INSIDE THIS EDITION:
- WHY MARCH IS NATIONAL WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH
- SELECTED NONFICTION READING for National Women's History Month
- JANE'S WALK is back for Providence 2023
- SPOTLIGHT/THE MEMOIR: I Hate Bats by Bill Hudson
- REMEMBER by Joy Harjo
Why March is National Women’s History Month
By Molly Murphy MacGregor
Executive Director and Co-founder of the National Women’s History Alliance
As recently as the 1970s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.
The week of March 8th, International Women’s Day, was chosen as the focal point of the observance. The local Women’s History Week activities met with enthusiastic response, and dozens of schools planned special programs for Women’s History Week. Over one-hundred community women participated by doing special presentations in classrooms throughout the country and an annual “Real Woman” Essay Contest drew hundreds of entries. The finale for the week was a celebratory parade and program held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.
Mobilizing a Movement
In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of our group, was invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, which was chaired by noted historian, Gerda Lerner and attended by the national leaders of organizations for women and girls. When the participants learned about the success of the Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week celebration, they decided to initiate similar celebrations within their own organizations, communities, and school districts. They also agreed to support an effort to secure a “National Women’s History Week.”
Presidential and Congressional Support
The first steps toward success came in February 1980 when President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In the same year, Representative Barbara Mikulski, who at the time was in the House of Representatives, and Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week 1981. This co-sponsorship demonstrated the wide-ranging political support for recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the achievements of American women.
A National Lobbying Effort
As word spread rapidly across the nation, state departments of education encouraged celebrations of National Women’s History Week as an effective means to achieving equity goals within classrooms. Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Alaska, and other states developed and distributed curriculum materials for all of their public schools. Organizations sponsored essay contests and other special programs in their local areas. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating National Women’s History Week, supported and encouraged by resolutions from governors, city councils, school boards, and the U.S. Congress.
Each year, the dates of National Women’s History Week, (the week of March 8th) changed and every year a new lobbying effort was needed. Yearly, a national effort that included thousands of individuals and hundreds of educational and women’s organizations was spearheaded by the National Women’s History Alliance.
National Women’s History Month
By 1986, 14 states had already declared March as Women’s History Month. This momentum and state-by-state action was used as the rational to lobby Congress to declare the entire month of March 1987 as National Women’s History Month. In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. A special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.
Presidential Message 1980
President Jimmy Carter’s Message to the nation designating March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.
As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”
I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980.
I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.
This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Selected Reading for Women's History Month: Nonfiction
The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
Jane Austen at Home: A Biography
The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine
Janice P. Nimura
The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science
Jane's Walk Providence
An Annual Festival of Free, Resident-led, Walking Conversations
SAVE THE DATE: MAY 5-7
Jane's Walk is back in Providence for 2023!
Explore Providence neighborhoods on foot during Jane’s Walk, a global weekend festival on May 5-7, inspired by the great urban activist Jane Jacobs. These interactive walks are led by local residents and community activists who share stories and ask questions that get people thinking, talking, and connecting with each other. Jane’s Walks are free, and anyone can participate! Wear comfortable shoes, meet your Walk Leader in the designated meeting spot, and get ready for a lively discussion.
Walks are planned throughout the weekend, starting from different locations across Providence at staggered times. For more information visit doorsopenri.org/janeswalk. All walks will be published online by April 15th. In the meantime, save the date and invite your friends!
Interested in Leading a Walk?
If you are guided by curiosity, interested in making a local impact and connecting with your neighbors, then you’d likely be a great Walk Leader! Anyone can lead a walk! Applications due March 31st. Click here to apply.
We are honored and excited to be partnering with the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities (JNBC) this year as the Presenting Sponsor of our Jane’s Walk Providence 2023 Festival. It’s a natural relationship considering that like many local cultural initiatives (including our own Doors Open RI), Jane’s Walk first started as a student project at the Public Humanities Center just over 10 years ago. This summer the JNBC is closing its doors. With this in mind, we’d like to offer this year’s Jane’s Walk Festival as a celebration of the impact the JNBC has had on the Providence community. We are determined to do our part in building on the legacy of the Public Humanities Center here in Providence for years to come.
THE SPOTLIGHT: The Memoir
I Hate Bats
by Bill Hudson
My second experience of a bat invasion occurred during the first year of our marriage. At that time, my wife and I lived in a spacious apartment in an old house, mansion really, located at the edge of Wayland Square where Elmgrove Avenue intersects with Angell Street. Our apartment occupied one entire half of the first floor of the mansion. It consisted primarily of three large rooms with high, 14-foot ceilings. The front room facing the street served as combination living room and study (I finished writing my doctoral dissertation there).
The middle room, the most spectacular, included a huge fireplace with an ornate wooden mantel. We had placed a love seat in front of the fireplace well situated for romantic cocktail hours in front of a raging fire. Behind the love seat was ample room to accommodate our dining room table, a then fashionable butcher block affair that continues to live in our kitchen today. The back wall of the room opened on a small kitchen that extended toward the back of the house and, on the other side of the wall, was a hallway leading to our large bedroom with adjoining bath.
One Sunday evening while we were propped up on our bed watching Masterpiece Theatre, my wife and I heard a large thump coming from the front of the apartment. I quickly headed down the hall to see what had happened. As I stuck my head into the middle room, I saw a bat flying in circles. Perhaps sensing my presence, it suddenly headed my way. I turned tail and fled down the hall, stubbing my big toe on the open door of the bedroom as I stumbled in.
The bat was right behind me and soon was flying in circles overhead in the bedroom. At that moment, my courageous wife leaped from the bed, gave the bat a furious look, and fled into the bathroom slamming the door behind her. “Do something Bill”, she cried as she turned the door lock.
– the universal solvent. A wise solution to any problem that might arise! Imagine the world’s problems that might be solved if only world leaders understood the formula! Russia invades Ukraine. Solution: “Something.” A pandemic rages round the world. Solution: “Something.” Inflation ravages the economy. Solution: “Something.” Such thoughts swirled in my brain as I cringed in a corner, massaged my throbbing toe which turned out to be broken, and watched the bat circle overhead. “Something” “Something” “Do something” the flap of its wings seemed to say.
My first thought was to open the bedroom window. Perhaps if the bat perceived the outside air it would fly out to freedom. It did occur to me that opening the window might allow the bat’s brethren to fly into the bedroom to join it, but I decided opening the window was worth the risk. Crawling along the floor so as not to attract the bat’s attention, I reached the window and opened it as wide as I could. Once back in my corner, I observed that the bat had taken no interest in the open window. It continued to circle at the top of the room not even making a feint toward the window and freedom. I realized then that, since the bat had been outside before it entered our apartment, perhaps being inside somewhere was its agenda. I now had little hope in my window scheme.
At this point, perhaps exhausted from its endless circling of the room, the bat stopped and attached itself to a spot high on the wall above the head of our bed. It folded its wings while hanging upside down and seemed to be settling in for the night and presumably the following day, being a nocturnal creature. This could not be allowed.
I resolved to approach my little problem differently. I needed to consider the facts of the situation and how they might suggest a new “something.” The first fact that came to mind: the bat was an unlawful intruder into our apartment. He had entered, one might even say - had broken in, without our invitation or knowledge. This was burglary; the bat was a burglar. Who did one call to apprehend a burglar? The police, of course.
Having come to this realization, I slunk into the hall where our telephone rested on a small table, found the police department number on the list of emergency numbers (this was before the 911 system), and dialed. When the dispatcher answered I outlined the situation. Barely disguising his amusement, the dispatcher said, “Son,” (no doubt detecting from the tone of my voice or perhaps from the situation itself that he was dealing with a young person), “this seems to be a problem for animal control, I’ll connect you.” When animal control picked up, I again explained my predicament and they promised to send someone right away.
As promised, in a little while a Providence Police Animal Control van pulled up in front of the house. I led the young animal control officer to the back bedroom. He looked up at the bat, glanced at me, and said, “I’ll be back in a minute”. He ambled through the apartment and out the front door to his van. Pretty soon, he came ambling back with a small lidded bucket in one hand and, in the other, what appeared to me an enormous gun with a large dart attached to the barrel. Upon seeing the gun, I began to fear that calling the police had been a mistake. Was I about to be witness to a case of excessive police violence? The vision of a dart - skewered bat stuck onto the wall, his blood and excrement dripping down the wall onto our bed ran through my brain. I imagined his ugly snout mounted against our wall like the head of a stuffed antelope on the wall of a hunting cabin.
Once the animal control officer reached the bedroom, I was relieved to see him deftly remove the metal point on the dart leaving only a blunt instrument. Setting down the bucket, he aimed the neutered dart gun toward the bat and fired. What a marksman! The blunt dart hit the bat dead center and it dropped stunned onto the bed. The officer slipped the bat into the bucket and locked the lid. Giving me a triumphant look, he headed out of the bedroom. As he departed, he said over his shoulder, “I will send it down to the lab when I get back to the shop. If it turns out to be rabid, we’ll be in touch in a day or two.” We never heard a thing. No news is good news.
That was my last close encounter with a bat, but it had cemented forever within me my intense hatred for the species. Now, even when I see a photograph of a bat with its large ears and disgusting face, the bile of animosity rises in my stomach. And, at night when awakened by a sound in the dark, maybe by the wind rattling a window, or the bang of a steam pipe, or one of the myriad other creaks and groans that an old house makes, I wonder: Could that be another bat returned to bedevil my existence? Oh - the miserable creatures!
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
COMING IN THE NEXT ISSUE:
- Do you remember Woodstock? Dena Quilici does.