Using Government Docs for Women’s History

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Over the course of the last semester, I have spent my time researching the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Harmless, right? Well, a lot of people, particularly Phyllis Schlafly and STOP ERA, begged to differ.

Even so, before the U.S. Senate deliberated on this issue, many women and men had something to say about the Equal Rights Amendment and what it meant for them. Given that this debate happened most notably in the 1970s, it isn’t so easy to access first-person accounts or testimonials of the time about the ERA. So, I looked for the text of the legislative hearings. You can’t get that from the Library of Congress online. The earliest mention of the ERA in the C-SPAN video library is 1980, and that is past the height of the debate. Hearings were however printed in a book available in SLC’s Esther Rauschenbusch Library.

You may not have used it, but there is a vast collection of government documents in our library, which includes that book chronicling the ERA hearings. Our library is part of the Federal Depository Library Program. At SLC, we have several bookcases worth of material, in addition to online guides of digitized materials. So, if you are studying American history, these resources might be useful to you!

As women’s history students, we have been taught to read “’against the grain’” (Bartholomae and Petrosky) because history has often excluded women, girls, people of color, and other people who have been marginalized in multiple and intersecting ways. We have been taught to investigate what has been written about women, for example, and what hasn’t. Where do their stories appear and not appear?

Let’s put that to work with our government documents section. In some cases, we may use government documents for basic information to include in our writing. For instance, we may want to know the population of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1980, and we would look at the U.S. Census for that information. However, as historians, we might also want to question that data. What methods did the U.S. Census Bureau use to get its count? Would these methods have led to the exclusion of X or Y group of people? How would their exclusion from the Census count affect public policy and thus quality of life? What questions did the Census not ask that it should have?

Do yourself a favor and visit the government documents section in the basement of our library. A browsing visit may lead you to documents about which you will raise questions, and you may be inspired to find the answers! Perhaps, those answers will become your master’s thesis!

In addition to bound hearings and reports, you’ll also find maps, videos, discs, and other resources! There’s content that covers substance abuse, NASA, foreign affairs, and the nuclear issue, among other things. Check out some of these interesting finds in the stacks!

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Plant and agricultural reference books, such as Silvics of North America, Volume 1 Conifers and Virus Diseases of Small Fruits

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Federal employment reports, like the Study of Employment of Women in the Federal Government: 1967 and Minority Group Employment in the Federal Government: November 1971.

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Videos from events at the Clinton White House, including Millennium Evenings at the White House: Women as Citizens.

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Copies of the Federal Budget galore!

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Foreign Relations of the United States: Paris Peace Conference, 1919.

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Public Papers of the Presidents: Barack Obama. Read the speeches and remarks of our current president, as printed in these volumes.

 

Get Your Women’s History Podcasts…

By Amanda Kozar

If you’re like me, you are still excited to learn about women’s history even when you’re not in school. If you are stuck on a long car ride or flight, it’s always helpful to have a few podcasts loaded onto your cell phone or tablet.*

These podcasts don’t necessarily have a common theme other than “women’s history,” but I think that you might find something of interest to you here.

Do you have any podcast recommendations? Let us know!

“We Real Cool: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks” (The Documentary, 9/30/15)

“Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women and the Freedom Movement” (Farzaneh Milani, Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Stanford University, 5/29/12)

“Conversation with Dorothy Cotton” (American civil rights activist) (Morehouse King Collection Office, 3/18/13)

“The Exemplary Life of Germaine Tillion” (French Resistance activist) (Tzvetan Todorov, Stanford Humanities Center, 7/23/10)

“Lady Liberty” (Latino USA, NPR, 6/19/15)

“Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” (PBS) (Originally, I heard about Noor Inayat Khan on a podcast, but apparently, it isn’t available anymore!)

*You may need to download the iTunesU app to listen to some of these recordings! Check the instructions for your device.

Spider Woman, the Contortionist?

By Kaitlyn Kohr

There is a trend in comic book art to make women look as sexy as possible: from their clothes, to their hair, to the very position of their bodies. The most famous of the poses women are contorted into is called (and pardon the language): the “tits and ass” pose. This form is exactly what it sounds like. The female body is twisted so that the breasts and butt are both on display for the viewer’s gaze. To achieve this stance and many other “sexy” poses, however, anyone with an understanding of how the human body is constructed will notice that comic book artists have deleted some key parts of the human anatomy, such as: spines, ribcages, internal organs, and hipbones.

If the problem with this transformation of the female body is unclear, allow me to explain. While these are superheroes and there is a certain amount of creativity that artists can take with their renderings, male superheroes are not intentionally drawn in this manner. Spider-Man, Superman, Iron Man, and Captain America are drawn, for the most part, anatomically correct. Unless it is a recent update that I have missed, Cat Woman, Storm, Wonder Woman, the Scarlet Witch, and other super-heroines do not have super-bendy spines and disappearing bones in their cache of superpowers. The only character that should be drawn in Exorcist-like poses is Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic, whose superpower allows him to stretch and contort his body. The distortion of women’s bodies feeds the unrealistic ideals that their bodies are held up to in western society, and is a major source of disenchantment for female fans (who make up the comic book industry’s largest growing consumers).

A recent and prime example of this distortion is present in the variant cover art for the upcoming new title Spider-Woman #1. When Marvel announced that in November of this year, they would be releasing a new solo comic for Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), female comic fans were elated.[1] This comic emerges as a part of Marvel’s equality initiative (the same campaign that the new female Thor and black Captain America formed from) in an effort to be more inclusive toward their non-white, male, cisgender, heterosexual audiences. With Marvel being so keen to appeal to women, it confused many people when the variant cover art for the first issue was released and viewers saw this:

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In case it is not clear, in this image, Spider-Woman is meant to have just leapt onto the roof of a building, one leg hanging still over the ledge. Why is her butt in the air for this maneuver? Why is her suit digging into the crack of her butt? Why is her head tilted backwards at an impossibly acute angle? Well, according to the artist, that is just how the female body works.[2] Milo Manera, the artist in question, was an odd choice to begin with for a comic meant to appeal to feminists, as his usual work is drawing for erotic comics with male audiences. The image made women everywhere wonder what in the world Marvel was thinking when they allowed the image to be released. But do not fear. Women did not simply let the ridiculousness of this drawing go unnoticed. Instead, they got creative.

Among the litany of critiques that emerged on the cover art, which ranged from memes, tweets, and parodies, to a horrifying 3-D rendering of the pose; is a video by Alice Dranger, a gymnast.[3] Dranger and two other female gymnasts attempt to recreate Spider-Woman’s pose by leaping onto a faux-skyscraper ledge made of floor mats and freezing in the position they land in to see if women’s bodies do in fact work in the way that Manera draws. To no one’s surprise, not a single gymnast landed in Manera’s stance. If three adult, trained female athletes cannot replicate the pose, it seems highly unlikely that any woman, including a super-heroine could either.

Another response came from artist Karine Charlebois, who runs a tumblr blog, Less Tits N’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass, and uses her artistic skills to transform women’s unrealistic poses in comic books into the anatomically possible.[4] Charlebois’ blog and other blogs like it are different from the “Hawkeye-Initiative,” which draws the superhero Hawkeye in the poses and outfits of super-heroines to note their absurdity, and has received backlash for mocking femininity.[5] Charlebois does not alter the women’s costumes (no matter how impractical they may be), and she keeps the poses as similar to the original as possible, only altering them so that they correctly reflect the flexibility of real human bodies. Her alterations show women can be drawn in ways that are anatomically correct, yet still display plenty of the breast and butt areas of which comics seem to be so fond. Her re-imagining of the Manera cover loses none of its eroticism, yet puts Spider-Woman in a stance that is physically possible:

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It seems that this bombardment of criticism may have made Marvel see the error of their ways. Manera was scheduled to do two upcoming variant art covers for X-Men and Thor (the new, female one). Yet, as of September 23rd, Manera has been conveniently removed as the artist for these covers due to scheduling errors.[6] The removal of his art from these future comics gives hope that female comic fans have the ability alter the superhero landscape one pose and cover critique at a time. Above all else, one thing stands to be glaringly true, women comic book fans refuse to be silent in both their passion for the genre, and their criticisms.

*Kaitlyn Kohr is a second year student in the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College. After Sarah Lawrence, she plans to go to school for a Doctorate in Art History and one day work in an art museum. Her hobbies include becoming overly invested in the lives and treatment of female comic book characters, exploring museums, watching British television shows, and reading about representations of women.

[1] Lucas Siegel, “SDCC 2014: Women of MARVEL Panel New SPIDER-WOMAN Ongoing Announced, More,” Newsarama, July 27, 2014, http://www.newsarama.com/21730-sdcc-2014-women-of-marvel-panel-live.html.

[2] Jill Pantozi, “Spider-Woman Cover Artist Milo Manara & Writer Dennis Hopeless Respond To Online Discussion,” The Mary Sue, August 22, 2014, http://www.themarysue.com/manara-hopeless-respond-spider-woman-cover/.

[3] Alice Dranger, “Opposing Images: Women Attempt Spider Woman Cover Art” (video), accessed September 27, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7aQKFPJX4o.

[4] Kanthara (Karine Charlebois), “It’s a two-fer! Courtesy of…,” Less Tits N’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass, August 20, 2014, accessed September 27, 2012, http://lesstitsnass.tumblr.com/post/95253962172/its-a-two-fer-courtesy-of-dcwomenkickingass#permalink-notes. Another great blog that is conducting similar work is Ami Angelwings’s tumblr: Escher Girls (eschergirls.tumblr.com).

[5] Chris Hall, “The Hawkeye Initiative Pokes Fun at Sexist Comics, but Is It Backfiring?,” SFWeekly, January 8, 2013, http://www.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2013/01/08/the-hawkeye-initiative-pokes-fun-at-sexist-comics-but-is-it-backfiring.

[6] Jill Pantozzi, Marvel’s Editor in Chief Says Missing Manara Variants Are Due to a “Scheduling Problem”,” The Mary Sue, September 24, 2014, http://www.themarysue.com/marvel-manara-variants-scheduling-problem/.

Rethinking Imposter Syndrome

By Jackie Collens

I was working an early morning shift at Wooddale Village Retirement Community in Sun City, Arizona the day I found out I had been accepted into the Women’s History graduate program at Sarah Lawrence. As readers might be able to gather based on the fact that I am currently writing this, I decided fairly quickly and easily that I would be attending in the fall. The week of orientation came and went, and my optimism about my place in this program soared. I spent my first weekend of the semester browsing through my required reading lists and talking to my friends back home about how stunning the campus was, and how anxious I was to really get started. Then all of a sudden, classes started, and my hopeful enthusiasm turned quickly to terrified self-doubt.

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As I’ve familiarized myself with the campus, my classmates, and the new material presented to me in each of my courses, I have felt a growing feeling inside of me that maybe I don’t deserve to be here as much as everyone else does. I have been struck by all of the insightful ideas my classmates have brought up during discussions. At the same time, I have found myself repeatedly questioning the worthiness of my own thoughts and allowing myself to sit in silence, fearful that what I have to say is simply not worthwhile. I have grown increasingly self-conscious that my experiences up to this point, educational or otherwise, are not on par with those of my peers. My worried reflection has driven me, on one or two occasions, to question the possibility that perhaps my admittance into this program was some kind of fluke.

Before I go on, let me take a moment to clarify one thing. When I made the decision to go to graduate school, I did not for one second think that it would be easy. I expected this to be an enriching time in my life when I would get a chance to develop the ideas I had conjured up as an undergraduate and turn them into work that I could be proud of. I also, however, expected nights of little to no sleep and days where I found time for nothing but reading and writing. I envisioned two years of headaches and homesickness and feeling mentally challenged like I had never been before. I found myself asking over and over again these past few weeks, “If I knew school was going to be like this, why do I feel so out of place?”

During one of my first days on campus, a classmate and I were discussing our nerves and apprehension about the our places in the program, and she mentioned the concept of Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome, or perceived fraudulence, is a psychological experience, “of perceived intellectual phoniness that is held by certain high-achieving adults who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize these successes.”[1] It is a constant feeling that any and all of an individual’s accomplishments can be attributed to luck, chance, or some other external factor, but never to their own ability. Although there is some debate on the subject, it has often been suggested that imposter syndrome is far more commonly experienced by women than by men. Pauline R. Clance, the clinical psychologist who coined the term, originally suggested through her research that imposter syndrome, “occurs with much less frequency in men and that when it does occur, it is with much less intensity,” and so a number of her studies have focused primarily or completely on this experience among women.[2] More recent studies performed by Clance and others, however, have found that the phenomenon may be just as common in men. Catherine Cozzarelli and Brenda Major consider the possibility that various gendered societal expectations actually cause men to be less likely to express their feelings and experiences of imposter syndrome when asked, although they may be just as likely to have such experiences.[3]

I began to think more about this idea of perceived fraudulence, because as the days went by I continued to encounter it in some form or another. Slowly but surely I began to recall many other instances in my life when I had felt this very same way: from the time I won a poetry contest in fifth grade to the day I was offered my first job promotion. As I talked to more first year students, almost every one of them shared my feelings of being overwhelmed by our coursework, or intimidated by our classmates and professors. That first person who mentioned Imposter Syndrome early in the semester was not the last. Even as I shared my experiences with friends in different programs at different schools, I found that they were experiencing the same emotions.

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Fortunately, having had time to look into the idea of Imposter Syndrome and talk about it more in depth with some of my classmates, I have started to regain my optimism about my place in this program. If anything, these first few weeks have taught me a great deal about my current environment. While the work I have to look forward to over the next two years will be challenging, I am fortunate enough to have the chance to do it in a setting with peers I can share both my successes and failures with, and with professors who ultimately want to support me. Perhaps by focusing so heavily on my own nerves and doubts I allowed myself to forget what attracted me to this program, and more broadly, to feminism in the first place: the chance to expand my knowledge and the idea that my thoughts and opinions were worth sharing. I wish that I could say that I am writing this as someone who no longer feels like an imposter, but that isn’t necessarily true. I am still worried about my ability to produce meaningful ideas and work, but I also realize that I am attempting to do so in an amazing place that I worked hard to get to, just like everyone else here.

*Jackie Collens is a first year student in the Women’s History program at Sarah Lawrence College. She graduated from Arizona State University in the spring of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in History and certificate in Women and Gender Studies. Her research thus far has focused primarily on the U.S. women’s suffrage movement as well as the lives of women during the Great Depression. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Bob’s Burgers, annoying her cats, and continuing on her lifelong quest to discover the world’s greatest sandwich.

[1] John Kolligian Jr. and Robert J. Sternberg, “Perceived Fraudulence in Young Adults: Is There An Imposter Syndrome?,” Journal of Personality Assessment 56 (1991): 309.

[2] Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne Ament Imes, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention,” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice 15 (1978): 241.

[3] Catharine Cozzarelli and Brenda Major, “Exploring the Validity of the Imposter Phenomenon,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 9 (1990): 403.

Mental Health Resources and Links

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Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Rainer Maria Rilke

The Trevor Project
Trevor Lifeline: 866.488.7386
From their site: The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
They offer a variety of resources for those in the US, including: a Lifeline, a chat/messaging service, and a social networking community for LGBTQ youth (13-24 years old) + allies.


Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE
RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the US and is full of resources for those who have endured sexual violence and/or their loved ones.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at 1.800.273.TALK. (Their web site also has Lifeline options for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.)


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Information HelpLine: 1.800.950.NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., EST or by email at info@nami.org
From their site: NAMI State Organizations and local NAMI Affiliates offer an array of free education and support programs for individuals, family members, providers and the general public. Find a local chapter here.


Kate Bornstein – AKA – transgender trailblazer, activist extraordinaire, and suicide-prevention heroine. We love her and she helps us love (ourselves and others) more.


It Gets Better Project
This project has helped/helps many people stay alive (and is a great place to find video after video of encouragement and support)!


The Body is Not an Apology
An award winning poet, activist, and transformational leader, Sonya Renee Taylor  founded The Body is Not an Apology in 2011 and it has since grown into an international movement encouraging unapologetic self-love.


V-Day
Kelsey: I LOVE V-Day, the brainchild of the incredible Eve Ensler sparked by the reception of The Vagina Monologues. From their site: V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls…V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery. V-Day has raised over $90 million to end violence against women and girls since it was founded 15 years ago.


PostSecret
PostSecret is a place where people anonymously send in a secret on a homemade postcard. The thought behind it is that sharing one’s secret can be healing for those with the secret, those who identify the secret, and those who come together to form a community of anonymous acceptance.


Leslie Feinberg
The author of such important books as Stone Butch Blues, Transgender Warriors, and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. Feinberg is also a fierce activist outside of the page, working for a variety of grass-root movements for over 30 years.

This list was borrowed from the Stay Here With Me project. Please visit their website for more information.

Sarah Lawrence’s Feminist First: Cornelia Fort, ’39, First Female Pilot to Die in Combat

By Christopher Hoffman

A version of this article has appeared in The Huffington Post.

Cornelia Fort, first female pilot to be killed in combat, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1939.

Cornelia Fort, first female pilot to be killed in combat, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1939.

It is in the light of the Pentagon’s lift of the band on women serving in combat that we acknowledge March 21st, 2013 as the seventieth anniversary of the death of Cornelia Fort, the first female pilot to die for the United States military. Besides experiencing the bombing of Pearl Harbor first hand and thwarting the discrimination against female pilots by being one of the first to join the United States’ Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squad (WAFS), Cornelia Fort died for her beliefs and the country she loved.

Cornelia Clark Fort was born on February 5th, 1919. Daughter of Dr. Rufus Fort and Mrs. Louise Clark Fort, Cornelia was born into a large family in Nashville, Tennessee. With her father the founder of a colossal insurance company, Cornelia’s life was planned out for her. The family chauffer, Epperson Bond, would drive her from Fortland Farms, the family’s 356 acre estate, to Ward-Belmont, an exclusive private school for girls. She was expected to assimilate into high Southern society and become a debutant. Ms. Fort was part of the Junior League, the Girl’s Cotillion
Club, and the Query Club (the women’s literary club of Nashville). Flying a plane was
nowhere in her mind at the time she spent in Nashville. In fact, her father had made
her brothers swear that they would never fly an airplane.

Cornelia was sent to Ogontz School for Young Ladies in 1936, the same school that Amelia Earhart attended. Cornelia disliked the “gray walls and oppressive atmosphere” and would often state, “Amelia probably took up flying as a means of escaping the clutch of these gray walls.” Cornelia began to ask her parents if she could transfer.

“Cornelia wanted desperately to go to Sarah Lawrence College. Its teachers
were world-class. It was also, Cornelia knew, a school that valued the individuality of each student, allowing her, in essence, the freedom to design her own curriculum,” writes Rob Simbeck, author of Daughter of the Air, a biography on Ms. Fort. However, her father was against the idea. He did not think that Sarah
Lawrence, “a liberal northern school” was “proper for a southern girl.” In the end,
Cornelia and her mother petitioned Dr. Fort until he finally gave in.

The young southern girl quickly found her place in Sarah Lawrence’s
community. She “had a fondness of music nurtured by William Schuman” and
became highly involved with the student body. Ms. Fort joined the yearbook staff,
music club, studied literature and writing, and wrote for Sarah Lawrence’s
newspaper, The Campus. She even became the Chief Editorial Editor.
In 1939, Cornelia Fort received her two-year college diploma from Sarah
Lawrence. After her father died, Cornelia took up a flying lesson for fun. “How dare
you fly. Father forbade us from flying,” remarked Dudley, Cornelia’s brother. “Daddy
gave that oath to the boys, not to me,” Cornelia answered with a smile.
Ms. Fort took up flying because she “thought it’d be a good thing.” She quickly
fell in love with the sky and went on to get numerous licenses including her
instructor license, private license, transport license, seaplane license, and
commercial license. She became the first female flying instructor in all of Tennessee.

When asked why she flies, Cornelia answered, “It gets under your skin, deep down
inside.” On December 7, 1941, Ms. Fort was giving a flying instruction in Hawaii
when a Japanese plane almost crashed into her. “I saw a plane coming closer. It was
in violation of the air traffic rules. I waited for it to give way for me, and then when it
didn’t, I jerked the stick out of the student’s hand and pulled the plane up. Just in
time, I spotted the insignia on the Japanese plane: a red sun on the fuselage. I could
hardly believe my eyes. Then I saw smoke over Pearl Harbor and realized we had
been attacked.” Cornelia began to take the plane down while her student kept
asking when he would get to fly solo. “Not today, brother, not today!” she answered.
When she landed, there were explosions and gunfire. “My student let out one gasp
and disappeared. He never did pay me for that half hour of instruction,” she pointed
out.

In 1942, Cornelia Fort was the second woman to sign up for the newly
created Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squad (or WAFS for short), a civilian
organization of women pilots who transported supplies for the U.S. military. “I knew
I was going to join the WAFS before the organization was a reality, before it had a
name, before it was anything but a radical idea in the minds of a few men who
believed that women could fly airplanes,” stated Ms. Fort. “I felt I could be doing
something more constructive for my country than knitting socks. Better to go to war
than lose the things that make life worth living.”

The WAFS, headed by Mrs. Nancy Harkness Love, made history by proving
that women could fly airplanes for the war effort. Before the WAFS, many did not
believe that women could be trusted to fly military planes. “Because there were and
are so many disbelievers in women pilots, especially in their place in the army,
officials want the best possible qualifications to go with the first experimental
group. We had to deliver the goods or else. Or else there wouldn’t ever be another
chance for women pilots in any part of the service,” said Ms. Fort. Some of the men
were “extremely bitter” and “went to great lengths to discredit them whenever
possible.” One man even tried to “play games in the sky” with a female pilot while
she was giving him a flying lesson. Even though the brave women in the WAFS were
regarded as “different” by their friends and family, they fought against the
discrimination. “The only way to show the disbelievers, the snickering hanger pilots,
is to show them,” laughed Cornelia.

The WAFS were a huge part of Cornelia’s life. “We felt a part of something
larger,” she would often say. “And that we, in a very small way, are being allowed to
help keep that sky free is the most beautiful thing I have ever known.” Even though
the life of a woman pilot was not luxurious, Ms. Fort continued. “It keeps you broke,
but it keeps you happy,” she said. The WAFS lived a barrack lifestyle and Cornelia
recounted, “all of us in the WAFS still think it is the most wonderful thing in the
world even after a month of barrack life, slightly less house-like version of
dormitory life at Sarah Lawrence College.”

In 1943, at age 24, Cornelia Fort died. She was flying across the country with
a group of other pilots. Adela Scharr, Cornelia’s “marching buddy” recounted what
she believed happened, “This young man had sort of cornered Cornelia and was
playing around like he was dog-fighting with her. The problem was that these
fellows were young showoffs.” Lt. Stamme, a recent pilot with under 300 hours of flight was flying close to Cornelia, who held over 1,100 hours of flying. Fort’s plane
and Stamme’s plane collided. Stamme’s landing gear hit Fort’s plane and
investigators said, “the impact of such a mid-air collision could have jammed or
damaged the canopy, making it impossible to open and causing the pilot to lose
consciousness.” At twenty-four years old, Cornelia Fort became the first WAFS to die
for her country, and may be the first female pilot to die on duty for the U.S. military.
“I am grateful that my one talent, flying, was useful to my country,” wrote Ms.
Fort before her tragic death. Fort’s estate and money was given to Sarah Lawrence
to create a scholarship for southern girls. Cornelia wrote in her will of “an
appreciation of the deep and sincere intellectual experience I received while a
student.” Sadly, the scholarship soon dried up. An airpark in Nashville was named
after Cornelia in 1946 and there is also a small, unofficial plaque for Cornelia at her
crash site in Mulberry Canyon, Texas.

Why is Cornelia Fort virtually unknown? “It’s not uncommon to find a
woman who’s remarkable and unappreciated. It’s disrespectful we’re not honoring her in some way,” says Elizabeth Wilson class of ’13 and co-chair of the Feminist Collective at Sarah Lawrence College. Women during that time were not appreciated or recognized. The WAFS did not get recognition or veteran benefits until 1979. “The efforts and sacrifices of a talented and courageous group of women have been
recognized and the pilots accorded status as military veterans…and they continue
to inspire Air force women who now follow in their footsteps,” said Ms. Antonio
Chayes, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force.

An archivist from the U.S. Army Women’s Museum stated that the museum’s
archives did not have any records of her. Because she was given the active duty
status in 1979, the museum does not consider her as part of the military, but only
“contracted.” Many women have died in service for the United States, from women
disguising as men that fought in the Revolutionary War to WWII’s Women’s Army
Corps. With that said, there may have been a few female pilots flying planes in WWI
as part of the Women’s Army Corps. “The WAFS were nothing more than a group of
women with extensive flying experience, who were recruited, to ferrying aircraft to
various bases and locations within the United States and in some cases abroad,” said
the Air Force Historical Studies Office. Not only did Cornelia face discrimination for
being a female pilot, but she was only the first of thirty eight brave women to lose
her life while serving under the WAFS or WASPS (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, a
group that succeeded the WAFS).

Cornelia was a woman before her time, rebelling against the norms society placed on her. “Many of our Nashville friends were meadowmousy and we had lived in a very traditional style,” said Cornelia’s sister, Louise. “I think she was a great rebel of her time.” Rob Simbeck calls her a “hero, someone who lived for something bigger than she was, someone who gave of herself in a cause she believed in and a country she loved.”

When attempting to meet with Karen Lawrence to speak about a possible memorial for Cornelia Fort, I was told by her secretary that this project “has nothing to do with Karen.” I was directed to Cheryl Cipro and we spoke briefly of a possible memorial. However, the offer of having “cookies and lemonade on the South Lawn” to honor the life of one of the first female pilots to die for the U.S. military seemed disgraceful. I made another visit to Karen’s secretary, Rosemary Dahill, and she insisted that she had passed along the message about the 70th anniversary of Cornelia’s death to Karen. Sadly, nothing was done on March 21 st to honor this American hero.

Cornelia believed in freedom and readily flew for her country despite the
discrimination and risks. She was expected to take the life of a Southern debutant
but wanted adventure. In the end, let us remember Cornelia Fort in the words she
wrote to her mother before her death: “I was happiest in the sky…Think of me there
and remember me.”

Christopher Hoffman is a student at Sarah Lawrence College.

PANEL: Women and Cultural Activism

Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM

This panel will be moderated by current SLC Women’s History student, Robert Leleux.

Out South of the Salt Line: Lesbians in the Court of Public Opinion

Debbie Hicks

Tourists recall images of the Gulf South port of Mobile, Alabama: teen Azalea Trail Maids as a pastel curtsy of antebellum hoop skirts; maskers rocking Mardi Gras floats; hurricane flooded bayous, and record-busting deep-sea fishing rodeos. Each image speaks, in part, to an aspect of history, custom, and values shaping the lives of women and their families living in a city which boasts a colonial legacy as birthplace of French Creole culture and Mardi Gras in America. Yet lesbians and other gender-minority women in coastal Alabama, like all women in the Deep South, can rightly claim less significant if less heard herstories of advocacy. Our discussion identifies lesbian advocates, their organizations, and strategies which advanced social justice for lesbians and other minority genders in the Mobile area.

Debbie Hicks is an independent scholar who lives and writes about the lives of women and gender-minorities in coastal Alabama, as well as historically segregated Indian communities in the Deep South. She is an activist whose work has included community organizing for civil rights starting in 1977, during which time she participated in the Student Coalition for Community Health (SCCH) to offer the first integrated health care program serving all residents in a rural Alabama community. She currently coordinates Charlotte’s Tree, a volunteer program that recycles materials destined for landfill to assist low-income persons.

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Womanspace Gallery: From the Laundromat to the Woman’s Building

Elizabeth Dastin

Los Angeles during the 1970s was host to a wealth of significant art historical feminist activity. The best known is the 1972 installation, Womanhouse, organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. As an homage to and extension of these efforts, the cooperative gallery Womanspace (1973-1974) opened its doors and the following year, as did the Woman’s Building (1973-1991), a non-profit arts and education center. Although the Woman’s Building closed in 1991, its legacy has recently generated a surge of interest, culminating in a 2011 Getty sponsored exhibition which historicized its contributions to feminist communities in Los Angeles… I correct the glaring omission of Womanspace within the narrative of the Woman’s Building and locate the gallery as an overlooked and instrumental player within feminist activity in Los Angeles. …I extend the Getty’s energies to unearth a narrative for the post-war art scene in Los Angeles to include Womanspace and its contributions to the regional expressions of 1970s feminism.

Elizabeth Dastin is a PhD candidate in Art History with a certificate in Women’s Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an MA from Christie’s and a BA from Wellesley College. She has taught and lectured at a number of institutions in New York and California, and she currently teaches at Santa Monica College.

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Women and Political Activism in Selected Novels by Julia Alvarez

Naglaa Hasaan

Julia Alvarez (1950- ), a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist, is known for her engagement with the political dilemmas of her native country, the Dominican Republic. In her novels In the Time of the Butterflies (1991) and In the Name of Salome (1994), she not only grapples with the traumatic historical experiences of Caribbean islands under dictatorship but she also foregrounds the role of women in creating a new revolutionary spring. Alvarez’s novels will be read in light of Foucault’s theory with particular focus on the mechanisms of power and resistance, how power works out to subjugate people and how resistance can take multiple forms, primary among which are discursive practices. To apply Foucault’s concepts to Alvarez’s feminist/political novels will cast mutual light on both writers, elucidating their views in a way that weds theory and practice.

Naglaa Saad Mohamed Hassan earned her PhD from Cairo University in Egypt. Her dissertation, completed in 2009, is entitled, “Cultural Politics in Selected Works of Derek Walcott: A Study in Postcolonial Theory and Practice.” She is a Fulbright scholar and currently lectures in English at Fayoum University. Her other accomplishments include numerous translations from English to Arabic, and articles exploring the Muslim world and Arab cultural identity.