It’s been a couple months now since I last posted…my apologies for the unexpected hiatus. But thanks to a friendly reminder from Juan Duenas, I’m back! I’ve kept busy with my research – I have a couple dozen articles ready to publish, and will start sharing them with you starting tonight. I know I have some catching up to do; I promise to finish some of the things I started last year, it may just take some time. This year, we’ll continue learning about women in history and discussing current events in the political world, especially as the presidential debate draws closer, but we’ll also embark on adventures with museums exhibits, historical inaccuracies in movies, women in politics and positions of power globally, and some European history. I’m excited to share what I’m learning with you, stick around for an intellectually expansive 2016!
Happy Wednesday and welcome to the third day of our Halloween countdown! Today’s post will cover both this week’s Woman in History Crush and the 13 Days of Halloween; the first bit will be the actual history, and the latter will follow with how it ties to the holiday. This week’s WCW is Queen Mary I of England, and our spooky subject is the legend of Bloody Mary.
Mary Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon, born on February 18th, 1516 in Greenwich, England. While Mary was recognized as the first child of Henry, she was declared illegitimate when Henry divorced Catherine on the grounds of incest. A quick refresher on King Henry VIII: he was the monarch who separated England from the Roman Catholic Church and into the Anglican Church mostly in order to divorce Catherine because she hadn’t borne him a male heir, and ended up marrying five other women but had only one male heir, Edward VI, to show for it. After being illegitimatized, Mary was made Princess of Whales as a formality, but Henry never intended for her to gain the thrown.
Mary resided at Ludlow Castle in Whales for most of her youth and young adult life. There, she was educated and excelled at singing and linguistics. As Henry’s wives came and passed and more daughters were added to the lineage, Mary grew angry at both her father and her half-sisters, most notably her first sister and eventual successor, Elizabeth I. With Henry spending most of his time in search of a male-rearing wife for himself, he didn’t devote much of his time to arranging a marriage for Mary. One or two were discussed, like the dropped proposal from Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but Mary did not marry until 1554, when she wed Philip II of Spain.
Like her mother before her, Mary had problems with childbirth. She didn’t marry Philip until her late thirties when the period of safe birth had already passed, but this didn’t stop her from trying to have children, to no avail. Twice, Mary subconsciously willed herself into a false pregnancy, a pseudocyesis, and when it was announced to the people of England that no child existed, her humiliation and stress nearly killed her. Mary eventually gave up on trying to conceive, saying that her inability to reproduce was caused by her toleration of heretics.
Following Henry’s death in 1547, the only male heir was the son of Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour, Edward VI. He took the throne at the age of nine and ruled until he was fifteen, when he died from terminal illness. After his death, his mother seized control of the throne for nine days, until Mary, the rightful heir, gained control. Mary led a five year reign over Catholic England, gaining her nickname “Bloody Mary” when she persecuted Protestants. During the largest persecution that she ordered, some three hundred Protestants were captured and burned at the stake for their religious dissent of Catholicism. Other than the religious aspects of her reign and her overturning of the edict that declared her a bastard child, Mary did little to change or influence the English government or nation.
On November 17th, 1558, Mary died from either ovarian or uterine cancer, along with that year’s strain of influenza. Her half sister Elizabeth, who she had imprisoned due to suspicion of treason, succeeded her rule. Today, we only really remember Mary’s rule when discussing those of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
Now to the legend. Due to television and movies, Bloody Mary has taken a more definite story line within the past century – a person looks into a mirror in a poorly lit room at night and repeats “bloody Mary” thrice, and a ghostly and extremely malicious woman, presumably a Mary, appears in the mirror or as an apparition and physically maims or kills the speaker. However, this isn’t how the legend has always been, and is definitely not how it began.
As far as I could find, the earliest records of mirror-based (not including a broken mirror) superstitions date back to the late eighteenth century. A commonly held belief was that if a young woman walked up to a mirror backwards, candle in hand, then turned and gazed into the mirror, the face of her future spouse would appear. But if she looked for too long, the devil or a demon would appear. The story altered as it was passed from generation to generation, until the common story of today began circulating at teenage parties in the late 1970’s. Youths attempted to summon the ghost of any woman killed in a malicious manor, generally who held some resemblance to the woman in the Spanish legend of La Llorona, by chanting either “bloody Mary,” “I believe in Mary Worth,” or “I stole/killed your baby, Mary.” This last one may sound unfamiliar; it relates back to Mary I’s pseudocyesis, as it aims to provoke the spirit by bringing up her failure to have a child. Regardless of what incantation is used, the basic outline of the story remains the same, making it one of the most popular urban legends.
To learn more about the scandalous life of Mary I of England, check out the English History, bio., and Tudor History sites, and for more about Bloody Mary, go to this About or Wikipedia page. I’ll also informally cite my European History class (thanks again, Coach Patterson!) for my understanding of the Tudor family, as we recently discussed their lineage.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays and the 13 Days of Halloween countdown!
🎶On the second day of Spook-mas, a haunting gave to meeee a taboo number in western countingggg🎶
Man, I wish Halloween carols were a thing, but that’s beside the point. The second day of 13 Days of Spooks covers one of the most feared numbers in western civilizations, the number thirteen. For this post I’m generally referring more to superstition surrounding the number, but real fear, specifically when discussing dates (i.e. Friday the 13th), is a real thing called paraskevidekatriaphobia.
To understand the mystery of the number thirteen, it’s important to understand the role of the number twelve. In the mathematics and sciences of early civilizations twelve was considered the perfect number – it fits into endless descriptive categories and shapes, there are twelve months, twelve hour days and twelve hour nights, and so on. The number is prominent in religion too, with twelve Olympians in Greek and Roman mythology, twelve sons of Odin in Norse mythology, twelve Imams of Muhammad in Islam, twelve petals in the Anahata Chakra in Hinduism, twelve apostles and the twelve days of Christmas in Christianity, and the celebration of bat mitzvah at age twelve in Judaism. Twelve, for some unexplained reason, basically holds tremendous universal power.
So what makes thirteen spooky? Because twelve was so perfect and thirteen immediately followed, it was somewhat viewed as wicked, a catalyst of the perfection. Religion again played a role in creating importance for the number; in the ancient Persian civilization, followers of Zoroastrianism observed Sizdah Be-dar, which fell on the thirteenth day of the Iranian year, as a day when evil’s presence was at its’ strongest, and at the Last Supper in Christianity, Judas Iscariot was the thirteenth guest at the table and ultimately betrayed Jesus. Astrologically, early monks believed a year with thirteen full moons instead of the more common twelve indicated bad luck, as the additional moon threw off the planning of religious festivals.
Superstition of the number isn’t isolated to ancient and early civilizations, however. In many European and North American hotels, floor numbering skips from twelve to fourteen, and gates at some airports follow suit, to avoid the existence and sequential bad luck of a thirteenth number. Also, numerous movies have been made related to the thirteenth day of events and Friday the 13th, generally in the genre of horror, so some people naturally assume it holds scary characteristics. Some people even go as far as to take days off work when Friday the 13th’s occur.
Thirteen isn’t all bad though. In the ancient Aztec culture, the numbers seven and thirteen were actually considered mathematically perfect like twelve, to which most of the civilization’s ruins can attest. Thirteen is also lucky in Chinese culture, where bad luck is instead attributed to the number four. How you feel about the significance of thirteen and other numbers is directly related to your cultural origins, and for now, thirteen remains a spooky number in America.
Thanks so much for reading! You can find more about the history of thirteen on History Channel and Wikipedia. Tomorrow we’ll continue with our 13 Days of Spooks, and, as tomorrow is a Wednesday, a Woman in History Crush post is in store, so stick around!
As you may have noticed, it is the month of October or as I like to call it, the month of spooks. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I thought it would be fun to learn more about the history of some of the traditional aspects of the holiday. Thus, this is day one of the 13 Days of Spooks, a countdown to the 31st. Today’s spooky topic: All Hallows Eve and the origins of Halloween.
Beginning in the first century, the Celts lived in present-day Ireland and northern France, and celebrated their new year on the first of November. Called Samhain (pronounced sow-een), the festival marked the end of summer, a time of harvest and rounding up of livestock, and the beginning of winter. Additionally, as it was an observance of the coming of a new year, the festival was held to honor the lives of those who had died within the year. The belief was that during Samhain, ghosts and other supernatural beings were allowed to mingle with the living before their journey to eternal rest; people sought to appease the spirits with sacrifices of animals and crops to Celtic deities, and lit bonfires to guide ghosts to the land of the dead.
Around 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had seized control of most Celtic territories, and over the course of its’ half century reign mixed Roman traditions with those of the Celts. The Romans observed two fall celebrations: Feralia, an October commemoration of the dead, and Pomona, an early November harvest festival honoring the goddess of the same name. Aspects of these festivals, including bobbing for apples, were added into Samhain’s repertoire of activities, which influence how we celebrate today.
It was during the mid sixth and seventh centuries that Samhain experienced drastic change. Early Christian missionaries, appalled by the pagan holiday, were instructed by Pope Gregory I in 601 to consecrate traditional worship ceremonies in the name of Christ, instead of completely doing away with native celebrations. Following this order, missionaries taught that the supernatural creatures of Celtic lore, specifically fairies and ghosts, were demonic and were sent to earth directly by the devil, and that catering to them would result in an eternity in Christian Hell. This change in perspective gave the holiday the sort of creepy air that we enjoy today.
Then in 609, Pope Boniface IV declared All Martyrs Day in March to honor Christian martyrs, which later Pope Gregor III moved to November 1st and renamed All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day. The church also added the November 2nd observance of All Souls Day in the year 1000 in a further attempt to completely replace Samhain with a church-sanctioned celebration of the dead. So by the eleventh century, two Catholic holidays were meant to end Samhain – instead of letting the tradition die, Celtic people celebrated All Hallows Eve, which perfectly coincided with the customary beginning of Samhain. Over time, All Hallows Eve became Hallows Eve, then Halloe’en, and finally Halloween.
More information about the origin of my favorite holiday can be found on the History Channel and American Folk Life Center websites. Tomorrow will follow with day two of our Halloween countdown, check it out if you dare.
Another Wednesday, another Woman in History Crush! This past Monday, the U.S. observed the Columbus Day holiday. At this point in time, Columbus Day is highly controversial, as it celebrates a man who as we now know was terrible to the indigenous people of the Americas, one of his most noted cruelties being basically starting the enslavement and trade of captive Native Americans in the late 15th century. Within the last few years, many activist and university groups have protested the observance of Columbus Day, and the city of Seattle in Washington now celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. So in the spirit of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, today’s WCW is Lyda Conley.
Born in 1869 in Ohio, Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley was of mixed European and Wyandot descent. For clarification, the Wyandot tribe originates from the St Lawrence Valley region in Canada, and shares some similarities with the Iroquois tribe. Conley grew up on a sixty five acre farm in Kansas with her three older sisters, with whom she remained close throughout her adult life. In 1902, Conley graduated from the Kansas City School of Law, and became the first woman admitted to the Kansas bar.
Before we get too far into the main court case of Conley’s career, it’s important to understand a brief history of the Kansas Wyandot tribe. Starting in the mid-1850’s, some Wyandot members accepted U.S. citizenship. The tribe’s land holds were soon divided among only the newly declared citizens, so the tribespeople who didn’t become citizens migrated to Oklahoma both to retain land and because they were forced to do so as non- citizens during the carrying out of the Indian Removal Act. While tribal structure suffered with the parting of ways, the Wyandot held continued legal authority over the communal burial grounds, the Huron Indian Cemetery. But in 1906, the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma approved the sale of the cemetery to the United States government without holding a vote for the descendants of the tribe in Kansas City.
When Conley and her sisters found out about the deal made without half the tribe’s consent, they were enraged, and vowed to protect the land their ancestors were buried in from development. The sisters immediately built a structure on the burial grounds in which they lived and stood guard with muskets and “no trespassing” signs. In 1907, Conley petitioned to the Kansas District U.S. Circuit Court for injunction against the sale authorization. Following rejection in the Circuit Court, Conley appealed the case to the Supreme Court. During the appeal, Conley was the first female Native American lawyer admitted to speak directly before the Court. The Court supported the rulings of the lower courts, but this didn’t discourage Conley or her sisters. The three women advocated and gained support for their cause, preserving native lands with native peoples, in women’s clubs and small organizations. Around 1913, Conley was actually arrested for shooting a policeman who attempted to remove her from the cemetery. This publicity was what their cause needed; it attracted the aid of Senator Charles Curtis (later Vice President under Herbert Hoover), who three years later introduced legislation to Congress to turn the cemetery into a protected park. Curtis’ bill passed, and the cemetery was safe from urban developers.
The Conley sisters continued acting as guardians over the burial grounds after gaining its’ legal protection, and would provide food for the birds and squirrels inhabiting the park. In 1937, while fending off people from the cemetery, Conley was again arrested, this time for disturbing the peace. Conley served ten days in jail for her sentence, and then was virtually forgotten about until her death on May 28th , 1946. Following her death, Conley was buried alongside her ancestors at the Huron Cemetery.
Despite several years of American history courses in school, I’ve learned more about Native Americans in history this week than ever before. I was inspired to read up on the lives and accomplishments of notable indigenous people after reading the article about Seattle that I mentioned earlier, which is how I learned about Lyda Conley. I think Conley’s story is inspirational; she believed in the preservation of her tribe’s lands and culture so fervently that she took both unconventional and common approaches to advance her cause, and continued appealing and fighting for it until a change was actually made.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays! I should soon be posting my thoughts about both the last GOP and yesterday’s Democratic debates, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Hello, and happy Wednesday! This week’s Women in History Crush Wednesday strays a bit from the norm, as she didn’t have much to do with any aspect of advocacy or the political world, and that’s okay! In choir for the past several weeks we’ve been working on the song “There Will Be Rest,” an absolutely beautiful piece, and today in rehearsal we discussed the meanings of the poem that serves as the lyrics and the biography of the poet. Before we go on, I’d like to dedicate this post to my amazing choir director, Mrs. Wilson, who has helped me grow immensely these past four years, as a musician and as an individual. Thank you for everything you do for both me and the incredible choir program at our school, you’re a rock star! Now, without further ado, this week’s WCW is great American poet Sara Teasdale.
Born on August 8th, 1884 in St. Louis, Missouri, Teasdale was the youngest child of her three other siblings. This, in addition to her inexplicably constant sickly state, led to Teasdale growing up in an extremely sheltered atmosphere. She never had to help with chores, was home-schooled, and mainly only held communication with the adults in her family. However, because she never had to partake in unpleasant activities, Teasdale became enthralled with the beautiful things in life, and often described herself as “a flower in a toiling world.” At age ten, Teasdale was finally introduced to children her age when she was enrolled in Miss Ellen Dean Lockwood’s School for Girls and Boys. She attended the Mary Institute Day School for her high school career before transferring to and graduating from Hosmer Hall in 1902. During high school, Teasdale began writing poetry and received her first publication in a local newspaper. Within ten years, she published over eight collections of her poems, most notably Helen of Troy and Other Poems.
In 1914, Teasdale married Ernst Filsinger. While they had a seemingly happy marriage, Teasdale filed for divorce in 1929, and the two supposedly never spoke again. However, if you were to visit Teasdale’s grave(shown below), you’d see the surname Filsinger; Teasdale’s sister went against her wish to have her ashes scattered and instead did what she felt proper, which included adding the “Filsinger” to her headstone.
During their marriage and even more so following their divorce, Teasdale dedicated herself to her poetry. She published numerous collections, including Love Songs, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1918. Her poetry generally focused on seeing the beautiful aspects of life through the darkness – she drew heavily from the lonely but “pretty” experiences of her childhood for inspiration. Teasdale’s poems were well received in her life time, but in fairly recent years have been written off as overly simplistic, thus diminishing her ranking as a great poet amongst scholars.
In late 1932, Teasdale contracted chronic pneumonia, which increased her frailty and sickliness, and weakened her mind and spirit. She fell into a depression, which ended her ability to find the glamorous things in life. On January 29th, 1933, at the age of forty eight, Teasdale committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates (anxiety pills). Later that year, her final collection, Strange Victory, was published, which to this day continues to remain as one of her most significant works.
Teasdale’s works are still widely enjoyed today, both in their original form and in choral adaptations. Additionally, author Ray Bradbury references her poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” in his short story under the same title. The strongest messages to take away from her poems include that of hope in dark times, which have so far stood the tests of time.
To learn more about Sara Teasdale’s somewhat mysterious life, check out her biographies on the Poetry Foundation, PoemHunter, and Academy of American Poets sites, where many of her poems can also be found.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!
I hope everyone had a great Wednesday! I apologize for missing Women in History Crush Wednesday last week and being late this week – it’s the end of the grading period at school, which means tests and quizzes in every class, every day. I’m not even sure at this point how we’ve learned enough material in between tests to have our absorption accurately assessed, yet the testing continues. But I digress. This week’s belated WCW is one of the most famous anthropologists in the world, Margaret Mead.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 16th, 1901, Mead was the embodiment of the Progressive Era in which she was raised. Mead began journaling about human behavior and characteristics at the age of six as she helped her mother and grandmother raise her four siblings. Due to her parents’ constant relocation for jobs as professors and social reformers, Mead’s education prior to college was varied and intermittent. She spent several years in both grade and high school, with the gap years spent under the home instruction of her grandmother. Besides basic curriculum, Mead was taught skills like carving, music, and arts while home schooled. Her grandmother’s main focus in teaching Mead was to instill in her a well-rounded and inquisitive nature and a routine of observing the behaviors of people, ideologies that drove her through her life. Mead started her college education at her father’s alma mater, DePauw University, but after a year transferred to Barnard College, where she graduated with a degree in psychology. By 1929, she had earned her doctorate from Columbia University, where she studied with renowned anthropologist Franz Boas.
Following graduation, Mead set off on her first “salvage anthropology” research mission to American Samoa. While anthropology is the broad study of human culture, salvage anthropology is the urgent documenting of the vanishing cultures. On her first trip in Samoa, Mead focused on the raising of adolescent girls, and published her findings in the Coming of Age in Samoa. In this work, she suggested that the experiences of developmental stages are strongly influenced by the cultural norms, demands, and expectations. Her second field study sent her to the Manus Islands in New Guinea, this time with a focus on the interaction between childhood play and the influence of adult society. Her studies from this trip were groundbreaking, as she was the first to analyze human development in a cross-cultural perspective in her book Growing Up in New Guinea. For the next forty six years, Mead studied gender, age, and societal relations and how they’re interconnected in numerous countries around the world, publishing hundreds of reports and over twenty novels about what she learned.
During World War II, research outings in the South Pacific, including Mead’s, were put on hold. During this break, Mead and college research partner Ruth Benedict founded the Institute for Intercultural Studies to study rapidly changing contemporary cultures. Mead was able to revisit the Manus Islands at the conclusion of the war to study the impact of the growing global interactions after war exposure, publishing her research from this trip in New Lives for Old.
In the mid-1960’s, Mead retired from field work. She had worked through the ranks to become one of the lead curators at the American Museum of Natural History, had her work on display at the museum, and was in high demand as a lecturer. Mead believed that patterns of bigotry and exploitation were learned traits, and so spoke to large crowds about toleration, change, and the modification of traditional culture, encouraging action and awareness. Some of her most distinguished causes included education, ecology, gender equality, nuclear weaponry, and student-based protest.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
Because of her profound ideas, especially those about cultural conditioning, Mead was subject to opposition. Many of her peers called her “scandalous” and a state governor even went so far as calling her a “dirty old lady” for her cultural suggestions. Nonetheless, Mead was awarded twenty eight honorary doctorates during her career, taught at seven highly prestigious universities, and helped found anthropology departments at NYU and Fordham University. Additionally, she served as the president for organizations including the American Anthropological Association, Royal Anthropological Institute of Film, Scientists Institute for Public Information, Society for Applied Anthropology, and the American Association for Advancement of Science.
Mead’s personal life wasn’t quite as put together as her academic life. She married and divorced three times; first to Luther Cressman for five years, then to Reo Fortune for about seven years, and finally to Gregory Bateson for fourteen years. With the latter, Mead had a daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, in 1939. Mary Catherine has followed in her mother’s footsteps, as she is now an accomplished author and Visiting Scholar at Boston University for cultural anthropology. After battling cancer for a year, Mead died on November 15th, 1978 in New York City.
One of the most profound effects Mead made in the realm of human understanding was that she proved that no matter the complexity or technological advancement of a civilization, lessons can be taught and learned from one another. She approached every group she studied with respect, and preached the importance of respect and acceptance. For this reason, she was christened the “Mother of the World” by Time magazine in 1969. Mead’s lessons are a massive inspiration as our global society becomes more connected, as they teach us that understanding and unified work can create peace between people.
To learn more about Margaret Mead’s enthralling life and research, check out her books and autobiography, along with these bio., Webster, Institute for Intercultural Studies, and Library of Congress articles.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!
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)