I can’t believe the month is almost over! It seems like yesterday that it started with my book release. I was supposed to post this way earlier in the month, but things have gone crazy round these parts (in a good way…more on that in a future post) so I’ve had very little time for author stuff.
I had the pleasure of being asked by my fellow author Janis Daly to participate in her 31 Titles for Women’s History Month promotion. This list is chock full of my friends and writers I admire, like Kate Quinn, Lauren Willig, Susan Vreeland, Sarah Bird, Alison Weir, Marie Benedict, Paula McClain, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Tracey Chevalier, Jennifer Chiaverini, Susan Meissner, Therese Anne Folwer and more.
In fact, I’ve read 11 of these books already! I’m making it my personal challenge to read the rest by the end of the year. And to be listed among them is such a great honor! I hope you will take a look at them and find (or more!) that you like.
I’d also like to thank Janis for having me and Madame Presidentess as part of this promotion and to highlight her new release The Unlocked Path, which is about Eliza Pearson Edwards, who was one of the early graduates of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Janis is also taking suggestions for her 2024 list, so if you can think of any, please drop her a note!
Remember, women’s history isn’t just for March! It should be celebrated all year long!
Today is International Women’s Day, which is part of Women’s History Month (post on that coming soon). Today is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
But it is equally important to look at how far we still have to go. I wrote this last August for Women’s Equality Day (August 26) but never posted it. That means the numbers are slightly out of date, likely still accurate. I have updated dates and the references to “this year” mean 2023.
Women are FAR from equal in the United States. Despite being one of the most advanced and powerful nations on the planet, we rank 51 out of 149 countries in gender equality. To put this in perspective, all of our neighboring countries are doing better than we are: Canada is #16, Cuba is #23 and Mexico is #50.
This is due in part to the fact that white women earn only 82 cents for every dollar men make, and the numbers are even worse for women of color. Black women earn only 70 cents and Latina women, 65 cents for every man’s dollar. In addition, our government is far from equal. In the most gender-equal country, Iceland, women hold nearly 40% of parliamentary seats. In the United States, while we have a record number of women serving in Congress, we are still in the minority, with only 27% of members being female (24 of 100 seats in the Senate and 120 of 435 seats in the House).
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ERA–which still hasn’t been passed. The United States is one of only seven United Nations member states who do not have an Equal Rights law in their constitution (193 countries do) or a provision that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex (115 additional countries do). The other six countries without such a law are Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Tonga.
Now, you may argue that other laws such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment together mean equality for women. But they don’t. Court rulings and interpretations in the years since they were passed make it nearly impossible to prove gender discrimination in a court of law and leaving women open to the repeal or reversal of their rights at any time.
Women in the United States have been fighting to pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution since Alice Paul first introduced it in 1923. The fight really gained steam in the 1970s and for a while it looked like it might pass, but the June 30, 1982, ratification deadline saw the ERA three states short of ratification. The ERA was considered dead until it was revived in March 2017 by Senator Pat Spearman. Nevada quickly became the 36th state to pass it, followed by Illinois and Virginia.
As of today, 38 states have ratified the ERA, enough for it to become law, though a few are trying to rescind their ratification. So what’s the holdup? That pesky 1982 deadline, which is not part of the law itself, but was put forth in its proposal. The Senate has voted to drop the arbitrary time limit for ratification and the measure has been waiting in the Senate since March 17, 2021. There has been no sign of movement and given current political trends, despite the need for it being greater than ever, it doesn’t look like the ERA will become law anytime soon.
Unfortunately, the future outlook for gender parity in the U.S. isn’t a sunny one, either. The U.S. loses about 2% in its gender equality score each year due to the factors outlined above, as well as a downward trend in women’s education and low political participation. The World Economic Forum estimates that at this rate, it will take another 208 years to close the gender gap in the United States.
What You Can Do
While this may seem depressing and a reason for apathy, these statistics should actually enliven and fuel us. As with the suffrage movement, it is only when women band together to demand their rights that change takes place. You CAN make a difference. Here are some suggestions to get involved:
The single most powerful thing you can do is VOTE! As we have seen in close elections in previous years, every single vote makes a difference. Whether you are voting for your local school board or president of the United States, you are influencing the future of our government, schools and political environment.
Join women’s advocacy groups like the League of Women Voters, the American Academy of University Women (AAUW), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) or the YWCA USA. There are local chapters of every national group in most major and some smaller cities.
Contact your local, state and national representatives. Today it is easier than ever to advocate for change. Email, call or write your representatives, or talk to them on social media. Sign petitions online or when approached. Your representatives are meant to represent you and your thoughts and they can best do that when they know what is on your mind.
Run for office. Not everyone is suited to be in politics, but those who are should toss their proverbial hat into the ring. Even if you only serve on a school board or county council, you are increasing the number of women in politics and setting a positive example for future generations of women and girls.
Advocate for women in your workplace. Don’t forget that doing your best work can get you promoted. By mentoring or being mentored, you’re shoring up the future of Mercy leadership. And don’t forget to consider female candidates (especially those of color) when you’re hiring.
Educate yourself. The more you know, the more of an informed voter you are and the better you can educate your children. You might want to start with current events, then look into the history of how that situation came to be and then brank off into other aspects. Try to get your information form credible sources and always be wary of information you see on social media.
Speak up and speak out. Each one of us has a voice and no matter what our culture says, we have the exact same right to use it as men do. Speak up in meetings; don’t let your male co-workers mansplain or talk over you. If you are active on social media, take a stance when you see injustice being done. (But please keep Mercy’s social media policy in place if where you work is known or can easily be identified.) Attend protests and rallies if you are so moved.
You can even help by joining women across the country who are fighting to get Women’s Equality Day recognized as a National Day of Celebration, the first step toward eventually making it a National Holiday.
As it is said, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” which means we also hold half the power in the world. If every woman did her part, together with our male allies we could affect major change.
The book that started with a passing reference in my research for Madame Presidentess and the question of “what else is other there about Virginia?” quickly turned into “why has no one else written about them?” And now it is out in the world!
I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m dreaming big with this book. Some of you have already heard me say that I’ve had a Pulitzer Prize in mind in since I started researching–and I’m holding to that. I’m also nursing a *small* hope I will hit the New York Times bestseller list with this book. (If you want to help out, I’ve got a page with graphics and info on it that you can share. No pressure at all.)
So you want to buy the book? Thank you so much. Here is every buy link that I am aware of:
If you’re store of choice isn’t here, please check their website and put in my name or the book title. If you are going to a brick and mortar store, if they don’t have it, they will be able to order it for you.
Other things you can do to help:
Share information on social media.
If you’re on TikTok, make a brief video using #booktok.
If you’re on Instagram, share graphics using #bookstagram
Encourage your friends and family to buy it.
Write an honest review on Amazon. (One sentence is enough!)
Ask for it at your local libraries, schools, and bookstores.
Recommend it to your book club (I do in person and online visits).
Anything else you can think of to persuade people to buy it.
Thank you all so much for all of your support. I’m very excited that Virginia and Francis are finally getting their due more than 120 years after their deaths. This is the most important work I’ve done to date and I hope everyone finds it as fascinating as I did.
PS – Did you know there is a lot of information that didn’t make it into the book? Check it out here.
Ruth Janetta Temple was born in Natchez, Mississippi on Nov. 1, 1892. She was the second child of Amy Morton and Richard Jason Temple and had five living siblings and two others who died young.
Her parents were both well-educated. Her father was a graduate of Denison University in Ohio and the University of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor of divinity in 1887 and became a Baptist minister. Her mother held a teaching degree from Shaw University in North Carolina. They believed in the value of education for their children and their neighbors, often opening their vast personal library to community members for research.
The philosophy of humanism—which places the emphasis in life on the potential value/goodness of people over the divine or supernatural and seeks rational ways to solve problems—guided the family’s moral code. Her father sought to make their home into a place where people of all faiths were welcome. He once said, “”People will come into our house. All people, all kinds of people, of all race, all creeds, all colors, and all educational backgrounds. Our children will learn love before they learn hate.” Ruth’s mother agreed and often brought those less fortunate to their home to give them food and clothing.
When Ruth was 10, her father died suddenly, leaving her heartbroken, as the two were very close. Two years later her family moved to Los Angeles. The children had previously been homeschooled by their mother, but she had to go back to work to provide for them. Her teaching license wasn’t valid in California, so she became a nurse.
With her mother away at work, Ruth went to public school and cared for her siblings. When she was 13, Ruth witnessed her brother’s frightening brush with death when a gunpowder experiment went wrong and blew up in his face. He ended up with only a singed eyebrow, but she found her calling: to take away the pain of others. Later, she recalled, “at that time I thought that women were nurses. I didn’t know they were doctors. When I learned that women were doctors, I said `Ah, that’s what I want to be’.”
The Temple family converted to Seventh-day Adventism in 1908 and co-founded the Furlong Track Church, the first Black Seventh-day Adventist church west of the Mississippi. Ruth’s mother spent the next 21 years as a Bible Instructor and went on in 1914 to help found the Watts church, the second black Adventist Church in Los Angeles (now the Compton Avenue church).
In 1908, Ruth transferred to San Fernando Academy, an Adventist boarding school, where she studied pre-med. In 1913, Ruth enrolled in the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University). The family couldn’t afford the tuition, but T.W. Troy, a prominent member of the Los Angeles Forum, a black men’s civic organization, had heard Ruth speak and was so impressed, he sponsored her education. Ruth was the first Black woman to graduate from the school in 1918; she got a bachelor’s in medicine and became the first Black female physician licensed to practice in the state of California.
Soon after, she returned to Los Angeles and focused on creating public health services for the medically underserved. Dr. Temple opened the first health clinic in southeast Los Angeles. However, she struggled to find funding for the clinic. In 1908, she married Otis Banks, a real estate broker. Together, they bought a house from which they ran their clinic, Temple Health Institute. There they provided free medical services as well as health education to parents, teachers, and schoolkids, including frank discussions of substance abuse, immunization, nutrition and sex education. This model was later duplicated in communities across the nation in schools, PTAs, YWCAs, churches, synagogues, service agencies, private medical practices, study clubs, and local health organizations.
From 1923-1928, Dr. Temple held an internship in maternity service at the Los Angeles Health Department. Later she was one of only a few Black people on the teaching staff of White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles where she taught white medical students. In 1941, the Los Angeles Health Department awarded her a scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in public health at Yale University. Dr. Temple worked for the Health Department from 1942-1962, where she was the first female health officer in the city. She was also a member of the American Medical Association, the Women’s University Club, the California Medical Association, the California Congress of Parents and Teachers, and Alpha Kappa Alpha.
In 1948, a portrait of Dr. Temple became the 35th in a special exhibit of “Leading American Negro Citizens” at the Smithsonian. Her work was recognized by Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and several mayors of Los Angeles and other cities, as well as Dr. Milford Rouse, president of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Temple retired in 1962, but continued to work in public health through the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as director of health services. She spread the word about the benefits of diet, exercise, rest, recreation, and spirituality and promoted Disease Prevention Week, which she had created in 1945. By 1977, it had been introduced as a joint resolution in Congress twice and health care facilities around California were celebrating it in March.
In 1983 the East Los Angeles Health Center was renamed the Dr. Ruth Temple Health Center. She died the following year in Los Angeles at the age of 91.
I haven’t talked much about this book because it will be of interest to a very niche group of readers, but the book I wrote for the St. Louis Metro League of Women Voters is out! We’re celebrating its release this coming Sunday. So if you live in St. Louis, I’d love to see you!
“Raising Our Voices: League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis 1960-2022” demonstrates how League members advocated for change during six decades of tremendous upheaval. As a sequel to Avis Carlson’s history “The First 40 Years,” this book covers the next 62 years of League work. It includes member advocacy on controversial issues such as busing and school discrimination, the Equal Rights Amendment, election and campaign finance reform, voter suppression, and the National Popular Vote.
In addition to these headline-makers, the book chronicles the everyday work of the League to improve the St. Louis community and protect the rights of its citizens. Each decade includes information on League efforts focused on:
Key issues such as education and the environment
In addition, the book profiles more than 20 key League members in honor of their contributions that made a difference in those decades. Not just an essential read for League members, “Raising Our Voices” is an important resource for the entire St. Louis area and will inspire women’s history buffs from coast to coast. Part local history, part collective memoir, it captures the valuable and ongoing work of this organization to educate and empower voters and improve the status of women in the St. Louis area, the state of Missouri, and nationwide.
Buy the book
Please note that all proceeds go to the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis.
“We tell the stories. We tell the stories of the people. We told the stories of Colored people, we told the stories of Negroes, we told the stories of Black people and now we tell the stories of African-Americans. Does it really matter, sports, social, entertainment, or political. They are all our stories, and if we don’t tell it, who will?” – Hazel Garland
Hazel Hill Garland was the nation’s first Black female editor-in-chief at a newspaper and fought tirelessly to “bridge the gap between races” and spotlight how Black people were treated in the media.
Hazel Barbara Maxine Hill was born on January 28, 1913, in Terre Haute, Indiana, to George and Hazel Hill. Her parents were farmers who would go on to have 15 additional children, many of whom Hazel helped raise. In the 1920s the family moved to Pennsylvania, where her father took work as a coal miner. Though Hazel was smart and loved school, her parents forced her to drop out of high school so that her brother could continue on in school; they could only afford one and hoped he would go to college. Her father also believed female education to be a waste because a woman would get married and stop working anyway. Hazel took a job as a maid and eventually her brother earned a college scholarship, only to turn it down for a relationship that would eventually fail.
Hazel was crushed, but didn’t let disappointment stop her. When she wasn’t working, she could be found in the library reading, continuing her education in her own way. She also danced, sang and played the drums. Fittingly, she met her future husband, Percy Andrew Garland, a trombone player, at a party. They married in January 1935. Their only child, Phyllis, was born the following October
As was typical of the time, Hazel became a housewife and focused on raising her daughter. Her mother-in-law urged her to join some local volunteer organizations and she became club reporter for several; her duties were to take notes on events and send them to local newspapers. The editors of the Pitsburgh Courier, a widely-read Black newspaper. liked what they saw and hired her as a stringer for $2 an article. She was so prolific that they gave her her own column, called Tri-City News, which covered all manner of community events, including some of the only positive news about Black citizens in the media
In 1946, Hazel grabbed the opportunity for journalism training offered by the paper. She began covering for journalists who were on vacation and the quality of her writing, combined with her trademark conversational tone, soon won her a role as a general assignments reporter. The men were unhappy with this and sought revenge by sending her to cover a murder at a local brothel. Hazel was not upset by this; she simply paid a male colleague to accompany her (for safety reasons) and wrote the story.
Soon, Hazel’s reporting on events from the housing projects to the richest of Black society were reprinted in both local and national editions of the paper, where they would appear for the next 42 years. In 1951, she became a member of the Pittsburgh chapter of The Girl Friend’s, Inc., a prestigious civic society for Black women.
In 1952, she became feature editor of the paper’s new magazine section, the first woman to ever hold that position in any section of the paper. She was sent to rural South Carolina to chronicle the work of Maude E. Callen, a community nurse and midwife who had both white and Black clients. Hazel won the 1953 New York Newspaper Guild Page One Award for Journalism for her efforts.
Two years later, she began a television column called Video Vignettes, in which she made a point to note when black performers or broadcasters were dismissed or when shows relevant to the community were cancelled. She sent copies of her columns to the network and station managers to quietly make them aware of how Black people were being treated. The column was so popular that it ran for 33 years, making it one of the longest-running newspaper television columns in history. In 1961, Hazel and her friend and fellow reporter Toki Schalk Johnson, became the first two Black members of the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh.
The paper ran into financial trouble in the early 1960s and in 1966 was bought out by John H. Sengstacke, publisher of the Chicago Defender, and renamed the New Pittsburgh Courier.. Hazel continued her work as editor of the entertainment and women’s sections of the paper, also helping with layout, article illustration and design. Later, one of Hazel’s fellow writers said that without her, the paper would have gone out of business.
In 1972 the publisher promoted her to city editor and again to editor-in-chief in 1974, becoming the first Black woman in the United States to hold such a position. Despite being harassed by her fellow journalists who couldn’t handle reporting to a woman, much less a Black woman, Hazel was named Editor of the Year by the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Hazel spent the next year updating the paper, adding new beats and making sure existing sections appealed to audiences of all races. She also advocated for students to study and pursue careers in journalism. She was much-honored for this work. In 1975 she received a National Headliner award from Women in Communications and In 1976 the New Pittsburgh Courier won the John B. Russwurm award for the best national African-American newspaper. She was also honored by the Jewish women’s group ORT America for “bridging the gap between races.”
In 1977, Hazel was forced to retire as editor due to illness, but continued writing columns for the paper and working as an advisor to the publisher. She also served on the Pulitzer Prize selection committee in 1979. In 1987, she and Mal Goode, a national broadcaster, started the Garland-Goode Scholarship for journalism students.
Hazel died on April 5, 1988, at the age of 75 of a heart attack following surgery on a cerebral aneurysm.
Tomorrow, the company I work for is holding a special event to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was asked to write and present a poem and I wanted to share it with all of you today–the day the holiday is celebrated.
The Dream Lives On
94 years ago, a babe’s cry lit up the Atlanta sky
“I have a dream,” it said.
But the world wasn’t ready to hear.
Like the Lord he adored
This King would have to grow and perish
Before we would take heed.
But between his first breath and his last
He would build a lasting legacy.
Though he never asked for fame,
This King was crowned in Montgomery.
Did you hear is voice among the 40,000?
Demanding justice, demonstrating peace.
Marching to Washington,
Did you hear his voice raised in song?
Calling for a peaceful revolution,
For freedom and equality.
Perhaps from steps of the Lincoln Memorial his words reached you.
In a ringing timbre amid the tolling bells.
“I have a dream,” he proclaimed.
The world held its breath and finally listened.
When the echoes faded, sound erupted.
From one side, tears of joy and cries of “Hallelujah.”
On the other, words of hate that do not bear repeating.
For we hear them to this very day.
They clashed with fists and water hoses and human barricades
Trying to keep out, trying to protect
Outdated ways and modes of thinking
Seeing only black and white
Ignoring the humanity underneath.
Amid the screams and cries of pain—still he called for unity.
Equality was not a child of violence
But the progeny of peaceful civil disobedience
Birthed in love, for the greater good of all.
His words were not honey to all ears.
Rather than balm to soothe, they rankled.
Who was this man to make such demands?
Finally, a single gunshot
Said what all their other bigoted words could not:
65 years ago, darkness fell in Tennessee.
Like his lifeblood bleeding out,
It crept across our country and the world.
Silence, shock, and tears greeted it.
Just like they hoped it would.
But then—a miracle.
Instead of despair, righteous anger.
Instead of apathy, action.
Rather than ending a movement, they fueled it.
When the light went out behind his eyes
It lit up inside 7 billion souls.
Like the prophets of old,
What was once his is now ours.
His body may have died
But he lives on.
Yes, even you.
And in me.
So today, let us open not only our ears
To listen, but our hearts as well.
For they compel us to action.
To create the world of which this great man dreamed.
Today, let us all be Martin Luther King Jr. in our communities
As we echo his words:
“Let freedom ring from the streets of Ferguson.
Let freedom ring from the rebuilt ruins of Tulsa.
Let freedom ring from the cobblestones of Charlotte.
Let us join hands—Black, white, brown, and all colors in between.
Let us raise our voices until we drown out those spewing hate
And like Dr. King, we can cry:
‘Free at last! Free at last!
Of racism and bigotry and fear and hate,
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
I’m happy to report Fierce Females in Television: A Cultural History is done and in to my editor. Now I finally have time to tell you about a special project I’ve been involved with for the last few months.
I’ve been working with Ky Bragdon and a team of amazing people to create and market the first fundraiser for the Kyndness Foundation, of which I’m also a founding board member. Our fundraiser is a set of two 16-month calendars that cover 2023 and the first half of 2024. All of the models are female-presenting TikTok influencers. One is sweet and one is spicy. The sweet one is more modest and the spicy one is, well, spicier (but no full nudity).
And I’m Miss May 2024 on the Sweet Calendar! I’ve kind of always wanted to be a calendar girl, truth be told. But I hadn’t yet found a way to do it that wouldn’t harm either of my jobs. That’s why I chose the sweet calendar.
The calendars are $20 each and all funds are going to charity. We are splitting all funds equally between Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, LGBTQ Freedom Fund, and The Born This Way Foundation. You also have the option to donate instead of or in addition to purchasing.
If you’re interested, please purchase soon, as they are going quickly! (We don’t know yet if or when they will order more.)
In 2021 I told myself I would work like a maniac for two years (2021 included) in order to build my career. I’ve done that in spades and I’m not going to lie, I’m exhausted. I can’t keep going the way I am and hope to live to write all the books I want to. That’s why I want 2023 to be all about me–not in a selfish way, but in a self-care, finding balance kind of way.
I picked my Word of the Year several weeks ago after a phone call with my agent in which she begged me (her word) to slow down. She made me promise not to write anything new until at least April so that I can focus on marketing and give my creative self a break. The moment I realized someone had given me permission to stop working at a breakneck pace, I felt so much peace come over me. My muscles unclenched and started thinking of things I want to do for fun. (Remember that concept?)
So that is why my 2023 Word of the Year is health. I’m going to focus on my physical health by eating right and making time to work out; my mental health my slowing down on the writing and doing some things just for fun; and my spiritual health by praying and meditating more and reading related books that interest me.
Now, that being said, you know I am not one to let moss grow and I have lots of books coming out in 2023, so here are my writing and personal goals:
Edit Catherine’s Mercy
Do additional marketing for Sex and the City
Market and successfully release:
Raising Our Voices (the League of Women Voters book)
America’s Forgotten Suffragists
The project I haven’t talked about yet
The Arthurian Ethics book (if published in 2023)
Fierce Females in Television (if published in 2023)
Revolutionary War book (started)
1920s book (research started)
Stretch goal: WWII (halfway done)
Attend the Historical Novel Society Conference in June
Speak as a member of the Missouri Speaker’s Bureau
Learn how to better use TikTok
Continue writing poetry
Lose about 70 lbs
Get into a habit exercise and healthy eating
Pay down debt (I promised my Chicago friends I would move there by the end of 2024)
Get reaquatinted with my spiritual side
Celebrate 20 years at my day job and keep it until I can write full time
As for fun: go see more concerts (Placebo in April in Chicago!), theatre (Les Mis and Six this month!), dance, get into gaming again (maybe on Twitch?), etc.
And yes, this is me slowing down! 😉 Obviously, I have no idea what the year will bring, but I’m looking forward to seizing every opportunity and being grateful for every day and every blessing I’m given! Hope all of you have a great 2023!