Do You Know These Women? – Part II

History books are full of the deeds of men – both good and bad.  But what about the women?  Surprisingly women have accomplished a great deal that has never really been given the attention it deserves.

Yesterday I wrote about the women who helped break the codes of the Axis forces in World War II.  If you did not read that post, I encourage you to do so.  I also mentioned a book that gives much more detail about these thousands of women who helped us achieve victory in that war.

Do You Know These Women?

While these women were working to help win the war, another woman created a lot of controversy in her lack of support for the war.

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the United States Congress.   She was elected in 1916 four years before the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

The 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote, it guaranteed them the right to vote.  Before passage of the amendment, women in many states already had the right to vote.  Montana was one of those states and thus was the first state to send a woman to Congress.

The following states granted women the right to vote prior to the 19th Amendment:

1890 Wyoming
1893 Colorado
1896 Utah, Idaho
1910 Washington
1911 California
1912 Arizona, Kansas, Oregon
1914 Montana, Nevada
1917 New York
1918 Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota

A native of Montana Rankins was an activist for much of the 20th century and a heroine to the feminists in the 1960’s.

Her first vote in the House of Representatives – the first cast by any woman – was to vote against a declaration of war against Germany in 1917.  That time she was joined by 50 in the House and six in the Senate in opposing the war.

Years later she was the lone member of Congress who voted against Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration of war against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  That vote cost her political career.

In retirement she became a world traveler meeting many leaders of other countries.  She also spoke on women’s rights, called for election reform, and continued to advocate for legislation to protect children.

As a member of Congress, she had sponsored a bill with Senator Joseph Robinson to provide much needed health care for mothers and children.

During hearings on the bill a Dr. Howe objected that women should quit fighting for the vote and stay home and take care of their children.  He said babies were even born blind because their mothers did not have the sense to use silver nitrate to prevent the blindness.

Jeanette Rankin:  “How do you expect women to know this disease when you do not feel it proper to call it by its correct name?  Do they not in some states have legislation which prevents women from knowing these diseases and only recently….were women permitted in medical schools.  You yourself, from your actions, believe it is not possible for women to know the names of these diseases.”

Dr. Howe:  “I did not like to use the word ‘gonorrhea’.”

Jeanette Rankin:  “Do you think anything should shock a woman as much as blind children?  Do you not think they ought to be hardened enough to stand the name of a disease when they must stand the fact that children are blind?”

While I personally did not agree with a lot of her political and social stands, I was impressed by what she accomplished as a single woman in that time of history in the USA.  Interesting that we do not hear much about this first woman elected to Congress.  Think you might enjoy learning more.  You can – take a look at this interesting and controversial woman in the book “Jeanette Rankin – America’s Conscience” by Norma Smith.

 

 

(Details of interaction between Rankin and Howe are found in the Montana Historical Society Archives)

 

Do You Know These Women?

Do you like history?  American history?  Would you consider yourself knowledgable on our country’s past?  If so, do you know these women?

  • Dorothy Vaughan
  • Mary Jackson
  • Katherine Johnson
  • Christine Darden
  • Jeanette Rankin
  • Dot Braden
  • Ann Caracristi
  • Virginia D. Aderholt

The list could go on and on.  Somehow it seems the women have been sadly neglected in our history books.

The last three were among the first to learn that World War II was officially over.   Recruited, along with thousands of others, these women worked decoding messages sent by the Germans and Japanese.  As the war with Japan began to end the Japanese could not communicate with the USA directly because lines of communication had been cut.  It was determined that the Japanese planned to send a message announcing their intent to surrender via the neutral Swiss.  The message would be sent to the Japanese ambassador in Bern who would then take it to the Swiss foreign office.

As the message came through to the Japanese ambassador Virginia D Aderholt was the one who decoded the message.  From there word was sent to President Truman that the surrender would be coming shortly.

These three women were part of the larger group who helped to break the complex systems used by the Axis Powers to hide their messages in secret.  These young women were recruited from colleges all over the USA.  Young and eager to help with the war effort as their husbands and brothers were fighting, they did much to help our country not only win the war, but saved many American lives in the process.

Representative Clarence Hancock of New York stated:

I believe that our cryprographers…in the war with Japan did as much to bring that war to a successful and early conclusion as any other group of men>

Want to know more about these terrific women?

Check out the book Code Girls – The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II written by Liza Mundy.

And follow my blog for the next few days as I share stories of other women neglected in our history books.

Women like “Stagecoach Mary” a formerly enslaved woman who carried the U.S. mail – and her rifle – through the Montana mountains.

Lulsa Capetillo, a Puerto Rican labor leader who was arrested in Havana for wearing pants in public.

And much more.

 

 

Some Scary Thoughts During This Cold Snap

We Americans like to think how great and advanced our nation is – and we are.

But during this cold snap I had a few scary thoughts on just how dependent we are on our great advanced technologies – and what would we do if something happened to them.

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The energy company that supplies our heat sent an emergency text to all its customers asking them to turn down their heat to 65 degrees so that they would not run out of gas this week.

“Due to extreme temps, Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri.”

 

The cold temperatures meant everyone’s furnace was running more and the demand for gas was much higher than normal.  Of course, the company has reserves for times like this.  But, a fire at a compressor station in southeast Michigan had caused them to shut down the plants there.

Even the governor posted a video on her Facebook page asking customers to lower the heat in their homes as much as possible,

“so that we can deliver enough gas for everyone to have some heat, and to protect our most critical facilities like hospitals and senior citizens’ homes.”

General Motors shut down eleven facilities in Flint, Lansing, and Orion Township and asked thousands of workers at the Warren Tech Center to work from home through at least Friday.

Ford Motor Company lowered the temperature in its Livonia Transmission Plant and Van Dyke Transmission Plant to minimum levels and stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle Plant, as well as the paint process at Michigan Assembly.  Many other big commercial users closed their plants or reduced their natural gas usage.

Normally in a shortage like this the utility could buy gas from other utilities in neighboring states.  But this cold snap covered all the midwest and there was probably little extra gas to buy.

Of course, the cold snap moved on and we are back to normal.

But some scary thoughts I had:

  • What if the cold snap had lasted longer?
  • What if another processing plant had a fire or other malfunctions?

Unlike Grandma and Grandpa who had a wood stove, we would have nothing to keep us warm.

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Since our power company also uses natural gas to produce electricity, that would probably mean no lights and even my electric stove would not work.  So how would I cook any food?

And our water plant would not be able to provide water and sewer.  Unlike Grandma and Grandpa we had no well and no outhouse.

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My thoughts went on and on.

I realized just how dependent we are on all the advanced technology we have.  I’m thankful for how much easier to makes our lives than our grandparents, but I also realized how quickly we could be brought to our knees.

I also thought how much we take for granted on things many in the world still do not have.

  • Clean, hot water by just turning on a handle on the sink.
  • Comfortable temperatures in the bitter cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer.
  • Lights so that we can stay up late at night or rise early in the morning and not have to work by candlelight.
  • Refrigerators so we can keep enough food for weeks or months and not have to go to market every day for fresh meat.

I could go on and on about all the blessings we have today – but this episode of possible gas shortage has once again made me realize how thankful I should be for the life we Americans live.

And how dependent we really are on technology.