when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for December 2010

I wish to you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season and best wishes for 2011!



Just some notes about employment opportunities in World War II for women:

Before the US entered the war, 11.5 million women worked.

During the war, 6.5 million women joined the workforce.

Approximately 4 million women who were in the workforce before the war began took industrial war jobs, rather than their prior “pink collar” jobs — so many women that cafes closed because there were no waitresses.

Half of the women who joined the workforce during the war went into industrial war jobs.

A million or so women moved from the “pink collar” jobs they had previously held into traditionally men’s positions of agriculture and sales.

Fifty percent of all American women were employed in the US at some point during the height of war production, and for the first time in American history, there were more married women working than there were single women.  In addition, more women over 35 years of age were employed in this period than ever before in American history.

Of course, when military men began to come back home after the war, the home they wanted to come home to did not include a female workforce.  Women knew that the jobs they were offered were only “temporary” until the war was over.

However, most of these women would tell you that something from their work experience stayed with them.  Most of them described it thusly:  “Nobody helped us with our job…The job reinforced the feeling that I was the equal of any man.” or “We liked this feeling of earning our own money, making it ourselves, and not asking anybody how to, or if we could, spend it.”

As Yellin concludes about women in the workforce:  “Women had had a taste of making their own money and having their own life outside the home, and many had liked it.  Although society in general could not discern it right away, in hindsight it is clear that no matter how hard anyone tried to coax her, the genie was not going to go back in.  A revolution had begun in working life and home life in America.”

I am an avid reader, and particularly an avid reader on the subject of women’s issues in a historical context.  To that end, I am reading a terrific book that I picked up at the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific in Fredricksburg, Texas this spring.  (Why was I in Fredricksburg you might ask?  It was a day-trip from San Antonio and the Women’s Final Four!)

The book is titled Our Mothers” War and was written by Emily Yellin.  I’ve learned a lot, but for the next day or two I want to share some of that trivia that you often learn in books which relate history.

Today I want to introduce many of my younger readers to Alberto Varga a Peruvian born artist who created Varga Girls, which Yellin describes as “supremely available women that men pinned up in their barracks to help divert them from the perils of war.”  “Esquire” magazine printed the pics and the U. S. Post Office tried to censor the magazine because of its “obscene, lewd and lascivious character.”  The magazine prevailed in the administrative procedure offered by the Post Office Department, and the U. S. Postmaster General appealed.  In 1946, a year after the war ended, the United States Supreme Court unanimously sided with “Esquire.”

Alberto Varga is a talented man.  You’ll find his work, as well as the work of other active pin-up artists, on the website http://www.thepinupfiles.com/vargas1.html.

Another day and another time, but I suspect that Varga Girls and their successors remain popular within the ranks of military men.


If you follow my State and Local Government blog at the Stennis Institute, you will find this post familiar.  While I am providing the same facts, the end will be a bit different.

Last week we were lucky enough here at MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY to have a visit from Ambassador Meera Shankar, the Indian ambassador to the US.  She was in Jackson as our guest and the specific guest of  Dr. Janos Radvanyi, former director of MSU’s Center for International Security and Strategic Studies and now professor emeritus.

But guess what?  That trip was marred by a search (including a pat down) by TSA officers in Jackson, even though Ambassador Shankar presented her diplomatic papers to the officers.  TSA said it followed its usual protocol and that diplomats are not immune from searches, although what happened in Jackson seemed to deviate from conventions for treatment of diplomats in a foreign country.

So guess why TSA singled out the Ambassador for a search?  She was told she was singled out because of the way she was dressed — an Indian woman, diplomat no less, wearing a sari.  According to TSA, the search was warranted when passengers wear bulky clothing. TSA spokesman Jon Allen said the agency can conduct additional screenings when passengers wear “bulky” clothing.

I’m a Mississippi girl and not all that familiar with a sari, but I do know enough to say that “bulky” they are not.

So is it the fact that the Ambassador is a “foreigner”?  That her complexion may have a bit more olive tone than my own?  That she “dresses funny”?  Or that she’s a woman.
Whatever reason, while the TSA spokesman reminded the press that TSA officials were required to use their “discretion” in whether to go into “search mode”, while a passenger is handing me her diplomatic papers, it seems that rather the TSA used an “abuse of discretion”.  I guess they were just looking for trouble.
India is one of those countries that has passed a quota to ensure the participation of women in government. Thirty-three per cent of all seats on local and district councils are established for women by law.  Need I say that the US is not one of those countries.

We’ll never know the real reason that the Ambassador was searched.  But I think that gender plays a role.  How incredibly deep does the distrust of women run in this country? Does it go back to Adam and Eve
in the perception of many of America’s fundamental Christians? And how long will women as a gender continue
to suffer as a result of the fact that a majority of the country’s population – some women included – somehow
sense a need to defer to men.

Indian men tend to wear more conventional western clothing — shirts, trousers, coats.  In village life, however, men appear to be more comfortable in traditional attire:  the sherwani, lungi, dhoti and kurta-pajama.  The majority of Indian women choose to wear traditional attire, as did the Ambassador.  Had Ambassador Shankar been instead Ravi Shankar, dressed in traditional attire and carrying his sitar, would the TSA have searched him?


December 2010
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