Sonia Sanchez "drenches her words in honey goodness so they sound like the sweetest thang you've ever heard," The Root gushes in this feature interview, where the poet discusses what she's reading and the future of African-American literature.
Chalk the union of one man and one woman up to the good influence of their gay friends: it took a lesbian wedding for Jeremy Adam Smith to understand the importance of marriage.
Nancy Rubin Stuart is an award-winning author, journalist and writer-producer who specializes in women and social history. Her previous books include The Reluctant Spiritualist, American Empress, and Isabella of Castile. In connection with her work she has appeared on several national television series and on NPR's "Morning Edition." Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and many national magazines. She currently serves as one of the directors of the Women Writing Women's Lives Seminar at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
This past week, Beacon authors have been very active out in the world, putting a human face on immigration and talking topics spanning a wide gamut of social justice issues, including: global population, feminism, consumer choices, education, and so much more. Visit our homepage to see the many books on immigrant rights that Beacon has published. And, if you're in or around Boston, learn more about the May Day March, which will begin on Boston Common at noon on Saturday.
WNBC New York talks to Stacy and Steve Trebing about their successful struggle to save their daughter with a "savoir sibling." The family's moving story is chronicled by author Beth Whitehouse in her new book The Match.
Author Bob Moses champions a constitutional amendment to guarantee quality education, the topic of his forthcoming book Quality Education as a Constitutional Right, in The Nationarticle about the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Hear Dana Sachs talk about the nearly 3,000 "supposedly orphaned" children swept into "Operation Babylift" on NHPR's "Word of Mouth."
1. (Kathleen Cleaver) quicksilver panther woman speaking in thunder
2. (Charlayne Hunter-Gault) summer silk woman brushing the cobwebs off Southern legs
3. (Shirley Chisholm) We saw your woman sound footprinting congressional hallways
4. (Betty Shabazz) your quiet face arrived at a road unafraid of ashes . . .
5. (Fannie Lou Hamer) feet deep in cotton you shifted the country's eyes
6. (Barbara Jordan) Texas star carrying delicate words around your waist
7. (Rosa Parks) baptizer of morning light walking us away from reserved spaces
8. (Myrlie Evers-Williams) you rescued women and men from southern subscriptions of death
(Dr. Dorothy Irene Height)
helped us reconnoiter
the wonder of women
in the hurricane
of herstory . . .
Sanchez, Sonia. "9 haiku (for Freedom's Sisters)." Morning Haiku. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. Please do not distribute this work without permission. You may submit requests to reprint the work of Sonia Sanchez from titles published by Beacon Press through its website.
Today's post is from Gail Dines, author of the forthcoming book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Dines has written and lectured on the porn industry for over two decades. She is professor of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College.
For all those women who think men are interested only in sex and not conversation or intimacy, think again. A New Jersey based company, ironically called True Companion, has come out with what it calls the "the world's first sex robot". This is, according to news reports, a life-size rubber doll that has all the "necessary" orifices. Why the big news? After all, this is not the first time that the porn industry has come out with a sex doll. The company Real Doll has been around since 1996 and offers "an extensive list of options, including 10 female body types and 16 interchangeable female faces." Offering to customize the doll to the desires of the particular consumer – color and shape of pubic hair, fingernail colors, hairstyle, ethnic features etc., -- the company boasts that "If you've ever dreamed of creating your ideal partner, then you have come to the right place."
True Companion is trying to build a business on the deep insight that some men want more from their ideal partner than silent beauty. For about $8,000 True Companion offers a doll that actually talks in response to various stimuli, generating nuanced and complex sentences such as "I love holding hands with you." Douglas Hines, the owner of True Companion, wants the customer to be able to "talk and relate to" the doll because he has come to the great realization that "Sex only goes so far -- then you want to be able to talk to the person." At last, men have discovered that for most women -- and perhaps a few dolls -- conversation matters! Well, it's a start.
As ridiculous as this robot may seem to many of us, it actually makes perfect sense in a society saturated by porn, where the average age boys first view porn is 11 years. Boys and men are socialized by porn to see sex as lacking in connection, intimacy and emotion. Sex in porn is all about penetration; as chrisfjohn, commenting on the robot on the Huffington Post, said, "the great part about porn is that you don't have to deal with all of the emotions and drama of a relationship." For chrisfJohn the robot is a bit too emotionally connected -- he doesn't want to "have to listen to it talk." For Don E Chute, on the other hand, the price is a bit steep because, he calculates, for that amount he could buy "roughly, 80, $100 hookers." To be fair, many of the comments do see the problem with the robot-as-partner idea, but the misogyny still drips from their posts, as in the case of AZ85283, when he asks "Mothers, what the hell are you raising?"
Of course, it's not the mothers but the pornographic culture that is raising men who are increasingly seeing women as interchangeable with sex dolls. If a doll with three orifices can stand in for a woman, then it doesn't bode well for women who want to be seen as equal to men and deserving of full human rights. To see just how gender specific this is, can you imagine women shelling out thousands of dollars for a male doll, no matter what size his manhood, even if it did say, "can I make dinner for you"?
Mary Daly, a world-renowned radical feminist philosopher, died on January 3rd. Today's post honoring Daly is from Ann Braude, Senior Lecturer on American Religious
History and Director of the
Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School.
What color flowers do you choose for a memorial for Mary Daly? Deep red roses for radicalism and women's blood? The lighter roses seemed more calming and reflective, closer to my own mood. But would Mary have blanched at the prettiness, the conventional feminine associations of the pastels? Or would she have relished the playfulness of pink with baby’s breath? Or would she have hated the idea of roses altogether, decrying working conditions on Brazilian flower farms? I settled on deep coral roses with purple asters. The unconventional contrast seemed right, and, sadly, Mary would not be there to argue with the choice.
But she would still be arguing in my mind. Mary Daly made us think about everything: every choice, every action, every word. Because of her, generations of women and men questioned what had never been questioned before. Two dozen of us whose lives were changed by Mary Daly's work gathered on Tuesday at Harvard Divinity School to remember one of the most courageous and outrageous thinkers of the 20th century. Sitting in a circle, we recounted memories, crystalline in detail, of the extraordinary interventions of Mary and her work in our lives. Several brought missives from those who could not be present. While Mary's books are her legacy -- and all agreed that their importance has yet to be realized -- the change she wrought in so many souls is a powerful legacy as well.
Most impressively, the authors keyed into what concerns rural youths about their adult lives and how these quandaries fuel the exodus of young people from rural places. Their dilemma, in short, is between remaining as adults in rural communities where they sacrifice educational or economic opportunities or leaving beloved rural places for expanded options in urban areas. Rural kids find that they must negotiate between their commitment to place and their commitment to the American ideal of individualist achievement, an ideal increasingly difficult to reach as the economic foundations of many rural communities continue to crumble. “When moving up implies moving out,” what should young people do?
We sweltered through customs at the hands of men in gray Mao suits and women in neutral “Mad-Men”-era outfits, every heart topped by a pin of Kim Il-sung. Then over the next few days we were shown carefully presented slices of Pyongyang: the subway, for example, which we rode for a single stop, where elaborate murals of a workers’ paradise were lighted by chandeliers. We went to endless museums and parks but were sternly instructed not to speak to any locals. We took meals at restaurants where we were the only customers, and the food seemed to come from the same Western-facsimile kitchen: bread with swirls, bland fried flounder, mayonnaise-based salad served in a martini glass. Finally my mother, weary of the utter weirdness of the place, told our tour guide in Korean that we needed to try some real North Korean food.
Yet for decades, in spite of the terrible numbers, the military has managed with astonishing success to get away with responding to grievances like Krause's with silence, or denial, or by blaming "a few bad apples." But when individual soldiers take the blame, the system gets off the hook.
And it can be shown that the patterns of military sex crimes are old and widespread -- for generations, military service has transformed large numbers of American boys into sexual predators.
Today's post is from Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell's writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women's Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. Be sure to check out her Dating Jesus blog.
I want to take a moment-- belatedly so-- to thank Bro. Jimmy Carter.
Let me first say that former Pres. Carter is not of my particular theological tribe. I was raised non-denominational/ fundamentalist Christian, while Carter is maybe the world's most famous Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher Growing up, we thought Southern Baptists were in gross scriptural error-- but then, we thought everyone else was, too. I have since come to understand that we were wrong on that and on several other matters of faith, including our view of the role of women in society. In my church-- and in Carter's-- women were told to keep silent. They could and can hold no positions of authority (lest they usurp authority over a man), and their highest calling was/is to be someone's submissive partner. My highest calling at my church was to be what we called "help-meets."
Please don't tell me this is God's plan. There is no good reason-- scriptural or otherwise-- to assign to more than half the population the role of "help-meet." Do men really need that much help?
Today's post is from Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Joyce is a journalist whose writing has appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Newsweek, and other publications. She has received support from The MacDowell Colony and The Nation Institute and is former managing editor of The Revealer, a daily review of religion and the media published by NYU's Center for Religion and Media, a Pew Charitable Trusts "Center of Excellence."
I'd like to thank Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries for awarding me and Beacon Press their "2009 Vulgaria Child Catcher of the Year Award" for the publication of my recent book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, a journalistic investigation of a growing fundamentalist lifestyle that opposes all contraception and women's careers, proudly affirms biblical patriarchy, commands wives' and daughters' submission to husbands and fathers, and teaches homeschooling followers that feminism and gender equality-- even women's suffrage-- is the root of all modern social ills.
As Phillips movingly writes, nothing captures the image of this feminist bogeywoman better than the Vulgarian Child Catcher, the bloodthirsty enforcer of the "self-indulgent" child-free state documented in the historical work, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This Child Catcher, who seems possibly on loan from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, "with his net, hook, crooked black hat, odd funeral clothing, and protruding snozzola," sniffed out offending children and killed them. According to Phillips, I've done the same in my book (a "little book," he writes), which has been called by numerous critics (including evangelical flagship, Christianity Today) an empathetic and respectful entry into a lifestyle that would be easy to mock. Apparently, it takes someone with Phillips' "vision" to see that most of those reviewers are also "feminist leaders and 'child catchers' of many stripes," and that even Christianity Today has aligned itself with anti-family forces on a mission "to destroy biblical patriarchy and the Christian family."
Vision Forum, as a homeschooling publisher that has released numerous books that inform its self-proclaimed patriarchy movement-- such as Be Fruitful and Multiply, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God, Manly Men Write Manly Letters, and the succinct Manliness-- is among the subjects of Quiverfull. And I've read dozens of their titles, as well as listened to many hours of Phillips's sermons and recorded messages promoting submission and prolific motherhood to girls as young as five, and heard a number of his speeches in person in reporting this book. So it's quite an honor indeed to have beat out Barbara Walters (an also-ran nominated for scowling at the prolific Duggar clan), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (for proposing contraception coverage be included in the economic stimulus package), and even President Barack Obama (for easing stem cell restrictions). Nice tries all, but it takes a progressive press, publishing "titles too vile to name," and a feminist reporter-- preferably one "trained to become a cultural revolutionary by one of the most significant radical feminists of the 20th century, Ellen Willis"-- to fulfill the antifeminist stereotypes of Vision Forum and "[prepare] the liberal media elite to target for widespread censure and persecution those men, women, and ministries committed to historical Christian notions of male leadership, biblical femininity, and the importance that parents 'be fruitful and multiply.'"
Part of me feels undeserving of the award. After all, as several reviewers and interviewers have pointed out, much space in the book is devoted to letting Phillips and his followers speak their piece. That so much of what Phillips and his fellow travelers have said about the roles they promote for women-- that they should call their husbands "Lord," that they should view prolific motherhood to broods of ten and more children as a non-optional highest calling in life, that it's more important that their daughters are taught to serve than to read, that women shouldn't speak in church, and that those who fail in these roles are rebellious Jezebels who warrant church sanction-- struck readers as appalling and nightmarish really seems like his doing, not mine. I hate to take the credit for merely documenting the work that Phillips and co. have done, but I'm loath to turn down an award. So thank you Vision Forum. An award like this from an institution like yours is cause for pride indeed.
Today's post is from Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell's writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women's Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. This post originally appeared at her Dating Jesus blog.
Just about every time I speak in public about Dating Jesus, someone asks a question about shame.
Usually, that someone is a product of a fundamentalist church -- often my own, which clung to a fear-and-shame-based theology.
You feared going to hell.
You feared God, naturally, and Jesus's second coming because you probably weren't going to measure up.
You feared sinning -- which meant you feared your very existence because of all the things you could count on, you could count on the fact that you would sin.
You feared getting caught sinning. And if you weren't actively sinning, you feared somehow falling short or missing a rule or living your life in scriptural error.
I don't think the guilt and shame and fear is restricted to my own church, though. I've talked to Catholics and Baptists and Jews who feel if not the same thing, then something similar.
So for years, for shame's sake, I didn't speak up and the words I held back burned like acid in my throat. For shame's sake, I didn't try for that scholarship, that job, that life partner because I didn't think myself worthy. For shame's sake, I sold myself short and settled into a life that was absolutely not of my choosing. For shame's sake, I all but lived as a religious aesthete, and when I turned to my religion for my reward, my religion told me I still wasn't worthy.
For shame's sake, I stopped going to church because I couldn't stand that I wasn't worthy. I couldn't try harder than I already did. I couldn't attend more services, teach more classes, be a nicer person than I already was. And I couldn't understand why God couldn't just love me for me, and not for what I could be.
So I reopened my Bible and tried to find scriptural backing for how I was feeling, but for shame's sake, I kept going back to those verses that (according to the interpretation handed to me by my church) reiterated that I, as a woman, could not walk directly to the throne, that I, as a woman, was to keep myself silent in the assembly and not usurp authority over men.
For shame's sake, I pulled a cloak around me and curled up into a ball.
And then, I decided to read other verses, listen to other voices rather than the ones in my head that were put there years ago by (I assume) well-meaning people who wanted to guarantee (I assume) that I when I died, I would go to heaven.
And the more I read, the more I realized that I don't want to go to their heaven. They can have that heaven. I wanted a heaven that would accept me and love me and let me be as exalted as I needed to be, as I deserved to be, as a daughter of God. I wanted a heaven that would embrace men and women equally fiercely.
For my own sake -- and the sake of God who loves people like me, too -- I let go of a lot of the shame because it no longer suited or served me. And you can't make me pick it up again. It's too heavy and I have more important things to hold.
For my sake, I came to know and embrace this: Fear has nothing to do with love, nor love with fear. And shame is completely beside the point.
Today's post is from Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell's writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women's Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. Campbell blogs at the Hartford Courant and at her Dating Jesus blog.
As exciting a prospect as it may be, I don't think we are quite ready for the big balloon-drop to celebrate gender equality.
For what else could we be celebrating when we hear that we're in a post-feminist era?
I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but maybe you've heard the rumblings, too. Earlier this year, commentators called Michelle Obama a post-feminist (look, she's married and she has a job!), and no less an entity than the New York Times referred to the era in which we live as a "post-feminist" one in a promo asking that age-old and impossible-to-answer question, "What Do Women Want?"
We all know what "post" means, right? After-the-fact--as if feminism had served its purpose, and it's time to move on to a new era, a more egalitarian one. We can take all that energy that we were putting into correcting gender inequality in the boardroom, the military, and the pulpit and--I don't know--end the war or something.
Sarah Palin's decision not to pay for rape kits when she was mayor of Wasilla was an issue in the campaign for the White House. But allow me to introduce the large pink elephant that has been sitting quietly in the corner of the room:
At the Winter Soldier Investigation* in March, Spec. Patricia McCann, who served in Iraq with the Illinois Army National Guard from 2003-4, read a memo issued to all MEDCOM commanders clarifying that "SAD kits"-- which are forensic rape kits--"are not included in TRICARE coverage."
TRICARE, the United States Department of Defense Military Health System that covers active duty members, will only pay for rape kits if the victim is seen in a military or a VA facility.
But the Pentagon acknowledges that 80 percent of military rapes are never reported. And that 80 percent who go off-base to protect their anonymity (and/or their careers) are on their own. If a soldier is on leave, or is five-hours from the nearest VA, or if a soldier is simply delivered to the nearest hospital by the local ambulance driver, their rape kits are not covered under TRICARE. Neither are other forensic exams that might be used in domestic violence situations.
Front-line treatment shouldn't be conditional on where a rape occurs or where the nearest treatment is available. This is not only a parity issue, but a further obstacle to treatment and justice.
Today's post is from Patricia Harman, author of The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir. Harman got her start as a lay-midwife on the rural communes where she lived in the '60s and '70s, going on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives and works near Morgantown, West Virginia, and has three sons. In the interest of privacy, the names and some identifying details of the women she discusses in this post have been changed.
I am standing in the exam room, in the Women's Health Center, listening to the rapid heartbeat of a four-month-old fetus on a Doppler. The patient, Carey McDonald, 17, a slim blond cheerleader, is alone today. Sometimes her mother, a single waitress, comes with her. The father of the baby, a star football player on the hometown team, denies paternity. "But it's his!" Carey told me. "It is! He's the only boy I've ever been with and even that was only two times." Carey and her mom will raise this baby together.
I don't ask the young woman if she thought of using a condom. I don't ask her if she had access to a birth control clinic. I don't ask if her mother ever talked to her about sex or if she had sex education classes at school. It's too late for that now.
Natalie Lopez is a 29-year-old travel agent. She's seven weeks pregnant and accompanied, at this first exam, by her lover of three years. "I can't take birth control pills because of the other medications I'm on, but we used protection every time." Her eyes water over and she hands me a folded white paper on which are printed the names of two antidepressants and a mood stabilizer. "We want to be parents. I've always wanted a baby. But I can't have this one. The medications I'm on are toxic and there's a high chance the child will be born with a congenital defect."
My son Ansel always hated the notion, growing up, that he should hang around with other "disabled' kids. If I tried to hook him up with the other physically challenged boy in his school, or wanted to send him to muscular dystrophy camp, he resisted. "Mom," he'd complain," Just because I use a wheelchair doesn't mean I have anything in common with other people in wheelchairs." He thought that, even though muscular dystrophy was a genetic illness he had, it was only a very small part of who he was. And I had to rather reluctantly agree.
I'm reminded of that now in the weeks since the Palin nomination--weeks when apparently even so-called liberal women with "special" children have to remind themselves of their political affiliation because of what I see as their weird identification with Ms. Palin, and Trig, her now-famous Down's syndrome son, displayed like a new brooch at the Republican convention and the Vice Presidential debate.
Well, even though I do have a couple of things in common with Ms. Palin—I am a working woman; I do have a disabled child—I cannot for a moment ally myself or identify with her; in fact I abhor everything she stands for. She does not represent my interests, she will, I believe make it harder and more costly than ever to care for a child with a disability, and she would like to forbid other couples from making their own complex personal choices about having a child with special needs.
"To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators." Helen Benedict on why soldiers rape.
"To us sofa slouchers, these teen Olympians are heroes. But they have the nation's pediatricians on edge." A Baltimore Sun op-ed by Mark Hyman about young athletes. Also check out Hyman answering questions about how to be a good sports parent.
"They're being asked now to tighten their belts, and there simply aren't any notches left, so that I think what we're going to see is people going into a huge amount of debt." Nan Mooney, author of Not Keeping Up With Our Parents, on NewsHour (available in transcript, audio or video).
"At the nation's extreme western edge, sitting over 2500 miles from the U.S. mainland, Kauians are as vulnerable to high food and energy costs as a people can be." At the Slow Food Nation blog, Mark Winne highlights the special challenges faced by a Hawaiian food bank.
"There's historical truth, which I don't discount at all, and there is, co-existing with it, a deeper truth about what it is to be a person and what it is to live your life in alignment with the sacred." Danya Ruttenberg, author of Surprised by God, at the Cultural Criticism and Beauty Tips blog.
Kathryn Joyce, on the Canadian show SexTV, talks about Quiverfull, a growing sect in the Christian patriarchy movement that is the subject of her forthcoming book. The excerpt of the show also features a woman who was excommunicated from her church for divorcing her husband.
At the Root, Kai Wright discusses the hit black homeowners are taking in the mortgage foreclosure crisis, a topic he addressed earlier in this excellent article at The Nation. Kai has previously contributed to Beacon Broadside on gay teens and James Baldwin.
The big question now, said Lori Anne Ferrell, a professor of early modern history and literature at Claremont Graduate University, is this: "Can you imagine the reaction if word got out that a president of the United States cut out Bible passages with scissors, glued them onto paper and said, 'I only believe these parts?' "
And in the department of "Wow, I feel old," the naked baby on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermindis now 17. They grow up so fast!
Should we think that our current problems as a nation—the falling value of the dollar, a perilous dependence upon overseas products, an administration that favors the wealthy over the ordinary man, and an edgy attitude towards women in politics—are unique to 2008, they also worried a nearly forgotten Founding Mother over two hundred and twenty years ago.
Her name was Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), America's first female playwright and historian, fervent patriot and close friend of John and Abigail Adams. Years before the Democratic presidential primary that brought Hillary Rodham Clinton to the brink of nomination this spring, I was intrigued by Mercy Otis Warren's spunk, her close association with leaders of the American Revolution and her determination to promote core patriotic values. That woman's voice in politics was forbidden—indeed, considered a scandal—Mercy refused to accept, exemplified by her popular and prolific, anonymously bylined plays, poems and essays.
Like many successful career women today, Mercy had a father who encouraged her to excel, which in colonial America meant she was tutored alongside her Harvard-bound brother James "the Patriot" Otis. Alas, for the brainy, literary Mercy a college education was impossible. Instead, she was expected to spend her life as a conventional colonial woman, cooking, sewing, making soap and candles, and eventually to marry and bear children.
Her husband, James Warren, apparently understood the "inner" Mercy from the start for he filled their Plymouth, Massachusetts home with books and encouraged her to read and write. Especially the latter. During the tense pre-Revolutionary years, in between birthing and raising five sons, Mercy began by writing poetry. In that, the first outpouring of her heart about the joys of nature, family events and musings upon human destiny, Mercy revealed herself in the full flower of womanhood, grateful for her sons, her husband, domestic felicity and the warmth of friends.
Historians have written little about that young, womanly Mercy. Today she is largely celebrated for her anti-British and anti-Tory plays, essays and especially her life's work, the 1805, three-volume, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution which extolled the patriotic values that spawned that extraordinary democratic experiment. While long encouraged to that task by her old mentor, John Adams, it was, ironically, the only Jeffersonian interpretation of the Revolution published in that era.
Those who read Mercy Otis Warren's works often struggle with her high-toned style, but as I studied her life I became impressed with her tender, feminine side. As she witnessed the outbreak of violence in 1775 in Massachusetts and the subsequent hardships the British occupation caused its residents, that womanly side grew increasingly protective, hidden under a steely insistence upon the democratic principles of the early patriots. By then, Mercy had already begun to speak out in a series of popular, widely published, often plagiarized anti-British and anti-Tory propaganda plays. To protect her both from British persecution and colonial mockery as a woman writer, her identity was kept secret.
Mercy's primary concern in 1775-1776, as she often wrote to her husband James, then President of the Provincial Congress, was his safety and that of her sons. Nevertheless, a future where her family and fellow citizens' "natural rights" would be compromised was equally unthinkable. Self-sacrifice was imperative if the patriots were to triumph over oppression.
Later, during the heady, materialistic days of the new republic, Mercy continued to remind her fellow Americans of the dangers of forgetting the core values that sparked the Revolution –fair play, honesty, thrift and national self-sufficiency.
By the late 1780s, Mercy's tolling messages in print became a reality for, by then, the young republic was mired in an economic depression. Faced with a towering national debt, a falling currency system, swamped with imported luxuries and lacking many basic commodities, America was veering towards the type of disaster, Mercy, her husband James and other "old-fashioned patriots" of the Revolution had repeatedly predicted.
Could Mercy return to the United States today, she would doubtless feel dismayed once again, especially since many of those excesses she lamented in the early Federal era were seemingly resolved before her death in 1814.
Nor did the first draft of the U.S. Constitution in late 1787 relieve Mercy's anxieties. Admittedly, the young nation stood "in need of a strong federal government that would support the prosperity and union of the colonies," but, as Mercy wrote, had not the first patriots "struggled for liberty" for all men?
In reaction, Mercy published (once again anonymously) an influential treatise in May 1788 entitled "Observations on the New Constitution," arguing for the necessity of a list of "natural rights" to protect the ordinary man. Among the key rights Mercy advocated were freedom of speech, freedom of the press, trial by jury in civil cases, and restrictions on the power of the executive branch of government by the judicial and legislative bodies—points which, eighteen months later, became part of the Bill of Rights.
This Fourth of July is also celebrated as Mercy Otis Warren Day at the Barnstable County Courthouse in Massachusetts, where a statue of Mercy Otis Warren stands with one arm raised holding up the Bill of Rights to which she was an unsung, but recently discovered, contributor.
For me, as for any student of American history, that statue is a powerful reminder of a Founding Mother's immortal warning about the human tendency to abuse power, but also the potential we have as individuals to make our voices heard.
Last fall, I began to study single women in India in preparation for attending a Women’s Studies conference in New Delhi in January 2008. I knew beforehand that marriage was even more dominant there, and that the number of single women was proportionally much smaller. I found census figures as confirmation: 89.5% of Indian women between the ages of 25-59 are married, as compared with 65% of American women in the same age group. As for the unmarried women in that age group, the "never marrieds" account for 2.5% in India versus 16% in the U.S., while the percentage of divorced women in that population is 17% in the U.S. as opposed to a mere 1% in India. The percentage of Indian widows is 7%, higher than the 2% rate in America. (Sources: 2000 U.S. Census, 2001 Indian Census).
I expected to find feminist organizing of Indian widows, since their plight has been widely publicized. Nor was I surprised to find that the long-standing, large, and diverse Indian women’s movement focused on issues such as marriage/family reform and ending violence against women (including rape, wife-beating and wife-burning), as well as addressing women’s poverty, and caste and class differences. I was startled, however, to discover concrete examples of Indian feminists bringing together diverse groups of single women (e.g., the never-married, divorced, deserted wives and widows), agitating for recognition of their common interests as singles. In America, our women’s movement has never done so. In reflecting on the possible reasons why Indian feminists have organized singles while we in the U.S. have not, I gained insights into how our women’s movement could initiate a new campaign to address the needs of U.S. women who spend an increasing percentage of their life span single.