Fearless Females: American Women’s Firsts in Politics

I just realized I never posted my January Fearless Females column on women in U.S. History. (If you missed the first one, check it out here.) Perfect timing, though, since today is inauguration day.

The first month of each year is chock full of important dates in women’s history because so many lawmakers take office when the new term of the government begins in January. From our first Lantina elected to the U.S. Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on Jan. 2, 2017, to Dr. Condoleezza Rice (R) becoming the first Black woman appointed Secretary of State on Jan. 26, 2005, we could extoll a different woman almost every day of the month. If you’re curious as to why the dates are scattered throughout the month, check out this site. It explains when legislators assume responsibility, which varies from state to state.

And this year, we have an extra special first, with Kamala Harris (D-CA) becoming the first female vice president in the history of the U.S. on Jan. 20. She is also the first South Asian and first Black woman elected to that seat. She previously made history on Jan 3, 2017, as the first South Asian and second Black woman elected to the US Senate. In 2016 she became the first woman of color to be selected as the running mate on a major-party ticket, as well as the first multiracial woman, the first South Asian woman, and the first Black woman.

Did you know that the presidential inauguration wasn’t always held in January? The 20th Amendment moved it from March 4 (which had been the designated date since 1789, even though travel delays meant George Washington didn’t actually take office until April 9) to Jan. 20. The four-month gap created by the March date was important historically because it took a lot of time to count and report votes when they had to be gathered from across the nation by hand, on horseback and later by a much slower mail system than we have now. Plus, it gave the incoming president time to choose his cabinet and set up the rest of his administration. However, it also meant that the sitting president, if he wasn’t reelected, often left things to his successor, who had no power to act, a condition often referred to as a “lame duck” presidency. As technology sped up the vote counting process, this period became increasingly problematic, so Congress passed the 20th Amendment, which was ratified on Jan. 23, 1933, and moved Inauguration Day to Jan. 20 and the first meeting of the new Congress to Jan. 3.

Here’s a list of other political female “firsts” in January:

Jan. 2, 2017 – Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.

Jan. 3, 2013 – Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian-Pacific Islander woman — and only the second woman of color — elected to the U.S. Senate.

Jan. 3, 2019 – Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) became the first Muslim women sworn into Congress.

Jan. 4, 2007: U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) becomes the first female speaker of the House. In 2019, she reclaims the title, becoming the first lawmaker to hold the office two times in more than 50 years.

Jan. 4, 2007 – Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress.

Jan. 12, 1932 – Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR) becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

Jan. 15, 1981 – Jeane Kirkpatrick (D) becomes the first female U.N. Ambassador

Jan. 23, 1977 – Patricia Roberts Harris (D) was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She was the first Black woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and the first woman to hold two different cabinet positions (the second was Secretary of Health and Human Services).

Jan. 23, 1997: Madeleine Albright (D) is sworn in as the nation’s first female secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.

Jan. 26, 2005 – Dr. Condoleezza Rice (R) becomes the first Black woman appointed Secretary of State.

We thank all of these trailblazing women who were ahead of their time and dared to do what others deemed “impossible.” Because of them, there is only one glass ceiling left in the United States government—one that someone will someday break, proving to women across the nation that there is nothing they can’t do.

Unpublished Short Story Makes it into the Quarterfinals of the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition

An unpublished short story that I wrote, Consequences, has made it into the Quarterfinals of the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition. The quarterfinals represent the top 356 stories out of over 1,500 submissions.

Consequences is historical fiction that tells the story of a real-life event in the life of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy religious order. Before she became a Sister, Catherine used her inheritance to build a refuge for poor women and children called the House of Mercy across from the Bank of Ireland in Dublin. One day while the House was still being constructed, a young domestic servant who was “in moral peril” due to poor treatment by her master came to Catherine seeking refuge. Catherine did everything she could to find a place for this girl to go, but failed. Instead of taking her into her own home, for some reason that has been lost to history, Catherine, a normally overly accommodating woman, turned the servant away. She never saw the girl again and it haunted her for the rest of her life. (Catherine is now on the path to sainthood in the Catholic church, being declared Venerable – step 1 of 3 to becoming a saint – in 1990.)

Consequences is the servant’s story or at least what I imagine it to be. I first heard about this story nearly 20 years ago and the paradox of Catherine’s normally charitable and saintly life with her actions in this incident has long stuck in my mind. I knew it was something I had to explore. Consequences was written for an anthology that has not taken shape. Hopefully I will be able to share it with you in the future, but I don’t want to put it online because then it would be considered published.

This is the best short story I’ve ever written, so I’m really proud of it. We’ll see if it goes anywhere in this competition. It looks like the semifinalists will be announced some time next month.

2021 Word of the Year and Goals

I feel like in the last six months, and especially in the last two to three weeks, I have popped out of some kind of opaque chrysalis that I didn’t know I was living in into a new life, a new me. I have a new outlook on life, a greater feeling of maturity (I’ve always been a little emotionally behind others my age), and an energizing feeling of direction and purpose.

I know with crystal clarity what kind of life I want to live and am taking steps in all aspects to get what I want.

I feel like there is no limit on what I can do. That’s why I chose the phrase “infinite possibilities,” as my Word of the Year for 2021. I am optimistic that this year will bring me endless possibilities for success, growth, money, and all good things. And I plan to take advantage of every one of them.

To that end, I’ve established both author and personal goals for 2021. I’m fine with sharing both here because I am the same person whether you are talking to me as an author or a regular person and I aim to be authentic in all I do.

Writing Goals:

  • Get a contract for Minor bio. (Okay, that’s more in my agent’s hands than mine.)
  • Finish Colonial/Revolutionary War histfic by end of July.
  • Finish WWII histfic by end of July.
  • Write female inventor histfic by end of 2021.
  • Start on modern retelling of a classic (I’ll be working on ideas for this while I am writing the other books) by the end of the year.
  • Write poetry again. (I did this as a child and teenager, but I’ve lacked the confidence as an adult.)
  • Attend the Biographer’s International and Historical Novel Society virtual conferences.
  • Hopefully the Ethics in Arthurian Legend book a I wrote a chapter for will be published. (That is out of my hands.)
  • Do what I can to get Madame Presidentess and Daughter of Destiny optioned.

Personal Goals:

  • Lose 40-50 lbs by June 1.
    • Walk outside when the weather is nice. Swim if the pools open again.
    • Dance, barre, basic cardio, weight lifting indoors.
    • Eat a mostly pescatarian/Mediterranean diet.
    • Stop eating delivery.
  • Pay off debt.
    • Focus on paying off credit card.
    • Every time I have the urge to buy something, put that amount of money in my savings account and use it to pay on credit card that month.
    • Continue to pay off loans.
  • Continue working with the League of Women voters to fund a permanent suffrage memorial of some kind in St. Louis.
  • Learn to read French.
  • Teach myself to sew.
  • There’s another one that I’m not ready to talk about yet, but I will if it ends up working out.

I realize this is an ambitious list, but I always set high goals for myself. That is the way I am happiest. I plan to achieve them all but if I don’t, that is fine too.

What are your 2021 goals?

2020 Year in Review

Like everyone else, 2020 was a year unlike any other. My word of the year was Flow, which could not have been more apt, as COVID-19 taught us all to “go with the flow,” more than ever before.

Some of my struggles:

  • I worked harder at my day job that I ever have.
  • I transitioned to full-time working from home.
  • I hid from COVID-19 and worried about the future.
  • I dealt with burnout in my day job.

But for a crazy year, it had some amazing moments:

  • I signed with agent Amy Collins.
  • Daughter of Destiny did extremely well in a book-to-movie contest.
  • I finished the Minor biography.
  • I took a big step in the future of my day job, even if it ends up not going anywhere.
  • I started a new blog – I’ll be telling you all about it in the New Year.
  • I re-did practically my whole house myself (with a little help from dad).
  • I found my personal style/brand.
  • According to Goodreads, I read about 85 books (my goal was 100), not including research, which would have put it closer to 200.

And how did I do on my 2020 goals?

  1. Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020). Nailed it!
  2. Finish and sell/self publish Minor biography. It’s finished and Amy is doing her best to sell it.
  3. Work on WWII historical fiction book. Wow, this one came in under the wire. The main character started talking to me again maybe two weeks ago (after more than a year of silence) and I have not quite 10,000 words written.
  4. Help with human trafficking anthology. Wrote my short story for this, but the anthology never got off the ground. I don’t think it is going to. Hopefully I will be able to share the short story in another way someday. I’m really proud of it. It’s in a contest right now, so we’ll see what others think of it.
  5. Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee. Did this and had SO MUCH fun working with these women, attending events and getting the word out.
  6. Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote. I was honored to be asked to speak about both Virginia Minor and suffrage in the state of Missouri. One of my audiences was the Missouri Chapter of the League of Women Voters, which was amazing!
  7. Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK. This was the worst possible year to take on this role, but I made it. I have to admit, I’m glad that it is over. It is not a hard job, but it is tough to handle when my day job is constantly in crisis mode.
  8. If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.) This didn’t come to pass.
  9. Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs. I thought about them. Does that count?
  10. Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?) This did not come to pass, but Daughter of Destiny did very well and is now in a second contest, so who knows what the future will bring?

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone for your support this past year and always. I couldn’t do what I do without you and some days knowing that you are out there cheering me on is what gets me though. I wish all of you a safe, healthy and happy end to 2020 and a wonderful 2021. I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts about the New Year!

Four of My Books Made Coverfly’s Year-End “Best of” List

I am so happy to report that FOUR of my books have made Coverfly’s Red List, which means they ranked as their Top Manuscripts of the Year!!

Coverfly is the industry’s largest screenwriter talent-discovery platform, connecting emerging screenwriters with literary managers, agents, producers and development executives.

Daughter of Destiny

Oh and Daughter of Destiny was also named a Top Pick by Taleflick!

Camelot’s Queen

Madame Presidentess

Been Searching for You

Daughter of Destiny a Semifinalist in Road to Development Contest

I totally forgot the next round of results for the Taleflick Road to Development contest was going to be announced yesterday. I didn’t even see the email until late last night. But I am happy to say Daughter of Destiny made it into the semi-final round!

This contest is part of their efforts to use their own production company to develop some of the books they represent. I upgraded to the Standard level so that if I am chosen the winner for that level, an option will be a prize.

They will announce three finalists in each category on Jan. 25 and then one winner in each category on Feb. 22, so please send all the good vibes, prayers and cross your fingers or whatever it is you do. We are another step closer to Guinevere making it on screen!

Daughter of Destiny a Quarterfinalist in Road to Development Contest

Well, this a surprise. Taleflick, the company I use to sell dramatic rights to my self-published books, just announced that Daughter of Destiny is a quarterfinalist in their first Road to Development contest. This contest is part of their efforts to use their own production company to develop some of the books they represent. If your book is listed with them, you are automatically entered, which is why I wasn’t expecting anything.

I can’t say I fully understand the prizes. I’m in the Basic plan (which means I pay the least amount of money to use their services, which include more than this contest). The prizes for that are an upgrade to Standard and a winner badge. But the Standard package includes an option. So if they upgrade me, does the book get considered for option or does it have to go through another round first? I have no idea. I think I would have to upgrade to Standard before I could be considered for an option before the semi-finalists are announced Dec. 21.

My theory is what will be will be. But I’m thrilled that my little debut has yet another honor to add to the list, nearly five years after being published!

Fearless Females: A Column About American Women’s Contributions to History

I know it’s been a few months since I’ve blogged. Just been busy writing (the biography of Virginia and Francis Minor is done and is on submission with publishers!) and working.

Speaking of work, we have a group that is specifically for women leaders and is all about promoting women’s accomplishments and helping one another and the community. I’m not a member because you have to have a certain level title and I’m not that high up. Anyway, they found out about my interest and research into women’s history and asked me to write a monthly column for their newsletter, along with compiling a list of “This Day in History” anniversaries of major U.S. female accomplishments. So I thought I would share that information here as well.

I’m going to share them as I finish them. This one is technically Dec. 2020.

The Making of a Movement: Wyoming Women Get the Vote

Wyoming Women Voting. Source: WikiMedia Commons

December is a month full of not only holidays but also important anniversaries in women’s history. Household names such as Rosa Parks, Carol Moseley Braun and Jane Addams made history this month. We’ll talk about them in the future, but since this year marked the centennial of women winning the right to vote in the U.S., I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the history-changing event that started the 51-year battle for women of all states to be able to legally vote. No, not the Seneca Falls Convention—though that is widely considered the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement. I’m talking about Wyoming becoming the first territory to grant women the right to vote on Dec. 10, 1869.

Wyoming wasn’t even a state yet when it took the bold step of enfranchising women. While this may sound like a noble move to us in hindsight, it was far from it at the time. The area had fallen on hard times, with the workers who had braved the wild to build the railroad and pan for gold just a few years earlier having moved on to more lucrative areas. Lawmakers were desperate to bring their territory some good publicity so that more people would move to the area, especially women. There were six adult men in the Territory for every adult woman, and there were very few children—a population makeup that could not sustain itself for long.

The Democrats figured that if they gave women the right to vote, the women would thank them by voting for them, rather than the Republicans who opposed women’s suffrage. In addition, the attorney general had recently ruled that no one in the territory could be denied the vote on the basis of race, so former slaves and Chinese men were now allowed to vote; the men of the territory reasoned that women may as well be included, too.

The bill to give women over the age of 21 the right to vote in all elections held in Wyoming territory was introduced by legislator William H. Bright, a saloon keeper with no formal education, in 1869, possibly at the urging of his wife, Julia. Tradition says the bill was heavily debated, but no record of the proceedings exist. The bill passed 6-2 in the upper house and 7-4 in the lower house. Much to the Democrat’s surprise, Republican Governor John Campbell signed it into law on Dec. 10, 1869.* Women voted for the first time in September 1870.**

The 1871 legislature tried to repeal the law but failed. In 1890, when Wyoming became a state, it also became the first state to allow women to vote.

*Legend has it that Democrats wanted to use the bill to embarrass the Republican governor, whom they expected to veto the bill. Suffrage leader Esther Morris later told The Woman’s Journal on March 9, 1872, that the passage of the law “was the result of a bitter feud between the existing political parties, and it was done in a moment of spite – not out of any regard for the movement.” Interestingly, Wyoming was the first, and possibly the only, state to enfranchise women without the influence of suffragists.

** This was not the first time women legally voted in the United States. Women had the right to vote in New Jersey from 1776-1807, when the state government wrote female voting out of the state constitution. It would be another one hundred and thirteen years before women in New Jersey would vote again. On February 9, 1920, New Jersey became the 29th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

Important Dates in U.S. Women’s History – December

Dec. 1, 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala, helping to launch the civil rights movement.

Dec. 9, 1999 – Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) became the first Black woman and the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She had also been the first Black woman to win a major party Senate nomination.

Dec. 10, 1869 – Wyoming becomes the first territory to grant women the right to vote. In 1890, when Wyoming became a state, they also became the first state to allow women to vote.

Dec. 10, 1870 – Ellen Swallow Richards becomes the first woman admitted to MIT (which made her the first accepted to any school of science or technology), and the first American woman to earn a degree in Chemistry.

December 10, 1931 – Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a social worker and activist.

Dec. 13, 1923 – The Equal Rights Amendment, written by suffragist Alice Paul, is first introduced into Congress. It has still not passed into law.

Dec. 15, 1985 – Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Dec. 16, 1891 – City Health Dept. Inspector Marie Owens is appointed to the Chicago Police Department as a police officer assigned to the Detective Bureau, becoming the nation’s first female law enforcement officer.

News Roundup About Virginia Minor

Virginia Minor

As the centennial of the 19th Amendment draws near (Aug. 26 or 29 depending on whom you ask), Virginia Minor is getting more coverage in the media than I have ever seen. Perfect timing, as my biography of her and her husband Francis is on submission and I am nearly finished writing it. (Non-fiction is sold on proposal, not on the finished manuscript like fiction is.) Here’s a round up of the latest news about this unsung suffrage heroine:

The Washington Post – “This woman sought the right to vote from the Supreme Court. The nine men denied her.” This article focuses mainly on Minor v Happersett, the Minors’ Supreme Court case, but provides nice, if brief, background on Virginia’s work during the Civil War and talks a little about how she helped usher in a new era for the suffrage movement. A great read, but far too short!

National Geographic – “The Fight to Be Heard” – (Article behind a paywall) Features the descendants of great American suffragists, profiles of women who fought for the vote, those who continue to fight for women’s, and of course, tells the story of how women finally won the vote.  This article image is the first one that I’ve ever seen that includes Virginia among the 31 other most important women of the movement. (I was going to use it but then I chickened out that they would come after me for violating copyright law.)

St. Louis Public Radio – St. Louis on the Air -“‘Beyond The Ballot’ Explores History Of Women’s Suffrage Movement In St. Louis” – Article on an exhibition at the Missouri History Museum that I can’t wait to see (luckily it is open through 2022 and we better have a COVID-19 vaccine by then!). Virginia is one of the women they talk about highlighting in the exhibition.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – “Women wanted it — and got it — 100 years ago, but the right to vote didn’t come easy.” Talks a little about the court case and Virginia’s founding of the Women’s Suffrage Association. Kudos for saying that “Virginia’s story is one every St. Louisan should know.” It’s actually one every American should know – and they will.

St. Louis Magazine – “See this: the Missouri History Museum’s ‘Beyond the Ballot'” – Covers similar ground as the Post article mentioned above.

—–

Finally, if any of you are in St. Louis, The National Women’s Political Caucus is holding a wreath-laying ceremony at Virginia Minor’s grave on Saturday, August 15, at 10 a.m at Bellefontaine Cemetery. I will be there, mask on and six feet away from everyone else.

Oh and I’ll be speaking online on August 29 at 2 p.m. about Virginia as part of the Missouri League of Women Voters’ Centennial celebrations. Register here.