Because several of the latest additions to my idea notebook pertained to members of the female gender, I determined to write about women this week.
I happened to read, for example, that Family Circle, a well-known women’s magazine, will cease publication at the end of this year after 87 years in circulation. We were always a magazine-reading family with subscriptions to Jack and Jill for us kids and Reader’s Digest for our parents. My father regularly read Hoard’s Dairyman, Successful Farming, and Farm Journal.
Mother, the voracious reader, however, enjoyed an even wider array of monthly publications including McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Redbook. I even remember way back copies of Woman’s Home Companion in its larger form, the size that The Saturday Evening Post and Life once were.
But Mother also frequently brought home a periodical or two from the grocery store magazine rack – glossy pages filled with recipes, housekeeping tips, regular columns, and special interest articles, plus the occasional short story. It was not at all unusual to find a copy of Woman’s Day or Family Circle tucked in a brown paper grocery bag between the peanut butter and the Raisin Bran. The demise of the Family Circle magazine will mean more articles and recipes on the internet, I guess.
A few weeks ago, after yet another middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, I flipped on the TV. There on one of the shopping channels I saw a presentation of a handbag line called R. Riveter. Although not in the market for a new purse, I nevertheless found the story the vendors shared fascinating.
The women responsible, Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse, are military wives, whose active military husbands move on the average of every 3-5 years. They explained how difficult it is to find meaningful employment and described their decision to start making purses from recycled materials.
The business partners named their accessory line after Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman wearing a kerchief and flexing her muscles, who inspired and represented the millions who went to work in munitions factories and shipyards as the men headed off to World War II.
Since making a deal with Mark Cuban on Shark Tank in 2016, the women have expanded their operations to hire more than 100 other military spouses to make parts of purses wherever they and their families are stationed. In the words of these successful entrepreneurs: “We don’t hire military spouses to make handbags. We make handbags to hire military spouses.”
Then just a couple of days ago, my brain did a double-take when I saw what I considered a curious Facebook picture. A former student of mine posted some of her daughter’s senior pictures. One of them showed the 18-year-old holding her favorite book: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.
Huh? The feminist bestseller from the early 60’s in the hands of a member of Generation Z – let alone her Millennial mother? The names of Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem flashed by as did magazine titles like Cosmopolitan and Ms., which also became an alternative to Miss and Mrs. Articles of intimate clothing were burned, pronoun reference became grammatical landmines, and women roared. It was a loud, brash, liberating time.
One of the big news stories a couple of weeks ago spotlighted the first spacewalk by an all-woman team when astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, guided by NASA capsule communicator Stephanie Wilson, performed maintenance on the International Space Station.
Although I am glad there was a day of hullabaloo about their achievement, I also hope it can be considered normal and natural that the next two astronauts in line for the assignment just happened to be females. After all, women have been walking in space since 1984, when a female cosmonaut and later a female astronaut accomplished the feat. The women involved this time shared that they wanted to “provide inspiration to everybody, not just women, but to everybody with a big dream and a willingness to work hard.” I second the motion.
I sew all year to complete the five counted cross-stitch items I display each August at the county fair. I have already started the Habitat for Humanity sampler for the 2020 house, and I plan to make gifts for two friends and an entry for the Vintage category.
I was stuck, however, for a fifth project. Thinking perhaps I could stitch something for the Folk Art class, I went searching for a pattern – and was delighted by what I found: a woman wearing a white dress and holding a flag beside bunting and stars highlighting VOTE 1920. Across the top is the representation of a newspaper headline: “SUFFRAGE ACT PROCLAIMED.” It is the perfect project. Almost to the day one hundred years ago, my little piece of fabric and thread will be on proud and public display.
Actually, the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution made practically every other topic in this article possible: Rosie the Riveter and those purses, The Feminine Mystique, the women’s spacewalk – as well as impacting hundreds of other aspects of American history and life.
When I vote in the 2020 election, I will be remembering in awe not only that it took well over a century for women citizens to win the right to vote but also that we have used that right as a bridge to the progress we continue to make.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.