of Witches,” illustration by unknown artist, published in “Witchcraft Illustrated” by Henrietta D Kimball, circa 1892

On March 1, 1692, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, were brought before magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, beginning the Salem witch trials. Sarah Good was a poor woman, Sarah Osborne, whose sister-in-law had married into the Putnam family, and Tituba was Reverend Samuel Parris’s slave.

Over the next few months, twenty people would be executed – nineteen hanged, one pressed to death – and over one hundred and fifty people would be accused. Thirteen of those executed were women, and around twenty-four other women were convicted.

Birthdays

Theresa Bernstein, American painter and printmaker, ca. 1890-2002.jpg

Photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son in 1930, Archives of American Art     Smithsonian Institution

Theresa Ferber Bernstein-Meyerowitz (March 1, 1890 – February 13, 2002) was a Polish-American, Jewish artist and painter whose career lasted ninety years. She was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design) in 1911. She studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. She painted urban scenes such as trolleys, elevated trains, and Coney Island. Her painting style was considered by some to be “masculine,” but Bernstein’s painted women at leisure and the workplace.

Although Jewish subjects were not her specialty, she depicted weddings and synagogue services. Despite growing up in what she called a secular household, Bernstein was an ardent Zionist who attended the first American Zionist meeting in Madison Square Garden in 1923.

Her popularity waned after the 1920s, but the women’s movement led to renewed interest in her work. Her paintings are part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Chicago Art Institute, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum.

Theresa Bernstein died on February 12, 2002, two weeks shy of her 112th birthday, though she may have been as old as nearly 116.

File:Mercedes de Acosta.jpg

Mercedes de Acosta (March 1, 1893 – May 9, 1968) was an American poet, playwright, fashion icon, and novelist, known for her many lesbian relationships. She was born in New York and befriended Degas, Tolstoy, Debussy, and others. Her wardrobe was the start of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Her lovers included Russian actresses Alla Nazimova and Tallulah Bankhead, dancer Isadora Duncan. While in a relationship with Duncan, Acosta began writing, producing three volumes of poetry, two novels, four produced plays, and many that wee no performed, and screenplays. Some of her other lovers in the 1930s included Ona Munson, who played Belle Watling, the madam, in Gone With the Wind, and dancer Adele Astaire, Fred Astaire’s sister).

In 1920 Mercedes married painter Abram Poole, though she kept her own name when she married and later joined the Lucy Stone League, which advocated women keeping their surnames upon marriage. Throughout her marriage, she continued having relationships with women, including actress Eva Le Gallienne, for whom she created several plays, including Sandro Botticelli, a fictional account of Botticelli’s model for his famous painting The Birth of Venus.

In 1931, Acosta met Greta Garbo, though the exact nature of their relationship is unclear, as Garbo publicly maintained that the relationship was platonic. Acosta also had relationships with other women, including Marlene Dietrich at the same time.

When her finances became dire, Acosta published her memoir, Here Lies the Heart, in 1960, though she was vague about her various relationships. She also sold her papers to the Rosenbach Museum and Library, including working material for her memoir, personal correspondence, objects and photos. Although some of the correspondence was sealed until the correspondent’s death at her request, all is now available.

Doris Hare.jpg

Doris Hare, MBE (1 March 1905 – 30 May 2000) was a British actress, singer, dancer and comedian. Her career spanned many countries, genres, and mediums. She was born in Bargoed, Monmouthshire, Wales. Her stage debut at three at her parents’ mobile theatre, was at a time without television, films, or microphones. Nearly fifty years later, she made her television debut in 1953 in an episode of Douglas Fairbansk Junior Presents. She performed in New York, London, and Scotland, included Mistress Quickly in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera, Katherine in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Mary Hearn in The Farmer’s Wife and Emlyn Williams’s thriller Night Must Fall.

She is best known for being the second actress to portray Mrs Mabel “Mum” Butler in the popular sitcom On the Buses alongside Reg Varney. By the time she starred in On the Buses, she had spent over sixty years on stage, from performing in music halls during her childhood, to revues between the wars, to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. She was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her wartime service in the Merchant Navy.

Books

Some of my favourite books by and about women include:

  • Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • Deborah Harkness’s The All Souls trilogy

  • Mary Higgins Clark’s Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir

  • Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s series

  • Celeste Ng’s, Little Fires Everywhere

  • Elizabeth Peters’s The Amelia Peabody series

  • Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilts series and her other historical fiction

  • Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian

  • Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  • Sarah Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game