Today I put aside my competition with the construction crew of The Janey II. No way can I write the next scene in Book Three, as I remember Margot Adler, who took time from her life last year to write a review of my most recent book, The Ninth Day. She called the story “riveting.” Who could ask for more?

Still, I did.

I was hoping to meet Margot in person this fall during the reunion of participants in the 1964 Free Speech Movement. I wanted to thank her again, this time in person. I wanted her to autograph one of her books, Heretic’s Heart. I wanted, and I wanted, and I wanted.

Margot and I are not destined to meet in this lifetime, as she died yesterday. From what I understand of Margot’s Wiccan beliefs, she has made the crossing into another aspect of the continuum which, now that I think of it, is not so different from the universe-eternity olam I write about in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. […]

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I freely admit that I put Serakh out of my mind, although I did remember my promise about the prayer shawl. So much happened in 1917, and most of it I’d rather forget. The one bright spot was Jeannette Rankin, so I’ll start there.

In March of that year, when President Wilson was starting his second term, Jeannette was sworn in as the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Mim was ecstatic. Ephraim stayed home with Paul, so she and I about two dozen of our friends celebrated another victory for women. You know, some women still couldn’t vote in this country then—Wilson should have done so much more for us. But that’s water under the bridge now. And we had such a fine luncheon. Blue-ribbon trout and big sky apple pie.

By 1917 the Great War was raging full force in Europe, threatening to draw is in. […]

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What was Edna Kearns doing on June 27, 1913?

Today I turn the blog over to the Suffrage Wagon News Channel and to the story of Edna Kearns, grandmother extraordinaire. Women have achieved voting rights in the United States, and in many–but not all–parts of the world. We humans have a ways to go in achieving dignity, sustenance, and equality of opportunity for all. Still, here’s to you, Edna. […]

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A perfect ten! Nice job! Gold star!

I can think of at least a dozen ways to say that something works well or has met a standard of excellence. A phrase that was popular in the 1980s and seems to be on the rise again is “Good Housekeeping seal of approval.” According to the Google books ngramstatistics, the phrase first appeared in books about 1935. But wasn’t the seal older than that? Would Mrs. Jenkins, the housekeeper/cook in Blue Thread have heard it in 1912?

The short answer is yes. Good Housekeeping magazine started around 1885. The magazine later established a test kitchen and science laboratory of sorts and in 1909 started to give products its “Good Housekeeping Seal.” By the time Blue Thread starts in September, 1912, the magazine had established the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) led by Harvey Wiley, the first commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. […]

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It’s been over a century (101 years to be exact) since Miriam Josefsohn of Blue Thread fame attended her last class at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland. A lot has changed at the school since then, especially the extra-curricular activities. I’m sure that Miriam would have liked to join the Politics without Borders Club, and the SciFi/Fantasy Club, and the Human Rights Club. I suppose if her friend Florrie Steinbacher were still enrolled with her, the two might have considered SMA Cruisers. Here’s a photo of the 2011 team. Can you imagine them racing along the Willamette River in dragon boats?

In 1912, dragon boats were as unheard of as an SMA activity as the Harry Potter Club. But humans have been racing long-boat canoes for at least 2,000 years. Dragon boat racing gained international attention in the 1970s, and may one day have a place of its own at the Olympics. […]

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I was on vacation on May 23rd, ten time zones away from home. I had no idea that the United Nations, after years of discussing and planning, had declared May 23, 2013, as the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Countries around the globe participated. Yes!

Here are the basics about a condition that has pretty much disappeared in the United States, but plagues many impoverished women and teen-age girls in poorer countries. A fistula is essentially an abnormal passageway between two organs in a person’s body or between an organ and the surface of a body. An obstetrical fistula can happen during a very long and difficult childbirth. Tissue in the birth canal is so damaged that it dies, leaving a hole between the canal and the bladder or rectum. This condition results in permanent incontinence of urine, or feces, or both. Often the baby dies as well. Most of the women and girls are shunned by their families or communities because of their foul smell and inability to bear more children. […]

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Horse racing was in the news this past weekend, when Palace Malice, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, beat out favorites and won the Belmont Stakes. Almost exactly a century ago, suffragist Emily Wilding Davison attended Epsom Derby, the most prestigious race in Great Britain. Toward the end of the race, she stepped in front of the horse owned by King George V. In an instant, she was trampled by the horse and died of her injuries four days later on June 8, 1913.

What was Emily Davison doing? A member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), she was an ardent support of a woman’s right to vote. She had been imprisoned several time for violent protests. At Epsom Derby, she appears to have tried to put a suffrage banner on the bridle of the moving horse. Some say Davison had intended to sacrifice her life. Others say she had meant only to disrupt the race and then visit her sister in France. […]

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A couple of years back, Patricia Zanger was selling hats in Bonnet, her shop nine floors below my apartment, while I was writing Blue Thread. We were both working on revisions. I was polishing the story of Miriam and her involvement with the Osborne sisters, two milliners from Chicago who rented a tiny hat shop in northwest Portland in 1912. Downstairs in her real live shop, Patricia was taking a bolder step. Eager to provide her customers with hats they liked, Patrica decided to make her own.

Unlike the Osborne sisters, Patricia does not use toxic dyes in her hats. She buys the best materials and imports ribbon from France. She hails from New York City, not Chicago, and has owned shops for about 20 years. It takes several days to steam, shape, and stitch a hat, and then to add the finishing touches. Like the Osbornes, Patricia will sell you a ready made hat or personalize one. […]

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The actor we know as Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin) is probably most famous for his image of a man with a small mustache and a derby hat. That was not the Chaplin who appeared in “A Busy Day,” the silent film that Keystone Studios released on May 7, 1914. Growing up impoverished in Britain, Chaplin was just starting his career as an actor in the United States. “A Busy Day” is one of his lesser known films, and with good reason!

The opening scene in the movie notes that Chaplin plays the role of “the militant suffragette.” Chaplin in drag is at a parade in the United States, and he makes a fool of him (her) self. At this time in 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst and the real “militant suffragettes” (they embraced the once-derogatory name) were fighting for women’s rights. Pankhurst’s group was known at the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS). […]

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There are many women whose lives inspire us, and Women’s History Month gives us a chance learn about them. I’d also like to remind folks of a man who contributed much to supporting women as equal members of society. His name was Harry Lane. He was an ardent suffragist during the time of Blue Thread, and the day that Oregon voters passed the suffrage amendment in the state they also elected Lane to the U.S. Senate.

The biography you’ll see here was written by Kimberly Jensen for The Oregon Encyclopedia, an excellent online resource. Kimberly Jensen is an inspirational woman in her own right. A professor of History and Gender Studies at Western Oregon University, she’s the author of Oregon’s Doctor to the World: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and a Life in Activism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012), Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008) and, with Erika Kuhlman, co-editor of Women and Transnational Activism in Historical Perspective (Leiden: Republic of Letters, 2010). […]

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