AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Founded in 1881, AAUW is open to graduates with an associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, as well as students currently enrolled in college. Dues support the operations of the Dearborn-Michigan branch, founded in 1933, as well as the state and national organizations.
Kate Parker remembers being 7 and wanting her hair cut like her brothers: short, tangle-free and out of her way for soccer. “I realize now what a gift my parents gave me,” Parker told me. “They never once said, ‘Girls look this way,’ or, ‘Girls don’t do that.'”
Instead, her parents took her to a salon in her New Jersey suburb, where a stylist dutifully chopped off her locks. Radical? Not exactly. But unusual enough that the memory planted itself into Parker’s brain and grew, eventually, into the idea for “Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves,” Parker’s photo book.
“The day after I had my hair cut, I walked proudly into second grade,” she writes in the introduction. “My new look was the bomb. Not one single part of me thought it didn’t look good or girls should have long hair or it wasn’t feminine. … I had never been told that girls shouldn’t do sports, or be loud, or question everything, or get their hair cut exactly like their big brothers’.”
Now Parker, a professional photographer, has two daughters, ages 11 and 8, and she raises them with a similar you-be-you philosophy. In her book, Parker turns her lens toward girls who are living their loud, brave, strong, messy lives. Some are athletes, some are musicians, some are dancers, some are explorers. One of my favorite photos is of Emme, 7, perched on a tree branch. “We weren’t supposed to climb this high,” Emme admits. “But the view is better up here.”
Girls’ first names and ages accompany each photo, along with a short quote about what they’re doing and dreaming. Strong, Parker is careful to point out, doesn’t always mean muscles. “I wanted to show all kinds of girls from all kinds of pursuits,” she said. “The message is just allowing girls to be who they are and know their worth and value are determined by what they do and how they act and how kind they are and the feeling they leave people with, rather than how they look.”
It’s a message she got loud and clear as a kid, but one that gets muddled in our current climate, she said. “Strong has always been pretty,” she said. “What’s new is the pressure girls face today with Snapchat and Instagram filters and other pressures I didn’t face growing up. So I feel like it’s a message that bears repeating.”
The girls in the book repeat it beautifully.
“I am fearless,” says Maggie, 9.
“Yeah, I am a little muddy,” says Tayla, 6. “So what?”
“I love water polo and I can lift just one eyebrow and I speak Farsi and play tennis and I can make people laugh by making funny faces,” Sabrina, 6, says. “And I taught my little sister, Penny, to read when she was 3.”
“I’m small,” says Ivy, 9. “But I have a big voice and I know how to use it.”
Naturally, I gave my daughter, 11, a copy. I’m thinking about grabbing a few for my friends as well.
“The book is for girls, obviously,” Parker said. ‘But there are so many lessons for women too. We forget how awesome we once thought we were.”
Women’s peace advocacy has roots in 19th-century abolitionist, suffrage and peace movements both here and abroad. Advocates worked inside and outside their respective political systems to end war and promote just international policies.
Pioneering reformer, Jane Addams worked for international disarmament during WWI. She believed that collaboration within local communities could become a role model for international affairs and eventually won the Nobel Prize.
Helen Keller promoted universal brotherhood and racial understanding. She also worked for suffrage and workers’ rights.
Journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett denounced lynching. Emily Greene Balch criticized the American occupation of Haiti citing its impact on race relations and civil liberties. Peace Pilgrim walked over 25,000 miles in opposition to the arms race. Anti-nuclear activist, Dagmar Wilson mentored women about how nuclear testing endangered children’s health. Barbara Deming promoted nonviolence based upon respect for all. U.S. Representative Bella Abzug worked for peace, women’s rights and racial justice. Coretta Scott King spoke, practiced diplomacy among citizens, and created strategies for anti-nuclear and anti-war movements. Joan Baez founded Amnesty International, and campaigned against the Vietnam war, the death penalty, and for civil rights. Jody Williams coordinated organizations to ban anti-personnel landmines. Kathy Kelly worked to de-escalate violence and build alternatives to war.
Clearly, women have energized efforts to increase peaceful relationships by cooperating to address the causes of violence and injustice.
Source: National Women’s History Museum
The Inter-Service Club Council of Dearborn recently hosted its 55th Annual Thanks for Giving Luncheon.
The AAUW-Dearborn nominee for Serviceperson of the Year was Judy Monroe. An additional seven volunteers were nominated by Exchange, Garden, Kiwanis, Optimist, and Rotary clubs this year.
Judy Monroe taught middle-school English and social studies for three decades. She raised two children with her husband George Monroe, a longtime, much loved principal in the Dearborn Public Schools. During summers, George worked as a national park ranger, while Judy kept careful watch on their children and served as a park volunteer.
Judy originally joined AAUW because of her commitment to human rights, and our organization has benefited from her activism as a member-leader for eighteen years.
She has served as secretary, chaired the International Relations Study Group, and chaired our major fundraiser, the annual used-book sale. Judy has impeccable integrity and works tirelessly on behalf of our branch. No job too big, no job too small.
She tutored a limited-English-proficient college student, focusing primarily upon writing skills, and proudly saw her graduate with an MBA from UM-D. Judy has served as our college liaison with both Henry Ford College and University of Michigan-Dearborn. She holds the SOAR program in high regard. It provides academic, financial, and personal support services to non-traditional students at UM-D. Helping “support…non-traditionally aged individuals experiencing socioeconomic challenges who wish to begin or resume their post-secondary education,” makes great sense to Judy. As a retired educator, she knows full well the importance of formal educational experiences. “SOAR students receive reduced tuition-and-textbook subsidy in their first year as well as academic and personal support that continues throughout their tenure as UM-Dearborn students.”
The choices Judy makes in her daily life provide evidence of her compassion for and commitment to others. She grew up in a small community just north of Grand Rapids where people learned a solid work ethic and helped others. In Cedar Springs, Michigan, Judy lived on a dairy farm and attended a one-room school house.
All forty-three years of her married life, summers were spent in national parks, mostly in Yellowstone. She has a passion for travel, meeting people, and photography. After the loss of her spouse to cancer, her enthusiasm for life surfaced again during photography expeditions to Costa Rica and the Arctic Circle. Judy Monroe has accumulated a portfolio of more than 50,000 photographs!
Daily she asks: “What needs to be done? What can I do to help? What can I bring to the table?”
For Judy, volunteerism is a way of life. She is unselfish, talented and generous. We have benefited greatly from her kindness, sharing, and talents. Kudos to Judy Monroe!
THE BIG READ-DEARBORN is hosting a “meet-and-greet” for authors who contributed to the book DREAMING DREAMS NO MORTAL EVER DARED TO DREAM BEFORE.
The timing is perfect, less than a week prior to Halloween, the grand celebration of all things spooky. So tickle your inner Edgar and show up at the Henry Ford Centennial Library this coming Tuesday, October 25, 2016, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Authors will be on site to read selections from the anthology and do autographs. Paperback copies will be available to purchase at $16 apiece. Why not ignite some Halloween happiness and buy holiday gifts as well? You can even have your gifts personalized, and you’ll be supporting a great cause! All proceeds from the book go to fund future community-wide literacy projects.
Andrew Carnegie said it best, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.”
Rumor has it that some creepy refreshments will be served.
Since studies indicate it will take another century to achieve gender parity,
how can we accelerate the embrace of inclusion in corporations?
Today women occupy 11.5% of board seats in the top one hundred companies in Michigan. In 2013, the figure was 11.6%! Among executive officers, 13% of seats are held by women.
According to Terry Barclay, president and CEO, Inforum: “[Corporations] need to focus more and become truly expert in broadening their search to identify not just proven talent but potential talent that can be mentored and developed. Research shows men are promoted based on their accomplishments. This is a significant factor in why it’s taking longer for women.”
In Michigan more corporations talk the talk about supporting women moving into senior-level jobs. However, statistics demonstrate that most are not evolving toward inclusion.
The University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business is trying to change that. It has begun a new executive education program designed specifically to help female executives learn the knowledge and skills needed to take them to the top. Career-accelerating education for women executives ideally will result in genuine change.
Some of the traits women need to hone are the capacity to work hard over long hours, the ability to communicate authentic desires, the courage to step up, and the need to
provide support for those who can sponsor them in the future.
Source: Carol Cain, The Detroit Free Press
World War II pilot Elaine Harmon, who died last year at the age of 95, wanted to be laid to rest with her fellow veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. Harmon’s wish has been fulfilled — thanks to a dedicated effort by her family and a law passed by Congress.
Harmon was one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots who flew military planes in noncombat missions in order to free up male pilots for combat. The work carried real risks, and 38 WASPs died serving their country, but they were regarded as civilians. They paid for their own pilot training! The military was not required to pay for funerals, or even just for remains to be sent home. And when the war was winding down, the WASPs were dismissed and their jobs given back to male military pilots. Although the WASPs were promised military status, but they never did during the war.
“The only reason was because of sexism,” declared U.S. Representative Martha McSally, the first female U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat. “I mean, the men who were doing the same roles before, alongside and after them, they were military. These women should have been active-duty at the time.”
Decades later in 1977 women were retroactively granted military status and acknowledged as veterans. Decades more had to pass before WASPs were allowed to be laid to rest at Arlington with full military honors.
A month before Elaine Harmon died in 2015, then-Army Secretary John McHugh decided that WASPs did not qualify for inclusion at Arlington — and never should have.
The military cited limited space. As The Associated Press notes, “eligibility for in-ground burial at Arlington, which has severe space limitations, is extremely tight, and not even all World War II veterans are eligible for burial there. But eligibility for placement of ashes, or above-ground inurnment, is not quite as strict.”
Rep. McSally called it a “cruel injustice” for the Army to decide that no WASPs could qualify for inurnment. “I realize that at some point they are going to run out of space at Arlington. We understand that,” she said. “But look, when we are totally out of space … why would we not want to have the story of the WASPs as part of that legacy?”
Harmon’s relatives appealed for a change in policy, and a petition on Change.org gathered signatures. Then Rep. McSally introduced legislation that would require the cemetery in Arlington, Va., to make WASPs eligible for inurnment. The bill passed in May 2016, and was signed into law by President Obama.
Harmon’s ashes were inurned in a funeral with military honors this week. “It sounds funny, but we’re all kind of excited,” Harmon’s daughter told the AP before the ceremony.
“In a way, we’ve already grieved, and this now is about closure.”
The chaplain read from a poem penned by a WASP:
“…now her flight can be to heights her eyes had scanned,
Where she can race with comets, and buzz the rainbow’s span”
Sources: The New York Times and NPR
Women’s history is often overlooked in popular culture, but we now see courses being offered across the United States in colleges and universities that address these shortcomings.
Women’s Equality Day on August 26, 2016, is the 96th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. However, women still do not enjoy equal rights under the Constitution; so AAUW continues to advocate for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Urge Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a member of AAUW, to take action on this important amendment. Educate friends and family about your commitment to gender equality.
When we push for action on issues like equal pay, paid leave, Title IX and voting rights, we inch closer to our goal.
Now as we approach the 2016 election, remind candidates and elected officials that while we have made much progress since gaining the right to vote, much still remains to be done to achieve gender parity.
Do you know what FGC stands for? Not likely.
Do you know which significant woman has just been inducted into the Arab- American National Museum here in Dearborn, Michigan?
She has devoted her life to stopping the suffering of women who have endured FGC. In fact, her greater goal is to eradicate the practice altogether because of its medical complications and legal issues.
The practice of Female Genital Circumcision is practiced on young girls in many parts of Africa. Some refer to Female Genital Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation.
“It’s still shocking to me. I saw an 18-year-old whose opening was about dime size. I saw a pregnant woman pregnant with a pencil-sized opening. One couldn’t help but wonder how she’d managed to even get pregnant.”
A graduate of Harvard, Dr. Nawal Nour practices medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts; and she researches health-and-policy issues regarding female genital cutting. She explains, “Female circumcision is nothing like male circumcision. In the latter, the foreskin is removed from the penis. With female circumcision, we have the equivalent of the penis being removed.”
She was compelled to start a clinic designed to assist those who suffer as a result of the practice and to educate other health professionals about the medical impacts from the ritual.
“The major complications are seen on women who have undergone Type 3 circumcision. Type 1 removes the clitoris — this is common in Ethiopia. Type 2 excises the clitoris and the inner vaginal lips, which may end up fusing together. Type 3 is removing the clitoris, the inner lips, the outer lips, then sewing everything together, leaving only a very small opening for urination and menses. This is mainly done among Somalis and Sudanese and in parts of West Africa.”
Dr. Noor grew up in the Sudan, Egypt and Great Britain, and became aware of FGC at school. Her father, a Sudanese-agronomy professor, and her mother, an American, were influential in speaking out against it.
“I remember one girl saying she’d been circumcised and that it hurt, but it was a good thing because now she was a woman. The practice troubled me, but I was also intrigued by it because it’s so horrible — and yet, it continues. As a child, I couldn’t understand why people would do something that wasn’t good for them. I became a physician so that I could find an effective way to attack it.”
Her medical practice started attracting patients from the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and West Africa. “I became known in the immigrant community around Boston as that ‘African-woman doctor’ at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.” Most of the women who sought her out had undergone FGC.
“The women who’ve undergone Type 3 can have scarring problems and problems with their menses. Some of them have terrible trouble having sex with their husbands.If the clitoris has been removed, it cannot be returned. But sometimes, when we do a procedure which opens up the scar tissue from the Type 3 circumcision the end result can look very good. It can look like new external lips have been formed. The women I’ve operated on are very pleased with that. They have less pain in intercourse and with their menses. It allows them to urinate quite easily, which often wasn’t the case before.”
FGC continues to exist for multiple reasons: confusion over religious dictates, making certain daughters will be marriageable, maintaining chastity, belief it provides protection, and its ritualistic nature.
Educating American health care providers about the practice to assure better care is one major goal for Dr. Nour. Educating immigrant women to prevent the practice from being perpetuated in the U.S. is another.
Some historians suggest the practice was used in 19th-century America. Castrating and clitorectomizing women was seen as a means of social control and even as treatment for ”hysteria” and ”eroticism.”
“Female circumcision is a horrible act, and I empathize with the horror of doctors encountering it, but I ask that a physician not reveal emotions and thoughts to the patient. FGC is different from the patient! The patient may or may not have wanted it herself, or she may be happy with the way her body looks. In any case, she should get sensitive and productive care.”
Dr. Nour, a board certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist, is the Director of the Ambulatory Obstetrics Practice at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, she is an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nour is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for creating a center that focuses upon the physical-and- emotional needs of women who have undergone FGC.
AAUW-Dearborn applauds the Arab-American National Museum for educating people about this issue.
“WHAT ONE RAPE COST OUR FAMILY” by Laura Hilgers
WHEN people hear about campus sexual assaults, they rarely understand the true impact such an attack has on the survivor and her family. But I do.
In the spring of 2013, my daughter, Willa, was raped by a fellow student at her college in Washington, D.C. A freshman at the time, she did not tell anyone until a year later. Meanwhile, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression and an addiction to alcohol. And while she chose not to file criminal charges — out of fear of being traumatized again — she struggled so much after the attack that ultimately she had to leave school.
It would be impossible for me to describe in the space of a newspaper article the emotional toll this took on Willa and our family: the grief we felt that our child’s body (and soul) had been violated; the anger that we (and the college) could not protect her; the fear that our once spirited, ambitious daughter might never be more than a shell of herself. But I can offer, by way of illustration, a financial reckoning — collateral damage that demonstrates the devastation, and that rarely comes up in the national discussion on campus sexual assaults.
The financial burdens of an attack can be overwhelming. A 2014 White House report noted that the cost to survivors (of all types, not just college students) can range from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape. While the numbers are staggering, they seem abstract until your family is the one paying the bills. In our case, they were on the higher end of the range, and included the following:
$105,000 Cost of three years of lost wages, starting now, that Willa would have earned if she had graduated on time in May. I’m assuming that a college-educated woman would have earned at least $35,000 a year.
$40,000 Cost of lost wages, me. This is also an estimate, but during the time that Willa struggled with severe PTSD, I had to turn down assignments, cancel trips and take days off to care for her.
$23,491.98 Cost of a 45-day stay at a residential treatment center for trauma and addiction (the latter of which Willa developed after her assault, as a way to numb the pain). The upfront cost was $54,300, and Willa’s dad and I had to cover this. We received $30,808.02 in reimbursement from our insurance company.
$23,400 Cost of a six-month addiction rehab aftercare program, which included $1,900 per month for living expenses, and $12,000 to cover the remainder of our annual health insurance deductible. The program accepted our insurance for the rest.
$22,408.68 Cost of lost tuition for one semester, one attempted semester and one summer school session that she attended, all after her attack. During this time, Willa earned credit for just one class. Life is wildly complex, so I can’t say with certainty that Willa’s sexual assault caused her academic decline. Before the rape, however, she had a 3.6 grade point average and was on the dean’s list. After it, she routinely earned F’s and incompletes. As she struggled through these last three semesters, we paid $23,528.68 (and also received financial aid). For the last summer session, the school reimbursed us $1,120.
$12,328.71 Cost of therapists’ bills, for our daughter to see four different therapists, two in Washington and two in California, as we tried to find the right match. We paid $20,546, and insurance reimbursed us $8,217.29.
$8,400 Approximate cost of travel for me, for three emergency trips to Washington from my home in California, and four trips to Arizona, where our daughter went to rehab.
$4,823.98 Cost of psychiatrists’ bills, for Willa to see two different psychiatrists, one in Washington and one in California. We paid $6,985, and insurance reimbursed us $2,161.02.
$3,630 Cost of attention-deficit disorder testing. Before Willa told anyone about the rape, she was unable to concentrate on her studies, and asked to be tested for A.D.D. The upfront cost was $3,750; insurance reimbursed us $120.
$1,840.28 Cost, after insurance reimbursement, of the several trips Willa took to the emergency room for panic attacks.
$250 Cost of a visit to a dermatologist, unreimbursed by insurance, for a “hair loss” consult, after Willa lost half her hair from stress.
There were other expenses too, but the ones I’ve listed add up to $100,573.63 out of pocket, and approximately $145,000 in lost wages, for a total of $245,573.63. That’s roughly the same as the cost of four years at one of the nation’s top colleges.
I should be clear: I would have done anything, made any financial sacrifices, to see the light again in my daughter’s eyes (which is there now, thanks to Willa’s hard work and the many caring professionals who helped her). I recently went through a divorce, however, and my former husband and I are writers, not investment bankers. These are big costs for us; at times, we had to borrow from family or retirement funds, or use proceeds from the sale of the house we gave up in the divorce.
We’re fortunate to have top-tier health insurance, which helped defray many of the costs. But this is still an extraordinary amount of money, and I often wonder how survivors from less privileged backgrounds recover from these attacks. It’s not a hypothetical question.
According to a 2015 survey at 27 universities by the Association of American Universities, 11.7 percent of all students (including men) reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact, by force or incapacitation, since enrolling at their university, and the incidence among undergraduate females was 23 percent.
These costs are enormous for any rape survivor, not just those who suffered a campus sexual assault. For our family, they continue to accrue.
This fall, Willa will start her sophomore year, at the age of 22, at a different school. In addition to tuition, we’ll be paying $3,500 a month for her to live in a sober dorm nearby. It’s approximately $25,000 more than we would have spent if she lived in a regular dorm for two semesters, but the structured environment will provide the extra care and support she needs as she returns to a place she’s hesitant to go: a college campus.
Laura Hilgers is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Growing up as an Asian-American daughter of immigrants in the Midwest, Kelly Tsai told college women, “There was not a place for me where I made sense. … Make some noise if you can relate.” The room erupted. Tsai, a spoken-word poet and one of five, 2016, Women-of-Distinction awardees at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), echoed the theme of otherness. Tsai expressed her admiration for the young leaders in the audience and challenged them to pursue their dreams without fear. “Confidence is a muscle. You must use it every day. Sexism and sexual harassment are real, but know that other people’s mistreatment of you is not who you are!”
Superior Court of the District of Columbia judge and advocate for LGBT and Latino people’s rights, Marisa Demeo, remembered being asked her whole life to account for where she “came from.” She was born in the United States, but people questioned her Puerto Rican and Italian background. They wanted to place her race, heritage, and culture into a single box. As a gender-nonconforming person, she further baffled standard constructions of identity. To those who have felt ostracized, Demeo declared, “You are a vital thread in the fabric of America. Without you, America would be less beautiful. Less creative. Less smart. And less strong.” She cautioned the college leaders not to hide their true selves out of fear. “When you reject yourself, that is the deepest pain there is.”
A campaign-and-communications manager at the Center for American Progress, Sarah McBride, brought the crowd to tears, cheers, and murmurs of empathy with her story of revealing her identity as a transgender woman and then losing the partner who had helped her get there. Just four days after she married another transgender activist, he passed away from cancer. His death, painful as it was, reinvigorated McBride’s passion for trans-rights, underscoring her belief that “change cannot come fast enough, that everyday matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest.” McBride encouraged the crowd to nurture a sense of urgency, as students can be powerful change makers. “Our college campuses should look like what we want our country to look like in 10 or 15 years!”
Business investor, Anu Duggal’s, advice was pragmatic as she offered tips on how women can build professional networks. She advised students to track names of professors and bosses in a spreadsheet and make an annual effort to stay in touch through letters or coffee trips. “Find a mentor. Whatever field you go into, it’s incredibly important to find people who will support you and be your advocates.”
Entrepreneur Kimberly Bryant encouraged attendees to look inward for inspiration and to rely on each other to achieve goals. Bryant grew her organization, Black Girls Code, from a dozen girls meeting in a San Francisco computer-lab basement to a worldwide organization serving more than 6,000 girls. Inspired by her STEM-enthusiast daughter, Bryant encouraged the audience to make passion drive their careers. “The thing that gets you up in the morning … do that,” she advised. She urged the women leaders in the room to rely on each other’s strength. “You have the potential to answer all of the questions that you may have on what will make the world a better place. But we need each other.”