Monday, December 31, 2012

Passings: Notable women who left us in 2012

With the passing of another year, we pause to remember those who are no longer with us.  Featured here are a few of them.

Even though they are gone, their words and deeds will continue to inspire us for years to come, and in that way, they will live forever.

Blessed be.

Adrienne Rich

Feminist poet and essayist.

Read her poem "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers."

Helen Gurley Brown

Former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and known as the original "Cosmo Girl."  Wrote "Sex and the Single Girl."

Helen Milliken

Michigan's former first lady and advocate for women's rights, including the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive rights.  She skipped the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Republican National Convention, held in Detroit, after the party removed pro-ERA language from its platform and joined a protest march outside.

Florence Green

Believed to be the last surviving veteran of World War I, Green served in Britain's Royal Air Force.  She worked on the home front as a waitress in the officer's mess.  However, her service was not officially recognized until 2010.  She died Feb. 4, just short of her 111th birthday.

Nora Ephron

Journalist, blogger, essayists, screenwriter and filmmaker.

Sally Ride

One of the ultimate barrier breakers, she was the first American woman to fly in space.

Susan "Suzie" Kienscherf

Acting as a good Samaritan, Suzie was killed while trying to assist a fellow motorist after an accident.  A resident of Troy, Mich., she volunteered with Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue, fed feral cats in her neighborhood and found homes for a box of kittens someone left on her front lawn. 

You don't have to be famous to make a difference, because there's no such thing as an insignificant life.

The New York Times' list of notable deaths from 2012

Feminist icons appear on "Wall of Frame"

The "Wall of Frame" at House of Optical in Clawson, Mich.
I couldn't resist sharing this image of a delightful local landmark.

This is the "Wall of Frame" featured on the wall of House of Optical in Clawson, Mich. where I have purchased my eye glasses and contact lenses for many years. 

The company commissioned the work from a local artist when it moved to its present location at 329 14 Mile Road about 13 years ago.  According to the staff, it has been touched up several times over the years.

Three women can be readily identified in the tribute to famous spectacle wearers.

Third from the right, next to Elvis, is tennis great Billy Jean King.  According to World Team Tennis, she won "39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbleton," but she is perhaps best remembered for winning the tennis "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973 against Bobby Riggs.  She is also an outspoken advocate for social change and equality and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Slightly less prominent, but no less important, is journalist, activist and Ms. Magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem.  That's her toward the middle in back of John Belushi, next to Larry King.  In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Gloria:  In Her Own Words."

Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg is also featured just off center to the right of Larry King.

This is just another example of how feminist connections can be found all around us, we just have to open our eyes and look for them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From Cherie's Kitchen: A holiday treat, Andre Black's Carrot Cake

In my family, as in many others, baking is holiday tradition.  Even people who don't cook or bake the rest of the year will be out in the kitchen measuring flour, sugar and butter to recreate old, traditional recipes or try out new ones.

Andre Black's Carrot Cake is one of my favorites.  It was clipped from The Detroit News years ago and was saved in my old-fashioned recipe card file.  Since then, it has made its way to a multitude of Internet recipe sites. 

It is a great new tradition for Thanksgiving or as an alternative to a traditional Christmas fruit cake.

The cake is a Detroit original.  It won Andre Black, a local culinary student, a $10,000 scholarship to Johnson and Wales College, now Johnson and Wales University.  His recipe was one of 19 winners chosen from 270 entries.

Because the recipe was written in professional baking terms, it was adapted for home cooks by food writer and author Robin Mather.

The cake is vegetarian, but not vegan because it contains eggs.  (If you're feeling adventurous, you could experiment with a commercial egg replacer like Ener-G, or maybe applesauce.)

The recipe may be prepared as a three-layer cake, but I like to keep it simple in a single 13-by-9-inch pan and baking it for about an hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  I've also made the recipe as cupcakes.

Also included is Black's cream cheese frosting recipe.  It makes an ample amount, so slather on a generous amount and enjoy.

Is baking a feminist act?  Vegan chef and blogger Lagusta Yearwood thinks so.  Read her essay here.

Andre Black's Carrot Cake


3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup & two tablespoons salad oil
2 cups & 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup & two tablespoons crushed, drained pineapple
1 cup & two tablespoons crushed walnuts
1 cup raisins


1/2 cup softened margarine or butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 pound confection sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fareheit.  Grease and flour three eight-inch layer pans, or one 13-by-9-inch pan (see my note above.)
  • Combine eggs, sugar and oil.  Beat on high speed until creamy and thick, three to five minutes.
  • Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
  • Slowly add one-third of dry igredients to egg mixture; beat well.  Repeat with remaining dry ingredients, beating well after each addition.  Batter will be extremely stiff; it may be necessary to blend with a spatula or spoon.
  • One by one, fold in coconut, carrots, pineapple, walnuts and raisins.  Divide batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes for layers, or one hour for 13-by-9-inch pan or until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  For layers:  Let cool in pans five minutes, then turn out on rack to cool completely.  (I usually frost my 13-by-9-inchn cake right in the pan.)
  • Prepare frosting by combining ingredients and beating until smooth.  Frost cakes when they are completely cool.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Honoring women veterans means addressing their unique needs at home

I love this graphic that Women's Rights News posted on its Facebook page:

There are currently 1.9 million women veterans in the United States.  Another 50,000 servicewomen will be coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Many of those will be returning with serious physical and emotional wounds. Homecoming is not easy, and is not always met with empathy and understanding. 

"When we come back, we're not looked at as veterans," Layla Mansberger said during an interview with the PBS program "To the Contrary." 

"People think, 'Oh, you just served, you didn't see any combat.' I was told that I wasn't even in a combat zone.  I was in Iraq! I got bombed every other day."

Mansberger's story is part of the 2011 documentary film "Service: When women come marching home" by Marcia Rock and Patricia Lee Stotter. The film features the stories of eight women veterans as they struggle "to find their way home." 

While serving as a food service specialist at Tallia Air Force Base, Mansberger was sexually assaulted.

She's not alone.  Military Sexual Trauma affects one out of three U.S. servicewomen and is addressed in the film.

"It seemed like no one cared what really happen to me," Mansberger said on the film's website.

"It wasn't until I was introduced to several other women vets that have suffered MST that I was finally attended to in any fashion."

Although their film project is complete, Rock and Stotter continue to reach out to women veterans through social media and podcasts.  Visit the film's website,
See a a preview of "Service: When women come marching home" here:

Related links:

VA report:  "Strategies for Serving Our Women Veterans"

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America report: Women Warriors: Supporting She 'Who Has Borne the Battle," October 2009

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A day for Malala

Malala Yousafzai recovering in an English hospital.
Malala Yousafzai, 15, is sitting up and reading at a hospital in England.  She is recovering from being shot in her native Pakistan last month after the Taliban targeted her as a threat simply because she wants an education.

Yousafzai is a young advocate for girls' education in her homeland.  She became known as "The Anne Frank of Pakistan" after the BBC aired a series of her video diaries chronicling her activism.

According to a report submitted to the United Nations' Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) by the Global Campaign for Education, "Only four in 10 of Pakistani women over the age of 15 can read and write, compared to 70% of men. This dramatic educational disadvantage is the result of a deeply unequal education system. Although girls’ enrolment (sic) rates have improved, the net rate at primary level is still just 60%, compared to 72% for boys. At secondary level, the performance is even more
appalling (although the gender difference is smaller): the net enrolment (sic) rate for girls is just 29%. Altogether, more than 8 million girls of school age (primary and secondary) are not in school."

The report cites widespread violence against women in Pakistan as a major detriment to girls' education.  In northern Pakistan, the report says, "...girls’ access to education was 'severely'
restricted because of their families’ fear of violence whilst traveling."

Additionally, "Violent acts committed mainly by men against women within the context of the
subordinate status of women which society seeks to preserve include domestic violence; sexual violence; traditional harmful practices including female genital mutilation, honor killing and dowry-related violence; and human trafficking."

The report also notes that "strict family, tribal and religious customs (that have) become cultural norms" also play a role.

The shooting of Malala Yousafzai is certainly an illustration of patriarchy at its ugliest.

Today, the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the UN's special envoy fo reducation, have called for a Global Day of Action in honor of Malals Yousafzai and ask that you share her story with friends and family.

Why not post this image as your Facebook cover and include a link to this post:

The right to education is a social, cultural, civil and political right not to be taken for granted.

Related Links:

Women in the World Foundation
A petition to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize
Read the report, "Gender Discrimination in Education: The violation of rights of women and girls"

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lilly Ledbetter shows "Grace and Grit" with Colbert

Watch Lilly Ledbetter on the Colbert Report

But is her namesake law enough to prevent wage discrimination?

"I read the scribbled words and my heart jerked as if an electric jolt had coursed through my body ... I'd never gotten a note like that before.  Someone had listed my name and those of three other tire-room managers with salaries next to each name.  My salary was exactly correct, down to the dollar.  Over the years, I'd worried about being paid less than the men who were doing the same work I was, but I didn't have any proof ... But now there it was in plain black ink, what's I'd always feared:  The other managers, all men, were making more than I was."  -- "Grace and Grit:  My fight for equal pay and fairness at Goodyear and beyond" by Lilly Ledbetter and Lanier Scott Isom

Lilly Ledbetter became the face of equal pay when President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in January of 2009.  She has now written a book titled "Grace and Grit: My fight for equal pay and fairness at Goodyear and beyond." 

Some background:  Ledbetter was an overnight supervisor with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for over 19 years.  She discovered she was making 40 percent less than male coworkers who were doing the same job.

"That was a devastating hit for me because it meant that my overtime was incorrect ... and it also meant that my retirements would not be correct," Ledbetter told Stephen Colbert during a recent appearance on "The Colbert Report."

Ledbetter sued Goodyear and was awarded $3 million in damages.  However, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court when it was found that Ledbetter missed the 180-day limit for complaints set the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed major forms of discrimination based on race, sex and religion.

The Ledbetter law amended the 1964 act so that the 180-day statute of limitations resets with each new paycheck affected by the discriminatory action.

Ledbetter is sharing her story because she does not want what happened to her to happen to other families.  But is her namesake law enough to prevent pay discrimination?

Jamie Peck, a contributing editor for The Gloss, says no.  Here's why:

"The most glaring issue I have with it is that it does nothing to empower victims of discrimination to figure out whether they’re being discriminated against in the first place" says Peck.

"As of now, companies are under no obligation to disclose how much they’re paying all of their employees, which leaves those who are potentially being discriminated against to ask their co-workers what they are making. This is generally thought of as being a “rude” question, so many never bother to ask. And even when they do ask, many won’t tell, because…well, because they don’t have to!"

What she's talking about is wage transparency, which is basically the freedom for employees to share salary information -- or to ask their employers for this information -- without fear of discipline, discrimination or dismissal from their employers.

 Colorado passed a transparency law in 2008.

According to the National Law Journal,Coloado Senate Bill 08-122 "... applies only to employers who are subject to the NLRA and makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, discipline, discriminate against or in any way interfere with any employee who had 'inquired about, disclosed, compared, orotherwise discussed the employee’s wages.' It also prohibits making nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages a condition of employment or requiring employees to sign awaiver of “the right to disclose” their wage information."

Similarly, California labor law prohibits "employer limitations on when, how and with whom their employees may discuss their wages. The California law also explicitly prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign a waiver of the right to disclose their wage information."

Here in Michigan, I found, under Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits, Act 390 from 1978 which states that an employer shall not "(a) Require as a condition of employment nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages. (b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document which purports to deny an employee the right to disclose his or her wages. (c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate against for job advancement an employee who discloses his or her wages."

A new bill that would amend this Act to permit employees to ask their employer for the compensation rates of those in similar jobs was proposed in the spring, but I can't find any evidence of further action.

Adoption of wage transparency laws would be the next step in the fight against wage discrimination. But, until they are widely adopted, Lilly Ledbetter, and those like her, must continue to tell their stories to keep the issue of equal pay in the public eye and on the agenda of legislatures.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Women propel Obama into second term and make some HERstory of their own in the process

President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term, and women played a role in his success.

Women voters favored Obama 55 percent to 43 percent over challenger Mitt Romney, according to NBC News.

Meanwhile, political analysts are saying that the Republican party failed to recognize the changing demographics of ethnicity and gender.  ABC News analyst Matt Dowd called the GOP a "'Mad Men' party in a 'Modern Family' America ..."

While some women celebrated political victories, others experienced defeat and disgrace.  Here are some highlights and milestones from the 2012 race:

  • There are now 20 women in the U.S. Senate.  Among them is Elizabeth Warren who will serve as the first female senator from Massachusetts.
  • There was also an interesting defeat.  Republican Linda McMahon, a former executive with World Wrestling Entertainment, lost her second bid for a Connecticut Senate seat.  She spent $10 million of her own money on her two campaigns.
  • In my home state of Michigan, State Representative Lisa Brown (D), won her bid for Oakland County Clerk.  Earlier this year, the Michigan House of Representatives censured Brown for saying the word "vagina" in a floor debate over abortion legislation.

  • Also in Michigan, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy won re-election. Worthy was also recognized in the November issue of O, The Oprah Magazine as one of "12 Elected Officials Who Get Things Done." She was also honored by the Wayne County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) as a "feminist of the year."

  •  In my home town of Troy, Mich., Mayor Janice Daniels was recalled after almost a year in office. According to Crain's Detroit Business, "Daniels, who had opposed taking federal money for a regional transit center in the city and drew fire from a former city manager and gay rights supporters in just one year of public office, had 47.8 percent of the votes in her favor in a local recall election ballot measure. The recall effort passed by 1,800 votes."
Want more post-election analysis?

The American Association of University Women will host a post-election conference call Monday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m.  Lisa Maatz, the AAUW's director of public policy and government relations, will provide analysis of election results as well as an overview of how women voted and their impact on the results.  Preregistration is required.  Use this link to RSVP.