Jane Addams: Woman For Her Time

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It’s so easy to think of history as something stuffy and irrelevant.  This is nowhere more true than when we’re reading about people who lived and died before our lifetimes. But if these same people were somehow transported into today’s reality, we would see more clearly how much influence they had in their own time.

Jane Addams is one of those people. She was born in 1860 and died in 1935. If she had been born a hundred years later she would be considered a Third Wave feminist. But she was much more than that. She started the settlement house movement* here in America.  Besides her charitable work, she became a mover and shaker in politics. She was the first vice president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association,  a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She organized the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women. She was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

With her accomplishments, if she were alive today, she would be more influential than all the present-day Third Wave feminists put together. She would be known internationally. And she would only be 50 years old. Her first book, Twenty Years at Hull House, was published exactly one hundred years ago this year and became a bestseller.

We still have the problems she worked so hard to combat: unemployment, lack of medical care and education for the poor, unfair and unsafe labor practices, discrimination against women, African-Americans and immigrants, and last but not least, war. But, unlike most of us, she would be doing something about them. About all of them.

Continue reading Jane Addams: Woman For Her Time

Women’s History Quiz

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Ms. Magazine recently started its own blog (which is great, by the way), and in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m directing you to their Pre-1972 Women’s History Quiz. The quiz originally appeared in the 1972 issue of Ms. and was written by Gerda Lerner.

If you get more than 9 (out of 18) right, you’re a feminist genius. I got 13 right (frankly, I just guessed on several of them), but I was upset with myself that I didn’t know more. Why? Because the ones I missed were obviously important and accomplished women and I hadn’t even heard of them!

The author of the article, Alexandra Tweten, issues this challenge before presenting the quiz:

Can you name 10 women who have made important contributions to American history and development? (No presidents’ wives, writers or singers–and no one living today.)

If this was difficult, try naming 10 men. Easy?

One of the missions of Femagination is to introduce women whom we should have heard of, but whose accomplishments have been overshadowed by the accomplishments of men (even when theirs were greater). If there is a woman you have heard of, but know little about, comment below and I will research her life and write about it on this blog. (Even after Women’s History Month is over.)

Women’s Health: Should We All Scream For Ice Cream?

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I’m crushed. I just found out that my favorite dessert in the world is incredibly bad for me. (Okay, my favorite after cheesecake, but I knew that cheesecake was bad for me.) Apparently ice cream contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which has been found to cause significantly more weight gain than regular sugar, calorie for calorie. In a recent story on the Care2 website, Melissa Breyer explains that excess fructose is metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles. And a study released on March 18, 2010 reports that HFCS not only produces body fat, but that this fat tends to accumulate in the abdomen, which has been connected to a higher rate of heart disease. It also causes a rise in triglycerides (circulating blood fats), another contributor to heart disease.

Why am I picking on ice cream? Because it’s such an insidious source of HFCS: it’s everywhere and people eat it by the buckets. Ice cream is not the only food that contains HFCS; staples such as bread, ketchup, mayonnaise, cereal, fruit juice, soda and yogurt do, too. But ice cream usually contains high levels of HFCS. When the choices were few–chocolate, strawberry and vanilla–ice cream was tempting enough. But now the choices are astounding and they’re loaded with ingredients that weigh in heavily on the HFCS scale. Take, for example, Baskin Robbins’ Heath® Shake.

Eric Steinman describes the shake this way:

Beside the fact that this junk food abomination is so filled with corn syrup that it should (holding true to the rules of ethanol propulsion) be able to power a small vehicle, it is also loaded with 266g of sugar (more than a cup of sugar) in a single 32 oz. serving. On the positive end of the spectrum, it contains a whopping 35g of protein, but this comes at a cost of 1560mg of sodium, 64g of saturated fat, and 295mg of artery-barricading cholesterol, with a total caloric intake of 2,310 calories per shake (roughly the entire recommended daily caloric intake for an adult, all in one serving).


I usually stay away from shakes, but they can’t be much worse than Dairy Queen Blizzards®, which I love. (A small Heath Blizzard contains 600 calories; a large contains 1260!)  And in case you think you’re safe with a simple vanilla cone, Dairy Queen’s medium size is 330 calories. [I found a very complete–and eye-opening–nutrition calculator on DQ’s web site.] I may never eat at DQ again. But that’s targeting DQ unfairly. From what I can determine, all ice cream is bad for you.  Even a low-calorie version is easily 100 calories per half-cup (and who stops at a half-cup? Have you seen four ounces of ice cream?).

The truth is, anything with milk in it automatically has a lot of calories. If you’re looking to add calcium to your diet, even skim milk contains 90 calories per cup and provides less than one-third of the recommended daily amount of calcium. That makes it a viable alternative to ice cream (or yogurt or cheese), but it certainly doesn’t satisfy like ice cream. You’re better off to get at least part of your calcium from supplements. (You might want to check with your doctor first.)

So, the bottom line is, I’m just going to have to convince myself that I really, really hate ice cream, at least until I lose forty pounds and 10 inches around my middle! Good luck with that, Ellen.

For another article by Eric Steinman about HFCS, read “High Fructose Corn Syrup: That Sweet, Sweet Bully.”

Go here for statistics on ice cream consumption in the U.S. I was astonished when I realized how much more ice cream I eat than the average!

Friday Videos: Bits of Women’s History

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History.com presents the following short videos in honor of Women’s History Month:

Hillary Clinton

Barbara Jordan’s Keynote Address

Hillary Makes History

Women in Politics

Lucy Burns Photograph

Amelia Earhart

Maya Angelou on the Women’s Movement

Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

The Pill Begins Sexual Revolution

Witchcraft: The Salem Witch Trials

What Happened to Amelia Earhart

Sandra Day O’Connor’s Roots

Salem Witch Trials

America Eats: Betty Crocker

Jackie Kennedy: Glamorous First Lady

Millvina Dean – A Titanic Survivor

Titanic: What Happened After

Thursday Thoughts: On Being a Young Feminist

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Ah, to be a young feminist today! Wait, what would that look like? The 2010 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference that was held last weekend in Washington, D.C. provides us with one picture: 390 young feminist leaders came from 122 colleges in 30 states plus D.C. and Canada to learn more about what they can do as feminists to support abortion and reproductive rights, international family planning, the LGBTQ community, climate change, organizing on campuses, and feminist issues in general. (For a schedule of all events, see here.)

How does this kind of event compare with what was going on when I was a young feminist?

For one thing, there were no leadership conferences in Washington, D.C.  Instead, there were protest marches and consciousness-raising groups. Oh, the National Organization for Women (NOW) had just been formed, but its founders were older than women in my age group. I went to college in 1970, before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal in every state except for a handful that allowed it in cases of rape, incest or the physical disability of the mother. New York became the first state to allow abortion for any reason up to the 24th week of pregnancy just a few months before I had my abortion in 1971. I was lucky, not because I was able to have an abortion (or because I needed one), but because I didn’t have to resort to an illegal abortion which might have jeopardized my health and future fertility.

Countless young women came to feminism via the same route I did. Finding ourselves pregnant and unable to obtain a legal abortion made us angry. Or if we had had abortions, it made us angry that we had to go through legal and medical hoops to get them (if we were able to get legal ones at all). The anti-abortion movement had not yet found its impetus; that would come with Roe v. Wade.  The mood was ripe in the country for a woman to have a right to privacy as to what she did with her own body. And that had a lot to do with the feminist movement.

Continue reading Thursday Thoughts: On Being a Young Feminist

Tuesday Tidbits: From Care2.com

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One of my favorite sites is Care2.com, which covers a broad range of topics from animal welfare to civil rights, informs you of what is going on and recommends action you can take. Recently it had four stories that covered women’s issues that I thought I’d share with you today.

The first is about the squeamishness of the general public about feminine products using the word “vagina.” Nancy Roberts reports that:

The venerable menstrual supply company Kotex recently decided it was time to shake things up with an ad campaign that used, gasp, the word vagina. Fortunately for us delicate Americans, according to the New York Times, all three major networks refused to run the ad, saying the word vagina is not suitable for broadcast. When the ad company, JWT, changed the wording to “down there”…only two networks turned it down.

The video below is of an ad from Australia. Do you think this is an improvement??

Another story is about  how India is in the process of amending the constitution to designate that one third of all political seats must be held by women. The author, Robin Marty, asks if the U.S. (where women make up only 17% of Congress) should do the same. What do you think?

In a third story Ximena R. reports that women and girls in Haiti live in day-to-day fear of being raped and describes the conditions in the camps they are living in.

Rejected by little boys

My last example is also by Robin Marty and is about Disney executives canceling future princess-based fare in favor of bigger “guy” roles. Seems that they decided that the last film, The Princess and the Frog, was a royal flop. And we all know that it’s because little boys didn’t like it.  So, are they the standard by which Disney (and other companies) base their marketing? Apparently so.

If you’re interested in receiving update emails from Care2.com, go to the web site and sign up for the causes you’re interested in.