More Than Unplanned

Last week, the Republican-heavy House of Representatives voted to stop government funding of Planned Parenthood. As you can probably tell by reading any of my other blog posts, women’s rights, especially those over the decisions that affect our bodies, are very important to me. This being said, let’s talk about Planned Parenthood, and what Congress’ decision means.

More Than Unplanned

Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916 with the goal to provide women’s health care, along with reproductive and sex education, worldwide, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. With over 700 clinics in the United States and hundreds of others operating globally, Planned Parenthood serves nearly 2.7 million men and women annually, its top services being pre-cancer screenings, sex education programs, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Despite what the media portrays, only 3% of administered services are abortion related.

Since the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, about a third of the organization’s funding has come from the U.S. government. Legally, however, not a single penny has been used for abortion services; the funds from the U.S. government are solely used for education, screening, and treatment processes. Court case proceedings challenging the services and funding of Planned Parenthood have been occurring since 1976, the most notable, in my opinion, being the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs Casey case, which set the standard of abortion proceedings that included the removal of spousal consent requirement, which previously necessitated the consent of the husband for a woman to receive an abortion. While this may sound like it encourages a secretive relationship, consider the lives of women in abusive marriages, and how they may not want, but are forced into, pregnancy. There has been legislation in over six states considering reducing state funding of the organization, but many of these efforts have been overturned and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

So what does Friday’s decision, the total cutting of federal government funding to Planned Parenthood, mean? It means that the House of Representatives is so fixated on the political argument of pro-life versus pro-choice that it is willing to overlook the health care and family planning benefits of the organization. Instead of looking at the 97% of services that save people’s lives daily, they are stuck on the 3% of services that are administered only by an individual’s choice. With the huge cut to funding, the availability of health care services may become limited and less affordable to low-income men and women, in turn raising the potential for life endangering conditions in these individuals.

Hold whatever opinion you prefer in the pro-life/pro-choice argument, but understand this – your living conditions are unique to you. If you are simply reading this post, know that you are in the richest 5% of the world’s population. While you may be able to afford sufficient, high-level health care, approximately half of the world’s population doesn’t have that luxury. Planned Parenthood isn’t some fetus killing machine, it is predominantly a health care provider. By the U.S. government cutting funding for the organization, it is essentially cutting health care services for people worldwide. I personally hope President Obama vetoes Congress’ decision, or that the Supreme Court challenges it. In my opinion, it is not fair to take away the availability of health care from those that need it most.

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¡Sí Se Puede!

Happy Wednesday! This week is performance week for the show choir I’m in, so I haven’t really had ample time to conduct new research…but worry not, my friends. For AP U.S. History last year, we had a project where we had to research and role play as an important figure from the 1970’s. We were given a pre-approved list of figures; around 75% of the figures were men, and all but two of the women were fashion models with little to no societal or political impact. I knew there were prominent female figures during the time period that held great impact in the cultural movements of the 70’s, so I chose to pick my own figure and go through the process of getting her approved. Thus, I chose, for both the project and now this week’s WCW, Dolores Huerta.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Dolores Huerta

Beginning in the 1960’s and continuing still today, Dolores Huerta is a successful lobbyist and activist fighting for civil and equal rights for women, children, workers, and LGBT citizens. Born in 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico, Huerta was inspired to pursue a lifestyle of helping others and advocating equality by her mother, who had an extremely independent, entrepreneurial, and compassionate spirit. Additionally, her father’s position on the New Mexico legislature and as a union activist influenced her approach to achieving social change via the legal process and non-violent protests.

Following her education at the University of Pacific’s Delta College, Huerta was initially a teacher in an elementary school in Stockton, California. Huerta noticed that many of her students came from families struggling financially and legally, and decided that she “could do more by organizing farm workers than teaching their hungry children”. So she left formal teaching and began her leadership in the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). While serving in the CSO, Huerta founded the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA), which quickly organized voter registration drives and advocated for local barrio improvements. Her work in the AWA connected her to well-known activist César Chavez. The pair decided that the CSO didn’t have specific enough of a mission; they both resigned from their positions and founded the National Farm Workers Association, which was later named the United Farm Workers union (UFW). The UFW successfully secured legislation for their cause, including disability insurance, better wages and working conditions, and union rights, through the use of non-violent protests and boycotts, like the National Boycott of California Table Grapes that lasted from 1965  to 1970. While working for the farm workers movement, Huerta noticed that gender discrimination was not only at play in the American society of the 1970’s, but also in the movement. Unknowingly, simply her work in the CSO, AWA, and UFW was breaking down gender norms and barriers and inspiring women everywhere. During her organizing of the grape boycott, Huerta connected with Gloria Steinem, and soon became extremely active in the feminist movement. Huerta was a large part of the nationwide Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power Campaign, which sought to encourage Latina participation in government. For more than fifty years, Huerta has been giving lectures and leading demonstrations across America and in Mexico, advocating equality and social justice for all humans.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Dolores Huerta

Huerta encouraged non-violent protesting, not only since it makes sense morally and generally is better received by government authorities, but because, in a movement to protect rights, human safety was key. However, at a peaceful protest against presidential candidate George H. W. Bush’s planned policies in 1988 in San Francisco, police assaulted her, breaking four ribs and shattering her spleen. Not one to back down from something she believed in, this attack didn’t stop Huerta; she took a stronger role in the feminist movement, and her supporters in the public pushed for crowd control policy reform in the San Francisco Police Department.

Huerta has received many awards for her work and tenacity, including, most notably, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, the Ohtli Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Additionally, she was named one of Ms. Magazine’s Three Most Important Women of 1997, and has received nine honorary doctorates from various American universities.

I was dumbfounded as to why Huerta wasn’t included in the list of figures for my project. She was a prominent figure in the political world, as through her strong negotiation and organizational skills she led improvements in legislation in regards to women’s, children’s, LGBT, workers’, and civil rights and justice. Unlike many of the pre-approved figures, Huerta wasn’t seeking fame for fame’s sake; she sought after change and equality, and her impassioned work and legal success brought the public eye to her. If Huerta had any flaws, they were never made public – she dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of others, and was never involved any scandalous activity. In addition to all of her above work, Huerta was openly against US involvement in the Vietnam War, as she participated and was a leading speaker at many protesting conventions and demonstrations.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Dolores Huerta

It’s hard to tell if she will be included in textbooks, as her work is vast and more than worthy, but several factors are against her. Huerta deserves to be in textbooks because her work was groundbreaking and successful, and benefited so many, but is unlikely to be included since she was most active in a time when women were still not well-received by the media and/or the public, focused on domestic legislation when foreign affairs were deemed more important, and advocated for equal rights for people who, still to this day unfortunately, are looked down upon by many Americans. Dolores Huerta is a hugely impactful and important individual in American history, and it’s a shame that we don’t learn more about her in class.

After learning about her, Huerta has become one of my favorite role models. She is actually one of the people who has inspired me to pursue a career in law, in the hopes that I’ll be able to help people find the legal and cultural justice that she so passionately fought for.

To learn more about the incredible life and work of Dolores Huerta, check out these Makers and bio. articles, and her foundation site.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!

Be heard!

Debate Dates

Tomorrow night, the GOP will be holding their second debate. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tune in, but hopefully I’ll be able to watch and write about it this weekend or at some point next week. If you have to time to watch it live or even later, please do! Primaries start in about five months and the final election is in a little over a year – stay informed!

Here are the upcoming dates as they are currently scheduled – they may changed, added to, or cancelled. I’ll try to keep you updated as things get moved around. For your viewing pleasure:

September 16 (GOP)
October 13 (Democratic)
October 28 (GOP)
November 14 (Democratic)
December 15 (GOP)
December 19 (Democratic)
January 17 (Democratic)
February 6 (GOP)
February 13 (GOP)
February 26 (GOP)
March 10 (GOP)
I hope you can watch tomorrow’s debate; it’ll be broadcast on CNN starting at 7:00CT. Happy watching, be heard!

The Greatest Gran

Welcome to another Women in History Crush Wednesday! This week is particularly special to and emotional for me, and is more of a personal history – today’s WCW is my great-grandmother, Frances Schaefer, because a) she was an amazing lady who I love with all my heart and from whom I learned lots and b) her birthday is this Saturday. I’ve always called her Granny Franny, so instead of referring to her in the following biography by her last name as per usual, I’ll be calling her Fran.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Frances Schaefer

Frances Evelyn Bradley was born on September 12th, 1915 in Newhall, Iowa. She graduated from Newhall Township High School in 1932, and was planning on attending Northwestern University. However, her family had their life savings invested in banks, and were struck hard by the Great Depression, so instead Fran attended the more affordable Iowa State Teacher’s College (which is now the University of Northern Iowa). Initially studying elementary education, Fran switched to a major in music in order to follow her passion, and graduated in 1936. Following graduation, she was the vocal instructor in several Iowa schools, where she met her husband, Eugene V. Schaefer, the instrumental teacher. Because teachers weren’t permitted to be married to each other at the time in Iowa, the couple moved to Toledo, Ohio in 1941 to marry and continue teaching. They honeymooned in Colorado, and loved the area so much that they soon decided to move to east Denver. Fran taught at Horace Mann Junior High School until May of 1946 when my grandma Cyndy was born, and in 1950, Fran’s second daughter, Susie was born. In 1947, Fran and her family moved to a house in south Denver that she lived in until February of this year (a whopping sixty eight years!). Fran began directing the adults, children’s, and youth choirs at the Kirk of Bonnie Brae, their neighborhood church, and directed there for over thirty years. One of her many honors included when Fran was chosen to direct the Denver Children’s Choir Festival. Granny Franny died on February 21st this year, living to be ninety nine and a half years old. She was able to be present in lives of her eleven great-grandchildren, and even got to see my oldest cousin graduate from the Colorado School of Mines.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Frances Schaefer

Granny Franny is one of best people I’ve known in my life. Growing up, she would play board and lawn games and make music with us, and nearly every visit ended with a catching-up session at the Bonnie Brae Tavern (her favorite pizza joint, as pictured above). She loved telling us stories about her life. There are two of her stories that have stuck with me the most. The first was about a boy that she had taught probably fifty years ago that yelled at her during class. The boy cussed at her and was exceedingly unpleasant; instead of getting angry, she had him calm down in the principal’s office, then talked to him about his life to try to understand where his aggression was originating. Her handling of the situation taught me to be patient and understanding regardless of the circumstances, as you never know what others are experiencing in their lives. Her second story was about how she had shattered her wrist while roller skating with her friends in high school, and how that event strengthened her friendships. After her memorial service this summer, my mom and I had the opportunity to help sort out her house. We went through a hundred years of scrapbooks – there wasn’t a single picture of Granny Franny where she wasn’t smiling, laughing, or goofing off with her friends. My great-grandmother was a genuinely optimistic person; a true ray of sunshine. Growing up in the wake of the Depression and the beginning of World War II, there was a lot she could have been bitter about, but that just wasn’t her nature. One of my favorite finds in her house was a home-recorded vinyl record from the late 40’s/early 50’s, which plays a track of Granny Franny and my Grandma Cyndy as a toddler singing nursery rhymes. After her passing, it fills my heart to hear her talking and singing.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Frances Schaefer

There are so many wonderful stories I could tell about Granny Franny, but it would take several posts and at a little after midnight, I’m not emotionally stable enough to do so. I’ll end with how Granny Franny has inspired me, beyond the lessons I learned through her stories. My great-grandma was fiercely independent – she lived by herself until three days before she passed. She would do whatever it took to make the ones she loved happy, even if it meant bending the rules a little bit. And she was the best empathizer; you could sit on her back porch, snacking on mini Dove ice cream bars and talking to her for hours.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!

Be heard!

Portrait of Kahlo

Time again for another midweek, late night history post! Because my school had our neon theme day today and I was surrounded by every bright color known to man, I was inspired to choose an artist to focus on, who happens to be one of the most well-known and successful female artists. Today, we celebrate Frida Kahlo as our WCW.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyocoán, Mexico City, Mexico on July 6th, 1907. She grew up in what became a prominent piece in several of her works and is now a public museum, the Blue House or Casa Azul. When she was about six years old, Kahlo contracted polio, which caused residual damage to her right leg. Despite a slight limp, Kahlo was encouraged by her father to compete in soccer, swimming, and wrestling as rehabilitation exercises, sports not typical of girls at that time. Kahlo became politically active while attending high school at the National Preparatory School of Mexico, where she befriended many like-minded students and actually met future spouse Diego Rivera for the first time while he was commissioned to paint a mural for the school.

In 1925, at eighteen years old, Kahlo was involved in a horrible bus accident, during which she was impaled by a hand railing and experienced numerous fractures and breaks in her spine, pelvis, collarbone, ribs, and legs. Over the span of her life, Kahlo would undergo around thirty surgeries, wear painful medical corsets and correction braces,  and spend years enduring bed rest to attempt recovery. Kahlo would face other serious health problems, including heart problems, gangrene that necessitated the amputation of her right foot, several miscarriages, and an addiction to painkillers and alcohol in her later years.

While on bed rest following the bus accident, Kahlo began painting. Initially, Kahlo’s work mainly consisted of self portraits that focused on the style, both artistically and costume-wise, of traditional Mexican culture, but as she gained experience she began crafting still lifes, concept pieces, and even a few commissioned works. Kahlo didn’t consider her work surreal, saying instead that she “just painted her reality,” but art experts loosely classify her art as surrealist with folk art influence. One of Kahlo’s most shocking paintings, which can be found through the links on either the above or below paintings, depicts the suicide of Dorothy Hale, and was met with criticism and hiding of the work due to its’ perceived insensitivity at the time.

In 1928, Kahlo married muralist Diego Rivera, who was twenty years older than her and far more established in the art community. The pair travelled to Rivera’s American galleries (most notably those in New York City, Detroit, and San Francisco) together until Kahlo was able to present her own work; after that point, the two were hardly together. Both often engaged in outside affairs, Kahlo with both men and women and Rivera with Kahlo’s younger sister at one point. You can actually track their relationship through Kahlo’s self portraits – if her hair was long, their marriage was going well, but if her hair is short, things were sour and she cut her locks in a sense of vengeful defiance. Rivera and Kahlo divorced in 1939, but remarried in late 1940, continuing to live mostly separate lives but legally bound. While together, the couple advocated for communism as active members of the Mexican Communist Party and supporters of Leon Trotsky, who they later disagreed with and abandoned to support Joseph Stalin.

Kahlo died on July 13th, 1954 in Casa Azul. Her cause of death is somewhat mysterious – some claim that her demise was a pulmonary embolism, but others say that she committed suicide due to her depressed state following the amputation of her leg. Whatever the actual cause, Kahlo demanded to be cremated at her death, reasoning that she spent “too much time lying down” in life to continue in death. Since her passing, Kahlo has been honored via feature on United States postal stamps, several biographies and movie adaptations of her life, and in some of the most successful gallery exhibitions of all time.

Women in History Crush Wednesday - Frida Kahlo

“Self Portrait with Necklace”

Kahlo’s reputation is highly controversial. She is held by scores of scholars and museums as a feminist icon, but many believe her art depicted the ideals of victimhood. Additionally, people sometimes hone in on her life story more than her art, glossing over the less glamorous parts of her life and her abundant talent. You can read more about the debate over Kahlo’s successes and reputation in this incredibly detailed article. After learning about the challenges and complexities in Kahlo’s life, I think she should be remembered as an incredible artist who was inspired by her heritage and dramatic life experiences, including high points like her fame and certain times in her marriage, and low points like her health and the other aspects of her marriage. I don’t know much about how criticism in the art community works, but as of now, Kahlo’s pieces are selling for millions of dollars, reportedly ranking her works financially in the same arena as some of the paintings of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

To learn more about the impressively complicated life of Frida Kahlo, check out the Frida Kahlo .org and .com sites and her Biography page, and don’t miss out on enjoying her paintings.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!

Be heard!