Thursday, March 17, 2011

99: The Self-Empowered Woman: Collins & Gingrich

Dear Followers,

As most of you already know, I'm a huge fan of Gail Collins, who was the first female member of the New York Times' editorial board. In the past, I've shared with you my great admiration for her amazing book "America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines," as well as her more recent best seller "When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present."

Both books are excellent volumes that belong in the library of any reader with an interest in American History or Women's Studies.

Recently, Collins wrote a New York Times editorial about Newt Gingrich's interest in winning the Republican nomination for the 2012 Presidential Election. Her comments were so incisive that I just had to share them (and you might want to forward this blog to other women who know what it's like to be a Starter Wife).

Collins indites politicians (like Angelo Errichetti, Randy Hopper, Carl Kruger, Carl Paladino, Mark Sanford and Elliot Spitzer) who suggest that "hard work and patriotism" can drive them into serial adultery and other "inappropriate choices."

The editorial reminds readers that Gingrich's first wife, Jackie, had once been his high school Math teacher. While she "was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer...her husband walked in [the hospital room] and started talking about the terms of a divorce."

Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, "was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was visiting her mother when her husband called to tell her there was another woman." Now, Gingrich has told the Christian Broadcasting Network that "he's found true love with Wife No. 3, converted to Catholicism, and 'learned an immense amount.'"

Here's what Collins has to say about his late-life epiphany and his new-found happiness with his latest bride, Callista: "People, can we all agree now that men who spend their early and middle ages betraying women right and left are not allowed to get credit for discovering the joys of monogamy at about the same time they receive their first Social Security check?

"Of course, Gingrich is being a better husband this time around. He's 67! By then, most men have not just finished finished sowing their wild oats. The oats have been harvested, ground up, reprocessed and turned into soggy cornflakes."

Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

98: The Self-Empowered Woman: Irena Sendler

Dear Followers,

Usually I learn about my blog subjects from media sources. But my dear friend (and author) Donna Brown Agins, introduced me to the inspiring story of Irena Krzyzanowska Sendler, a Polish Roman Catholic (3. Belief in the Unbelievable) social worker who became known as "the female Oskar Schindler."

Sendler was born in 1910. Her father was a physician who treated many Jewish patients whom other doctors would not treat, and in 1917, he contracted Typhus and died (1. No Paternal Safety Net). His grateful Jewish patients paid for Irena's education; in 1923 she got in trouble in school for defending a Jewish classmate by getting into a fistfight with two bullying girls (5. Life is Not a Popularity Contest).

By 1932, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Sendler had become a social worker caring for unwed mothers and children. Seven years later, the Germans occupied Poland, and Sendler and her helpers began creating 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families escape. This was very risky because helping Jews in German-occupied Poland incurred the death penalty (11 . Risk Addiction).

Her organization, Zegota, had 23 female members and one man. Sendler's code name was Jolanta and she organized the work of smuggling children out of the Warsaw ghetto, where 500,000 Polish Jews lived in a one-square mile area. Since 6,000 people were dying each month from disease and starvation in the walled-off ghetto, Sendler and a colleague were given permission by the Warsaw Epidemic Control Department to enter legally on a daily basis (13. More Than Meets the Eye).

By 1942, "The Final Solution" and death camps had become public knowledge in Poland, so Sendler decided to smuggle out as many babies and children as possible. She would sedate the youngsters so they would remain quiet, and she was able to smuggle them out in packages, boxes and ambulances. They were placed in Catholic convents, parish rectories, and Polish families or the Warsaw orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary. Over 2,500 children were rescued this way (7. Magnificent Obsession).

In 1943, the Gestapo arrested, tortured, and sentenced Sendler to death. Zegota bribed German guards on the way to her execution, and the Germans dumped her (with broken arms, legs and feet) in the woods (12. Hard Times). She lived in hiding as "Klara Dabrowska" for the rest of the war. Unbelievably, when the Soviets took over Poland after the war, she was again tortured because she had supported the Polish government in exile!

During her later years Sendler was honored by Israel, Pope John Paul II, and became the recipient of Poland's Order of White Eagle (the country's highest distinction). She was nominated in 2007 for the Nobel Peace Prize, but lost to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In spite of her truly brave heroic deeds, she once told an interviewer "We who were rescuing children are not some sort of heroes. That term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true - I continue to have qualms of conscience that I did so little. I could have done more. (10. The Critic Within) This regret will follow me to my death." In 2008, Irena died in a Polish nursing home at the age of 98.

Looking forward to your comments...