Know Your Women’s History!

KNOW YOUR WOMEN’S HISTORY!!!

This morning I turned on the television while having my morning cup of coffee and the channel was already tuned in to the “Today Show” (A program I usually never get to watch). The host, Jenna Bush, was asking women in the audience some EASY questions about Women’s History. (They were given 3 multiple-choice answers to make it even easier.) And these young women still did not know the correct answers.  Ladies, seriously?? You didn’t even know who Sally Ride was???? How is this possible?

I taught Women’s History long before President Jimmy Carter declared March as Women’s History month in 1987. (I got my teaching degree in 1971.) I was happy that the White House finally understood that we needed to recognize our unsung heroines, but by 1987 I had created dozens of lessons that I did every year with my students to help them learn about the AMAZING females who were part of American history, even though most of them were not in our text books.

Ironically, I usually presented my lessons around March simply because it fit nicely in between some other important historical events.  After honoring the Presidents and African Americans for Black History Month in February, and then paying tribute in April to William Shakespeare, (His birthday is April 23rd – and also his recorded death.) I decided that in my classroom April would be poetry month (Decades before it was declared poetry month in the 1990’s.) I mean what teacher in her right mind wouldn’t celebrate poetry and writing for an entire month to pay homage to the Bard??? Duh!!! It’s common sense!!  So, I added women’s history in between and that way I could include First Ladies, important African American women, and add female poets and writers too, and have a three month research-biography celebration in my classroom. It just made creative academic sense! At least it made sense to moi.

After 1987, Broward County, where I was teaching, created their own curriculum and had writing contests about Women’s History. So lessons for every teacher were made available if they wanted to take the time to add that to their curriculum.

I will never forget when Esther Rolle (Good Times) came to Florida in the late 80’s and helped judge the Women’s History essays and the top two winners in the entire county were MY students. (YES, they actually beat out the high school students!!!! One girl and one boy from my class won! It was picked up by the local and national papers and turned into a big deal. The funny thing was that the essay topic my kids wrote was from a lesson I had created back in the 70’s!!

But, suddenly March was National Women’s History month and so my students won awards for the knowledge they would have learned anyway in my gifted class.  I was thrilled, but my point is, why was I, (then and even when I left teaching after almost 4 decades), just about the ONLY teacher in most of the schools teaching children about women who made a difference??? This is something every female on the planet should know. It is important! Yes, you can now buy pre-fab bulletin boards about women in history and decorate your classroom during March. But how many teachers actually TEACH this  to their students and have them research these women????? Sadly, not many feel they have the time with all the testing.

The fact that so many young people do not know the names of the women who helped forge our nation is unforgivable. No wonder so many millennials (and women in general), didn’t understand the implications and magnitude of the first woman candidate of a major party running for President. They had no clue about how long and hard women fought for equality and what a big deal this was. Oh, they thought they understood. BUT, clearly they did not. Our current situation in Washington is proof enough of that.

Ladies of all ages, it is time to get with the program. We are handing over the torch to you! You have to learn this stuff because my generation is getting old and won’t be around forever to help guide you and remind you about your history. We’ve already lost most of the amazing WWII generation of women (and men) who fought tyranny and kept America from fascism. It was filled with strong women who flew planes, bravely went over seas and participated in defeating Hitler. And here at home women put away their aprons and filled the factories to build bombs and planes that helped us win the war. We need to remember those women. They did all that and yet women couldn’t even get a home loan in their own name or a credit card, and their husbands were legally allowed to beat them without police interference. That was the way it was back then. However, they could save lives, build bombs, fly planes and fight Nazi’s!!!

My generation got us those credit cards without having to use our father’s or husband’s signature. We gave you the right to wear pants in the work place and jeans in school. We fought to give you jobs that were previously only allotted to men. We ended quotas for women in law and medicine, and gave you the chance to become managers. My generation of women gave you the right to stay working if you got pregnant, and allowed you to get hired to teach school even if you were divorced. We did all that and more!!! We flew into space, we won gold medals, and we were mathematicians and CEO’s. We were members of Congress, Secretary of State, and we ran for President.

Now YOU have to carry the torch and continue the fight for female equality and the first step IS TO KNOW YOUR HISTORY! READ! GOOGLE IT!! Study! And then tell your daughters and grand daughters. Tell your students, your nieces and nephews. Everyone needs to know!

And teachers, don’t give me the baloney that you don’t have time to teach Women’s History. I made time for it and you can too! It’s one month out of the year!  MAKE TIME! Even if it is just five minutes every day in March! Because if you don’t, our girls won’t understand how valuable they ARE!  They won’t know they were an important part of American history and made a huge difference in the lives of their mothers and grandmothers. They won’t know that once upon a time, women inventors had to use a man’s name to get a patent to create an invention and that they never got credit in history for their genius. (Example: Ely Whitney did not invent the cotton gin. His landlady, Catherine Littlefield Greene did. He lent his name to her invention because women were not allowed to get a patent!) But today, WE can invent anything because we have the power to be whomever we choose to be. But we must teach this in our schools and in our homes.

This past election was proof enough that not enough women support women, and that is mainly because they are not taught to be aware of their illustrious past. They don’t recognize all the fabulous females who paved the way for their future. So…

Happy Women’s History Month. We Celebrate ALL women. Know your history!!! Remember, Susan, Elizabeth, Sojourner, Alice, Harriet, Shirley, Eleanor, Rosa, Sally, Madeline, Gloria, Hillary and all the little girls who will one day be women who will change the world! REMEMBER them and celebrate!!!

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NO MORE!!!!

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This is my America. The country I have loved for 67 years. The land I felt immense pride in while driving cross-country visiting every historic landmark in my youth. This is the country I stood up for and pledged my allegiance to every single day during my childhood, and for 36 years every morning when I taught elementary school.

I pledged my allegiance to the flag even when we were fighting in Viet Nam and my friends were coming home in body bags. Even when people were protesting against wars, against racism, against animal abuse, against guns, against pesticides, and a million other causes, because in America we have always had the right to free speech. We are accustomed to living in a democracy and being able to express our thoughts, opinions, and assemble peaceably.

Decade after decade I happily stood in front of my students and led them standing tall and proud as I put my hand over my heart and faced the American flag. I wanted them to understand the importance of why we began each day with The Pledge. I explained how lucky we were to be living in the greatest country on earth, America.

And every April I read aloud the Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, to help them understand how it all began. But, towards the end of the poem, no matter how hard I tried, I would have to hold back my tears, barely making it through to the last stanza because I inevitably got all choked up. Some years I would have to hand the beautifully illustrated poetry book  to one of my students to finish the last few sentences for me, because my tears would be falling and I couldn’t get the words out.  The children always seemed to understand that their teacher was greatly moved by this historical event. An incident that took place long before any of us were born. And they too were moved and inspired by those men and women who helped form this great nation.

“A cry of defiance and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo forevermore!

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

I never tire of hearing that poem. The bravery and dedication and all the sacrifices the men and women who fought to make this a free nation, lingers between every line, every stanza. And those courageous values have been entrenched in our history and embedded in my heart.

So much so that when I left for work each morning I felt lighthearted and safe. And when I returned home at the end of the day to see my own children, I rejoiced in the fact that I could raise them in this glorious country and that they too would be safe and secure and have countless opportunities ahead of them. Yes, that is the America I grew up in. The America I love so dearly. That is the democracy that chose a young Jewish woman named Emma Lazarus to write the poem that was engraved on our Statue of Liberty, which represented to the world how America welcomes everyone:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

THAT is the America I have known for almost 68 years. Those were the values I was taught growing up and those were the American values I taught my children and my students. But I realized today that THAT America is fading quickly under this new administration and may soon cease to exist.

For the second time this week the JCC ( Jewish Community Center) down the street from my home was threatened and evacuated AGAIN!  Over 200 Jewish schools, centers and Temples have been vandalized and attacked and threatened and every day it gets worse. People of my faith are threatened all over this country. We Jews no longer feel safe in our homes, in our schools, or in our Synagogues. That is no way for any American to live. We should not be fearful in this country.  This is the home of the free and of the brave. None of us should have to be afraid for our lives and the safety of our children.

Every single day I watch as my fellow Jews are put in danger and little Jewish children are rushed out of their classrooms simply because of their faith and I think this cannot be happening in the country that I love. NOT in my America. Freedom of religion is part of our Constitution!!!   I am heartbroken, disappointed in my government, and frightened for my family and for my fellow Jews.

We The People can NOT turn our backs on this kind of discrimination and bigotry. We demand action, protection, and punishment for the perpetrators of such evil. And we say to you, NO MORE!

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