This is my diary entry from Friday, May 14, 1982. It is the opening chapter of my book, The Hungry Heart, which is the actual diary of my 40 days in Springfield, Illinois. Phyllis and Ellie, NOW v Eagles; Equality was on the line and still is. Many of us who are working on the election of the first woman president are hoping that it will renew a bright light on Constitutional equality. I mean after all, the president should be included in the US Constitution.
La igualdad de los derechos bajo ley no sera negada ni sera abreviada por los Estados Unidos o por cualquier estado a causa de sexo.
Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
MAY 14, 1982
This is something I want so much, I am willing to die for it. The fact that I want it for all women for all time makes it profound and suffocating. I feel like I am being crushed inside a storm of feelings, fears and certainty. I need some relief. I know this is the right thing to do. Food, cigarettes, privacy, pets, home and family -- take it. I want this more.
All I did was answer the phone. It sounded like every other ring that had called me to the phone. It rang in early May. It was Sonia Johnson calling. We had met in the Fall when she came to my bookstore to sign her book, “From Housewife to Heretic.” We talked of the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, July 1, and promised one another that no matter what we did we would do it together. "We are going to fast for the ERA," Sonia calmly explained to me. "We are going to go to Illinois, sit in the Springfield rotunda, live on water only and win the ERA."
I met Dina at the Long Beach airport at 8 A.M. I think we are doing awfully well considering we both stopped smoking just four days ago. Maybe in the face of not eating, not smoking seems negligible. At least it seems to be just another task on my ToDo list. With an extra hour before the flight, we had breakfast. It was the first in the continuing series of meals we ate today. Eggs, Pancakes, Toast, O.J., Coffee. We ate as if there is no tomorrow.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful but we missed the connecting flight to Springfield. It took three attempts at stand-by to actually make it. The good news is that we were able to eat another meal; packing it away like chipmunks in Fall.
A thoughtful woman named Marion picked us up. She is studying to be a Methodist minister. She made the mistake of asking us if there was anything we wanted to do before we went to the meeting place. Fried Shrimp, Baked potatoes, Blue cheese salad, Pie, Coffee.
The mystery of where we are going to stay is solved. We have permission to stay at Kumler Methodist Church for two weeks. We are going to sleep on the floor of the Sunday School classrooms. The desks and chairs are itsy bitsy. The bathroom is down right comical as the sinks and toilets are all scaled down. The really bad news is that there are no showers. I am really taken back about no showers. It is muggy May in Southern Illinois.
The classrooms are stifling. I guess they only open the windows on Sunday mornings. The walls are covered with posters of Jesus. This is not the Jesus I love. This one is fair skinned, sandy hair, manicured hands, sweet little smile. The pictures show him surrounded with pastel covered, adoring fans. This is not the dissident, powerful, charismatic carpenter I would like to know.
Dina and I are the first to arrive. The other women are due in an hour or so. They are driving from D.C. and Virginia, where they have been stumping on the ERA trail. This is giving me too much time to sit and stew and get really scared. I can hear Dina in the next room; she must be recording her journal. I am stuffed but wonder what will happen if I don’t have food for forty-four days. Maybe it won’t take forty-four days. I’m hungry.
What if no one cares? What if there is no press coverage? If I was the opposition I would deflate this by ignoring it, trivializing it or even mocking it. But I have to remember that there is a magnificent precedent for fasting. Most of my favorite people have fasted. My heart says I have no choice.
I hear the others have arrived. Maybe they have some food.
To purchase a copy of The Hungry Heart
Lune Soleil Press
Dear President Obama,
One hundred years ago, a single woman could not reserve and stay in a Washington D.C. hotel. Without a male (husband, father, brother or adult son) she would tarnish the hotel’s reputation. Funny to think, it was not about her reputation. And so wealthy ladies, often widows, would buy homes for those single women who had a mission that required long stays in the nation’s capital. The audacious, conspicuous, driven widow, Alva Belmont bought the Sewall House at 144 Constitution Avenue for the National Women’s Party in 1929. Certainly President Woodrow Wilson knew those ladies all too well as they upstaged both his first and second inaugurations. Led by Miss Alice Paul, the very first march on the White House made history, March 3, 1913. Just over 7 years later, the 19th Amendment was ratified, as Tennessee Representative Harry Burn did as his mother said, thus passing ratification by one vote.
As you can surmise this history is my greatest love, the nation’s lost treasure and deserves to be lifted, protected and celebrated. The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum is the epicenter of Women’s suffrage, women claiming power and women being full participants in the advancement of the United States. The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum is the single destination to celebrate the National Woman’s Party and see the most robust collection of suffrage and equal rights artifacts showcasing the history of the women’s rights movement in the United States.
Finally, let me share one more story with you. When I go to a museum, I always ask at the desk, please point me to your exhibits or art by women. The Louvre had 3. The Musee D’orsay had zero. The Museum of Modern Art in NYC had 23. I could not resist asking in the American History Smithsonian. The docent told me that were 2; the display of First Ladies inaugural dresses and Julia Child’s kitchen. Not Stanton & Anthony. Not Betsy Ross or Rosie the Riveter. Not Jeannette Rankin or Shirley Chisholm. Not NOW or DAR or women in the Armed Forces. What would our daughters and granddaughters take from this? Ball gowns and cooking seem to be their choices. Nothing new there.
I wish I didn’t have to ask, however, the preservation of women’s history is still thought to be an option. So please accept my request to shine a lasting beacon and grant permanent security on this favorite place of mine. Designating the Sewall-Belmont House as a national monument will contribute to the National Park Service’s women’s history initiatives and preserve a significant and historic symbol of freedom and equality.
You are so very fortunate to have the authority under the Antiquities Act to preserve the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum as a National Park System site.
Honestly, how can you resist? Sign it for me too.
In your service,
Good evening Mayor Garcia, Vice Mayor Lowenthal Council members, administrators, Citizens of Long Beach; In particular, thank you Councilwoman Price for calling Long Beach to become a CEDAW CITY
I have been active in the American Women’s Movement for 50 years. In 1982, I sat on a folding chair in the Illinois State House rotunda and publicly fasted on water for 37 days for the Equal Rights Amendment,which you know never passed and to this day women are not included in the US Constitution.I am a scholar and consultant on the ERA.
Thank you for allowing me to speak on March 1, one of 32 days in the US calendar year which is legislatively assigned to raise women out of invisibility.
The US ranks #75 in women in leadership in the world, Behind the likes of China, Nepal, Rwanda
When you have an opportunity like this to protect women, you must throw your arms around it:
It is the work of only the most advanced privileged people who have this astounding opportunity. Because you are chambered leaders, you have the chance to bypass the uncivilized behavior of the U.S. Congress, To rise and join the cities and countries that have seen the joy in the morning of valuing women.
I am here to ask you,
To lift the women of Long Beach to hear this global heart beat and be a CEDAW CITY.
Your Mother wants you to do this.
The Grandmothers of all Directions want you to do this.
Stand with me at the clear light of day and say,
that you have protected their daughters worldwide and be a CEDAW CITY.
AGENDA 16 -0201 The legislation which passed unanimously ~
No matter if you are for Bernie or Hillary, the fact remains, many of us want to break this glass ceiling once and for all. Any woman less powerful, less formidable than Hillary could never do it. Let’s face it, young voters, liberal voters, occupy people, anti-wall street people don't even assign electing a woman as a stroke of revolution.
I read articles about how it is going to get nasty and, of course, it is. Jackie and his wife got death threats, Branch was vilified. Breaking barriers is the job of razor sharp ice cutters who can bust convention with a smile on their face.
Men are working day and night to stop the this particular ceiling being broken. Many don’t even realize it. It is a fundamental thread in the woof and warp of their lives. Possibly the thought gets diffused before it is fully formed. The mind wanders looking for reasons to never let a woman lead the USA. Women just got the right to be Rangers. A woman boxer, football coach, pilot. It is a slo-jam, very slow. The holding down of rising women is in all of our DNA. ALL OF US.
All you need do is watch Gloria Borger (CNN) and Andrea Mitchell (MSNBC) to bring this into strong relief. They blatantly diminish Hillary. They do it with entitlement, as if it advances them. It is the patriarchal position to dissect and eviscerate a woman in all respects at all times, without apology; without any thought.
For many years I have asked where are the women? Thich Nhat Hahn’s partner is a woman. Harvey Milk’s debate partner was a woman. When we looked at photos of Arab Spring, we looked for women. Katherine Luther, Lydia Emerson, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Frances Perkins, Coretta Scott, Grace Hopper. Look behind, look beyond the poster presentation and you will find a woman. It is the looking that is revolutionary.
Electing a woman who puts women first is the most revolutionary act for me. (Carly is an extension of the patriarchy.) It will unfold a whole new helix of thinking. Books, studies, articles have been written and published that identify what happens when there is a preponderance of woman in leadership. The entire mindset will change, FOREVER. That is a revolution.
My feminism has informed me for over 40 years. I have tested it, torn it apart and put it back together again. I have broken convention with risk, with relentless application, with moderates shouting in my face. I have been mystified about this great divide over the democratic candidates. At this moment it appears to me that these two camps want revolution, the disagreement is that most do not think voting for a woman is revolutionary.
It was so alarming I could not take pictures. May 2, 2 P.M., 50 boxes were on the ground with nowhere to go. Two principle 6’ bookshelves had no wall space. No kitchen cupboards, no washer & dryer, no sofa. The sun was going down, a dozen people were trying to pile in whatever they could and an unrelenting inner voice kept whispering, “put it in the garage.” A bounding inner voice shouted, “there is no garage, there is no fence, there is no backyard.” The only smart stroke was that the gigantic poodle was overnight at her godmother’s house.
On the other column was that there were ten people organizing my new home. Before the moving truck arrived, one person had all of the technology up and running and two artists had delivered and arranged my mini-garden. Miracles began piling up in the form of things fitting within one inch or less; the desk, the Ikea shelves, the hangers, the shoes, the dishes, etc. Neighbors said hello as they walked up and down the street. Dogs and bikes. People speaking other than English and people who were not white. This was not the isolated island of xenophobes with Prop 8 lawn signs that was in my rearview mirror. This was Long Beach, this was Rose Park, this was the 2nd most diverse city in the US.
In the course of a day, you might hear six disparate sirens. In the course of a month, you would meet 20+ people. In the month of July, you will hear 31 nights of fireworks. Locking doors is how it is done. Saying hello is the minimum. On a Saturday afternoon, you can hear 8 different music tracks reflecting the community. AND you can get the best Mexican food without crossing a street, right around the corner. As my friend Jean said, “This is truly urban living.”
Possibly the epitome happened in June. A man on a bike hollered into the house, “Hey can I buy one of your statues?” I stood on my porch and said no, they are not for sale. He said his mother liked them and wants one. I said, sorry, they are not for sale. The next day he came back and hollered in again. I went to see what’s what. He had a silver spray painted Buddha. He gave it to me explaining that he found it and thought I would like it. When I relayed this story to 2 local friends, they said, “That’s so Long Beach.” And now, after 8 months, I am accustomed to saying that to myself constantly, as friendliness rises up from the sidewalks, That is SO Long Beach.
All new streets with the only familiar orientation being the ocean. The rising and setting sun assured me that I could not get too terribly lost. My GPS was my best friend. After a few google searches I noticed a pattern; nothing I wanted was more than 6 minutes away. The LGBTQ Center is 4.5 minutes. City Hall is 6 minutes. Vons and Ralphs are under 6 minutes and the master blaster was on a HOTTTT August day, there was a paleta shop 6 minutes from my house. Fifty flavors and no one spoke English. I got to stumble with my Buenos Dias, Muchos Gracias and Adios. It is no accident that the Museum of Latin American Art is 5.5 minutes, however the opening of the Frida Kahlo show was beyond an oyster’s pearl.
During Pride all of the statues wore rainbow leis. For the Dalai Lama’s birthday, I hung a Tibetan flag. Months later a woman introduced herself to me saying that she knew she wanted to know the woman in that house. You will find it hard to believe that she was saying it to a man who put up my flag pole and was my high school student in 1972. And just imagine, my letter carrier dressed as Dexter for Halloween delivery. The introductions began so fast and often that I had to admit I will never remember them all.
It’s a long, beautiful drive from Dana Rohrabacher to Alan Lowenthal. It’s a leap from posting support on facebook for $15 minimum wages to sitting at a city council meeting listening to workers stories of raising kids on $9 an hour. It is beyond my expectation that I know people running for City Council in my district and they know my name. I am bursting with national expectation over Hillary #45 but celebrating that now, for me, politics is local and I am engaged.
I did a couple of really interesting things in my new city and county. I went to a different church every week and I said yes to every meeting invitation for 5 months.
I have never had access to so many people who share many of the causes, ideas, and politics I hold. An organizer asked me to coffee which might have seemed normal to her but to me it was unheard of. I have stood in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel in protest, I have been on the Bluffs on World AIDS Day, I prayed in front of the courthouse for gun control. I read a poem at an open mic and spoke of an activist longevity at the Grrrl Collective. I have been welcomed at a Black Lives Matter meeting and talked on a panel on the Whitewashing of Stonewall. I have argued vehemently that transwomen are women and discovered that my lifelong friend is a living hero here in Long Beach.
My journey through the churches was equally rich and surprising. After one service on integration, I suggested to a woman that they might offer a Sunday service in Spanish, to be told that no one in the area speaks Spanish and that is why people live there. After the shooting in South Carolina, I took flowers to a service at the Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church to experience song and community as I have never seen.
Surreptitiously, even to myself, I was searching to see if there was a place to begin public ministry teaching Engaged Buddhism. Almost unbelievably, the perfect multi-faith church is on the next block where I walk the dog most days.
All of this leaves me with two big unknowns. My new friend Kenny and I talk about it often. There is so much going on, how can one choose and where is the greatest opportunity for service. We want to do them all.
Primarily, Long Beach needs affordable housing for Queers; seniors and the homeless. I want to be a part of that long-overdue ground breaking. Personally, I want to use my fifty years of activism to inspire and advise high-risk militant change-makers.
Finally, I want to remember the names of dozens of people who know mine. Just today, as I was walking my dog, a neighbor shouted from the back of her house, “Merry Christmas, Zoe.”
Merry Christmas, Dusty.
Merry Christmas, Long Beach.
I have never cared for DJ Trump. I suppose there will be a rush to step away and try to authenticate one’s revulsion. People will find pride in when and why they spat him out. Long before any US mayors declared their city would not allow DJ in their limits, reasonable people, everyday people refused him safe passage into their homes via NBC. The tower, the golf course, the fully augmented gold encrusted life was enough for people who work for a living. Surely his vile talk about Rosie threw me off with no returns.
However when he began to run for political office, there was something nagging me, like a low battery light deep in my internal library. It needled me. There was something chirping which came into focus the day DJ Trump lied about his love for the bible and its second place winner, The Art of the Deal. BINGO.
March, 1995, I found a book, What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz. It was pricey. It must have been reviewed in one of the dozen spiritual magazines I got back then. I was diving deep into Ken Wilbur and Andrew Harvey at that time and Tony Schwartz was swimming in that pool of conscious mindful seekers. He was on the physical journey that I was taking through books.
In 1988, Tony took a 4 year road trip to discover what really moved Americans. He crossed the country making inquiries with all of the named luminaries of the day. From Esalen to the Enneagram, from Ram Dass to Betty Edwards, from Maslow to Kornfield; Tony was making his way on a starship, through a galaxy of the mind.
Why did this NY Times reporter and Newsweek writer get bitten by the bug of spiritual inquiry? He explains it clearly in the forward. Tony Schwartz had been the ghost writer for The Art of the Deal.
A few disparate sentences:
At the publication party, Tony was in a receiving line with DJ & Ivana. Gold everything, champagne everywhere. Leon Spinks, Michael Douglas, Cheryl Tiegs and Norman Mailer made their appearance. “I’d spent two years seeing the world through Trump’s eyes, and I’d grown accustomed to living at his dizzying pace, cramming my days full of action and activity."
It is a BIG dream but I am capable of BIG dreams and I am dreaming that this whole country takes the escalator down, leaves the golden tower and the moral bankruptcy of DJ Trump and begins a meaningful pilgrimage for wisdom and, “pursues a richer, more authentic and more complete life.”
I really did not mean to wait for the month that the show closes to post a review. It was more that I have been really busy. Now that the close has been announced, October 25, I feel pressed to make this happen.
The first Long Beach City Council meeting I went to since I moved had an enthusiastic announcement about a mural show, POW WOW. Certainly I cannot be the only person who thought it was going to be by, for and about Native Americans.
They had my full attention. My Potawatomi ancestry is important to me and I would support this city wide installation. I had read that Long Beach is the second most diverse city in the country. Opening day I drove to the central office, picked up a program and took off to drive to all nine sites.
Not necessarily obvious in a non-binary state of mind but the documentation suggests there are 3 women among fifteen artists. Again, though not definitive, there was not a preponderance of Native or Indigenous artists. I feel confident in saying that the art was not bringing Native consciousness to the city.
I suppose this all leads to one very surprising conclusion, the title was appropriated and, as such, was not acknowledged.
Moving on to the primary and housed mural show, I went to the Long Beach Museum of Art. Several months before, I had made a visit. I had asked the docent if there were any works by women on view at the museum. She told me that she didn’t know. Using only names, which is not very reliable, my friend and I found one. But I held great hope for Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape, the new show.
Again, not certain evidence, of the twenty artists, a few are women. Some of the names are gender neutral but lets roll with 15%. (which I think is high). I leave it to you, Aaron Horkey, Alex Yanes, Andrew Schoultz, Audrey Kawasaki, Brendan Monroe, Brandon Shigeta, Cryptik, Esao Andrews, Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins, Hot Tea, James Bullough, Jeff Soto, John S. Culqui, Low Bros, Meggs, Nosego, Nychos, Saber, and Tristan Eaton.
No matter the artists broken down into binary genders, a serious cultural goal with some, heretofore, resolutions unclear, let the work speak for itself. Where are the women? Where are the WELL women? Where are women with clothes on ? Or women not cut into parts lining one of the largest walls.
The first woman is floating in pale lime green and too thin to carry a feather. Message received. Looking to the far wall, there is a woman in her underwear, lying on a sheet, cut into dozens of pieces. One repeating gash severing her head. Trust me this is about as good as it gets. Turning the few corners in the show, it did not get any more womanly. Nothing fecund, well, wholesome, seasonal, celestial.
I have to admit, I have been taught by the best; The Guerrilla Girls ~ both Guerilla Girls On Tour and Guerrilla Girls, Inc. It is really quite simple: where are the women, in the art and artists? Are they naked and tortured? Are they well and valuable beyond being a sex object.
The show is going to close October 25. Interesting that LBMA’s latest email includes an annoucement about a new acquisition, Salmon Stripe by Gail Factor which will be on view November 19. Others in the Oceanview Gallery will include works by Thelma deGoede Smith, Helen Lundeberg, Judy Chan, Karena Massengill, Mylene Raiche, and Joan Austin. I am looking forward to seeing it.
But, really, Pow Wow?? Really?
I was invited to a private sneak peek of the movie, Suffragette. On the invitation was a request to not write about it until it had premiered which it did last night at the Telluride Film Festival. The British press had been writing about it and now the US press is at liberty to as well. It is a marketing thing about film festivals and who gets to print first. I find it all commercially understandable but not my concern at all. My concern was, is and will always be -- historical accuracy. For the rest of time certain fictionalized movies are shown in classrooms as if they are a history lesson and thus the myths are spun and truth is unseated: my personal annoyance. With that said, I went to this preview with a chip on my shoulder or, in my mind, prepared to hold feet to the fire.
My host had asked me to not be rude if the film veers entirely off track. She thought I might confront the director and screenwriter who were offering a Q&A after. Fortunately the opening frame set the story in 1912 which means that Alice Paul has left England for America and no matter what happens I will not have to leap to the front of the room and set them straight on Miss Paul. It was a secret relief.
Oddly the opening scene is Maud Watts, played by Carrie Mulligan, staring into a shop window, as was the opening scene in Iron Jawed Angels. That set me on high alert. Maud is a laundry worker, wife and mother. She has suffered burns, long hours and sexual assault. She has aged out of being assaulted and now the foreman has a younger conquest. Fundamentally she lives like most women; trying to get through the day with the least amount of friction, falling into bed from exhaustion and, tomorrow, starting all over again. It isn’t that she doesn’t have a voice. It is that her voice has been silenced to such a point that Maud herself accepts she is unable to speak.
Mrs. Pankhurst, the genius strategist, beloved leader and hunted change-maker gave thousands of women the means to find their voice. She trusted that these exhausted women knew precisely what was going on, they simply had to find the means and opportunity to express it. Marches, songs, publicly wearing the movement’s colors, selling movement papers on street corners and being visible pierced society’s convention. They saw one another, heard one another and could be silent no more.
The film Suffragette features two women’s delicately structured evolution into full active, sometimes shocking, militancy. The laundry worker and a pharmacist carry on in the neighborhoods of London you might recognize from Calling The Midwife. Nappies on the clothesline crisscross the streets, hats on every head, children sitting in prams unattended, the streets of the workers giving it their all to simply carry on.
The film is intimate, heartbreaking, every woman’s story. Patriarchy is at its full roar and women are crashing through like Boudicca with her daughters riding against the Romans. Once awake they cannot turn away escalating violence all the way to the death. All for that precious vote. That vote doled out in increments and still not used to its full potential.
The vagueness about the movie in this writing is intentional for two reasons; not wanting give away any surprises and to address what is more to my preferred question -- was it a blathering fairy tale forever diminishing a brave noble story of our lineage as women.
My real jubilation happened in the Q&A with Sarah Gavron, the director and Abi Morgan, the screenwriter. The first question from the audience was what was their process in authenticating the story. Gavron said that, unlike American bio-dramas, the British are very serious about accuracy. (I did want to jump up with that!) She said it took nine years and each time something more was discovered, they rewrote and, sometimes, re-shot. Morgan said they went through 43 rewrites. In the course of six years they had consulted with Dr. Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst and Katherine Tupper, great granddaughter of Emily Davison. They had access to the British Museum and Parliament archives They read memoirs by the laundry workers. Carrie Mulligan read handwritten diaries of women who led lives like the one she played. The role of Edith Ellyn, played by Helena Bottom Carter, was based on the real woman, Olive Schreiner who had wanted to be a doctor but could not afford the training.
For me, it was important that Sarah Gavron and Abi Morgan did not take the easy road and draw un-provable conclusions in the film about the death of Emily Wilding Davison. They acknowledged that Emily’s death is and will always be unsettled business; was she a martyr or on the edge of suicide? They described they were given access to her tiny purse and inside was a return ticket, possibly alluding that she did not mean to be killed. Watching films, listening to scholars and relatives it seems it will always be a great conversation. Even a recent television recreation puts forth a digital supposition that she only wanted to place a VOTES FOR WOMEN sash on the King’s horse. Dr. Diane Atkinson, author of the book, Suffragette says, “Don’t fall for this return ticket business. It is a red herring. I am very sure she was ready to give her life.” The mystery is a never ending conversation.
And we need all the bait for conversations we can find. As Gavron said, “We need to resurrect women from history.” Indeed we do. Thank you Sarah Gavron and Abi Morgan. Well done.
In the streets of Chicago, 1968 I was directed by the methods and success of Gandhi. I had read about him for years and presumed that his theories were inspiring the American Civil Rights Movement. I grew up in devotion to the left wing of the Catholic Church, the hope of Vatican II and John XXIII. My feminism was not really ignited yet. In fact, I did not notice on my 15th birthday, August 28, 1963, that no woman spoke from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial when Dr King told us of his dream.
Many years later I heard some vague story about a woman who had led a hunger strike in jail campaigning for women’s suffrage. At the time all I knew was Seneca, Stanton and Anthony. Then through no direct line of influence, I found myself fasting for the Equal Rights Amendment and again I heard this woman’s name, Alice Paul. She was the principle and most acknowledged author of the legislature. My interested was piqued.
Thirty-four years later, I have culled the universe for any and all information about and by Miss Paul. I have read every book available, interviewed many people who both knew and worked for her. I have pestered a historian friend for hundreds of articles. I have learned to judge a book by its footnotes and to read in complete quiet. I have been told I know more about Miss Paul than anyone. I know her virtues, her many faults and, with humility, find me more like her with each revelation. I have been given the honorific of Independent Scholar.
Over the last few years one glaring truth has pierced my feminist heart. Would it be different if I had known the first to practice Nonviolent Direct Action was a feminist woman? Would it have different to know that the first to organize a march on the White House was a woman? Why did my shelves have dozens of books on Gandhi’s theories and methods with application to the American Social Justice Movement and ZERO on Alice Paul’s? Why had I read Indian Opinion and Harijan but not the Suffragist? Why didn’t I know that both Miss Paul and M.K. Gandhi had been at suffrage rallies, spoken with Mrs Pankhurst and both left with objections to the introduction of violence.
I am devoted, I am dedicated to introduce Americans to their very own founder of Non Violent Direct Action, Miss Alice Paul. I believe that knowing about Alice, her methods and her lifelong activism will inspire and light the way. I base this on my own 50 years in activism. I see how she never gave up. She rested and moved with the ebb and flow of equality. She did not party with the signing of the Nineteenth Amendment. She went on to earn three law degrees to prepare for the campaign for constitutional equality. The vote was just one tile in the mosaic of equality. On her 92nd birthday, she spent her happy birthday phone call with First Lady Betty Ford promoting the ERA.
We are left with a spectacular film by Sir Richard Attenborough on the life of Gandhi in which meticulous care was given to truth. Entire scenes were recreated, dialog was taken from real life. We need accessible accurate media to learned about, celebrate and fulfill the plans of Miss Alice Paul. We will be better people to end the national practice of letting women age into obscurity and dismissing their legacy. Her work of constitutional equality is now our work.
I hope you will trust me with creating a national, culturally illumined, campaign to build awareness of the infinite relevance of militant activist, Alice Paul. There is a call for seed money on Kickstarter. (click here) Your donation will be your tile in this particular mosaic for equality. The goal is $9,200 which is $100 for each year of her life. This amount is the foundation. Once launched we will be creating both self-sustaining funding and sponsorship. Thank you for joining this effort. You can read about the objectives, vision and mission here.
I am getting kind of excited about the LGBTQ Movement now. Over the next few years, some shit is gonna break loose and humanity is going to advance a bit. We go slowly. Evolution is a slow go.
There is a lot of hoopla with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Marriage Equality judged federally legal. Seems that the conservative het world is feeling a bit threatened. So far backlash has been as unconventional as they can create which is, by their own default position, conventional. None of the prophesied immolations or mass exoduses have occurred. There seems to be a few dust-ups about pro-gay Walmart and Diet Coke ads but nothing like what the future portends.
So far all we have asked to do is behave within the conventional guidelines. “Can we be just like you, sir?”
Now we can bear arms against the enemy if we shoehorn into the men’s and women’s uniform and barracks. We can kill whoever Congress or a President tells us to. We can drive tanks, throw grenades, shoot flames, fly bombers and bring democracy to the world. We can die and our graves at Arlington can be marked with a rainbow flag.
Now we can live two by two in track houses with our kids. We can visit one another in the hospital, file taxes jointly, leave pensions and benefits to our spouses. We can order a cake, put same sex toys on top and file for divorce in 4 years like everybody else. Now we can have two husbands in a house or two wives can buy a family membership at the local gym. We are practically normal.
Sweet relief, now that we got the simple easy things done, we can get to the real work. Now we want to demolish all things binary. If you see anything binary ~ it’s got to go. No more Male/Female radio buttons on an online survey, no more longeeeerrr lines at the women’s room at the sports arena, no more embedded constitutional bias excluding half the population.
Now we want to assure full rights for people no matter their Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation or how often it changes. Now we want to work, live, age, thrive no matter what pronoun we choose (yes, choose, not have assigned in the first 2 seconds of the incarnation). We want to have consensual sex without imposed social precedence.
Here’s the REALLY scary part, we are taking hets with us because their simplistic two pronged divisions are on the way out. Now it’s getting interesting. Yes, today we can behave within established social structures. We can color inside the lines. Tomorrow we want to erase the lines.
I realize I am the whitest woman you know. Not in terms of my cultural expression or my demonstrated beliefs but between the hair and zero sun, come on, yes I know. From in here, the extraordinary privilege I have, awarded at birth, I am an extra double dip pure vanilla cone. But it does not evoke anything but shame when a white supremacist uses me as a reason to shoot, kill or, even, breathe. Scout got that message and so do I. Tom Robinson wanted nothing to do with Miss Mayella and, be it foolish or wise, I sorta walk around with that idea in my head in our non-fiction world. I was 12 when that book came out and I crawled right up into it as if it was scripture.
Last night I challenged myself to find the nearest AME Church and go to their prayer vigil. I say challenge because I needed to make room in my head and heart that I might be unwelcome. Frankly, I felt that I could be unwelcome for many reasons, not just being white when the shooter claimed he was killing on my behalf but also because I will never know the deep pain of being African American in the U.S.
It is staggering how wrong I was. I was invited to pray for the AME Congregation in South Carolina, to pray to be able to forgive, to pray for strength, to pray for peace in the streets of my new city. A woman preached who said that God knew in advance this was going to happen; it was only a surprise to us. My hand was held in a circle of songs. I was hugged at least a dozen times. I was given what I wanted to give but had no way.
It is a personal miracle I am claiming for myself that my home is surrounded by mocking birds. They lift me 24 hours a day. As the story goes, they do not harm another living creature. But, like Atticus, let us shoot the fucking rabid dog - the maniacal bigotry and hatred it represents and bury it with the last confederate flag.
My own father died when I was eight. You can’t imagine how much I pretended it was me in that rocking chair in the arms of Atticus.
FULL JUSTICE AND FULL EQUALITY
WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
We want to be in the US Constitution
We want equality under the law
We want to be full citizens
We want equal wages
We want equal health care
We want justice and that includes equality
If this was about men, it would have been done by now.
But this is about including women in the US Constitution.
THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE BY NOW
if this was the goal of Martin & Coretta
if this was the goal of Malcolm and Betty
if this was the goal of Oprah
if this was the goal of Barack Obama
if this was the goal of Bill & Hillary
If Democracy and Equality was the goal, this would be done by now.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY
This would have been done by now if this was YOUR goal.
I am speaking here today to ask you to make it YOUR goal.
Of course you are going to ask what will it take?
What will it take to be explicitly included in the US Constitution?
We have been working on it for 92 years and, let’s be honest.
SO far, Nothing has worked.
The good news is I have an answer,
IT IS GOING TO TAKE THE NEXT BRAVE THING.
I am certain that it is going to take each of us and all of us doing THE NEXT BRAVE THING
FOR ME it was publicly fasting for 37 days and disturbing the President.
For Mary Lee it was chaining herself to the State Senate doors.
For Helene it is walking across America and sleeping by the side of the road.
For Patricia Arquette it is talking about it at the Oscars and the U.N.
For Kamala Lopez it is making a documentary film.
For Jenni it is hosting this event.
You cannot measure what is brave by comparing yourself to anyone.
Only you can say what that might be
but let me assure you that each of us feel the same fear, the same amount of fear.
The next brave thing is waiting on the other side of fear.
AND you cannot judge another person about their next brave thing
As you have no idea about their inner life, their fears and their ability to manage them.
Engaged Activists survey social conditions, take it in and devise a plan which demonstrates, with precision, their next brave move.
Dreamers stand to say, I am undocumented.
Union people organize and strike.
Russian queers publicly kiss in Red Square.
Voters flood the Austin State House to support Wendy Davis’ filibuster.
A Tibetan monk self-immolates.
People march and sit and fast and wait.
They have had enough.
They have reached the limit.
But do not think that such photograph-able grand actions are any different from
If you ever have seen an injustice and had to take a deep breath, leap into the fray, take a chance that no one will agree AND did it anyway; YOU UNDERSTAND.
That is brave, that is activism and that is the best we can do.
Urgency, I am feeling urgency.
New activists are sitting in classrooms, in circles in community rooms,
on pavement at the intersection of Equality & Liberation.
I need to tell them something.
There are people who just need to know that the time is now. They need to know that the stirring of activism is real and how to foster it. There are students who are so overwhelmed with the enormity of possibilities, have no idea where to start. They need some direction on how change occurs.
There are people of all ages who see what is going on but are stalled.
They sit in uncertainty.
They wonder about the next step, their step, the sure step.
Or they see only those already down the track and think, “Why start now?” “I could never do that.”
And all they need to know is to take THEIR next brave step.
In fact, that step is the only one that matters.
There are people who have lost their fire.
They don’t know that rest and pause and a time-out is right, is a component to success.
The pilot light is still lit.
They just need to know how to boost the flame.
They need to find their way back into the political arena.
There are activists who have forgotten to change with the times and now the tools of 2012 appear out of reach. I meet people all the time who think activism ended in the 70’s and they are just looking in the wrong direction.
Not only is it a loss for them but a terrible loss for current day movements.
I need to find these people.
I have something to say.
Take it one step at a time ~ your next step.
You will not just make the next step but you will find you are fine.
You are better than fine.
I am so proud to be here with you today.
I am in love with equality and you are too.
It is just that simple.
Admittedly I began writing in serial format out of impatience. I wanted to begin ASAP. I want the reader engaged ASAP. My mind, most minds, work in serialized form. We collect information and it keeps collecting and then crystallizes ~ something I call the Diamond Process. We certainly don’t wait for an entire life to be lived before we can learn from it. We prioritize, arrange by topic and love to wrap our minds around a single expanding idea.
A few readers have written me to point out that I have left things out of Alice Paul’s chronological life. It never interested me to write a biography of Miss Alice Paul. I want to use her lessons, her strategy and, truly most important, her NEVER waning dedication to a singular issue. From her first visit to a Settlement House, this banker’s daughter decided that constitutional equality was the only lasting, full answer. No matter how the question was posed or discovered, Miss Paul would not step one toe beyond her mission. That interests me.
Of course no biography has come even near to knowing her. After more than two years in Alice Paul submersion, I feel qualified to say that the best information is 1) the interview with Amelia Fry, 2) articles and things that pop up from google alerts, 3) interviews with women who knew her, and 4) mad curiosity. Susan Ware may not like her, people definitely found her to be stern, I found her to be the pinnacle of etiquette and tenacity. I adore her. Do not misunderstand, as I have written, she was often very unlikable. I have never held back from digging beyond the hat and fur. Test your love with inquiry or it is not real.
What I find so disturbing, so frustrating, so maddening can be illustrated with comparing any decent bibliography of hers with any of her fellow student, Mohandas Gandhi. There are countless books on the lessons and strategies of Gandhi and zero on Alice Paul. There are books about Gandhi’s hybrid faith of Islam and Hindu but none on the Mindful Enlightenment of Miss Paul’s Quakerism. In other words, there is an inherent sexism that shouts from my two principle library collections. Of course, the fact that they both were taught by Mrs. Pankhurst is almost unknown.
Serialization allows me to pick a subject and dig deeply. First I built a foundation simply so I would know where to look and see who knows what. You need to separate the light bearing jewels from the muddy lop-sided opinions. That took a lot of reading and a lot of aggravation. Miss Catt did all she could to bury the light. Mrs. Belmont wielded her check book like a cattle prod. Some authors have no interest in what Miss Paul did after August 26, 1920. The NWP Board of Directors voted 25 / 0 to not financially assist her when she reached her 90’s. To know her fully, you need a wide lens.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, (Herland free online) Alexander Dumas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens all wrote in serial format. I am not comparing my writing to theirs in any way. I am admiring the writing process. I have already discovered the meditative and prayerful reading process of Lectio Divina. Now I can apply it to non-linear topical writing. It is the form I prefer ~ the essay but with a central character whom I admire more everyday. And, there is the added bonus of bridging her strategy and inspiration to current day activism.
I spent a month reading, thinking and writing on:
Now I get to spend a month on Silence, an asset Miss Paul used so very wisely. Something the Women in Black and Standing Man used. Zen Buddhists master. Musicians treasure by surrounding it with notes. Life is episodic, sitting in the pickling juice. I get to sit in the light, wait for what surfaces and write the next chapter.
Is it too soon to move from re-act to retro-spect? I have to admit most of my insights occur in a rearview mirror but the optimal distance is usually more than a couple of weeks. It can take years to collect succinct or defensible responses. Nonetheless, I am going to risk it today, show my hand and hope for the best.
If you are a feminist or interested in feminism, Oscar night 2015 was volatile, exciting, best water cooler talk in a long time. That said, it begs the question what did it mean to everyone else?
In the pie chart of American women, I live in the red slice. Most of the people I know live in the red slice. We are cool. We are hot. We are hip. We have read Freire, Alinsky, hooks, Hill Collins, Crenshaw. We tweet and post and follow Laurie Penny, Amanda Levitt, Roxane Gay, Ultraviolet, A is For, and hundreds of peeps or orgs who agree with us. We retweet and use hashtags (though not as effectively as ISIS). We work on checking our isms, our privilege, our ever-widening inclusion and our revulsion over inner circle royalty. We are pro plus sizes, support public breast feeding and fight like hell to come out ~ as queer, having an abortion, in recovery. We do all we can to protest inequality, demand justice and stand in solidarity. It’s a lot but it’s who we are.
Once a week or less I shop at a big neighborhood grocery store. In twelve years, my favorite checker, Sue always asks me the same two questions. “How’s Grace?” She’s fine. “What did you do this weekend?” One weekend I told her about going to Dallas. I hosted an ERA Café Conversation and Gloria Steinem was at the same table. I asked her if she knew who Gloria Steinem was. “No, who is she?” I asked if she had heard of Ms. Magazine. “No.” I asked if she knew what the ERA is. “No, What is it?” But you can be sure my checker knew what fair wages means.
Sue has no idea what is intersectionality or white privilege or why immigration is a family issue. She does not know what the old Jim Crow is about, let alone the new Jim Crow. She knows about a zillion morphing prices for as many products on hundreds of shelves on dozens of aisles. She knows the mad hours she and her husband work to keep their children, grandchildren and dog, Emmie safe and well. She knows her feet hurt and retirement is many years off.
Sue is not in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know that there is a matrix of domination, an inseparable intersection of all oppressions, a few men own dam near everything, black water is coming out of California faucets and abortion rights are the lynchpin of female autonomy. She doesn’t know that I live and love in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know about the chart, the pie or the red slice.
Sue didn’t see Boyhood. She has no idea who the Arquette Family is but she did see the Oscars. She saw a best actress winner say something about her own life; about equal wages. She saw a woman over 40, in a nice, relatively kind of plain dress, wearing glasses, talk about her life. She saw women in the audience leap to their feet in support. I am certain Sue knows they are all rich beyond belief. They have more money than they could ever need and she saw one of them spent her sliver of time to talk about equal wages. And, now she knows that even among well paid Americans, men and women are paid unequally.
Sue doesn’t know what was said backstage, about the call for Gays and Blacks to back the fair wage movement. The phrase, Equal means Equal is all new. It was an outrage to those who live in the red slice. It was a slap in the face for all those who work in the red slice. It set the social justice movement back decades as tweeted and posted by the red slice residents. But that night, someone at the Oscars said, women should be paid equally. And that’s enough for Sue. And I am grateful to Patricia because Sue’s feet hurt and she rings up my groceries and always asks, “How’s Grace?”
I love writing, thinking and living in the red slice. It is home to me. And one of my concerns is full equality for all the pie people. I want fair wages and don’t need everyone to convert to the red slice. Forgive me if I don’t say it well. I know better.