Then and Now: A Visit to the Sewall-Belmont House

Like many of you, last year we proudly wore our pantsuits (my friend even made homemade pantsuit stickers!) in expectation of historically breaking the glass ceiling. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and checking my phone which had the CNN breaking news banner and it felt like my whole world dropped out from underneath my feet. History was made, but not in the way we had expected or many of us wanted. I went to work that day despite some of my closest friends telling me that I could and probably should have taken a sick day. I cried on and off all day. I was useless. Heartbroken. Spirit broken. Devastated.

For many strong women I know, what came out of election day was a sense that America was not ready for its first female president. This was a difficult reality that felt incongruent with the modern day. How have we not progressed further from the Mad Men women secretarial era? And when will we? And… will we? So, a big march was organized, pussy hats were knitted, posters were made, and women started training for campaigns of their own. Side note: some women even used the power of blogging and gifs to release pent-up emotions and frustrations!

20171104_120032_HDRAs luck would have it, Queen Jules and I visited the historic Sewall-Belmont House and Museum last weekend where the National Park Service has immortalized the Women’s National Party headquarters. In short, it was amazing! As many of you know, I am a fan girl of anything NPS related, so this was a combination of my two favorite topics. We stamped our national park passport books proudly. (If you haven’t bought a national park passport book, and you like history and parks, you are totally missing out.)

20171104_120324_HDRIn 1929, Alice Paul, suffragist and one of the leaders of the woman’s right movement, moved the National Women’s Party to the Belmont house. A decade earlier, Alice and several other women had been fighting for and finally won the right for women to vote. The museum depicts several of these scenes including the famous Women’s Suffrage Procession in Washington where Inez Milholland dressed in white with a star-crested tiara while riding on horseback. It also recounts the Silent Sentinels, the peaceful protest and picketing of President Woodrow Wilson’s lack of support for women’s voting rights. The protest led to the arrest and hunger strike of unsanitary conditions while imprisoned.

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20171104_115842_HDRAlva Belmont, a multi-millionaire socialite, had already been fighting for women’s rights and was part of the Political Equality League. Unlike the majority of the women’s right movement which focused only on rights for middle-class white women, Belmont formed the first suffrage settlement house in Harlem and included African American and immigrant women in weekend retreats. Alva later joined Alice in the newly formed National Women’s Party and purchased the Belmont house for the group so that they could keep “a vantage point from which they may keep Congress under perpetual observation.”

The Sewall-Belmont House provided an office where pieces of legislation were drafted and later lobbied, and a resting spot for the National Women’s Party. I was struck by how far we have come and how far we have to go to achieve Alice Paul’s vision. Voting was never the end goal for Alice. She wanted women to be engaged and participate in political activity. And for me this visit came full circle. I was reminded of watching interviews from the 2016 campaign where men and some women openly said they would rather have their 19th amendment taken away than elect Hillary Clinton to office. I for one am grateful for the suffragists who came before me and share with Alice that simply voting is not enough. And it was so inspiring to see women and minorities who did win their campaigns this year, including Danica Roem who is the first openly transgender state legislator. Can you hear that? It’s the most delightful sound, the sound of glass cracking.

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In the words of Alice Paul, “When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.” Here’s to planting and harvesting those seeds, my friends!

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It’s Because I Feel Strongly

As the anniversary of election day 2016 draws near, we would like to thank all of you for reading United States Herstory. Much has happened since November 2016. Back then, Queen Jules was campaigning in Florida and Browneyedjude was holding down a job in local government. Now, QJ just moved to DC while BEJ is working on her doctorate. While it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the seminal, heartbreaking day that inspired this blog, a lot of good things have happened too. We had the amazing Sally Yates stand up to a bully, the groundbreaking #MeToo campaign that encouraged men and women around the world to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault (and had some real consequences for perpetrators), and just this weekend, the first American woman since 1977 won the NYC Marathon. Women are kicking butt and taking names, and we are trying to highlight as many of these extraordinary women as we can.

If you are new to Herstory, check out these blog posts about everyday women who are public servants such as Veena Rangaswami and women who have made history for their public service such as Commodore Grace Murray Hopper, inventor of COBOL or Marley Dias who started the #1000BlackGirlBooks movement. Herstory started as a way to celebrate the women who have been forgotten and overlooked in history books and the women today who deserve to have a spotlight shone on them.

In the coming days, we are going to share posts about women to watch in politics, journalism, and public service as well as tools to help stay involved in democracy. Life can be busy at times when you are making history and changing lives – and we get that – so that’s why Herstory is here to support you.

hank you for being part of our lives. As a final note, we love hearing from readers and if you ever have any requests or suggestions of women to feature – drop us a line in the comment section.

In the words of Leslie Knope:

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There’s a badge for that

I am a Girl Scout (and a Brownie). I love finding out when other women are Girl Scouts too. I’ve heard the funniest stories about experiences with their troops from selling cookies to the hardest badge they earned. For me, my troop memories revolve around Girl Scout camping and the summer I received the most mosquito bites in the entire world (in our foolish little brains, we thought water REPELLED mosquitoes and our troop leader didn’t realize what we were doing when we constantly douse ourselves from well water until we were covered in bites — my number was 47!*). One of my favorite professional experiences was having a partner meeting at the regional Girl Scouts office and walking into their conference room with STACKS OF GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. Stacks that were taller than me by twice. I honestly can’t remember what we talked about in the meeting – I was way too distracted by the cookies.  All this to say, when Juliette Gordon Lowe’s birthday came around this year, I took a few moments to thank this amazing woman for creating Girl Scouts and providing an amazing way to empower girls.

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I particularly love Girl Scouts these days. Unlike other similar organizations, Girl Scouts has consistently evolved to reflect contemporary times. Even this past week, I learned about the new “Raise Your Hand” badge.  It’s not even the first social justice badge. They’ve welcome transgender girls since 2011 and attended the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. While they haven’t specifically endorsed Planned Parenthood, they allow troop leaders to create badges and curriculum on human sexuality and birth control (with parent permission). All this social justice work is consistent with Juliette Lowe’s original mission of “build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place’ “. Current Girl Scouts “Chief Girl Expert” Andrea Archibald believes that mission extends to all members, and through [this] program, girls develop the necessary leadership skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance,

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Juliette Gordon Lowe was WAY ahead of her time. She started Girl Scouts in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. If it doesn’t immediately hit you – that was BEFORE women could even vote in the US. Girl Scouts were born from Girl Guides, an offshoot of Boy Scouts. She gathered a small group of girls to hike mountains, learn about the world around them, and camp – not exactly skills that girls were encouraged to learn in that time. The initial Girl Scouts handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country, was a combination of guide and empowerment book. As the group grew, scout members were active in WW1, growing their own food and learning to can. They also worked closely with the Red Cross to create surgical dressings and knitting clothes for soldiers. Ms. Lowe was consistently adamant that Girl Scouts be led by women and girls and has maintained that primary value.

Even though Lowe retired as the head of the organization fairly early on, she spent the rest of her life fundraising and promoting Girl Scouts. When she died, there was a Girl Scouts honor guide that accompanied her casket.

Selling cookies were introduced in 1917 by Ms. Lowe, initially being cooked in the homes of the girls. The idea behind selling cookies was to provide girls marketing and business skills as well as provide funds for activities and trips for troops. In 1935, the Girl Scout was added to the cookies (hello, Shortbread), creating that iconic brand. While some people like to mock or devalue the selling of cookies by girls, it’s a pretty awesome program that allows girls to own their own entrepreneurship.

 

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There is an effort to rename a bridge in Savannah in honor Ms. Lowe. If you are interested in supporting, you can sign the petition (I totally did).  She’s received a ton of honors, both during her lifetime and posthumously. My favorites include the induction to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Juliette Gordon Lowe is a hero for girls. She provided a space for girls to explore, learn, and give back before it was popular to do so. She created an organization that allowed girls to become everything they could be and  has encouraged generations of girls and women to be leaders and to promote positive change in their communities. I joke about my time with my troop but my involvement began my recognition that girls were badasses and together, we could do anything. So essentially, you can thank my Girl Scouts troop for this blog.

 

*We also found a brown recluse AND a black widow spider in our tents. You can imagine the calm and collected response of a group of 11-12 year old girls to these spiders. It’s a miracle we survived these trips.

Jennifer Zelaya – Working to Empower

Half the fun of HerStory is being regularly introduced to new awesome ladies doing awesome things. That’s how we met Jennifer Zelaya, whom we met through the previously featured Mara D’Amico.  (If you aren’t as blown away as I was by Jennifer’s passion and dedication, I question your value system.)

Picture1Here is Jennifer with the fieldworkers in South Sudan after she had finished a two-week training conducting quantitative prevalence studies of VAWG

Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I grew up in a low-income community in Los Angeles where I learned first-hand how a lack of resources (food, health, or otherwise) impacts quality of life.  I have continued to discover the injustices others face and learned about the ways that I could improve the lives of those around me. Encouraged to reach my potential by some pretty great mentors, I knew very early on that I wanted to work in a profession that empowered others. Although I have had roles in other non-public service sectors, I haven’t felt the same sense of meaning and purpose that I feel when I am working in social welfare or public health.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: I studied Psychology at UCLA and during my time there, I was interested in working in the community. I trained as a crisis counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and worked there for a year. From that point forward, I found other opportunities that allowed me to learn a lot about the mental health landscape in the US. I found a position managing community-based programs for kids that had experienced traumatic events. In addition, I developed a photography and mindfulness program to help female adolescents struggling with depression and anxiety.  I knew that I wanted to be working to help reduce mental health stigma in our communities. After a lot of soul searching, I went on to receive my Masters in Social Welfare and Masters in Public Health at UCLA—so that I would have the skills to provide therapy at the individual and group level, but to also develop and evaluate mental health programs, which is really exciting!

Q: What do you do now?
A: Over the last three years, I have focused on Violence Against Women and Girls at the global level, with field experience in Latin America and the Caribbean Region.  Working for the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University, I manage multiple studies that focus on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Central America. I have also supported fieldwork in South Sudan in order to learn how conflicts impact the lives of women and girls. One of the greatest aspects of my job is that I have been able to mentor students on the practicum and capstone projects for their Masters in Public Health or International Development. In addition, it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to work in different countries, learning about their various cultures and the ways in which their communities are trying to prevent VAWG.

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Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: 
To seek out mentors in a similar field and to ask questions often. It’s also important to be gentle and flexible with yourself as you get started on your path—things change, interests change, and you grow so much in the span of a few months or years. I would also encourage one to try out different roles and areas of interest; it’s important to figure out what you like and to be open to what you discover.

Q: If you had to choose a meme or gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose? **

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Q: Who is your role model?
A: My mother. She has endured a difficult life: from immigrating to the US in the 70s (by foot), striving to provide for a family of five. However, she has a huge amount of resilience and is extremely hardworking, smart, kind, and generous—qualities I aspire to in my daily life.

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Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: I enjoy accounts on cooking, design, and those accounts that share tips on how to get better at taking care of yourself. Here are a few:

We are new fans of Jennifer and can’t wait to see what she does next!!

**Subnote: As mentioned before, we give extra credit points to Leslie Knope references. We give SUPER extra points for referencing awesome women previously featured on the blog.

Margaret Crane Mad Menned the first Home Pregnancy Test

Does it ever seem like a lot of your female friends are pregnant at the same time? Or a lot of celebrities are expecting? Well, with another royal baby on the way and what seems like a lot of Kardashian babies about to enter the world – I began thinking about the home pregnancy test. Who made that thing and was it made by a woman?

You guys, the answers did not disappoint. Buckle up, because this a good story.

Imagine it is the mid-1960s in America and you think you might be pregnant but you aren’t really sure. Your only option for finding out is setting up an appointment with a doctor and taking a pregnancy test. It’s not one of this stick pregnancy tests that shows a blue line either. You wait for up to two weeks before getting an answer. Ridiculous! Now imagine you are a single woman and this was an unplanned pregnancy and this was before Roe v Wade which legalized abortion. Going to a doctor is much harder and you may be chastised or given a lecture by your doctor. Wouldn’t you rather find out the results by yourself and get quicker results?

Enter Margaret Crane, a 26-year old graphic designer who was freelancing in a lab called Organon when she noticed hundreds of pregnancy tests the lab received. Margaret had been hired to design packages for lipstick, face creams, and other similar items. When she saw the hundreds of pregnancy tests, she thought there wasn’t much to the test really and any woman could do it herself. Although the first pregnancy test kits weren’t as sophisticated or simple as they are today, the process is quite simple. The pregnancy tests were looking for the presence or absence of human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that is present during pregnancy. A red circle appears at the bottom of the tube if pregnancy is detected.

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Margaret Crane immediately began working on a design. Her at-home pregnancy test kit was fully designed in 1967 and inspired by a paperclip container which sat on her desk. It was called the Predictor and had a vial, dropper, and mirror. But in case you were wondering if this was an instant hit and the Predictor was available everywhere – it was met with a lot of pushback. Like a lot. Organon was worried that they would lose business if women were no longer visiting their doctors for pregnancy tests. But Margaret Crane persisted, because “women shouldn’t have to wait two weeks,” and she felt strongly that women needed to know their situation in order to begin taking care of it. The Predictor took only 2 hours to provide results.

One manager’s response was “What if a senator’s daughter, unmarried, found she was pregnant and jumped off a bridge? The company would have to go under for that.”

“People in the company told me in effect that I was evil, this was really bad, this was terrible, and I had no right to be bringing this up—and women had no right to be doing this themselves; this was in doctors’ hands,” Crane says. “And apparently some doctors were very upset about it when it finally got to the market, but not for terribly long.”

Predictor advertisement

Organon’s founders in the Netherlands were interested in the idea but I assume did not feel ready to bring it to America yet due to the rigorous FDA approval process. They also weren’t sure on the design. So the managers at Organon (all men) held a meeting without inviting Margaret but she heard whispers about it. The men had dressed up the Predictor with tassels, flowers, and fake diamonds on them. Side note: can you imagine some Lisa Frank style pregnancy test telling you if your bun was in the oven? Margaret crashed the meeting and slid her prototype onto the table with all the ugly designs. An ad man, Ira Sturtevant, arrived at the meeting to lead the marketing efforts, and this is where things get surreal. He immediately selected Margaret’s design but Margaret’s boss claimed that was only on the table for talking purposes and it was too expensive to mass produce. Not only did Margaret’s simple, sleek design OBVIOUSLY win out because she knows what clients — women — want, but by fate, she would also find a lifetime partnership both professionally and personally with Ira Sturtevant.

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Margaret championed the at-home pregnancy hard. Despite her boss and managers still claiming it would be too expensive, she took days off of work to talk and meet with plastic manufacturers across New York. She found a manufacturer to produce her design for 30 percent less than the men’s frilly tassel/flower/fake diamond kits.

In 1971, Margaret and Ira conducted a trial run of Predictor in Canada. Predictor finally came to the US market in 1977, a full decade after it had been invented. Unfortunately, Margaret had to sign off all patent rights to it, which is not an uncommon practice as I understand. But she signed off her rights for a dollar which she never actually received. Even though technically her name was on the patent, Margaret Crane received virtually no recognition for design or efforts.

Meg Crane 2As recent as 2012, the NY Times ran an article “Who Made the At Home Pregnancy Test?” and failed to mention Margaret Crane. Whether that was intentional or out of ignorance, I have no idea, but Margaret’s niece caught wind of the article and pushed her aunt to take credit for her groundbreaking design. Then the prototype for Predictor was auctioned off at Bonham’s in 2015 to The Smithsonian for nearly $12,000 and now has a rightful home in The Smithsonian’s American History Museum. In fact, much of the information for this blog came directly from The Smithsonian (shout out to museums for giving credit where credit is due!). And the NY Times finally featured our girl Margaret Crane as the inventor of the first at-home pregnancy test in an article which ran in 2016.

So there you have it, Peggy Olson’s really do exist, and Margaret Crane is my new favorite inventor.  The Predictor now sits in a humidity-controlled space next to other prestigious artifacts in the Smithsonian History of Medicine and Science Collection in Washington, D.C. and the design is rightfully credited to Margaret Crane.

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Emma & Kathryn — Living their best Leslie Knope lives

Here at HerStory, we are BIG BIG fans of podcasts. So much so, one of us is getting her doctorate in them (that’s a gross oversimplification on my part but you should expect that from me). One of our favorites is the “Waffles Friends Work: A Parks & Recreation Podcast“, hosted by Kathryn Baxter and Emma McAuley. Following the episodes of a HerStory favorite show Parks & Recreation, each podcast also features at least one real life badass lady public servant, cut straight from the Leslie Knope mold. Kathryn and Emma do a spectacular job of finding women in all forms of public service and provides the opportunity for them to speak about their experiences and positions. Of course, it made perfect sense for us to highlight these two women, their work with the podcast, and their own careers.

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Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: Kathryn – We both have a Masters in Public Service degree — in fact, our graduate program is how we met. Emma’s background is in informal education. Mine is in advocacy and policy. But we both believe strongly in the idea that service is the rent we pay for room on this earth. As Leslie Knope demonstrates, public service positions are sometimes underpaid, underestimated, and undervalued, but I know neither of us would trade believing in the work we do and feeling that our work has purpose for anything.

Q: Why did you start your podcast? How do you find the amazing ladies you interview?
A: 
Emma – Kathryn had the idea to start the podcast and asked me to join because we are both huge fans of Parks & Recreation. We have been so lucky with the amazing women that we have been able to interview. Logistically, it can sometimes be difficult to find people at the local level because so many women (and gender nonconforming people) do work that doesn’t get headlines or awards — they just (to quote Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) “get stuff done”. So we began looking for potential guests by asking the women we knew in public service to recommend any “real-life Leslie Knopes” in their circles. We also research the staff of organizations we admire to find potential guests. We are so fortunate that many of the women we reach out to not only have Leslie Knope’s dedication to their jobs but also have her enthusiasm for their work and agree to speak with us! And, of course, we are always open to guest recommendations from listeners
A: Kathryn – I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them. I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them.BoysGirls-01.pngCredit to Ryan Tran

Q: What’s your favorite P&R episode?
A: Emma – Flu Season (season 3, episode 2). “Stop pooping” is an iconicParks & Recline and I just love how we get to see Leslie excel at her job while also seeing Amy Poehler have a chance to be incredibly funny in the process.
A: Kathryn – I’m not sure I actually can say! Most of the episodes that stand out to me are memorable because of iconic moments for Pawnee or our favorite characters (which I won’t detail so as not to spoil anything for our first-time viewers!). But as I think our experience with the podcast is proving, there is just SO MUCH quality in even the everyday, non-Very Special Episode episodes. Check in with me in 20 months once we’ve wrapped up the podcast and maybe I’ll be able to say for sure then.

Q: What do you do now in IRL?
A: Kathryn – I work for the national Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland Baltimore. We support research, policy, training, and practice that advances school-based mental health care. I strongly believe in investing in young people’s health, education, and success, and this position is a great opportunity to support all three of those things.
A: Emma – I am a research assistant with Education Development Center, a nonprofit that creates, delivers, and evaluates health and education programs. I work on a project that provides technical assistance to the federal home visiting program, which provides families with skills and resources necessary for healthy children.

18768368_10158724970695058_5470441648948259410_oThis photo is from a trip we and another Clinton School alumna took together to Brainerd, Minnesota to visit one of our guests at her soon-to-be-open reproductive health clinic.

Q: What advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: Kathryn – “Take serious criticism from serious people seriously. And… take unserious criticism from unserious people unseriously.” This quote is from Chelsea Clinton, but I found it when researching one of our guests, Minnesota State Representative Erin Maye Quade, because shecited it in an interview as advice that resonated with her. And it clearly is great advice because it strikes a chord with me as well.
A. Emma –  The advice that most rings true with me actually came from Erin Maye Quade as well! She was definitely a fabulous guest. As a woman who currently holds an elected office, she spoke with us about the importance of utilizing your skill set to contribute in your own most effective way. As someone who fervently believes in equity in our representation but also does not feel that campaigning and holding elected office is for me, that advice really stuck with me and helps me better value the contributions that people can make without feeling compelled to run for office. (P.S. Erin Maye Quade joined us for episode 3.05if you want to hear more of her insights!)

Q: If you had to choose 2 Leslie Knope memes or gifs to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose?

Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.01.57 AMA: Check out Kathryn & Emma’s 4 choices on GoodReads and why they chose these books over all the other thousands she’s read.

Q: What instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: Emma @bymariandrew – she’s a fantastic artist who has great insight and I find her drawings really relatable (This is the second time this Instagram has been chosen so if you don’t follow her yet, you really should)

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A. Kathryn – I’m a bad Millennial who doesn’t have an Instagram, but I am part of the Silent Book Club group on Facebook. When my newsfeed is otherwise filled with (very real and understandable) anger, fear, and sadness, it’s nice to take a break with people just sharing book recommendations and their love of reading.

P.S. We love what these two are doing and love listening in to their conversations. If you haven’t signed up for notifications, you are missing out.

Also, they gave us a third gif and we love it for ourselves! This is essentially how BrownEyedJude and I also exist as well. a31d0ad3939f64e9f2dcaf60467d14d1

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!!

Here at HerStory, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples‘ Day on the second Monday of October. It celebrates the indigenous people of the US – promoting Native American culture and history. Hopefully soon, it will be the dedicated federal adopted holiday for this day.

While brainstorming awesome ladies to highlight on this day, it seemed an obvious choice to talk about Ada Deer. The first woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ada is a lifelong advocate for Native American peoples and history.

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Her advocacy included fighting to ensure that her tribe, the Menominees, was not declassified as a tribe in the 1960s and 1970s. She helped organized a massive march in Wisconsin from the Menominee County to the capital in Madison and regularly spent time in DC, lobbying Congress to protest the declassification. Due to her efforts, the original federal law terminating their status was reversed. She also served as the Chairperson of the Restoration Committee after the tribe was re-instated.

While she led the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Clinton, she met with dozens of tribes and tried to empower tribe businesses to succeed, whether or not if they were on reservations.

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Ada recently retired as a social work and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She also co-founded an Indian community school and started a program to provide social work training on Native American reservations.

Just a few of her honored posts: She was honored by the National Women’s History Month as a featured honoree, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government, and helped on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Native American Rights Fund, and National Indian Gaming Commissions.

To be fair, I’ve only given you broad strokes on her awesomeness. Everything I found shows that Ada has spent her entire life, every minute, helping her community and making positive change. Even retired, she’s involved in providing support for her tribe and community.

The Accidental Activist

It’s been a ROUGH week guys. Like sob loudly in a shower rough week. Fifty-nine people were shot during a country concert in Las Vegas. The gunman was a 64-year old white retired man and was described by media as “unassuming”, “lonewolf”, “normal”. Pretty much all the stereotypical white-privileged shooter descriptions.

A lot of people have mentioned the mass shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School when 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 were fatally shot. It’s fitting to talk about Sandy Hook because that’s when many of us assumed that the mass shooting was so violent, so heartbreakingly sad that it would finally change the conversation in America around gun control.

 

Connecticut Community Copes With Aftermath Of Elementary School Mass Shooting
Sandy Hook Memorial

 

One mother, Shannon Watts, was one of those people who was deeply moved by the tragedy and loss of young lives at Sandy Hook. Shannon, a stay at home mother of 5, had only 75 friends on facebook at the time. But Shannon also had a background in corporate communications and she believed that she was not the only mom disturbed by the tragedies that had resulted from gun violence. The very next day Shannon started a page on facebook which would later grow into Moms Demand Action. Shannon reached out Mothers Against Drunk Driving for advice on how to steer Moms Demand Action, and news spread quickly about the organization leading to both support from fellow moms and ire from the opposition.

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Here is an excerpt that Watts penned recently for The Guardian.

Our country is at a defining moment: do we want to keep experiencing these horrific shooting tragedies because the gun lobby has convinced Congress that we should allow guns for anyone, anywhere, any time – no questions asked? Or will we demand safety in our daily lives – at church, school, concerts and movie theaters? Because we do have a choice, and I urge every person who is as disgusted and horrified by this routine violence to make their voice heard.

As we grieve the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas, we must start talking openly and honestly about how to solve our nation’s gun violence crisis. For Congress, that means demanding they reject National Rifle Association leaders’ radical and deadly agenda. In Nevada, that means elected officials enforcing the law their constituents enacted last November.

Doing what we’ve been doing for decades – essentially letting the gun lobby write our country’s gun laws – has led to America having the highest rate of gun homicides of any developed nation. Clearly it’s time to do exactly the opposite of what gun lobbyists have instructed us to do: use our voices and votes to save lives. We can’t be silent anymore.

As of 2016, Moms Demand Action has stopped nearly 200 bills that allowed guns on campus or expanding Stand Your Ground laws. They also helped pass bills closing the background check loophole and partnered with Michael Bloomberg to form a like-minded organization — Everytown for Gun Safety.

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They also convinced Starbucks, Target, Panera, Sonic, Chili’s, Chipotle, and Jack in the Box to ban open carry in their establishments.

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Shannon Watts considers herself an accidental activist. Some of us could not be more grateful.

 

 

Mara D’Amico – “Justice, Women, Empathy”

We ventured out of Memphis and made our way to DC, via Michigan. We asked our next featured ladyboss, Mara D’Amico, a few questions and like the overachiever she is….she gave us even more!

SteinemMara with Gloria Steinem

Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I want to use the privileges, skills, knowledge, time, drive, and connections I have to serve others. I have been afforded many things in my life, and feel a strong sense of responsibility to serve my community and others with everything I have. Though service for me started as a way to help individuals in need, I’ve grown to focus on changing unjust systems, while also supporting the people impacted by those systems.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: A lot of my interest in public service stems from my family – both my parents worked in public schools and had a passion for serving their students, particularly those most in need. They helped develop a strong sense of empathy in me, as well as a passion for using my time to serve others. Additionally, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 7 years old, and, faced with a life-disrupting and life-threatening disease, I wanted to do something about it. I raised money for my local Walk to Cure Diabetes, I gave presentations to my elementary school classmates about the disease, and I learned how it felt to take action in the face of something that seems impossible to overcome. My interest in and dedication to working on seemingly intractable problems has only grown from there.

Q: What do you do now?
A: I work at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Program. Basically, I work with doctors and hospital staff to ensure that all women can access the full range of contraceptive methods. In my free time, I’m a volunteer crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, a volunteer with Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia, a board member for a criminal justice organization, and a drummer with Batala Washington.

Drums                                             Mara playing the drums with Batala Washington

Q: What advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: @maraedamico Treat others with kindness – you never know what they’re going through & you may have the power to lift their spirits or break them.

Q: If you had to choose a gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose? **

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Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?
A: Check out Mara’s 7 choices on GoodReads and why she chose these books over all the other thousands she’s read. Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 11.08.40 PM

Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: I love cooking and these ladies have some incredible recipes.

                                        @smittenkitchen                                           @minimalistbaker

 

P.S. It just was Mara’s Birthday Week!! So not only does she deserve credit on a daily basis for all the passion she puts into the world but she gets all the balloons this week! BALLOONS!!

Photo Caption: Mara’s featured photo is from her registering voters on the Hillary Clinton campaign in Grosse Pointe, MI.

Title Caption:  “Justice, Women, Empathy” are the three words that describe the types of service and advocacy she is drawn to.

**Subnote: Yes, we give extra credit points to Leslie Knope references.

Veena Rangaswami – Act like a lady, Think like a BOSS

By coincidence, our next amazing woman we are featuring that we know personally is ALSO in Memphis, TN. We asked Veena Rangawami, another great friend of HerStory, to answer a few questions about her passion for public service and what motivates her.

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Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: I’ve never known a life without public service. I grew up in a small town in the Delta as the daughter of two physicians who encouraged my older brother and me to give back for as long as I can remember. My career in public service has evolved a lot over the years, but it has its roots in my Delta childhood.

Q: How did you get started in public service?
A: I grew up in one of the ten poorest counties in the country, and every day my parents would come home with stories of patients whose families could not afford medical treatment. My father is a pediatrician who never turned away a child because of a family’s inability to pay, and that was a lesson I took to heart from a young age. I had the opportunity to go to boarding school for my last two years of high school where I became involved in daily service and learned more about how to serve my community. That involvement continued through various programs in undergrad, after which I moved to India and worked as a program manager for an NGO in Bangalore. Each opportunity has led to the next, and I feel like I have now come full circle.

Q: What do you do now?
A: I am the COLLABORATE Specialist for the Bridge Builders program at BRIDGES in Memphis, TN. That’s a fancy way of saying I coordinate our summer leadership conferences for rising 11th and 12th graders and help to run our year-round program. We bring together 7th-12th graders from around the greater Memphis area to participate in experiential-learning workshops and then discuss ways they can use their newfound skills to create change in their communities. I have the honor of watching our students grow as leaders in their neighborhoods and their schools, and I know how cliched it sounds but I really do feel like I have found my dream job.

Q: What advice would you give a woman coming up in public service?
A: I saw a woman wearing a shirt at a recent festival in Memphis, and the image of it has stayed with me; it said, “Act like a lady, Think like a BOSS.”

Q: Tell me about a powerful moment you’ve had while in public service?
A: During the first week of Senior Conference this summer, I was speaking with one of our Bridge Builders. He is a very sincere, thoughtful young man, and when I said in passing that it seems like he has been a Bridge Builder his entire life, he responded with “Maybe it’s because BRIDGES is the only place where I feel I can always be myself.” He said it so casually, but it really drove home the impact of the work we are doing.

Q: If you had to choose a meme or gif to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose?

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Q: Who is your role model?
A: 
I have so many, but I keep coming back to Joli Anderson. Joli was the director of the service program at Baylor School, my high school alma mater, for over 20 years and has been one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever known. She is the person who first introduced me to daily service, who gave me my first service leadership role, and who afforded me my first opportunity to combine travel and service. Over the years I have turned to Joli again and again, and she continues to be one of the greatest inspirations in my life.

Q: What Instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A:  

P.S. Veena is awesome. This is just the tip of the iceberg of her awesomeness. She also has one of the best grams herself – @veen_83. You should totally follow her.