Friday, November 30, 2012

Shirley Chisholm

“Rhetoric never won a revolution yet.”

Born this day in 1924: Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005), first African American woman elected to Congress (D-New York, 1968–1982) and first woman of a major party to run for president

Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents. Part of her childhood she spent growing up in her mother’s native Barbados. She earned an B.A. in sociology from Brooklyn College in 1946 and an M.A. in early childhood education from Columbia University in 1952. She worked as a nursery school teacher, a day care director, and as an educational consultant for New York City’s Division of Day Care before being elected to New York’s state legislature in 1964. She was active in the NAACP and the founded the Unity Democratic Club in 1960. She was also a founding member of the National Organization for Women.
Chisholm ran for U.S. Congress after redistricting created a new congressional district in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Running on the slogan “unbought and unbossed,” she became the  first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. 
Chisholm quickly established herself as an outspoken liberal. “My greatest political asset,” she said, “which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which comes all kinds of things one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency.” She opposed the war in Vietnam and weapons development and championed the “have-nots.” She supported federal funding for day cares, federal assistance for education, school lunch programs, the Equal Rights Amendment, and legalization of abortion. She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which formed in 1969, and a founding member of the National Women’s Political Caucus, which formed in 1971.
In 1972 she ran as a Democrat for president in a largely symbolic gesture designed to bring race and gender issues to the fore. She withdrew her candidacy, but had succeeded in winning 152 delegates. She was the first African American and the first woman of any race to run for president on a major ticket.
After serving seven terms, Chisholm declined to run again. She lectured, taught, and helped establish the National Political Congress of Black Women (1984). She turned down an appointment as ambassador to Jamaica in the Clinton administration because of poor health. She died in 2005. This is how she wanted to be remembered: 
…not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Louisa May Alcott

“Hatred, the deepest and bitterest, was written on her sternly beautiful face, courage glowed in her glance, power spoke in the nervous grip of the slender hand that held the weapon, and the indomitable will of the woman was expressed.”
Little Women Behind a Mask: or, A Woman's Power

Born this day in 1832: Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), author of the popular and placid Little Women and, as it turns out, lurid potboilers featuring fierce, independent women

Louisa May Alcott grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, amidst reformers and transcendentalists. To help support her family Alcott began writing, but not the moralistic children’s tales she became famous for (“moral pap,” as she called it), but violent potboilers—her “blood and thunder stories.” In fact, it was not until the mid-twentieth century that this side of her career became known. Her dual career seemed to reflect a struggle she internalized, a struggle between the rigid obedience her family practiced and the freedom it preached. In all she wrote more than 300 titles. Among them were feminist tracts and a semi-autobiographical feminist novel, Work: A Study of Experience (1873).

Check it out! Behind a Mask: or, A Woman's Power, like many of her more colorful tales, was written under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Genevieve Taggard

“A poet, a wine-bibber, a radical.”

Born this day in 1894: Genevieve Taggard (1894–1948), poet and social radical who is most remembered for her important biography of Emily Dickinson and who was admired in her own time for her lyricism and her socially conscious poetry

Taggard spent most of her childhood in Hawaii, where her parents served as Christian missionaries. She worked her way through the University of California, Berkeley. There she threw off her repressive upringing, studying poetry and adopting socialist ideals. She described  herself as “a poet, a wine-bibber, a radical.”  Taggard edited the college literary magazine, the Occident, and some of her poems were published in national publications such as Harpers and Poetry.
After graduating in 1940 she moved to New York City. There she joined the city’s radical literary circle, contributing regularly to left-wing magazines. She also co-founded The Measure: A Journal of Poetry. Taggard was a dedicated social radical, advocating socialism, labor rights, suffrage, equality, and other social reforms.
Much of her poetry reflects her politics. Words for the Chisel (1926), Not Mine to Finish (1934), and Calling Western Union (1936) are among her most political. She was also known for more personal poems and poems describing nature that were intensely evocative of place. Her later poetry explored the art form itself. She was particularly admired for her lyricism. In fact, some of her poetry was set to music by William Schuman and Aaron Copeland.
Though acclaimed for her poetry in her time, today she is most remembered for The Life and Mind of Emily Dickinson (1930), an interpretive biography that explores the connection between Dickinson’s psychology and poetry.
In 1921 Taggard married Robert L. Wolf, a writer. They had one daughter. The family briefly lived in California, where Taggard edited a poetry anthology. After returning to the east coast, Taggard began teaching, first at Mount Holyoke College (1929–1930) and then at Bennington College (1932–1935). In 1934 she divorced Wolf and married Kenneth Durant, an employee of Tass, the Soviet news agency, the following year. From 1935 to 1946 she taught at Sarah Lawrence College. She retired due to ill health, and died shortly thereafter at age 53.

Black Laughter
by Genevieve Taggard

Harsh, unuttered thunder
Stood like a stone wall
Above the marsh's silver line.
Crooked cranes, white as lightning–
Flattened for an instant, flashing from the cloud—
Came driving toward us; toward us fell
The long lines of the shade-laden trees,
Soundless slanting thunder:
And the snail-like hills
Dragged nearer
The marsh's slime.

Borne down so
By sullen immensities,
Two caught children we stood,
Waiting the flash, the oblique arm of the parent,
Waiting for speech from the jowl
Of the irritated horizon….

Our love began
Between flash and crash,—
Terror seen and terror heard.
See what a cripple our love is!
It is sullen; sometimes it makes walls of black laughter;
It is fond of words, fond of thick vowels,
It mimics thunder.
Between us it limps:
We wait for it, when we must, faces averted.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elsie Clews Parsons

Elsie Clews Parsons (1875–1941), sociologist and anthropologist who wrote about family and gender and undertook detailed, exhaustive studies of the Pueblo and other people of the American Southwest

Elsie Clews Parsons was born Elsie Worthington Clews to a well-to-do family in New York City in 1875. Eschewing the role of debutante, she instead attended Barnard College. She received an A.B. degree in 1896, then continued on to earn an A.M. (1897) and Ph.D. (1899) in sociology from Columbia University. The following year she married Herbert Parsons, a lawyer and politician. With him she would have six children, four of whom survived childhood.
Parsons taught sociology at Barnard and Columbia for a few years, but then the family moved to Washington, D.C., when Mr. Parsons was elected to Congress. Mrs. Parsons began writing sociology books of a decidedly feminist nature. The first to appear was The Family (1906). In it she argued against female subordination, saying (among other things) that inequality hindered women in their roles as wives and mothers. Much of her writing dealt with gender roles and the cultural constraints they imposed on both women and men. Although it was written as a textbook, The Family garnered considerable media attention, not the least for its promotion of trial marriage. To save her congressman husband from further unwanted attention, she published her next couple of books under a pseudonym. “John Main” penned Religious Chastity, another scholarly work (1913) and The Old Fashioned Woman, a work for more general audiences (1913). She returned to her own name for several more popularly-written works: Fear and Conventionality (1914), Social Freedom (1915), and Social Rule (1916).
A trip to the Southwest with her husband changed the direction of Parson’s career. She met anthropologist Franz Boas and became interested in studying the Native Americans of the region. She began doing field research on the Pueblo, gathering huge amounts of data on them and other peoples of the American Southwest, Mexico, and South America. Her exhaustive, scholarly work on the Pueblo, Pueblo Indian Religion, remains a standard reference. She also took an interest in folklore  and collected and transcribed folktales from many sources, including West Indian and African American folklore. Parsons was elected president of the American Folklore Society in 1918, the American Ethnological Association in 1923, and in 1940 became the first women elected president of the American Anthropological Association.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Sarah Moore Grimké

 “I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.”

Born this day in 1792: Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873), abolitionist and woman’s rights advocate

Sarah Grimké and her younger sister, Angelina, were born into a wealthy slave-holding family in South Carolina. Sarah abhorred slavery, despite the privileged lifestyle if afforded her. “Slavery,” she wrote, “was a millstone around my neck, and marred my comforts from the time I can remember myself.” Another millstone around her neck was the South’s attitude toward educating girls. Sarah longed to study law like her brother, but had to make do with studying on her own the books in her father’s library (he was a judge).
In 1821 Sarah left the South for good, and her sister Angelina followed her in 1829. Both joined the abolition movement. They were the first women to join the American Anti-Slavery Society.  The Grimké sisters aroused harsh criticism by not only speaking out against slavery, but by speaking out at all because they were women. Soon they were crusading for women’s rights as well. 
In 1836 Sarah published the An Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States, in which she refuted the Biblical justifications for slavery. In 1838 she published Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and The Condition of Woman. It is the first major written work arguing for equality of the sexes. In it she decries the role assigned to women; she does not dismiss the importance of motherhood or the household arts, but the instead argues against the oppression of women’s intellect and opportunity in order to cultivate them into the playthings and servants of men. She even argued for equal pay for equal work, a battle still being fought today.
I allude to the disproportionate value set on the time and labor of men and of women.…As for example, in tailoring, a man has twice, or three times as much for making a waistcoast [sic] or pantaloons as a woman, although the work done by each may be equally good. In those employments which are peculiar to women, their time is estimated at only half the value of that of men. A woman who goes out to wash, works as hard in proportion as a wood sawyer, or a coal heaver, but she is not generally able to make more than half as much by a day’s work.
The following year she co-authored, with Angelina and Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. The work proved to be a great resource for Harriet Beecher Stowe when writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book included discussion of the sexual exploitation of women slaves by white men (a topic Sarah also addressed in Letters on the Equality of the Sexes). Their concern was made manifest in 1868 when they discovered the existence of two nephews, Archibald and Francis, children of their brother Henry and an enslaved woman. Both sisters acknowledged their nephews and sponsored their education. Francis Grimké graduated from Princeton Theological School. Archibald Grimké graduated from Harvard Law School and would go on to become both a lawyer and a leader of the NAACP.
In her later years Sarah remained active in the suffrage movement. In 1870 both she and her sister voted illegally in a local election.

Sarah Grimké was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Carry Nation

With Bible reading and "hatchetation" the 6-foot tall,
175-pound Carry Nation made an impression.

Born this day in 1846: Carry Nation (1846–1911), temperance advocate most remembered for her hatchet-wielding assaults on illegal barrooms

The temperance movement in the United States was motivated as much by a desire to reduce alcolohol-related domestic violence and poverty as it was by the reform era from which it sprang. The same was true for the activism of Carry Nation. Nation was born Carry Amelia Moore in Kentucky in 1846. In 1867 Nation, a teacher, married  a doctor named Charles Goyd.  Goyd was an alcoholic, and before many years passed she fled the marriage with her young daughter. Goyd soon died of complications from his alcoholism. Nation remarried in 1877, to David Nation, a minister and lawyer. The family eventually settled in Kansas. Carry Nation worked as a prison visitor, hoping to spread the Gospel and abstinence to criminals.
In 1890 Kansas loosened its prohibition laws, making access to liquor more readily available. As it was, alcohol was easy to obtain at drug stores, and illegal joints operated openly. In 1892 she founded a local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She made it her mission to shut down illegal barrooms. With a small posse of vigalntes from the WCTU, Nation would enter an illegal barroom. When prayers, hymns, and exhortations would not convince bar owners to shutter their businesses, Nation, armed with bricks and—more famously, a hatchet—proceeded to smash up the place. Since the places were not legal, she argued that she had license to wreck them. She destroyed barrels of liquor, furniture, glasses, bottles, mirrors, and lewd pin-ups of women. In her work Nation also established a shelter for wives of alchololics and raised funds to support it.  
Nation became quite the celebrity. Lecture fees, publication of temperance journals, and especially sales of silver brooches shaped like a hatchet helped support her—to the tune of $300 per week—and pay the many fines she was charged. She was at times shot at, beat up, and often arrested (30 times), but remained defiant. The WCTU awarded her a medal as the “Bravest Woman in the World.” Eventually, though, the movement soured on her vigilantism. The suffragists, too, shied away from her support. After she retired from public life she ran a school from her home, which also served as a boarding house for homeless women.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mary Quinn Sullivan

Born this day in 1877:  Mary Quinn Sullivan (1877–1939), art educator, art collector, and cofounder of the Museum of Modern Art

Mary Quinn, the daughter of Irish immigrants, grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. She showed an interest in art at an early age, and in 1899 she began studying at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She graduated by 1801 and began teaching art in city schools.
In 1910 Quinn rejoined the Pratt Institute as an in instructor. She formed close friendships with several well-known art collectors and patrons, including Lillie Bliss and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In 1917 she married Cornelius Sullivan, an attorney and collector of rare books and paintings. Mary Quinn Sullivan herself began collecting art. Works by Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rouault, and Picasso formed the beginnings of her collection. She and her husband also collected older paintings as well as silver and furniture. They frequently lent items from their collections to museums in the U.S. and abroad.
In 1929 Sullivan, Bliss, and Rockefeller nailed down plans to create an institute devoted exclusively to the support of modern art—the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Sullivan already had experience in institutional support. In 1927 she had created the Gambolier’s Society of Indianapolis, whose subscribing patrons funded the collecting of art for the John Herron Art Institute. Sullivan’s experience as an art teacher guided the Museum of Modern art to include education—for the artist, art scholar, and public alike—as part of its overall mission. Today it is arguably the leading modern art museum in the world.
In 1933 Sullivan gave up her position as a trustee in order to open her own gallery. She gave up gallery in 1939 due to ill health. She planned to sell her collection, but died the day before the sale. Abby Rockefeller purchased two pieces of her collection, which reside at the MoMa in Sullivan’s memory.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Helen Rogers Reid

Born this day in 1882: Helen Rogers Reid (1882–1970), driving force behind the revival and success of New York Tribune/ New York Herald Tribune.

Helen Rogers was a native of Wisconsin. She worked her way through Barnard College and graduated with an A.B. degree in 1903. She then began working as a social secretary for Elisabeth Mills Reid, daughter of the financier Darius Ogden Mills, and wife of Whitelaw Reid. Mr. Reid was owner of the flagging New York Tribune. In 1911 she married their son, Ogden. Ogden inherited the newspaper from his father the following year. The couple had three  children: two sons, Whitelaw and Ogden, and one daughter, Elizabeth, who died in 1924
Helen read was active in the suffrage movement and was treasurer of the state’s suffrage campaign. She was a proponent not only of the vote, but of women’s economic independence from their husbands. She also believed that husbands should take a more direct role in running a household and raising children.
Meanwhile, the Tribune continued to lose money, despite the millions the Reid family had been injecting into it. At her husbands pleas, Helen began working at the paper, soliticiting advertisements. She combined a sharp business acumen with her extensive social contacts to attract advertisors. Two months later she was head of the advertising department. She was instrumental in the Tribune’s acquiring of the New York Herald, which resulted in the newly minted New York Heard Tribune.
Reid served as vice-president of the paper from 1922 to 1947, then as president (following the death of Ogden) from 1947 to 1953. She expanded the staff (among them many women) and introduced new features to the paper, such as gardening, cooking, that would attract a middle-class female readership and placed women in prominent editorial roles. The Herald Tribune became one of the leading papers of the nation, and through it Reid wielded political power.
In 1953 she passed the presidency on to her son Whitelaw and presided as chair of the board until 1955, after which she stepped down as chair, but remained on the board.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Abigail Adams

“Her life gave the lie to every libel on her sex
that was ever written.” —John Quincy Adams 

Born this day in 1744: Abigail Smith Adams (1744–1818)

Abigail Adams’s famous letter, in which she exhorts her husband, John Adams, to “remember the Ladies,” inspired the subtitle for this humble blog. America seems to have forgotten so many of them. Femilogue hopes to provide a gentle reminder. The women in these posts are not obscure; most were well-known in their day. It is a small irony that Abigail Adams is one of the few women whom we all know. Indeed, she appears in the pages of our children’s history books. Yet, she has often been depicted as a lovelorn helpmeet who joked about women’s rights. But remember that John Adams married up when he married Abigail Smith. He was drawn to her intellect. (Formal education was denied to her on account of her sex, so Abigail Adams taught herself, reading every book available to her. She was arguably the most well-read woman in America.) The two shared a passion for each other and for American politics. Their marriage was both a romance and a political partnership, and he considered her his closest and wisest advisor. Abigail was the more progressive of the two. She opposed slavery and taught the family’s two slaves to read and write, then freed them. She was also one of our nation’s earliest feminists. She believed strongly in rights for women, especially regarding education and marriage (and including birth control).

As a woman she was afforded little opportunity for self-expression, so she wrote letters. Lots of letters. She wrote to relatives, to friends, and to the movers and shakers in European and American political circles in which she traveled. Her grandson Charles Francis Adams began publishing her letters in 1840. In her letters she discusses family affairs, local news, and long commentaries on her favorite topic, politics.  Smart and witty, her letters give us a deeper understanding of both private and public life in Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary America. 

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marilyn French

Born this day in 1929: Marilyn French (1929–2009), feminist and author of The Women’s Room.

Marilyn French burst onto the literary scene and the feminist scene in 1977 with the publication of her first novel, The Women’s Room. The novel became a best seller, selling more than 20 million copies in the U.S. and Europe (and translated into 20 languages). It articulated women’s sense of frustration in their marriages and demonstrated the obstacles they face when trying to achieve independence and fulfillment within a patriarchal society.
French went on to produce many more books, both fiction and non-fiction. In fact, she identified as a scholar first, fiction-writer second. She is the author of such gender studies as Shakespeare’s Division of Experience (1981), Beyond Power: Women, Men & Morals (1985), The War Against Women (1992), and the three-volume From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women (2002).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Born this day in 1918: Corita Kent (Sister Mary Corita; 1918–1986), radical nun, pop artist, art teacher, social activist

Frances Kent was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but grew up in Los Angeles. In 1936 she joined the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and took the name Sister Mary Corita.
She began teaching art at Immaculate Heart College in 1947. By 1964 she would become head of the school’s art department. In 1951 Kent received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Southern California. She soon launched her career as a silkscreen artist. Kent combined elements of popular culture, such as advertising logos and slogans, with poetry, Bible verses, and Biblical imagery. Her works were powerful statements supporting both her faith and her social activism. Not surprisingly, the Vatican disapproved. It tried to stop her from making her art and tried to stop her and the other nuns of her order from modernizing.
In 1968 Kent decided to leave the order. She moved to Boston and dedicated herself full-time to her art. Her later work is characterized by joyous and bold bright colors. She willed all of her unsold work to the Immaculate Heart Community. The organization used the money to create the Corita Art Center, where they maintain the largest collection of her work. Corita’s personal collection resides at the Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts (UCLA Hammer Museum). 

Black is Beautiful 

Open Wide

The Big G Stands for Goodness

Yes to You

Anyone who's driven through Boston on the SE Expressway knows Corita!

Check out Pinterest for more Corita.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Gladys Hobby

Born this day in 1910: Gladys Hobby (1910–1993), microbiologist and clinical researcher  instrumental in the industrial development of penicillin and streptomycin.

Gladys Hobby, a native of New York City, earned a B.A. from Vassar College in 1931, a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1932, and a PhD in bacteriology from that same institution in 1935.
Between 1934 and 1943 Hobby teamed up with biochemist Karl Meyer and clinician Martin Henry Dawson to carry out research on infections diseases at the Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.  The team obtained a sample of the penicillin mold from from Alexander Fleming, who discovered it in 1928. They hoped to find a way to use it in humans.
Hobby and her team perfected the fermentation process needed to produce penicillin in quantity and were the first to perform human trials. They felt an urgent need to get the new drug to market in order to treat soldiers wounded in World War II. In 1941 they proved the drug’s effectiveness in treating a variety of infectious diseases. With U.S. entry into the war, the government became heavily interested in funding the development of the new drug.
Hobby joined the pharmaceutical company Pfizer (which was the first company to commercially produce penicillin) in 1944. There she developed streptomycin and other important drugs. In 1959 she become chief of research at the East Orange Veteran's Administration. She was also a clinical instructor and assistant professor of public health at Cornell University Medical School. She founded the monthly journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 1972, serving as its editor for nearly a decade. After “retiring” in 1977 she became a consultant and authored hundreds of popular  and academic science articles.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wilma Mankiller

Born this day in 1945: Wilma Mankiller (1945–2010), first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation (1985–1995)

Wilma Mankiller  spent her early years in Oklahoma, where her family had been forcibly relocated via the Trail of Tears. When she was 12, her father moved the family to San Francisco as part of another sort of relocation program offered by the U.S. government. The promised economic opportunities never arose, and Mankiller felt bereft of her former Cherokee community.
As a young wife and mother, Mankiller chafed under the confines of a repressive marriage. She longed to be involved in community work. She also took great inspiration from the Native American occupation of Alctraz in 1969. She attended college, studying social work and doing postgraduate work in community planning. She divorced her husband and returned to Oklahoma. Once there she reclaimed Mankiller Flats, land that had been part of a settlement to her grandfather after the forced relocation of the Cherokee.
Mankiller set to work to raising her people out of poverty. In 1981 she established the Community Development Department of the Cherokee Nation. In 1983 she became the first woman deputy chief of the Cherokee nation. In 1985 she took over as principal chief, and in 1987 she was elected principal chief, the first woman to be chief of the Cherokee nation or any major Native American nation. She won re-election in 1991, but did did not seek re-election in 1995. Mankiller faced much opposition due to her gender when she first became deputy chief. By the time she left office on 1995, however, she felt that most opposition came from people who disagreed with her policies, and not from people who opposed women running the Cherokee Nation.
Mankiller worked to improve infrastructure, develop community self-help programs, improve education and healthcare, and foster economic development. She also took steps to preserve Cherokee culture, including founding the Institute for Cherokee Literacy. She saw Cherokee values as the path to Cherokee development.
Cherokee traditional identity is tied to both an individual and collective determination to follow a good path, be responsible and loving, and help one another—or as some Cherokee traditionalists say, “Not let go of one another.” The whole self-help concept of community development and the founding of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department was based on the simple premise that when given the resources and opportunity, tradition-oriented Cherokee people will help each other and take on projects for the larger community good. Gadugi, or working collectively for the common good, is an abiding attribute of Cherokee culture. 
—Wilma Mankiller, Every Day is a Good Day (2004)

Mankiller was a prominent feminist and took a special interest in improving the lives of women. “Mankiller,” lest you get any ideas, is a name she inherited. It is a term of honor bestowed upon great warriors and one that had been in her family for generations. Without a doubt, however, she lived up to its expectations.
Mankiller was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
To get a glimpse of Mankiller’s community work, read this passage from Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within.

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