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.”

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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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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.

 

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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.

 

 

An ode to Beverley Bass

With the anniversary of 9/11 coming up, let’s talk about Beverley Bass. A friend of mine was visiting NYC last spring and told me about the musical Come From Away which tells the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. As you can probably guess, Gander is a small community and they had not seen that many planes since World War II. Literally, the planes were lined up wing to wing and there wasn’t an inch of concrete left on the tarmac. The entire town of Gander came out to support the “plane people” and showed up with bags of sandwiches, medicine, blankets, and hospitality. It makes for a really good musical, but when the writers were scouting out Gander, one of the residents reportedly said, “Are you going to make a musical about people making sandwiches? Good luck with that.” Come From Away isn’t about the easiest lunch to make, but it does wonderfully capture a unique day in history and the events that unfolded in the wake of 9/11.

Cue Beverley Bass, one the main characters of the musical, who was piloting a plane from Dallas to Paris when she heard the news and was immediately rerouted to Newfoundland. This is not a story about 9/11. This is a story about the legendary Beverley Bass.

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Beverley Bass was one of many pilots flying on 9/11 who was ordered to divert her plane to Newfoundland. While the events and what happened in those critical moments are significant, Beverley Bass had already made history. She was the third woman hired by American Airlines and became the first female pilot promoted to captain in 1986. Weeks later, Beverley made news again by leading an all-female flight crew. The landing was covered by press from all over the world. All Beverley ever wanted to do was fly planes.

When she told her parents she wanted to take flying lessons, her father wasn’t on board with the idea at first, preferring her to stick to the family business of taking care of the horses. But after she started her freshman year at Texas Christian University (TCU), she finally began taking lessons and quickly became certified and ready to fly. Finding a job was not easy. Women were not pilots back then and she was often asked in interviews “But what would the wives of the executives think?” At 21, the flight school Beverley attended desperately needed a pilot to fly a body to Arkansas, but none of the male pilots would do it. Beverley jumped on the opportunity and it wasn’t too long before her passengers were a bit more lively (pun intended).

After 9/11 occurred, the thought of flying felt dangerous for passengers and flight crews alike. But not for Beverley being the professional that she is, “I will fly anything, anywhere. Whatever you need flown, I will fly it.”

Earlier this year Come From Away opened on Broadway after a record-breaking run at the La Jolla theatre. And Beverley may have broken another record! She has followed the play from La Jolla, to Seattle, Washington, Gander, Toronto, and now New York and seen it over 60 times often accompanied by fellow female pilots or her husband.

I love musicals and listening to Beverley Bass’s song on Come From Away brings so many emotions. Give it a listen! Jenn Colella plays Beverley Bass in the musical and is a phenomenal singer. I’m hoping Queenjules and I can go see it some day.

There are a lot of great articles and blogs posts about Beverley Bass, so if you want to read more, check out the following:

Flight to Success blog “911 and Beverley Bass”
Dallas News, “Tales of 9/11: Beverley Bass took a detour to Gander”
NY Times “A Pioneering Pilot, a Broadway Show, and a Life Changing Bond”

BAMF Hillary Rodham Clinton

On November 12th I came home from work, sat on my couch watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speak while drinking a glass of wine and cried my eyes out. To punish myself further I watched her speech multiple times that week and repeated this ritual. Her words that day gave me a wormhole tunnel back to the United States version of love, hope, and acceptance that seemed so distant from the parallel universe of building walls, bullying, and gilded everything. Turns out Secretary Clinton and I have many things in common, we both like long walks in the woods, fugly fleece, and wine. Yo, you go girl! Whatsapp me and let’s hang.

Secretary Clinton’s commencement speech to Wellesley Class of 2017 was honest, articulate, and on point. Girl had many things to say about he who shall who not be named. Seriously she didn’t say his name but got her point across.

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You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason.

And once again Secretary Clinton reminded young women that they are powerful, important, and worthy of achieving their dreams.

Watch the video above and you might want to have some tissues nearby.

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12 Angry Men + Some

Hi, friends! Browneyedjude here, after a mini sabbatical, I’m back from my adventures to distant lands oceans away. I’ve missed you!

I am obsessed with true crime stories. 48 hours, Forensic Files, Cold Case, pretty much the entire Investigation Discovery network lineup. It’s a really good thing I don’t have cable because I would probably never get anything done. One of my best friends, Edna, is also obsessed with true crime stories, and sometimes we ask each other about specific episodes or crimes.

When Serial came out, I was all about it and would have debates with anyone who would listen about Adnan’s verdict and whether or not he did it. For the record, I don’t think he did it, and you can’t convince me otherwise. I mean he was seen in the library around the time of the murder. And what about those cell phone records? Sketch! But one thing that we should all agree on is Sarah Koenig’s awful hosting job of the podcast. The waffling back and forth. No true crime story addict would be so doubtful and unsure of who the murderer is. That’s the thing about me, I don’t have any legal or criminal justice background, but I can give my best opinion of a case because I have played Clue about 100 times.

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Since I’m too lazy to go through law school or study for the bar, I have always dreamed of serving on a jury of a high-profile case. I’ve only been called once but it was an outdated address and I had already moved out of state. To think – I could have totally been 12 Angry Men!

Speaking of jurors and a baker’s dozen of angry men, I recently came across this interesting story about a woman named Gwendolyn Hoyt in the book My Own Words which is a collection of speeches, writings, and stories of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let’s set the scene, shall we? It’s 1957 in northern Florida. Gwendolyn Hoyt is married to a man named Clarence Hoyt. One summer evening Gwendolyn confronts Clarence about his skirt chasin’ ways. I don’t know exactly what he said, but it’s pretty clear he offered a half-assed apology. Gwendolyn is madder than a wampus cat in a rainstorm because her husband just admitted his lyin’, cheatin’ ways and he also wasn’t groveling for forgiveness either. Gwendolyn grabbed a baseball bat to poor Clarence’s noggin’ and well in plain southern speak – Clarence was deader than a doornail.

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When Gwendolyn’s case went to trial, as you might suspect in the late 50’s in the south, the defense, prosecutor, and judge were male. Shocker. Right? What is interesting about this case, however, is that according to Florida state law at that time, women were not required to be part of the jury pool. In fact, it was entirely up to women in the state of Florida, if they wanted to register to be on a jury pool at all, so a very small fraction of women were even able to be selected for the trial. As a result, Gwendolyn was tried by an all-male jury. It took them exactly 25 minutes to hand down their guilty verdict. Other key facts brought to this trial were the fact that Gwendolyn had been physically and emotionally abused by Clarence (to which the prosecution summarized as an “unsuccessful marriage” during the trial), that Gwendolyn had hired a baby-sitter previously (was she an unfit mother some juror members thought because she outsourced help?), and the inclusion of damaging testimony from a baby-sitter that claimed Gwendolyn was sleeping with another man. Gwendolyn was handed a 30-year sentence with hard labor by her “peers” and by her peers I mean 6 bros men.

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Gwendolyn argued that had she had a jury that included even some females, she would not have been convicted guilty. She pled temporary insanity. With the help of the ACLU and a motley crew of inexperienced lawyers – her new defense team took the case all the way up to the Supreme Court. The case was argued in 1961. Because women were primarily responsible for household duties and were given the option should they ever choose to register for a jury pool – the Supreme Court upheld the Florida decision and women were not required to have jury duty. At that time, the sentiment was not that women were being prevented from serving on a jury, but that women had the best of both worlds because they could work in the home or be a public servant. But of course, it was not possible or expected to be both.wife-13-600x824

In 1975, Taylor v Louisiana (which is another story for another time) overturned Hoyt v Florida and it was decided that women could not be excluded from a jury pool on the basis of having to register for a jury pool. Huzzah! Finally, juries would be filled with women and representative of the population. No more 12,000,000 Angry Men juries!

You might be wondering what happened to Gwendolyn. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find any mention of her outside of her trial and the Supreme Court Case. I was only barely able to find a footnote of her life in a 1993 Washington Post article which stated Gwendolyn was eventually released and she returned to live a quiet life in her hometown.

So, ladies, the next time you get called for jury duty think of where it all began.

P.S. Despite what it may seem, I actually recommend watching 12 Angry Men if you haven’t seen it yet.

International Women’s Day

It’s always Women’s Day at United States Herstory, but we’re more pumped than Leslie Knope on Galentine’s Day to celebrate it with all of you! For a quick refresher: the first women’s day started in 1909 in the streets of New York when 15,000 women marched for better pay, shorter days, and voting rights. Women’s Day caught on in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Well kiddos, we successfully accomplished one-third of that original mission, so today also happens to be #DayWithoutAWoman. Day Without a Woman urges women to not work and to avoid shopping online or in stores (except for women-owned and local stores that support Day Without a Woman). Much like the original Women’s Day, #DayWithoutAWoman was organized to illustrate the value of women and their contributions to society.

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Who better to highlight International Women’s Day and the spirit of #DayWithoutAWoman than our favorite Auntie Maxine Waters! Auntie Waters, is your favorite aunt who you only see at Thanksgiving, and who probably eats dessert first and the actual meal last because Auntie Waters does not give AF. Auntie Waters knows everybody’s business without you actually telling her what’s going on, and she has a black belt in throwing shade. If Auntie Waters were your spirit animal, she would be described as part unicorn, honey badger, and narwhal – a magical, mythical, fierce creature who cannot be tamed.

Much like #DayWithoutAWoman urges us to do, Representative Waters (her day job is U.S. Representative of California) recently completely skipped Trump’s first joint session, “And so I don’t go to these ceremonial events where you’re praising and honoring and exchanging niceties. And for those people who say, ‘Oh, he became presidential,’ he did not. He cannot become presidential. He is who he is.”

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Auntie Waters is reminding everyone – especially young people – to stay woke! And she should know because this is not Representative Waters’s first rodeo. Maxine Waters, born in 1938, moved to Los Angeles in her twenties, worked as a garment factory employee, telephone operator, and assistant teacher. Maxine Waters has served as a U.S. Representative for California since 1991 and is the most senior of the 12 black women serving in Congress. She has been vocal on many topics including employment, the Iraq War, relations with Cuba, and our current political times.

Here are our favorite Maxine Waters’s quotes.

This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned, the ‘tea party’ can go straight to Hell … and I intend to help them get there.

I have a right to my anger, and I don’t want anybody telling me I shouldn’t be, that it’s not nice to be, and that something’s wrong with me because I get angry.

Policy, for the most part, has been made by white people in America, not by people of color.   And they have tended to take care of those things that they think are important.   Whether it’s their agricultural subsidies, or other kinds of expenditures that are certainly not expenditures for poor people or for people of color.   And so we have to band together and keep fighting back.

God bless you, Auntie Maxine Waters.

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Are you taking off work today to support #DayWithoutAWoman? We’ve got some fun resources for you to check out while you’re not working!

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Bookworms unite!

Of the many interests, Queen Jules and I share, one of which kombucha is not, reading is greatly enjoyed by both of us. I don’t hold a candle to the sheer quantity of books Queen Jules can read in a year. This woman is RABID for books. I mean she read like 1,572,391 books last year!

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My love of books started as a child and oddly enough Nancy Reagan played a huge part of it. When I was a kid in the 80s, there were two dangers everyone was aware of by watching TV — drugs and illiteracy. Since there was no real danger of me falling prey to the former, let’s discuss the latter. An early episode of Saved by the Bell back when it was called Good Morning Miss Bliss featured a new kid (it’s almost always a new kid) who ended up bullying his classmates and cheating off their exams because he couldn’t read.

This trope was so prevalent it was also featured on The Cosby Show, Mr. Belvedere, Charles in Charge, Good Times, Mama’s Family, Little House on the Prairie (understandable), and Star Trek Deep Space Nine (this makes absolutely no sense to me!). Anyway, before I digress too far… this was such a major concern that the Reagans partnered with Pizza Hut to create Book It which promoted reading and rewarding kids with a personal pan pizza. This is such an awesome 80s solution that I am beside myself by how easily I was tricked into reading and EATING a ton of pizza. Like my Mom would pick me up from school, and I would have a coupon for a free personal pan pizza and I would smugly demand a pepperoni pizza because I DESERVED IT for reading Super Fudge or whatever Judy Blume book I picked up at school.

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To this day, I have an unhealthy relationship with pizza. It’s the best comfort food imaginable, all the cheese, carbs, and no need for utensils make it the most perfect food ever.  And to be fair, I still very much love reading. All my closest friends are good readers and we chat about the best books we’ve read recently.

So, while I was reading and eating my way through several pizzas, precocious 12-year-old Marley Dias was taking the children’s lit world by storm. It all started when Marley got completely fed up about reading books about white boys and their dogs. These were the only books available in her school, and I feel you girl, how many plots about white boys and their dogs can you read? Marley decided to do something about it, and thus a badass activist was born. In 2015, Marley started a movement called #1000BlackGirlBooks and her goal was to collect 1,000 books featuring Black female protagonists by February 2016. Well it’s been one year since her deadline and Marley collected over 8,000 books that meet her criteria!

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Look at this young social change maker! Other than wanting to be her best friend and read books and eat personal pan pizzas with her, I can’t wait to see what her future holds. But wait! There’s more!  We don’t need to wait for Marley to be an adult because she’s going full steam ahead with her activism.

Being the super hero that Marley is, she donated 1,000 books to a school in Jamaica where her mother grew up, as well as to schools in Philadelphia, Newark, and West Orange, New Jersey where it all began. Put down those books about white boys and their dogs, because there are choices now.

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Earlier this month, it was announced that Scholastic will be publishing a book written by Marley Dias in the spring of 2018. The book will be intended for other kids around Marley’s age to show them how to make their dreams come true. According to Scholastic, “This book explores activism, social justice, volunteerism, equity and inclusion, using social media for good (not just makeup tutorials and angry tweets), and shows how young people can galvanize their strengths to make positive changes in our world.” And most importantly it will be about literacy and diversity.

Wow, Marley! You amaze me. Keep being you, Marley.

P.S. Can we hang out? PUH-LEASE!

Happy Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s Day is finally here! And if you aren’t familiar with the best holiday of the year, it was created by Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec, and falls on February 13th.

“Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

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Obviously Queen Jules and I love Galentine’s Day! What’s better than enjoying the best meal of the day than catching up and celebrating with your favorite ladies? We love our ladies so much, in fact, that we started a Galentine’s vacation in summer and get our friends together for 3 full days of breakfast foods, wine, and pretty much a lot of talking. It is a lot like Lilith Fair, minus the long lines and waiting for your favorite singer to go on stage. In our inaugural Galentine’s vacation we bedazzled tank tops, hiked waterfalls, and ran down the street with inner tubes. It was glorious.

In the spirit of Galentine’s Day we crafted these for you. Share them with the gals in your life!

For the lady who is regal in your life.

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For the lady who has the best opinions.

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For the absolute badass in your life.

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And for the lady who does her job plus everyone else’s.

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THEY Persisted

I don’t know about you, but I work with a bunch of men, and most are fairly outspoken. It’s hard enough getting a word in, and it’s even harder conveying my opinion on whatever matter before being interrupted. In a previous job some years ago, I interrupted my boss’s boss about a matter and he was so boiling mad about being interrupted that he literally had to leave the room and go for a walk. I was then told to never interrupt this man ever, even if he was wrong. No, I was not working for Donald Trump, but this sounds eerily familiar, right? In the history of history… women have been interrupted by men or reprimanded for interrupting men in the work place. This is nothing new, although extremely unfortunate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren was essentially “Kanye-ed” by a turtle Senator McConnell last night while attempting to read a letter during the Jeff Sessions examination for Attorney General.

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How often do you think women are interrupted in the work place? Go ahead and guess. One study by George Washington University concluded men interrupt women 33 percent more than men.

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There are two things wrong with this recent event. 1) Invoking a rarely used rule in the senate on a woman, but allowing her male colleagues to read the same document is problematic, if not outright sexist. 2) Silencing a woman who was referencing Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and woman of color who has since passed, is a double whammy especially during Black History Month.

Coretta Scott King is typically referred to as the wife of the late and great MLK, but Coretta Scott King carved out her own legacy and was involved in civil rights well before marrying Martin Luther King Jr and well after his assassination.  Mrs. King took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, worked to pass the Civil Rights Act, performed in Freedom Concerts, established the Full Employment Action Council, moved mountains to cement MLK’s legacy and made his birthday a federal holiday, and founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Center for Social Change.

Yet, her legacy has been largely overshadowed by her husband. An article in the Washington Post by a reporter and friend of Ms. King explained that the film Selma misrepresented Coretta Scott King.

But this image of Coretta, as a strong-willed woman independently committed to the global struggle for human rights, is often missing in characterizations of her. It wasn’t perpetuated only by the media and outsiders. After her husband’s death, Coretta bravely and graciously warded off attempts by the male-dominated black leadership to sideline her. This was characteristic of the civil rights movement, which often obstructed women from public leadership roles. The flawed narrative that marginalized Coretta in life continues to diminish her role after her death.

Unfortunately, Coretta Scott King’s misrepresentation persists to this day, and Mrs. King was acutely aware of her own public image.

During my 30 years knowing her, Coretta made it clear that she was troubled by her wholly incomplete public image. “I hope someday people will see Coretta,” she told me. “Often, I am made to sound like an attachment to a vacuum cleaner: the wife of Martin, then the widow of Martin, all of which I was proud to be. But I was never just a wife, nor a widow. I was always more than a label.”

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It’s important to acknowledge the efforts and work of Coretta Scott King so that they don’t become footnotes in the history of today’s Attorney General nomination or opposition. Senator Warren may have been hushed this week, and while it was wrong, Senator Warren is alive and well and has multiple platforms to speak her mind, something that is not afforded to the late Mrs. King.

I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation. – Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King passed in 2006 and left us more than a letter condemning Jeff Sessions, although we should be grateful for what this document is raising awareness about today. Coretta Scott King was the very embodiment of persisting through the injustices of our country, through the tragic death of her husband, and for later on securing MLK’s history. It took 15 years to make MLK Day a national holiday. Like many fierce women today, Coretta Scott King truly persisted.

Flunking out of February?

How did February get here so fast? I finally packed my pink foil Christmas tree away a week ago and was reminded today at the grocery store that I need to buy or receive heart shaped chocolates to feel some sort of special. You know who is feeling special today? If you guessed someone who has zero experience running public education, contributed piles of money to Republican campaigns and whose name rhymes with Fretsy LeFloss then boy golly – you got it right!

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But let’s be honest if you wanted to read about Fretsy LeFloss’s meteoric rise to Secretary of Education, you could read fake news sites or read her bio. Your call and we’ll wait for you to check those things out and we’ll be waiting for you. Let’s talk about some real educators, let’s go way back.

Mary Jane Patterson is a badass educator who was America’s first African American woman to graduate from a four-year university in 1862 and according to historians likely the first African American woman to earn a bachelors degree in the entire world, although that is not confirmed. The daughter of slaves, not many details are available about her youth, other than Mary’s family moved to Ohio with the hopes of getting their children educated. In addition to enrolling African Americans, Oberlin became the first co-ed university. There were two different programs: a program that consisted of two-year studies for women, and “gentleman” courses which led to a four-year degree. Mary chose the latter and took classes in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics.

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Mary Jane Patterson

Upon graduation, Mary taught in Ohio and years later moved to Washington D.C. and became the first African American Principal of the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth which is now known as the prestigious Dunbar High School. It was the first time an African American woman had become a principal in the entire city of D.C.

Mary resigned over ten years later after growing the enrollment from 50 to 172 students. At the time, the administrators of the school believed that the school was so big, a man was needed to be principal.

I know. You’re probably thinking…

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Despite Mary Jane Patterson’s probable early retirement, her colleagues recognized her tireless work ethic and involvement in the school as exceptional.

She was a woman with a strong, forceful personality, and showed tremendous power for good in establishing high intellectual standards in the public schools. Thoroughness was one of Miss Patterson’s most striking characteristics as a teacher. She was a quick, alert, vivacious and indefatigable worker. During Miss Patterson’s administration, which lasted altogether twelve years, three important events occurred: the name “Preparatory High School” was dropped; in 1877, the first high school commencement was held; and the normal department was added with the principal of the high school as its head.

Notable Black American Women quoted a description of Patterson written by Mary Church Terrell, another Oberlin alumna, in the July 1917 Journal of Negro History.

We’ll have more posts celebrating the lives and achievements of African American women for Black History this month.