May 17, 2021 – Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner – Inventor

Often, while looking for something else, I find something really cool.  Please Meet Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, born on May 17, 1912 to a family of inventors including an grandfather, sister and father who had several patents including a window washer for trains. She became a Florist in Washington DC and at one point had 4 flower shops. She had started a college career at Howard University but dropped out when funds were short. She got a job as an federal employee during WWII.

In 1954, invented, applied for and received her first patent in 1956. She received interest in her product but upon meeting her, she was told “Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”  She never made money on this patent but she continued to invent a back washer (patent number 4696068) and a carrier attachment for a walker. Together with her sister, Mildred, they invented and got a patent for a toilet tissue holder. by 1987, she had a total of 5 patents, to date, more than any other woman. 

That first patent was for an elastic Sanitary Belt for women during their mensuration cycle. She later made a modification to this belt that included a “moisture resistant pocket” and this was patent 2881761.  Her first patent (2745406) pictured here, she started in the 1930s when there were limited options for women for comfort.

Blackpast – Mary Kenner (1912-2006) 

 

 

March 10, 2021 – Harriet Tubman – abolitionist+

Ninety-eight years ago today, Harriet Tubman-Moses-Minty died. She was a

Black History Mini Docs

  • Civil War scout,
  • spy,
  • nurse,
  • suffragist,
  • civil rights activist,
  • political activist, and an
  • abolitionist.
After freeing herself, she then made made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. A truly amazing American, woman and human cannot be found.
Although the legacy of the Underground Railroad often gets credited to Quakers, they were instrumental but the bulk of the conductors were escaped and born free African Americans. Will Still out of Philadelphia who worked with a Quaker and is “Often called “The Father of the Underground Railroad“, William Still helped as many as 800 slaves escape to freedom. He interviewed each person and kept careful records, including a brief biography and the destination for each, along with any alias adopted. He kept his records carefully hidden but knew the accounts would be critical in aiding the future reunion of family members who became separated under slavery, which he had learned when he aided his own brother Peter, whom he had never met before.” He and Ms Tubman were well acquainted.  If you have not read his account of the 800 people it is available at many libraries, book sellers, still and Project Gutenberg with even a Kindle version.  The Underground Railroad by William Still
 
 
I learned the song “follow the Drinking Gourd” when I was in elementary school. That lead to learning about the Underground Railroad which lead to reading a very junior “biography” about her in fifth grade. I use quotes because when I finished my oral presentation in front of the entire class, my teacher asked if the book had “quotes”, I said yes and she said then it was a novel not a biography. Chocking back tears of shame and humiliation, I went back to my desk and put my head down to hid my shame for not knowing this and for the librarian giving it to me to read!
 
Years later, while teaching, when biography time came around, my students always got “choices” like every good librarian/reading teacher. You can bet Miss Tubman was there. Also, most of the biography’s I would have pre-selected were women, imagine that! One time, a young boy actually asked me if there were any books about historical men, why of course, and I thought how nice that this child will grow up knowing that women were famous and did stuff!
 
Back to the “Drinking Gourd” which I knew was the big dipper that points to the north star, but the song is fragments of the history of routes taken. I knew the Ohio connection and the Delaware connections to freedom and as I lived in various parts of the east coast, I was amazed all the different “stations” on the underground railroad. The words “Well the river bank makes a mighty good road Dead trees will show you the way” always stumped me because anyone who is around water, rivers, knows that dead trees eventually fall over and you can’t count on a tree that is dead this year to be there next year. I also knew that to cross the Ohio River it needed to be done in the winter when the river was frozen which would mean the trees would be leafless.
 
That brings me to Maumee, Ohio, living two blocks from the Maumee River and being the radical rule breaker I am, I’ve been known to walk in the park after dark. The Maumee has many huge and glorious sycamore trees and in the winter with their shedding bark they truly look dead. I like to think that this may be one version of the dead trees as I do know that they are stark white on the top two thirds. There are over 3,000 documented miles of Underground Railroad through out Ohio as it bordered two slave states. Many freedom seekers stayed in areas of Cleveland, Toledo, and Akron but to truly be free until the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1, 1863, Canada was were they had to go. 
 
In my twenties, a long time ago, I took a doll making class. These were porcelain and I decided to make my hero, Harriet Tubman although she has lost her side arm over time, she still is one of my favorite dolls. 

Harriet Tubman -porcelain, fabric

 
 
 
 
 

March 8, 2021 – Mae Jamison – astronaut, medical doctor

Caption: Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, gives a lecture on “Looking Up” at UW-Madison’s MLK Day observance in Madison, Wisconsin, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. RICK WOOD / MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

2017 International Women’s Day Quote:

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations” – Mae Carol Jamison

In 1992, returning from a flight on the Space Orbiter Endeavor, Dr. Jamison said about women and women of color:

“More women should demand to be involved. It’s our right. This is one area were can get in on the ground floor and possibly help to direct where space exploration will go in the future.”

Mae Carol Jamison was born in 1956 and is an American:

  • engineer,
  • physician,
  • CEO,
  • former NASA astronaut,
  • author, 
  • actress in an episode of Star Trek: The next Generation and a
  • dancer.

She has been inducted in the national Women’s Hall of Fame and in international Space Hall of Fame. Did I mention she was the first black women to venture into space?

Dancing in Space: Mission Specialist Mae Jemison poses in Spacelab-Japan, 1992. (National Archives Identifier 22725970)

From kindergarten forward she told teachers she wanted to be a scientist and they channeled her to nursing. She began studying dance at 8, entered high school at 12 and joined the cheerleading team and Modern Dance Club. She learned ballet, jazz, modern dance and she aspired to be a dancer. At 16, she was off to Stanford where she was head to the Black Students Union and choreographed musical theater productions.

 

During her senior year in college she was still struggling with medial school or doctor. So, she got a B.S. in chemical engineering and a B. A in African and African-American studies. . Her mother helped her clarifying her career path by telling her: “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.” And yes, she has a dance studio in her home.

When asked by a 12 year old girl she told CNN:

“She asked, How did being a dancer help you be an astronaut? Because dancers have to be very disciplined. You have to practice all the time. You have to constantly rehearse and pay attention to the people around you. You have to memorize complicated structures and scenarios. You have to be pretty thick-skinned as well because you have to be able to take criticism and apply it. All of those things are valuable.”

Dr. Jamison is one of the most remarkable women I have read about recently. She spends her time giving back and encouraging other your woman to pursue their dreams. The list of her accomplishments/honors/publications is long and best viewed on her Wikipedia page. 

In 2017, LEGO released the “Women of NASA” set, with minifigures of Jemison, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Nancy Grace Roman.

Other places to learn about her are:

 

March 5, 2021 – Women to Know – Women to Watch – Katharine Wright Haskell, business manager

 

Photo: Smithsonian Institution

Katharine Wright Haskell (1874-1929) was the younger sister of famed airplane inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright. Unlike her brothers, Katharine finished college, graduating with a degree from Oberlin in 1898. After graduation she secured a teaching position at Steele High School in Dayton where she taught Latin.
 
Katharine ran the Wright family’s household and managed the Wright Cycle Company while Orville and Wilbur worked to perfect their flying machine. After the brothers’ first successful flight in 1903, she left her teaching position to assist them. Katharine managed the business from behind the scenes– she responded to reporter inquiries, answered questions from the public about the science of their invention and handled Orville and Wilbur’s social calendar. Katherine became a celebrity in her own right.
 
Always a tight knit family, Katharine was by Orville’s side while he recuperated from a crash in 1908 and helped nurse him back to health. She traveled with her brothers all over the world to showcase their airplane and regularly accompanied her brothers in the air—her flights helped bolster public confidence in the new invention.
 
After Wilbur died in 1912, she became an officer at the Wright Airplane Company. She continued to travel the world, was active in the fight for women’s suffrage and dedicated time and financial support to Oberlin College. Katharine died in 1929.
 
This story was presented by Ohio History Facebook page which comes from www.OhioHistory.org
 

Maurer, Richard (2003). The Wright Sister: Katharine Wright and her famous brothers

Dann, Patty (2020). The Wright Sister: A Novel

McCullough, David The Wright Brothers 

Photo: Smithsonian Institution

 

March 4, 2021 – Women to Know – Women to Watch – Rosalie Edge, conservation activist

Rosalie Edge posing with one of the hawks she spent her life protecting – University of Connecticut

Rosalie Edge (1877-1965)  born Mabel Rosalie Barrow in New York City a wealthy socialite became a dedicated suffragist and after the passage of the 19th amendment, she joined other bird watchers in Central Park and found a new cause that became her life’s work.  When reading about the wholesale killing of 70,000 bald eagles in the Alaskan territory, she became a conservation activist and later took on the National Audubon Society. In 1934 she ended the slaughter of hawks and eagles on a ridge in the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania by buying the property and turning it into a sanctuary that still exits today https://www.hawkmountain.org/ .

Image – EcoTopia.org

 She influenced the founders of the Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund. In the 1960s, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary provided the author and scientist, Rachel Carson, with the migration data that enabled her to link the decline in the juvenile raptor population to DDT for her book, Silent Spring. She led national grassroots campaigns to create Olympic National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. In 1940 she lobbied Congress to purchase 8,000 acres of old growth sugar pines on the perimeter of Yosemite destined for logging.

 Ms Edge was one of the first people to sound the alarm that “it was every person’s civic duty to protect nature.” In the past, conservation was only about preserving species that had quantifiable economic value. Projecting all species was a dramatic shift as little knowledge existed that quantified the value of even the smallest species in the world.

 In 1948, the New Yorker described her as “the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation” (New Yorker, April 17, 1948).

 

http://ecotopia.org/ecology-hall-of-fame/rosalie-edge/biography/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalie_Edge

https://www.hcn.org/issues/41.12/conservations-first-lady

March 3, 2021 – Women to Know – Women to Watch – Grace Lee Boggs – feminist activist

Courtesy of American Revolutionary – from an interview with NPR

Dr. Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) was born in Providence RI above her father’s restaurant, her mother, Yin Lan Ng, role modeled what it was to be a feminist. Boggs went to college at Barnard and then received her Ph. D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College.  She faced discrimination in the work force not just because she was a woman but also because of her Chinese heritage. In the 1940s, she took a low-paying job at the University of Chicago’s Philosophy Library. During this time, she began the her life’s work of activism, an activist focus on the struggles in the African-American Community.

In 1953, she married James Boggs, a black auto worker and political activist and they furthered their work in Detroit. Together, they tackled labor relations, civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian Americans, and the environment. She was active in the Black Power movement alongside Malcolm X and later became devoted to Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

Image – Boggs Education Center – Jimmy & Grace

In 2009, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She is the author of many books with her husband and she died after her 100th birthday. Her autobiography, written in 1998, Living for Change and her re-released “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century” are still available and of value in today’s times. She founded food co-ops, youth groups and wrote columns for the Michigan Citizen where she wrote a weekly column until 2013.  She never stopped, in 2012 she gave a lecture at the University of California Berkeley with the activist, Angela Davis.

Scholar Karín Aguilar-San Juan describes one aspect of Boggs’ activism: “Although she believes that racial and gender inequality will always demand struggle, Grace remains adamant that civil- rights- based activism will not lead to the far-reaching changes in society that a higher state of human evolution requires.” She goes on to explain that Boggs’ “political path” has been “guided by her study of global and historical change, hand- in- hand with daily participation in and observation of the struggles of people at the grassroots level.” –Frontiers Journal 2015.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Lee_Boggs

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/06/27/417175523/grace-lee-boggs-activist-and-american-revolutionary-turns-100

March 2, 2021 – Women to Know – Women to Watch – Renee Montgomery – basketball franchise owner

Renee Montgomery – WNBA Owner &
Executive

Renee Montgomery, former WNBA player is now a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream. She is the first WNBA player to become an owner and executive. Born in 1986, Montgomery to her West Virginia High School to State Champions 3 times. She won a national championship with the UConn Huskies in 2009, and WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx in 2015 and 2017.
 
In June 2020, she announced that she would forego the season because of covid AND racism. In the press release from the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert she addresses the ethics and beliefs of the players . . . “I admire their passion for women’s basketball, but more importantly, have been impressed with their values. I am also thrilled that former WNBA star Renee Montgomery will be joining the ownership group as an investor and executive for the team. Renee is a trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond.”
 
The Atlanta Dream’s previous owner was a recently defeated US Senator who said about the WNBA’s alignment with #blacklivesmatter it “undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
 
 
 

March 1, 2021 – Women’s History – Where to Start?

Jessie Morgan Kirkby – 1961 – Howe St Lansing Michigan

Women’s History Month is a time to not only celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of women but to learn about women that have been forgotten. As a kid, I often wondered things like “who invented the baby bottle?” as I was always thinking I could invent something. What I learned was that often inventions that were created by women were made out of necessity and need and not remarked but passed on from generation to generation.  The proverb “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” dates back to Plato.

My grandmother, Jessie Morgan Kirkby, taught me much about sewing, manners, life and gardening including, “plant your peas by the dark of the moon in March if you can work the ground.” If you live in Ohio or Michigan that would be March 13, 2021. For years, I thought this was something magical and I would go out and crawl around in the dark with a flash light planting my seeds. Grandma being long gone, couldn’t tell me that I could do it in the daytime. But, the science is if you plant your seeds by the dark of the moon, when they sprout, which with peas it will be about 2 weeks later, they will get more light from the spring moonlight. I learned that in a farming class I took in my 30’s. 

The knowledge of our past mothers, whether biological or mentored, is given freely and often the “why” gets lost but the success remains. This month, I plan to find women that have made a difference that are often forgotten and also some that we all need to follow and bring their story to life as they are changing the world we live in for good. May be a cartoon of one or more people and text that says 'RIDE SWIFT 1WSA HARRIS GRANDIN ON LOW WELLS GORD DEGENERES VASSN SACAGAWEA PARKS AEARE AEC BILES FRANK SNID อยበE DIANA CLINTON ( YOUSAFZAI KAHLO STANTON CADY TERESA TUBMAN OBAMA WINFREY GANDHI BERRY BARTON 0 HEPBURN ENNEDY CURIE GOODALL THE BOOK WRANGLER PRESENTS WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH POSTERS ORGANA'

If you are in the Toledo area and with spring coming, I suggest you meet some of these women in our area. The Women’s History Month committee put together 4 walking tours where you can download the story and wander our streets meet women you may not know about or you may know and didn’t know the connection to Toledo.  There is no direct link, but if you scroll down at Women’s History Month, you’ll find the link to the 4 downloads.

 

February 28, 2021 – Catherine Flowers, activist

As we move into Women’s History Month, I am intrigued by women that are now making a difference in the world. Today’s awesome woman:

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers is a MacArthur fellow who has come to the attention of Washington and will be on the Task Force on Climate Change.   She is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE)  and as a author of Waste: One Women’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret. where she works to address the problem of unequal water sanitation in rural communities in the US.  In 2019, she testified to Congress about the failure of Alabama to provide affordable and effective septic systems to residents and called on policy makers to make meaningful investments at local, state and federal levels.  The resource she created with Columbia Law School is appropriately called, “Flushed and Forgotten“. 

Flowers’ work builds partnerships with elected officials, regional non-profits and federal law makers including the US Congress, EPA and CDC. She has educated people on how unsafe water and raw sewage are not just problematic because they cause disease (we have collectively as humans known this for thousands of years) but disease and inadequate resources reinforce generational poverty. 

She comes from a family of activists and by the age of 16, in the early 70s she became a Robert Kennedy Fellow and worked to rid her high school of the principal and superintendent that were complicit if not directly involved in sexual trafficking of black girls and one that was killed. 

After graduating from college, she was a teacher in both Detroit and Washington D.C. and saw the need for civil rights first hand. Then she had a mind changing experience when she saw the movie “Inconvenient Truth”  and found herself moving back to Alabama in 2000 to begin community work in her hometown on infrastructure and nonexistent and improper wastewater management systems. 

When responding to her recent appointment to Biden’s Climate Task Force of which there are only 8 people and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is the chair, she told Sienna Zuco;

“I stand on a lot of shoulders. And I’d probably take up this entire interview just naming people who have been instrumental in influencing me from my childhood even through now,. I think what I developed from my parents was a sense of what is morally right and a sense of giving a voice to people that do not have the access, or the privilege themselves,”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Coleman_Flowers

https://www.humanrightscolumbia.org/sites/default/files/Flushed%20and%20Forgotten%20-%20FINAL%20%281%29.pdf

Born Country but Raised an Activist: Catherine Coleman Flowers of the Biden Climate Task Force Uncovers “America’s Dirty Secret” in “Bloody Lowndes,” Alabama

 

February 25, 2021 – Dorothy B Porter, librarian

Image 1970 Library of Congress ds 10194 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.10194

Dorothy Louise Burnett, (1905-1995) born in Warrenton, Virginia, the first of four children of Dr. and Mrs. Hayes J. Burnett. They encouraged their children to become educated and to serve. Her father was a physician, and her mother was a tennis pro who became a homemaker.

Porter received a B.A. in 1928 from Howard University. In 1932 she received an M.S. in library science from Columbia University becoming the first African American to graduate from Columbia’s library school. She was offered a position at Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University where she spent 43 years devoting herself to develop a modern research library.

In 1929, she married James A Porter an artist and historian. Both worked at Howard University, he in art and she as a librarian. According to Julie Botnick, Yale Spring 2014, “Their marriage was a happy one, the coming together of two dynamic, creative, charismatic Howard graduates who were early pioneers in their respective fields of African-American librarianship and art history.” Years after the death of her husband, Porter, in 1972, married Charles Wesley, an American historian and educator who pioneered important studies in black history.

Porter is known for working within the Dewey Decimal system to change the way black writers were classified. She was challenging the implicit bias of the system and through the sheer volume of work at Howard, integrated the collection into the Dewey system as she felt it best represented the culture. She tried to work with the Dewey Society but that was fraught with the word “no”.

She also became known to the A.L.A. (American Library Association) as out-spoken especially in1936 when the 58th annual convention was held in Richmond Virginian. There was an effort to get a large attendance of “Negro librarians”, yet these librarians would have to enter through separate doors and sit in designated “colored” places. In her interview with the Norfolk newspaper, she said “Some of the literary work of the future should, and must, be done by people in the race, but unless our people buy more books, in general, and buy the books by our writers, they will not be able to add to our store of knowledge of ourselves and our answers, or to record fictionally the mods of our people. It happens that writers must eat and that it costs money to publish books.”

That same year, 1936, the president of Howard University was able to secure $1,120,812 in federal funding for the library which today has the purchasing power of $12,092,392. She was known for “stalking” funerals of graduates to “take care” of their books, letters, and documents for the future. She also nurtured relationships with potential donors. When she contacted Will Marion Cook, the famous black composer and violinist who had previously said he would never ever give the library anything, he did respond to her request. “Many, many thanks for your beautiful answer to my evil harangue. It brought tears to my eyes…So long as I live – and wherever I am – you have but to call upon me – and you will find that I am grateful – and shall respond.” He signed his letter “Dad Cook” and vowed to send her an autographed copy of “something worthwhile,” which inevitably would land in the library. Duke Ellington’s response was to send the original manuscript of “Mood Indigo”.

As a public librarian, I marvel at Mrs. Porter’s tenacity and clear career focus. What a glorious role model for women AND librarians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_B._Porter 

http://www.library.yale.edu/~nkuhl/YCALStudentWork/Botnick_Porter_Paper.pdf

What Dorothy Porter’s Life Meant for Black Studies