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PRENOTE: Last Thursday I had a unique opportunity, which I want to share. An organization I’ve long been part of has a Third Thursday Film each month, and the offering was the film “Worth”, a 2020 Netflix release starring Michael Keaton as Ken Feinberg, about compensating the survivors of 9-11-01 victims. The ‘drill’ for Third Thursday is to watch the film first, then join on-line discussion about the film. The guest, Thursday, was Ken Feinberg himself, who was played by Michael Keaton in the film. The conversation was an outstanding hour plus and the conversation can be watched on-line at the Global Solutions website, here. DO WATCH THE FILM FIRST.
October 17 my friend, Kathy, asked me to send a copy of an obit she had read, and wanted to send on to someone. She thought I knew the person who had died. I’m still not certain, since the single contact would have been over 40 years ago at a meeting.
I followed through, and it occurs to me that this is an obit well worth reading, even though it is probably the longest newspaper obit I have ever seen. You can read it here. Take the time: Nina Rothchild (click to enlarge). About the only observation I will make about Nina Is that she came to be noted at a crucial time in the women’s movement, long, and still, evolving but particularly evident in the 1970s.
I’ll take the risk of making a few observations, but mostly it would be nice to hear from women, perhaps using Nina’s story as a basis for conversation, perhaps not.
Just yesterday, after a memorial service for a deceased teacher union staff colleague, three of we former staff, all men, recalled the impact of Title IX in our work, particularly in the later 1970s and 1980s. (My personal career in teacher union work was 1972-2000.)
Most of our members were women, then; but almost all of the public education managers – Principals and such – were men. This extended to Union staff. Anyone can fill in the abundant blanks. You pick the occupation.
I’m a family historian, and a number of years ago I came across what I felt was a remarkable photograph from the 1940s. It included my grandmother. It was remarkable not only in that the photo was entirely women, but on the back of the photograph every woman was named by someone with legible handwriting.
But what was most remarkable of all was that every single one of the 20 or so women were identified as “Mrs. so-and-so”, including one woman, I found later, who was not married, or at least my source said, no one had ever seen or even heard of a husband of the woman in the tiny town. The women pictured were likely part of a church organization and thus, in a sense, all activists. But their first name, in effect, was “Mrs”, and the person who wrote their names was probably also a woman.
It was intriguing.
Much more recently I came across a newsletter dated November, 1963, of a state peace and justice organization which still exists. The newsletter was publicizing a group of speakers for an annual event recognizing the founding of the United Nations. “Whoever speaks of and for the United Nations speaks for Man” read part of the article. Then the 15 speakers were listed. Four were women, three of them “Mrs.”, one “Rev. Mrs.” (Two of the women had their given first name, the other two, their husbands name.)
Among the men, four were identified as “Dr.”, the rest simply listed by first and last name. (It was duly noted in the same newsletter article that there were eight “women who worked on the committee and hanged appointments between the speakers and the schools….“. Seven of the eight were Mrs [husbands first name]; the eighth, Ola, was apparently a single woman.)
I could go on and on.
Earlier this month, at Church, I was intrigued by a phrase in the Gospel reading from Mk 10:2-12 – the one where Moses had the law that a man could divorce his wife; but “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” It occurred to me, and I wrote my Pastor afterwards, about the current contradiction in terms: “We – none of us – know what God really thinks. God is a construction of our own beliefs (plural) often fashioned to fit our own construct. This has always been true in every society, every belief system for all of human history.” I have no problem believing in God, but I draw the line at humans defining what God thinks about marriage, divorce, even “life”, or anything at all for that matter – all of which are meddle’d in by the self-proclaimed Moses of our times, who usually are men, regardless of denomination.
The business of male and female has a pretty long history, as we know. About half of us are men, half of us are women. Change is happening but very slowly.
Have at it. I’m glad Kathy alerted me to Nina’s obit.
POSTNOTE: Last night (Sunday Oct 24) I stayed up long past my usual bedtime to watch the MSNBC Special “Civil War (or who do we think we are)“. It had far too many ads – the price one pays for television – but the program was outstanding food for thought, regardless of one’s point of view. I hope it is available to others. Here’s the link to MSNBC. I have no other details about whether or when it will be rebroadcast. Do take the time. This is our collective problem as a society. Avoidance won’t solve it.
COMMENTS (more at end of post)
from Fred: Your comment about mid-20th century women being identified as Mrs. instead of their given name resonates. Over the years, I’ve spent many hours trying to the first names of even prominent women.
Example: Mrs. A.T. Anderson of Minneapolis was one of the founders of the Minnesota Suffrage Association and a state leader in the Temperance movement. There were more than a few Anderson in Mpls at the 20th Century’s turn. After many dead ends, I lucked out (don’t recall exactly how but it had to do with finding her husband first) and found her.
Now AMANDA Anderson is rightfully known through that article I wrote for MN History on the MWSA.
from Jeff: I watched some of that Civil War documentary as it is an area of interest to me, however I watched it a few weeks ago on a streaming format. I just looked it is on Peacock….and since I do not pay for that service, it is on the free version and able to be viewed still ….