Friday, March 30, 2012

140: The Self-Empowered Woman: Washington State Women

Dear Followers,

Today's topic is designed to remind us that we have just finished another National Women's History Month. As you may know, there has been a lot of concern that the number of female elected officials might shrink in the November elections. We already have a glaring "gender disparity" when it comes to politics - there are only six female governors and 17 female senators (in state legisatures women comprise 23.6%).

The one place where this imbalance does not occur, however, is in the state of Washington. The only time in our nation's history when a state's governor and both of its senators have been female has been the last eight years. Unfortunately, when Governor Christine Gregoire (pink blouse) finishes her second term in January this political hat trick will come to an end because both the Republican and Democratic candidates trying to replace her are male. When she first ran for Washington State Attorney General, her critics claimed that she "wasn't tough enough," but during her tenure as governor the same critics have labeled her "too tough."

Senator Patty Murray (glasses) ran for office in 1992 as the "Mom in tennis shoes." she became the state's first female senator and, recently, worked very hard to insure that Planned Parenthood did not lose funding even though some of its clinics provide abortion. At times, she was the only woman in a room full of men in Washington, D.C., but in her home state there has never been a shortage of women holding public office.

Dixie Lee Ray successfully ran for governor in 1976, with the slogan "Little lady takes om big boys." And the first female mayor of a major American city was Seattle's Bertha K. Landes, whose slogan - in 1926 - was "Municipal housekeeping." Some historians feel that Washington State lacks a political gender gap because when it was still a territory (it became a state in 1889) women were allowed to vote. Others feel that Western States (because they were settled later) do not have a history of male-dominated politics. Whatever the reason, a recent study from the Center for Public Integrity paid tribute to Washington State's "breed of tough, activist women."

Senator Maria Cantwell (brunette) keeps a photo in the lobby of her office that captures a moment that she feels reflects her colleagues' strength. In 2009, on a flight to survey flood damage in Washington State, Gregoire, Murray and Cantwell were on board a C-17 cargo plane with a number of male state politicians. When asked who would be willing to go to the open end of the plane for a better look - where they would have to be tethered for safety - only the three female passengers were willing to volunteer. As Cantwell told The New York Times, "Everybody thinks that the macho men would do that, but it was the three of us [who were] willing to go back there."

Washington's King County Sheriff, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the State Senate Majority Leader are all female. In the Governor's words, "We've pretty much taken care of all the firsts in our state."

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, March 19, 2012

139:The Self-Empowered Woman: : The Richer Sex

Dear Followers,

Here are a few random thoughts, inspired by a new book "The Richer Sex," by Liza Mundy...

  • The French Government has ended the use of "Mademoiselle" (which was first used in 1690) from official forms and registries

  • Single, childless women are out earning men in the following American cities: Dallas, $1.18; Atlanta, $1.14; Raleigh, N.C. $1.11; Houston, $1.11 and Los Angeles, $1.09.

  • Still, however, even though women out earn men overall in part time jobs ($1.04), their full time wages average out at $ .81

  • In 1960 only 5% of America's children were born to unwed mothers. By 2010, the number had risen to 41%

  • Fewer than 1 in 5 married-couple families are supported by the husband alone

  • When it comes to higher education, women are earning degrees at a higher rate than male students (Bachelor's 57%; Master's 60%; Doctoral 52%)

  • In 1965, women were working an average of 0.6 hours per week. By 2010, the number had risen to 22.2

  • Married men have more than doubled their weekly household helping time since 1965 (housework 0.5 hr vs. 2.0; food prep and cleanup 0.9 vs. 2.7; child care 2.6 vs. 6.4)

  • In 1997, women in dual-earner couples contributed 39% of the family income; by 2008, that number had risen to 44%

  • And what may be the most surprising statistic is that from 1970 to 2011, the number of women who are married has declined by 20%. But when it comes to highest-income women who are married (for the same time period) the number has risen by 12%

  • Within one generation, experts predict that a majority of working wives will out earn their husbands

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

138: The Self-Empowered Woman: Annie Leibovitz

Dear Followers,

Annie Leibovitz is unquestionably America's most celebrated living female photographer. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut on October 2, 1949, she was the third of six siblings. Her great grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. As a child, her father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and the family moved frequently. Leibowvitz took her first pictures when the family was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War (2: An Early Sense of Direction).

She began to write and play Music while in high school (9: Music), and attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied painting and continued her interest in photography. In 1969, she spent several months on a kibbutz in Amir, Israel (3: Belief in the Unbelievable).

The next year, she started her career as the staff photographer for the new Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1973, publisher Jann Wenner (4: Supportive Someone) named her Chief Photographer, a position she would keep for the following decade. Her intimate photographs of entertainment celebrities had a powerful impact on the magazine's success. By the 1980s, she had begun working for Vanity Fair Magazine, and in 1991 she became the second living portraitist and first woman to have an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She has also been made Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government (13: More Than Meets the Eye).

From 2006 till 2009, a traveling exhibition of her work appeared at a variety of international venues. She confided that she did not have "career" and "personal" lives because her assignments and personal pictures are of equal importance. "Talent is something anyone can needs to be nutured, taken care of. The best thing about getting older is that you kind of know what you are doing - if you stick with something. It doesn't get easier. But you get stronger (7: Magnificent Obsession).

Her photographs of Queen Elizabeth in 2007 and of Miley Cyrus created mild media criticism, but Leibovitz answered that her work had been "misinterpreted" (5: Life is not a Populatity Contest).

In 2009, Leibovitz borrowed over $15 million and used her homes and the rights to her photographs as collateral (11: Risk Addiction). Her financial situation had been complicated by the deaths of her father, her mother and her life partner (Susan Sontag), and the arrival of her two children as well as renovations to three Greenwich Village properties. The legal wrangling continued for years (12: Hard Times).

The second picture above is of her latest book "Pilgrimage," which is a look at places and things of lasting value, rather than portraits. The photos include Emily Dickinson's only surviving dress, Abraham Lincoln's top hat, Thoreau's cane bed, Georgia O'Keefe's New Mexico home, and Freud's patient's couch. In her words "My book is a meditation on how to live. It's an old-fashioned idea, but you should always try to do what you love to do....I was told constantly taht this book wouldn't bring in money, and I should drop it. But I really wanted to do it. I needed to save my soul" (17: Dreaming Your Own Dream).

Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

137: The Self-Empowered Woman: Esperanza Spalding

Dear Followers,

If you watched last week's Academy Award Ceremony, you saw Esperanza Spalding sing "What a Wonderful World," but her musical talent goes far beyond her unusual vocal artistry; she sings in English, Portugese and Spanish. Raised in Portland, Oregon (where I was born), Spalding's mother was Hispanic, Native American and Welsh and her father was Black. Esperanza and her brother were raised by their single-parent mother (1: No Paternal Safety Net), who encouraged her daughter's love of music.

When she was only four years old, she saw the cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and credits that exposure as the inspiration for her life in music (2: An Early Sense of Direction). The following year, she had taught herself to play the violin, and by the time she was eight she had paid such close attention to her mother's guitar lessons that, in her words, "I would sit under the teacher's piano. Then I would come home and I would be playing her stuff that her teacher had been playing." Esperanza also played the oboe and clarinet. In high school, she discovered the bass during a one-year stint (at age 14) at the prestigious performing arts high school, The Northwest Academy. She loved the bass, and played her first gig at a blues club when she was only 15 (9: Music).

Esperanza was invited to join the band's rehearsals, and soon she was joining them for regular performances. She credits these musicians with fostering her sense of rhythm, nurturing her interest in the bass, helping her stretch as a musician, as well as reach and grow beyond her musical experience (4: Supportive Someone).

She played with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was 15 years old, and left as concertmaster. At 16, she left high school (11: Risk Addiction), received her GED, and became the youngest bass player in the music program at Portland State University; she received her B.A. in only three years. Her bass teacher encouraged her to apply to Berklee College of Music, and her audition was so impressive that she was given the Boston Jazz Society Scholarship. At age 20 (13: More Than Meets the Eye), she became one of the youngest professors in Berklee's history.

Her jazz albums have become international best sellers, she performed at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Concert when President Obama received his award. In 2011, she became the first bass player to win a Grammy Award; she won for Best New Artist (when everyone else thought Justin Bieber would win). She has accomplished all this, and she is only 27 years old!

Looking forward to your comments...