Monday, February 24, 2014
Are you one of the millions of moviegoers who has watched the movie Monuments Men? In America, as of yesterday, the film has grossed close to $60 million dollars. I wanted to devote this blog to the largely unrecognized contributions of the women who worked alongside the men portrayed in George Clooney's latest hit.
In the film, Cate Blanchett portrays a female art historian (Rose Valland) who helped rescue over five boxcars worth of valuable artwork. She later received three of France's highest honors for her work, and she is one of the most-decorated women--ever--in French history. She was also awarded America's medal of Freedom; Valland died in 1980, at the age of 82.
But the photos above are of Anne Olivier Bell, who is the last surviving woman to have been a part of this daring art escapade. Currently 97 years old, this Englishwoman was part of a multinational group of women who risked their lives to protect artistic treasures from being destroyed by the Nazis. The group included (among others) Americans Edith A. Standen and Ardelia Ripley Hall, as well as the French Valland and the British Bell.
In November 1945, Anne Olivier Bell was approached by a young man at a party and asked if she would like to work for the Museum, Fine Arts, and Archives branch of the Allies Control Commission. In her words, "I was concerned about all the bombing and the destruction and the horror and the moving about the pictures and so forth. And I knew that I had something of use and value to offer." She was given the civilian rank of Major.
The art-hunting team actually had several hundred people in it, but there were only a few dozen women included in their ranks. Almost everyone was a dedicated scholar, and their bravery is unquestioned. The movie is based on a variety of books, including 2009's The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and The Rape of Europa, a 1994 book by Lynn H. Nicholas as well as Sara Houghteling's 2009 novel Pictures at an Exhibition.
The Monuments Men Allied section operated in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. And it included architects, curators and scholars, as well as workers like Ms. Bell, who handled logistics for the team in Germany. She helped coordinate the rescue and return of thousands of Medieval Church bells that the Nazis had seized and were planning to melt to use for weapons.
It took decades after the war to restore and return the "saved" artwork, which included everything from work by Leonardo, Raphael, Onyx altar pieces and two massive rose granite lions that had been taken from the Louvre. To give you an idea how vast the looting was, in France alone from April 1941 to July 1944, 4,174 cases of artwork were shipped to Germany. The same sort of theft took place in Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy and Poland.
In addition to her art-rescue work, Anne Olivier Bell, these days, is best known as a scholar who has made a life's career out of editing Virginia Woolf's diaries.
Looking forward to your comments...
Friday, February 14, 2014
Happy Valentine's Day! My creative friend, Sonia Cooper, assembled this graphic as part of her tireless efforts to help promote The Self-Empowered Woman. I thought it was so pretty that I wanted to share it with all of you as my way of saying "Thank You" for being so supportive over the years.
This afternoon, I spoke to a South Florida group of National Association of Professional Women about the 17 traits of high-achieving women. The group's leader ended the meeting by urging all the women in the room to make sure that their loved ones remembered to treat them "like a Queen" on this special day. An experienced woman at my table, who has a busy career as a life coach, loudly commented (in a humorous way) "Better yet, ladies, instead of waiting for another person to make you feel special, treat yourself like the Queen you are. And if you do have someone special in your life, make sure that he treats you like royalty every day, not just on February 14th."
My wish for you is that your Valentine's Day is full of happiness, inspiration and serenity!
Friday, February 7, 2014
Do you plan to watch CBS's 50th anniversary tribute to the Beatles this Sunday night?
Like millions of other 15 year old girls, I was glued to the Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles made their first American TV appearance in 1964. (In fact, 45% of Americans who had TVs were watching.) At the time, I attended a private all girls high school in Southern California, where we wore plaid pleated skirts, white blouses and dark green blazers/cardigans—as well as the obligatory lace-up shoes with ankle socks.
I was a page editor for our school newspaper who was also a confirmed bookworm, so I had no opportunity to meet—much less get to know or (gasp) date—boys. At that point in my incredibly awkward and sheltered youth, they seemed like creatures from another planet. Perhaps that’s why it was so easy to channel all those mixed-up emotions into Beatlemania.
If anyone had told me back then that I would grow up to become a journalist who lived in London, I would have been dumbstruck. And if they’d told me I would visit Paul McCartney at his Apple music office, and interview him over coffee and cookies, I’m sure I’d have fainted on the spot. But that’s exactly what happened in 1985, and I’m happy to say that (unlike many celebrities I’ve met during my career) the experience exceeded my expectations.
Sir Paul (he received his Knighthood in 1997) went out of his way to welcome me to his private office—complete with a giant Wurlitzer Jukebox. Our morning meeting flew by, but fortunately our time together was captured by my newspaper’s trusty photographer. Thanks to his good-natured willingness to spend a few hours with me, I now have unbeatable bragging rights among all my former high school classmates. Lucky, lucky me.
Marilyn Murray Willison
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Are you one of Amy Tan's loyal fans? Millions of readers have turned her books--novels, non-fiction and children's books--into instant best sellers. Tan was born in Oakland, California on February 19th, 1952. Her parents--Daisy and John--were Chinese immigrants, and she is the second of three children. Her father was an electrical engineer and a Baptist minister (3: Belief In The Unbelievable). When Amy was fifteen years old, her older brother (Peter) and her father both died of brain tumors within the same year (1: No Paternal Safety Net).
Amy's mother moved her and her younger brother (John, Jr.) to Switzerland, which is where Amy finished high school. During this time she and her mother did not get along, but this is when Amy first learned about Daisy's earlier heart-wrenching life in China. The story of Daisy's first marriage to an abusive man, the birth of her children, and the fact that she had to leave those children behind in Shanghai (when she escaped on the last boat to leave before the Communist takeover in 1949). Her mother's life events served as the basis for Amy's first best-selling novel, 1989's The Joy Luck Club (8: Turning No Into Yes).
Amy's mother had wanted her to attend a Baptist college, and study to become a doctor. Instead, she chose to study English and linguistics (17: Dreaming Your Own Dream). Amy received her bachelor's and master's degrees (in those subjects) from San Jose State University, and then worked on her doctorate in linguistics--first at UC Santa Cruz, and then at Berkeley (10: The Critic Within).
In 1976, she took a job as a language development consultant, where she directed a training project for developmentally disabled children. Next she started a business writing firm, and created speeches for corporate executives and business salesmen. She then began working as a business writer, and finally started writing short stories (11: Risk Addiction). Amy's short fiction earned the attention of magazines like Seventeen and literary agent Sandra Dijkstra.
As a child, Amy's parents had forced her to study piano, and as an adult she switched to jazz piano. As a successful author, she became part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of authors with varying musical skills. Her band mates included Dave Berry, Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver (9: Music).
In 1989, The Joy Luck Club (which had received a $50,000 advance from G. P. Putnam's Sons) was completed in a little over four months. It spent eight months on The New York Times bestseller list, and the paperback rights were sold for $1.23 million. The book has been translated into 17 languages, and in 1991, she finished The Kitchen Gods Wife. Her other novels include Saving Fish From Drowning, The Hundred Secret Sentences, The Bonesetter's Daughter and The Valley of Amazement.
She has also written two children's books (The Moon Lady and The Sagwa), and an autobiography titled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, as well as several other non-fiction books. She has received a variety of writing awards, from the National Endowment for the Arts, to the American Library Association and the Academy of Achievement (13: More Than Meets the Eye).
In 2003, she wrote about her struggle with Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for years and left her with physical pain, mental impairment and seizures. She now suffers from epilepsy as a result of the 16 lesions in her brain that developed due to the disease. During her struggle with Lyme disease, she was unable to read or write until (four years later) she found a doctor who prescribed a course of antibiotics that currently keep her symptoms at bay (12: Hard Times).
Looking forward to your comments...