when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for September 2012

When President Obama appointed Stephanie Rose for the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, and she was confirmed by the US Senate on September 10, by an 89-1 vote, he has put 72 women on the federal bench in this term, 29 of them minorities.  Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, voted against Judge Rose.  She was supported by Iowa’s Senators:  Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican.

We’re making headway, one judge at a time.


Eleanor Roosevelt built Val-Kill (see 9/10 post) in 1926, ostensibly to get out from under Sara Roosevelt, her mother-in-law, a woman who was apparently somewhat overbearing.  FDR supported this venture, found the land, and helped design and oversee the construction.  When it was finished, Eleanor moved in with Dickerman and Cook.  In addition to being involved in liberal Democratic causes in the last twenties and early thirties, these three women established a furniture factory at Val-Kill in order to teach woodworking skills (something Cook was adept at) to local boys to supplement their farm income.  They also bought a school for girls, Tadhunter, which focused on female intellectual achievement and leadership.  Cook ran the factory, Dickerman the school.

With these three women at Val-Kill, it quickly became the magnetic center for political activists who were campaigning for improved housing, sanitation and wages, availability of public parks and recreation, job-safety legislation and many of the social issues that would later become the focus of the New Deal.

A couple of years ago I pulled a page out of a magazine and intended to blog about it.  But I promptly misplaced the article.  Cleaning some drawers I found it, and it is still a good subject: Toni Cooley.

Do you know Toni Cooley?  If not you need to find a way to meet her.  She was born in Chicopee, Mississippi and has lived lots of places (her dad, Dr. Bill Cooley, formerly Jackson State’s  Business School Dean, was an Army guy) including DC, Atlanta, and Minneapolis.  She graduated from St. Joseph High School in Jackson, Stephens College, and the University of Minnesota Law School.  And now, among other things, she is president of Systems Electo Coating in Madison, and active with her father and mother in two other family-owned businesses:  Systems Consultants Associates and Systems IT, associated with the New Horizons Computer Learning Center which is located in The Quarter on Lakeland Drive.

Toni is the kind of woman that I want to be when I grow up!

In another life I am reading a book on Eleanor Roosevelt that my great friend Kesha Perry gave me.  The book actually focuses on her activity with the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which she presented in Paris on December 9, 1948.  If you are interested in speeches, you might visit  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/eleanorrooseveltdeclarationhumanrights.htm.

Eleanor Roosevelt left us with a plethora of words, but the ones I remember most are these:  “You must do the thing you cannot do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt had many close relationships with other strong women.  For example, she lived on Val-Kill in a cottage with Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook, two Syracuse classmates who were lifelong partners.  These three women had a common dedication to politics, education and progressive reform which led to a deep friendship which some speculated was romantic between the three, as well as the purchase of the Todhunter School and Val-Kill Industries.

When Lorena Hickok, an American journalist who developed a strong relationship with Eleanor, became a regular at Hyde Park, she took an active dislike to Dickerman and Cook, and the relationship between the two and Eleanor unraveled, even though Dickerman and Cook lived in the cottage until 1947.

There is speculation that Eleanor had a lesbian relationship with Dickerman and Cook (when they lived in the cottage together their sheets and towels were monogrammed with all three of their initials) and then later with Hickok.  Who knows?  Eleanor left strong words in letters, but strong words does not a lesbian relationship make.  One thing is sure.  Eleanor, Dickerman and Cook, and later Hickok, shared a Boston Marriage.

The term “Boston marriage” came from Henry James’ The Bostonians.  It described two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.  The term was widely used in the late 19th and early 20th century, but then went into disuse until again propagated by David Mamet in his play of the same name which debuted in 2000.

The term is delightful.  Use it for the interplay and support between strong women.

I am no historian, but I am going to say it:  The Commonwealth’s two best monarchs have been named Elizabeth.  And each has had the “… the body of a weak and feeble woman, but … the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.”  And Elizabeth II’s reign has seen an enormous change in the potential for future, successful English monarchs.  Because, with a change in the language of the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights, and the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, the first-born child of the monarch, not the first-born son, will succeed to the throne.  It’s about time.


Posted on: September 4, 2012

Mustafa Kemel Ataturk.  Ever heard of him?  He is the father of modern Turkey.  So why am I blogging about him in a women’s issues blog?  Because Ataturk reformed the Turkish civil code and granted women’s suffrage incrementally between 1926 and 1934.  Eighteen female Members of Parliament were elected to the Turkish Parliament in 1935.  In 1935, women had just held the right to vote for a bit over a decade in the US and most women in European countries had no voting rights at all.

Ataturk is quoted as having proclaimed:  “To women:  Win for us the battle of education and you will do more for your country than [all men] have been able to do.  It is to you that I appeal.  To men:  If henceforward, women do not share in the social life of the nation, we shall never attain to our full development.  We shall remain irremediably backward, incapable of treating on equal terms with the civilizations of the West.”

For those of you who have some interest in “plain ole history” it was Ataturk’s army which claimed the victory of the Dardanelles Strait (Gallipoli).

September 2012
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