Do You Know These Women – Part III

On May 5, 1961 Alan Shepard, Jr became the first American in space.  Mercury-Redstone’s 15-minute flight was watched by some 45 million television viewers.

I was one of those eagerly watching.   Our junior high school classes suspended the day’s teaching and brought in television sets so we could watch this great moment in history.

What exciting times!  In the years following Americans continued to watch the launching of many rockets and learned the names of the astronauts who were heroes as the Mercury project launched six manned spacecraft between 1961 and 1963.

  • Alan Shephard, Jr – first American in space in 1961.
  • John Glenn – first American to orbit the earth in 1962.
  • Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin – first to reach the moon in 1969.

Today these men’s names are easily recognized and recently a movie was even made about Neil Armstrong, whose first words as he stepped on the surface of the moon has been celebrated:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

While these men have enjoyed fame, the women who worked behind the scene to make these space launches a success are known by few.

One of these women was Katherine Johnson.  Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia in 1918, Johnson clearly had a brilliant mind.  In school she advanced ahead several grades and attended high school by the time she was thirteen.  Enrolling in the black West Virginia State College, she graduated with highest honors in 1937 and began teaching at a black public school in Virginia.

Selected by Dr John W. Davis in 1939 Johnson, along with two male students, were the first black students to be enrolled in West Virginia University.

In 1952 Johnson learned of an all-black computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ at the Langley laboratory in Virginia.  There Johnson analyzed data from flight tests and studied the effects of wake turbulence.

Johnson provided math for several of the engineers and did trajectory analysis for the first launch into space in 1961.  As the engineers began to recognize Johnson’s expertise she was asked to work with them in constructing a worldwide communications network that linked tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, DC, Cape Canaveral and Bermuda.  When John Glenn was preparing for his orbit around the earth he was concerned about the math computations that predicted where he would reenter the earth’s atmosphere.  He was not comfortable with relying on the machines’ calculations.  He asked them to “get the girl” to run the same numbers by hand that the computer had run.  “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

Johnson retired from NASA in 1986 after contributing to the Apollo mission sending men to the moon and working on the space shuttle program.  She has received many honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  This highest civilian honor was presented to her in 2015, at age 97, by President Obama.  NASA also named a building after her – the Katherine G.  Johnson Computational Research Facility.

When you consider the time in which Johnson achieved such success – a time when women had much fewer options opened to them as we do now – but also a time when black Americans were still living under Jim Crow laws in the south – she is an amazing example of courage, determination and brains.

To read much more about this amazing woman and her fellow computers – Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, check out the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.

A movie has also been made based on this book.  I would recommend the movie, but to get the complete story, you need to read the book.  As all movies do, some liberties were taken in the movie.

As they say “behind every successful man is a women” this is certainly true in our space program.

These women’s history should be taught in school along with the names of the astronauts.

Anyone Remember the Icebox?

Long before electricity came to my grandmother’s house she had an icebox.  This was a wooden box usually lined with straw or sawdust that sat in the kitchen or pantry.  The ice man would come around with a 25 to 50 pound block of ice.

My mother grew up with the ice box and even after she got a refrigerator, she referred to it as the ice box.  So that is what I called it.

Until one day my daughters suggested I needed to come into the modern world and call the appliance by its correct name – refrigerator.

As a pastor’s wife I was supervising a church meal and asked a young girl if she would get the salad out of the ice box.  A few minutes later one of my daughters came to me laughing.  The young girl had come to her and said, “Your mother asked me to get the salad out of the ice box.  What is she talking about?”

It took me awhile, but I finally learned to say “refrigerator” not “ice box.”

Anyone remember the ice box?

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.

 

 

How Should Christians Resist Evil

I just finished reading (for the second time) the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of Hitler and World War II.  As the Nazis came to power and took control of the church, he faced a real dilemma.  He could not continue to stand with the church hierarchy who supported Hitler’s regime yet he found it hard to speak out against the church.  Along with several other pastors and theologians he founded what was called the Confessing Church.

A group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) created a pro-Nazi Reich Church.  They wanted the church to conform to Nazi ideology.   In opposition to this, many Christians formed the Confessing Church taking a clear stand against Hitler and his agenda.

However, in time Bonhoeffer became discouraged by the Confessing Church because although they opposed the Nazi regime they said nothing about the persecution of the Jewish people.

As the evil of Nazism became clearer Bonhoeffer faced a difficult decision.

Should he just look the other way as many German Christians were doing?

He had already spoken out against Hitler and his government.  Should he do more?

He knew many of those who were conspiring to kill Hitler and free Germany from the nightmare that was afflicting the nation.  Should he join them in their effort?

What does a Christian do when faced with such evil?

Bonhoeffer, after much soul-searching, joined the effort to get rid of the monster in charge of their country.  For that decision he paid with his life.

He was originally charged with conspiring to rescue Jews and using his foreign travels as a pastor to share the situation in Germany with other countries hoping for help in staging a coup.  His connection to the broader resistance movement was uncovered after a failed July 20, 1944 coup.

He was taken to the Gestapo prison in Berlin and later moved to the Flossenburg concentration camp where he was hanged April 9, 1945 just weeks before the Germans surrendered to Allied forces.

As I look at the divisions in our country – liberal vs conservative, Democrats vs Republicans, pro gun control vs anti-gun control and the list goes on and on, I wonder what a Christian should do.

Please understand I am NOT suggesting that anyone is like Hitler (don’t you go there) or that our country is like Germany in World War II.

But I do wonder how much Christians should get involved in the political debate.  I remember that famous quote which has been attributed to Edmund Burke (although there is debate on who really said it first):

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Do we remain silent when we see bad laws enacted and evil triumphing?

Yet I look at Jesus and his disciples.  They lived under a dictatorship that was evil.  Their fellow Jews were taxed heavily by their oppressor.  Even their worship was controlled in many ways by the Romans.  The Roman ruler, Pilate, kept the garments the High Priest needed to wear on the Day of Atonement.  Each year they had to wait for him to surrender them to the priests so they could perform that sacred sacrifice.

Not one time did Jesus or his followers address that issue.  They were focused on sharing the good news that Jesus had died and rose again for their eternal salvation.

The Apostle Paul even wrote that we should obey those in authority and that God had placed them there.

On the other hand we see throughout the Bible when people disobeyed the laws that were in conflict with God’s commandments.

  • Rahab hid the Jewish spies that came to her in Jericho.
  • Daniel continued to pray to God when the king ruled no prayers were to be said to anyone but him.
  • The three Hebrew children refused to bow down to the statute and were thrown into the fiery furnace
  • When told by the Jewish rulers not to speak about Jesus, the disciples said:

Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God.  For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.

In my own time I think of Martin Luther King Jr who lead the non-violent civil rights protests that led to the end of Jim Crow rules that had been in place since the Civil War.

As I see and hear all the debates in our country today on so many issues:  the wall, gun control, abortion I cannot help but think of that over used phrase from a few years ago:

What would Jesus do?

Wish I had the answer but I also wish that Christians would really think.

  • What issues are worth fighting for because they are evil and against God’s Word?
  • What issues are worth fighting for because we personally believe in them?  Because we believe we have a “right” to certain things?
  • What is our basis for our beliefs – the Bible or the Constitution?
  • Are any “rights” worth fighting for to the point that they become our battle cry instead of the cry for people to know Jesus?
  • Are we Christians first ready to die for the cause of Christ – or Americans first ready to die for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
  • Where in the Bible did Jesus said he came so that we could have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I still struggle with these issues.  My prayer is that the church will take a stand against real evil, but also be willing to let their time and energy (and Facebook comments) promote the cause of Jesus Christ over their desire for their rights.  I have angered friends – and some have even unfriended me on Facebook – but I will continue to say we must not become so obsessed with our “rights” that we forget our mission is to love the world and share the message of Jesus Christ.

 

Happy Birthday Michigan!

On January 26, 1837 the state of Michigan became the 26th state in the United States of America.

That makes the state 182.

I have only lived here four months but I have found so much that is interesting and I can hardly wait until spring to begin exploring.

  • With 3,200 miles of shoreline Michigan claims more lighthouses than any other state.
sable

Big Sable Point Light

  • Michigan touches four out of the five great lakes, more than any other state: Huron, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

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  • The legendary children’s story of Paul Bunyan is believed to be based on a French-Canadian lumberjack Fabian Fournier,  who moved to Michigan after the Civil War to take advantage of the high-paying logging industry.  While Minnesota also claims Bunyan as theirs, two towns in Michigan make that claim.  Ossineke has a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox.

paul b

  • The Cross in the Woods Catholic shrine in Indian River has a 55′ foot cross carved from one redwood tree.  Raised in 1954, a sculpture of the crucified Christ was added to the cross in 1959.  My husband and I visited this shrine several years ago when vacationing in Michigan but I am looking forward to seeing it again come spring.

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  • Mackinaw Island is high on my list of places to visit. The island sits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.  Since I’m a history nut I want to visit Fort Mackinac which was founded in 1780.  Another fort, Fort Holmes, was built during the wall of 1812 and has been reconstructed.  No cars are allowed on the island so that should make travel interesting.
horse 2

Mode of transportation on this island

  • Mackinaw Bridge is one my husband and I crossed on our first visit here.  It is a little scary if you are afraid of heights.  The towers reach 554 feet above the surface water.   Five miles long it is the longest suspension bridge in the Americans.  Known as “Big Mac” it  links Michigan’s Lower and Upper peninsulas. When we planned our trip in Michigan a few years ago it included crossing this brige to the upper peninsula.  I was fine until I read how high the bridge was.  Then panic set in because I have a terrible fear of heights.  When we drive through a mountainous area, I often have to close my eyes to avoid a complete panic attack.  Caught between my fear of heights and my desire to see the upper peninsula, I started my day with my devotion before we headed to the car for the trip.  What a pleasant surprise as I read the devotion for that day.  So thankful that God cares even about our silly fears.  The devotion from the book of Habakkuk that day said:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places

I was now calm and ready to go.  My husband has no fear of heights and was not concerned about driving across the bridge.  However, when we were about half way across the bridge I looked at him and he looked terrified too.  It is a beautiful sight – but I’m not sure my husband is ready to drive over it again.  We shall see.

bridge 2bridge

There’s so much more to see, learn and explore.  But for now, Happy Birthday Michigan!

Detroit Michigan = Motown

Growing up as a teenager in the 60’s I loved the sound of music coming from the studios of the record company Motown in Detroit Michigan.  To me at the time Detroit seemed like a world away.  Little did I know I would one day live just a little over 100 miles from the city.

Today the studio where most of the music of Motown was recorded is a museum.  Called Hitsville USA the museum hosts visitors from around the world who come to see the place where the magic began.

hitsville

Looking back now at that time in American it is ironic to me that this record company founded by a black man, Berry Gordy, and featuring black singers should rise to such success at the same time that much of the country still had Jim Crow laws.

Diana Ross told a story of being in New Orleans for a show.  When she stopped to take a drink at a fountain she noticed people all around her staring.  Pleased at first at the thought that she had been recognized by fans, she was soon disappointed to see that their stares were because she was drinking at a fountain marked “for whites only.”

When Gordy took a group of his new artists on a bus tour in the south they stopped for the night at a hotel.  Hot from the long day on the road, they quickly put on their swimming suits and jumped in the pool.  All the whites in the pool just as quickly got of the pool.  After a few minutes when they discovered that the blacks in the pool were Motown artists, they joined them in the pool.

Some of the great artists of this record company that I loved to listen to:

stevie

Stevie Wonder

 

The Supremes

temptations

The Temptations

I especially loved Chubby Checker who started the twist.  My brother would often tease me by singing the one line from the song:

You should see my little sis.  She knows how to rock, she knows how to twist.

cc.jpg

motown 2

 

This year Motown celebrates 50 years making music.  Gordy started the business with a family loan of $800 but it quickly grew into a financial success.   It became the most successful independent record company in history and the most successful African-American-owned business in America.

 

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Motown was how it helped to break down racial prejudice.