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Archive for the ‘Modern Women’ Category

Mae Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut. A bright and energetic girl, she also became a doctor and served in the Peace Corps. Mae is also a dancer, a teacher, a speaker, and an author.

Mae was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. Seeking better educational and work opportunities her family moved to Chicago when Mae was three years old.

A bright student Mae learned how to read before she went to school. She told her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. There weren’t very many African-American scientists in the 1960’s but that didn’t stop Mae. She loved astronomy and often looked up at the stars and dreamed. During her school years Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Mae was determined to go into space some day.

In 1977 Mae went to medical school. She had to choose between two careers – dancer or doctor. Mae decided that she could be a doctor and still dance, but she could not doctor if she was a dancer. The energetic and practical Mae went to medical school. Later when she got to go into space she proved that she could do both by dancing in the shuttle!! Mae took a poster of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with her on her flight.

When Mae became a doctor she wanted to help poor people and so starting in 1983 she traveled to Africa and served with the Peace Corps. She served in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In 1985 Mae returned to California to work at a hospital. This was when she pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut. She applied at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One year later she began her training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The first woman in space was Sally Ride and the first African-American in space was Guion Bluford. These astronauts were an inspiration to Mae as she trained. Mae learned about the space shuttle she would be working on. She had to get use to zero gravity and the limits of space. She would be doing scientific experiments on board the shuttle.

In 1987, during Mae’s training the space shuttle Challenger exploded killing all astronauts on board. This disaster was somewhat of a setback in the space program but Mae was still as determined as ever to be an astronaut. Mae was one of only 15 candidates chosen out of about 2000 applicants.

Another person who was an inspiration for Mae was Nichelle Nichols, who is famous for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.  In 1993, Mae Jemison starred in: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) – as Lieutenant Palmer, episode “Second Chances”. She was the first real live astronaut to appear on Star Trek.

On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African-American women to go into space on the space shuttle Endeavour. The crew stayed in space for over 190 hours (nearly 8 days). Mae’s experiments were used to see the effects of zero gravity on the human body.

In 1993, Mae left NASA so that she could get involved in other projects. She wanted to encourage young people to follow their dreams. She began an international science camp program for teenagers called The Earth We Share.

Other achievements for Mae Jemison include:

  1. The founding of the Jemison Institute. 1995
  2. College Professor, Dartmouth College. 1995
  3. The 100 Year Starship Program. Mae joined in 2011. The program’s goal is to help humans travel to the stars in the next 100 years.
  4. International Space Hall of Fame. NASA Space Flight Medal.
  5. Awarded the Doctor of Engineering (honorary) degree in 2007.
  6. Mae has also written articles and books including “Journey Through Our Solar System (True Books: Dr. Mae Jemison and 100 Year Starship) 2013.

 

Below are the links to two interesting YouTube videos with pictures and interviews of Mae Jemison that I think you might enjoy:

Mae Jemison: I Wanted To Go Into Space, July 31, 2014

https://youtu.be/B0vGDfuWhfI

Mae Jemison – Mini Bio, January 12, 2012

https://youtu.be/EgOaIKshbIU

 

 

 

 

 

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Through love and faith and determination I have been persistently facing obstacles, small and large, and I have made them stepping stones upon which to rise.          Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is remembered as an educator and an activist. Mary was born with three strikes against her – she was poor, black, and female. This indomitable woman who believed that “Love, not hate, has been the fountain of my fullness” spent her life building a better world.

Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 near Mayesville, South Carolina. This was during the period of ‘reconstruction’ in the South. Tempers often ran as hot as the weather and as the nation adjusted, unfair anti-black violence escalated. Through it all many black men and women maintained their faith in God. There was a strong belief that education would raise the status of black people in the perceptions of others and would result in better jobs.

Originally Mary trained at Moody Bible Institute (as it is called today) to become a missionary to Africa. It seems incredible to us now, but she was told that black women were not allowed to go on the missionfield. This didn’t stop Mary for long. Realizing that this setback was only a ‘stepping stone upon which to rise’ she put her heart and soul into educating poor black children, starting with girls. Mary believed that as the mothers in the homes, girls would grow up to have a profound impact on their children’s education.

Mary married Albert McLeod Bethune in 1898. They had one son. Sadly, due to disagreements that couldn’t be reconciled Mary and Albert ended the marriage in 1907.

Mary founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida in 1904. She started with only five students but the school grew to over 250 students in only a few years. Mary remained the president and leader until 1942. In 1923 the school combined with the Cookman Institute for Men. The newly combined school, called the Bethune-Cookman College, was one of the few places where African-American students could get a college degree.

Besides her important work at the school, Mary also became politically involved. She was president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years.  Mary worked with presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to improve life for African-Americans. She served on many committees and started up her own organization – the National Council of Negro Women. In 1936 President Roosevelt appointed her to be the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. In this position Mary was able to help young people find jobs. At this time Mary also served as an advisor to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1942 Mary retired from Bethune-Cookman college. She moved to Washington DC and lived there for several years. She was an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the early 1950’s, President Truman appointed her to be the official delegate to Liberia for the inauguration of their new president.

Eventually Mary returned to Florida to retire. She passed away on May 18, 1955.

Before she died Mary wrote “My Last Will and Testament.” She wanted to leave her people with a legacy of serving. Here are her ‘bequests’.

             I leave you love.
             I leave you hope.
             I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another.
             I leave you a thirst for education.
             I leave you a respect for the uses of power. (This power should be placed on the side of human justice.)
             I leave you faith.
             I leave you racial dignity.
             I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men.
             I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people.

Faith Courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility – these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving. As I face tomorrow, I am content, for I think I have spent my life well. I pray now that my philosophy may be helpful to those who share my vision of a world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood and Love.

 

In 1973, eighteen years after her passing,  Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1974, a seventeen-foot bronze sculpture commemorating Mary’s work in education was erected in Lincoln Park, Washington DC. It is the first statue ever dedicated on federal land to honor either an African-American or a woman.

 

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor in 1985.

 

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site was opened in 1994.

 

 

 

I found a wonderful video production of Mary’s life on YouTube. It is in three parts totaling a little over 26 minutes. It gives great historical background and contains many contemporary photos. I highly recommend it!!

 YouTube:

  1.  Mary McLeod Bethune Part One desktop, Jan. 24, 2009, Brian Stewart 9:42

https://youtu.be/CTEYr8cd1us

2. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Two desktop, 9:46

https://youtu.be/-6zHh9U8ZYI

3. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Three desktop, 6:44

https://youtu.be/encR1RbFk3w

 

 

 

 

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I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
Dorothy Day

d-d-entertaining-anglesRecently I came across a DVD that does a pretty fair job of telling the story of Dorothy Day’s life.

In our busy world it is often easier to watch a good video than to find time for books. I would still recommend reading the biography of Dorothy Day as well as her own writings. They are very inspiring.

The video is titled: Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story.

It is done by “Paulist Pictures”. You can get the DVD from Amazon or many other religious organizations that sell books and biographies of historical Christians.

I thought that the production of the movie was well-done. The actors, Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day and Martin Sheen as her friend and mentor Peter Maurin were very believable in their parts. Often other movies are ruined by the shallowness of the acting but in this production Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen gave very strong performances.

I really appreciated the introduction to the movie – It showed Dorothy in prison in the early 1960’s for protesting the war in Vietnam. It gave the viewer a glimpse of another facet of her life besides caring for the poor. Dorothy believed in peace and justice and was willing to practice what she preached! She went to prison several times.

The scene in the prison may or may not have been a real event in her life, but it pictures for the viewer just how much Dorothy loved the ‘unlovely’.  She comforts a woman cell mate who is quite agitated, seemingly coming off of drugs. As Dorothy sits with the woman’s head in her lap, the woman vomits on Dorothy whose reaction is only kindness and concern. The woman is moved by Dorothy’s kindness and wants to know “What is the story of your life?”

Dorothy begins a reminiscence. She reflects back to the time that she lived like a bohemian in Greenwich village along with friends who were trying to find answers to poverty in socialism and communism. No one in the crowd believed in God. Dorothy herself was very skeptical.

Over the next few years Dorothy suffered from failed love affairs and had many heartbreaks. But she encounters a wonderful nun who shows her love. The nun is also engaged in helping the poor. Dorothy wonders what the nun gets out of it. Dorothy finds out that just helping others gives you great joy.

I won’t give away any more details. I hope that this has whetted your appetite to see a film about a very courageous woman. A woman who did many things that she regretted in her early life but found forgiveness and love in the Lord Jesus. A woman who did not look back but spent her time helping others more unfortunate than she was.

In our day especially, women can be encouraged that they can do great things for God. Dorothy was a single mother with no money whose legacy includes over 100 “soup kitchens” and other places of charity for the poor. She ministered to the lives of thousands of angels.

And if you have some time, read the books too!!

Following are some pictures of the real Dorothy along with some of her most famous quotes.

quote-the-gospel-takes-away-our-right-forever-to-discriminate-between-the-deserving-and-the-dorothy-day-44-23-97

dorothy-day-poverty

 

 

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Again, a conversation with the doctor. We always come back to the same point: “The church may not mix in politics,” he says. And I tell him that when you are a Christian and profess that God is almighty, there is not single area of life from which you can eliminate God.          (Diary of Diet Eman, December 11, 1939)

 

These brave words from Diet Eman were not just empty talk. Because of her efforts toEman rescue Jews during the time of the Nazi occupation in Holland, Diet would suffer hunger, loneliness, danger, and imprisonment in order to follow her faith. Like all of us there were times when Diet wondered if God had forgotten her, but her doubts were short lived. She always came back to the knowledge that nothing could harm her unless God allowed it. This assurance of God’s love and faithfulness carried her through the horrible events of of the Nazi occupation in Holland in World War II.

emanfamilyBorn in 1920, Diet grew up in the Dutch city of The Hague. She was the third child of four in a godly Christian family. When she was seventeen she met Hein Sietsma, her future fiancé. Diet was ambivalent about Hein at first but soon grew to love him.

In 1938 the Dutch were worried about war. They could see what power Hitler had. Hitler had taken Austria, Poland, and would later take France very quickly. Diet recorded her fear in her diary that war would come and everyone would be in great danger. She knew that Hein would have to fight. Diet often wrote prayers in her diary and concluded the October 31, 1939 entry with, “O Father, console them and please spare our country from that terrible disaster, not because we are any better but only out of grace. And if it has to be different, then teach me to pray: ‘Your will be done.” O please protect him whom my soul loves!”

The Dutch people’s worst fears were realized when on May 10, 1940 the Germans invaded Holland. Holland fell in only five days, capitulating on May 15. Queen Wilhemina and the government had escaped to England for safety taking the Dutch treasury with them. This was important because Hitler had planned on using the money to finance his war.

Diet and Hein had no way of knowing how long the war would last but decided to get busy diet-hein-1right away and help the resistance. After they witnessed the cruelty of the Nazi’s to the Jews they knew that they had to help Jews go into hiding. Everyone is familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom (whom Diet would later meet) but the ten Booms were only one of hundreds of families who hid Jews. Many thousands of Jewish lives were saved by Christians who acted on their convictions of faith.

The resistance work was very intricate and dangerous. Diet and Hein helped to find housing for the Jews and then provide support for them with fake identification cards, and stolen ration cards. Many times while Diet was bicycling to the home of some farmers who were hiding Jews she had to go through check points. If the Germans had searched her and found the stolen cards, she would have been arrested on the spot. She and anyone who was implicated could have been shot.

Eventually both Hein and Diet were caught and imprisoned. Diet was sent to the prison at Scheveningen and then to Vught concentration camp. At the train station on the way to Vught Diet witnessed the reunion of Corrie and Betsy ten Boom. The sisters had a tearful reunion since they had been apart for months and their father had recently died at Scheveningen prison.

Diet was going by her third false name when she was caught and imprisoned. She prayed to God that she could keep her secret not only for herself but for all those who would be implicated if the Germans found out who she really was. She prayed to God to help her get released. The idea came to her to play dumb. Though she could speak German, she pretended to speak only Dutch and acted like a naïve fool whenever questioned. When her trial came up the ploy worked. Though one of the German judges was not satisfied with her story he could not disprove it. She was released August 19, 1944.

You might think that Diet would breathe a big sigh of relief and try to go back to a “normal” life. The Canadian troops were making their way through Holland freeing one town after another. Perhaps Diet could just relax now. But not Diet. She went right back to work in the resistance using one of her fake names – Willie.

The Germans were angry that the Dutch had resisted so long and blockaded any food from getting to the people. The German soldiers stole any remaining food from the farms and so began the Hunger Winter of 1944 -45. Still the brave Dutch resisted. And Diet continued to help the Jews until Dutch liberation on May 5, 1945.

Diet had tried to find out what happened to Hein. She received several letters from him, the last one dated December 10, 1944. Diet continued to try and write to him and finally one day she learned through a letter from Hein’s father that Hein had died at Dachau on January 20, 1945.

After liberation people who had come into contact with Hein or were with him in prison came forward to console Diet as they told of Hein’s great Christian character. Many were comforted by this man who maintained his faith until his death. Diet found some consolation for her grief when she heard these testimonies that her beloved Hein had been used of God even under persecution.

Diet took a job that involved travel. She wanted to get away from the evil of the war. She married and had two children. In 1969 Diet moved to Grand Rapids Michigan where she became an export manager for an export firm.

In 1978 on a news show, Diet was reunited with Corrie ten Boom. This is a very thrilling story. You can then follow a link with that story on YouTube and watch the video of “Diet’s Story of Faith and Courage”. I encourage you to watch and be blessed.

Diet retired in 1986 and did volunteer work as a translator for Christian Doctors in the Luke Society, the Red Cross, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Central and South America.

Diet was asked to put her story in a book. It was published in 1994 and is entitled “Thingsthings we couldn't say We Couldn’t Say” and you can easily get it on Amazon. During an interview about the book she was asked, “Would you like to skip that part of your life?” Diet responded that she would not. She could only think of all of the blessings that God had given her – new friends, strength to overcome threats, danger, and prison. She praised God for His protection of her parents who lived to die at the ripe old ages of 91 and 93.

In 1998 Diet received the Righteous Among the Nations medal form Israel’s Yad Vashem in recognition of her aid to Jewish people during the war.

Last year, on June 2, 2015 Diet “stole the show” when Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima went to Grand Rapids for a visit. The royal couple viewed a ballet based on Diet’s book, “Things We Couldn’t Say”, at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. King Willem-Alexander said that Diet was one of their “national heroes with the highest decoration of anybody in the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis.”

I sent an inquiry to Calvin Seminary to Barbara Blackmore to find out if Diet was still alive. She forwarded my email to Dr. James Schaap. Dr. Schaap is the co-author of the book, “Things We Couldn’t Say”. What a privilege to hear back from him. Yes, Diet is still “alive and well, although painfully hard of hearing and certainly getting up there in age–94 or so, I think. It’s not easy to communicate anymore, except if you’re there with her in her apartment,” says Dr. Schaap. He also recommended The Reckoning, a documentary of Diet and other resistance workers’ lives.

Diet reminds us all that God loves us and is faithful and is in control of our lives. Diet remained totally dependent on Him through all of her life. She could say with David, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, Whom shall I fear? … For he will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble” (Psalm 27:1, 5).

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (Psalm 103:2)

 

 

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Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn Heights New York on November 8, 1897. Her father dorothy dayJohn Day was a sportswriter. Dorothy’s mother was a kind woman whose example of warm-hearted sharing with anyone in need would affect Dorothy for the rest of her life.

Dorothy’s family had moved to San Francisco in 1904 and were there when the great fire destroyed most of the city in 1906. Her mother joined her neighbors in gathering food and clothing for the displaced families who were sleeping in the park in Oakland. Within a few weeks the Day’s would move to Chicago because the newspaper office where John worked was burned down by the fire.

John Day could not find work and began to write a novel. Mrs. Day struggled to put meager food on the table. It was during this time that Dorothy met several kind Catholic women who reflected the love of Christ to her. She never forgot them.
 Eventually John Day was hired by a newspaper and the family moved to a nicer home on the north side of Chicago. Dorothy was an excellent student in her high school. She loved languages and studied Latin and Greek.

Dorothy’s older brother Donald took a job with a small paper. This paper sympathized with the rising labor movement. Through Donald’s influence Dorothy studied the works of Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London, writers who were calling attention to the injustices of the class system in the industrial world. At this time Eugene Debs became a hero in Dorothy’s eyes.

Though her parents did not claim to be religious – Dorothy’s father even claimed to be an atheist – Dorothy loved to read the Bible. She was confused about God in her early years but gradually came to see how Christ manifested love to people, especially the marginalized. She saw that Christ had rejected the “things of this world” but she did not believe that God meant for people to live in abject poverty either.
 Dorothy recalled how her mother and the people in Oakland responded to the poor in the aftermath of the San Francisco fire. She dreamed of the day when all people, not just the social workers and missionaries, would be open-handed and generous to the poor.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?*

Dorothy’s father lost his job again. She did not know if she could afford to go to college but because of her excellence in Latin and Greek she won a scholarship to the University of Illinois. She began to attend in 1914. She enjoyed her independence very much but never forgot the poor and downtrodden.
 After two years Dorothy’s father got a job in New York City. Dorothy decided to leave school and go to New York to be close to her family.

Dorothy looked for a job at a newspaper and finally found one in 1916.
 She worked for several socialist newspapers and also took part in the anti-war activities of many of her friends opposing the military draft. People in our day have come to accept US involvement in war but in 1917 many Americans wanted to let Europe solve its own problems. Dorothy may have been accused of being anti-patriotic when Wilson made laws against speaking out against his policy of war. Later during the Vietnam war many would agree with Dorothy’s belief that America should not interfere in wars. In spite of the changing attitudes of Americans about fighting in wars, Dorothy would remain a pacifist.

It should come as no surprise then that Dorothy would take part in the women’s suffrage movement. On one occasion after a protest Dorothy and other suffragettes were arrested and put in prison. They were treated abominably. It was hard for her to believe that human beings could treat fellow humans that way. “I had an ugly sense of the futility of human effort, man’s helpless misery, the triumph of might. Man’s dignity was but a word and a lie. Evil triumphed,” she later wrote. Dorothy struggled with her faith in the face of such injustice.

In the next few years Dorothy experienced love, marriage, and the birth of a child. With her common law husband, Forster Batterham she had a daughter, Tamar in 1926. During this time Dorothy was renewing her growth in her Catholic faith and she wanted to be baptized and to get Tamar baptized. The whole discussion of religion bothered Forster and eventually he left his wife and daughter. He would only return at the very end of his life to visit Dorothy when he was dying of cancer. At that time they would make amends and renew friendship. Dorothy always remained devoted to Tamar for the rest of her life, always finding time to be with Tamar and her children even during Dorothy’s busiest years.

The 1930’s was the time of the Great Depression. Dorothy began to seek ways to live out her Catholic faith in service to the poor. In 1932 her prayer was answered when Peter Maurin knocked on her door. He was a French immigrant who had a vision for a society that really lived out Christian virtues.

dorothy day live drastically

Together Peter Maurin and Dorothy founded a newspaper called the Catholic Worker. The goal was to start houses for the poor and farming communes. Over the next few years the idea would blossom until it was replicated worldwide.

Dorothy was asked to speak many times. She was really shy but she knew that her talks were spreading the philosophy of the Catholic Worker. Dorothy longed to see a time when everyone would serve humanity through each one’s individual efforts. Putting aside her fear of speaking in front of crowds, Dorothy began to speak to school groups, women’s clubs, conventions, and other social workers. Dorothy bravely explained the concept of service to those in need as real Christianity.

 I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

Dorothy practiced what she preached. Choosing voluntary poverty, she lived in a small upstairs room in one of the houses of hospitality. Lest one think that she thought of herself as a martyr she maintained that she was privileged. All she needed was a bed and bath and two large shelves full of books. After all, if you’re so busy serving others what else do you need in life? Dorothy was happy.

During World War II Dorothy worked extra hard in the hospitality houses due to the shortage of men. Her pacifist stance was unpopular but in years to come many would see that it was consistent for this woman who wanted all people to love one another.

Dorothy welcomed the strides that the African-Americans made during the 1950’s. On one occasion Dorothy visited an integrated commune. There were strict segregation laws in Georgia and the people in the commune received many threats. Dorothy was warned that there could be violence. One night, fifty-nine year-old Dorothy was on watch duty when suddenly she heard screeching tires. Soon a shower of bullets was rained down on the car in which she was sitting. Dorothy had been criticized for her beliefs, and spent time in prison; now she nearly lost her life in the cause of justice.

In the 1960’s Dorothy would go to the Vatican in Rome to urge the Church to make a strong anti-war statement. Dorothy was thrilled when many protested the Vietnam war.
While in Rome she joined a ten-day fast to bring the attention of the public to the starving millions of the world.

dorothy day poverty

In the 1970’s Dorothy marched with Cesar Chavez to protest the mistreatment of farm workers. One thousand protesters were arrested, Dorothy among them. By this time Dorothy was in her seventies and beginning to look a little frail. However, she took her two week incarceration stoically, remarking, “If it weren’t a prison it would be a nice place to rest.”

Dorothy was beginning to tire. She turned down speaking engagements but continued to write for the Catholic Worker and to visit with family and friends.
Dorothy was distressed about the changes in the world in the 70’s. Even the Catholic Church seemed to be changing. But she found consolation in her Bible. As she had done since the earliest days of her conversion she read from the Psalms every morning. Reading her Bible, Dorothy was comforted in her belief that Jesus Christ is our example of love and living.

My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.

In her old age Dorothy received many honorary degrees and awards. During her life she had written many books including; “From Union Square to Rome”, “House of Hospitality”, “Loaves and Fishes”, “The Long Loneliness”, and “On Pilgrimage”.

In 1979 the hospitality house where Dorothy was living was sold and she moved back to New York City into a hospitality house called Maryhouse. In her quarters in this house Dorothy passed her time reading, writing, and receiving visitors. On November 29, 1980 Dorothy died peacefully in her room. Her beloved daughter Tamar was with her during her final hours. Her final resting place is the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island.

*Throughout this essay I sprinkled appropriate quotes from Dorothy’s writings.

 

 

 

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Ida-B.-Wells-Barnett… Go on, thou brave woman leader,
Spread our wrongs from shore unto shore;
Until clothed with his rights is the Negro,
And lynchings are no more….
And the wise Afro-American mother,
Who her children of heroine tells,
Shall speak in tones of gratitude,
The name of Ida B. Wells!

                                                       Katherine Davis Tilllman

 

 

 

 

 

ida-b-wells-websiteLast week we left off with Ida’s story during the time when she was being hailed as a heroine by the African American Press Association in Philadelphia while back in her hometown of Memphis her newspaper office was being destroyed by an angry mob. Her life was threatened and Ida was advised not to try and return home. And so now Ida began her famous campaign against lynching.

In 1893 Ida took her campaign across the ocean to England, Scotland, and Wales. There she gave speeches and met with leaders of British civic groups. Ida was impressed with how active British women were in their campaign for justice. She helped the women in London establish the London Anti-Lynching Committee. She wrote to women at home in America and encouraged them to follow the example of their British counterparts. Ida returned to England again in 1894 on a speaking tour.

On returning home Ida settled in Chicago. She collaborated with Frederick Douglass, the famous advocate of equal civil rights for blacks. At this time she also met her future husband, Ferdinand Barnett. Barnett was a lawyer and the owner of the first black newspaper in Chicago, the Conservator.

They fell in love and married in 1895. Barnett was willing to support Ida completely. He sold the newspaper to her and she took over the duties of editor. This freed Ferdinand Barnett to practice law and actively campaign for “colored rights”.

In March 1896, Ida became a mother at the age of 33. She had mixed feelings about motherhood. She had taken care of her younger siblings and was happy to have a break from child rearing. Her active public life was also very fulfilling. But after her child was born she understood all the joys of motherhood.

However, before her first baby was five months old, duty called. Ida traveled with baby Charles and a nurse and continued her campaigning. A year later Ida had another son, Herman, and this time she chose to bow out of public work and stay home and raise her children. She gave up her position as editor at the Conservator and told everyone she was “quite content to be left within the four walls” of her home. Taking one child on the road was difficult but manageable; two children required her to be a full time mother. Ida was very happy with her decision.

Her decision was short-lived. Three months later the Frazier Baker lynching
occurred. This was considered one of the most brutal of all times. People looked to Ida to attend the protests and speak to the injustice. Ida wanted to stay home, but explained to the people who were concerned about her new station as a mother that race work was a matter of necessity, not choice. It “seems that the needs of the world were so great that again I had to venture forth, “she insisted. She left baby Charles with his grandmother and took Herman with her on her travels. During this next period of her life she concentrated on getting women organized.

In 1896 Ida formed the National Association of Colored Women. The next year she lynch poster  1893attended a conference that would eventually lead in a few years to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Ida combined campaigning and motherhood for the next ten years. She gave birth to two daughters, one in 1901 and the other in 1904.

By 1910 Ida was fully participating in public life again. She formed the Negro Fellowship League. This organization was housed in a building in Chicago. It served as a fellowship house for blacks that were new to the city. The Negro Fellowship League also conducted religious services. It became an employment office for blacks moving to the city and a shelter for the men until they could find a job.

Throughout the rest of her career Ida remained active in campaigning, writing, and activism. In 1909 she became one of the founders of the NAACP. In 1913 Ida established the first black women’s suffrage club, the Alpha Suffrage Club. Also in that year Ida met with president McKinley about a lynching in South Carolina. Later she would also meet with another president, Woodrow Wilson in an effort to get legislation passed that would end discriminatory practices in hiring.

Other famous people that Ida knew and sympathized or even collaborated with included Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard (though Ida disagreed with Willard on methods), Jane Addams, and Irene McCoy Gaines.

Ida worked tirelessly in many other areas. She created the first African-American kindergarten in her town. From 1918 through the 1920’s Ida covered race riots in Arkansas, East St. Louis, and Chicago. Her reports were published in newspapers worldwide.

Ida even threw her hat into the political ring. She ran for a seat in the Illinois state senate in 1930. She pledged to “work as hard for the benefit of my Race and my district as I have done for the past 37 years I have lived in Chicago.” Ida lost to the incumbent, but she sent a strong message to the people of Illinois that with hard work, women, even black women, could accomplish much. Ida garnered 752 votes out of 8969 votes. That is really a good showing for an independent candidate.

Though Ida was 68 years old by this time and beginning to have health issues, she looked forward to the future. The election defeat did not stop her. She did not look back. Ida had faith in the future. She remained active in politics, and could take credit for helping to defeat an appointment of a judicial candidate for the United States Supreme Court. This man, nominated by president Hoover, was on record as saying he was anti-African-American. With her usual amount of energy Ida went to work. She and other organizations got up a petition against the appointment. The man was defeated.

Her successful campaign against Hoover’s candidate encouraged her to plan a new venture. She began to publish a periodical called the Chicago Review. At the same time she continued to work on her autobiography, begun in 1928 – Crusade for Justice. It would be the first full-length autobiography written by a black woman activist. Ida did not quite finish it before she died.

In March of 1931 Ida was to attend a book fair for African Americans. She was going to donate many of her own books written by black authors. This event would be her last.

On March 21 after returning home from shopping she went to bed saying she wasn’t feeling well. Several days later she had a high fever. Ferdinand and her daughter, Alfreda took Ida to the hospital. Ida “slipped away quietly” in the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 25, 1931, four months before her sixty-ninth birthday. The cause of death was given as uremic poisoning.

The funeral service for Ida was befitting of this extraordinary woman. It was simple, direct, and straightforward. “No fanfare of trumpets, no undue shouting, no flowery oratory – just plain earnest, sincere words” were spoken for her. This was truly reflective of a great and wise woman who spoke plainly but effectively for justice.

Truly, Ida B. Wells shows us what one woman can accomplish. Her faith and determination made a difference in this world for many people. Today, lynching may seem like a horrible thing of the past, but hatred is still with us. People still find ways to be unjust to others. We can learn from Ida B. Wells as we fight against all injustice.

Black men and women received more freedom sooner than they would have if it were not for the efforts of Ida B. Wells. Her life was a truly great example of how to meet problems with justice in an honest, forthright way with great strength. That is why her work has lasting power and is of interest to us today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ImmaculeeImmaculee Ilibagiza lost most of her family during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. After bravely hiding for 91 days in a three foot by four foot bathroom where she starved along with seven other women, she was eventually saved and went on to emigrate from Rwanda to the United States in 1998. She is now a popular speaker and writer sharing her faith and her message of forgiveness and peace worldwide.

 

I heard the killers call my name.

            A jolt of terror shot through me, and then the devil whispered in my ear again: “Now they know who you are … now they know where you are…”

            My head snapped back, and I was thrown completely off guard. Why did they call out my name – how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom?

            I tried to call on God, but all I could hear was the negative voice blaring in my mind … along with the vicious, sadistic chants of the killers echoing through the house. Clothes soaked in sweat, I fumbled with my faith.

           There were hundreds of them this time. They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. “Where is she?” they taunted. “We know she’s here somewhere. Find her … find Immaculee.”

            They were in the pastor’s bedroom right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls.

            In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. “I have killed 399 cockroaches, “ he boasted. “Immaculee will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.”

           As I cowered in the corner, the devil was laughing at me: “They know your name … they know you’re here. Where is your God now?” (Immaculee Ilibagiza, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust”, pg. 129)

           

Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which nearly one million – or three-Immaculee's familyfourths – of all Tutsis in Rwanda were killed. Even infants did not escape the Hutu marauders once they were found. All of Immaculee’s family were killed except for one brother who happened to be out of the country studying at college. In this picture are Immaculee’s parents (both killed), Amiable (who survived because he was away), Damascene (killed), Immaculee, and Vianney (killed).

Immaculee was born in 1972. At age 23 she was studying electrical engineering at the University of Rwanda when the genocide began. She happened to be at home on Easter break when the killing started. It turned out that this was a blessing from God for her. All of the Tutsi students at the University were massacred a few weeks later.

There had been trouble between the Tutsis and the Hutus before. In 1959 The Hutus massacred 100,000 Tutsis. There was another persecution in 1973. Hatred was seething below the surface for many years.

Then suddenly, the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down. The president was a Hutu and was on his way back to the capital of Kigali. This assassination sparked another genocide. The government seized the radios and told all Hutus to murder every last Tutsi in Rwanda. The slaughter took place throughout the entire country, even in small villages like Immaculee’s.

When it became obvious that the uprising was not going to be small or temporary, Immaculee’s father told her to run to the home of the local pastor for shelter. Though the pastor was a Hutu, Immaculee’s father would not believe that the godly pastor would participate in the killing of innocent people.

This kindly Hutu pastor hid Immaculee and seven other women during the holocaust for 91 days. He had a small bathroom off of his bedroom that was not used much. The bathroom was 3 feet by 4 feet. They had to take turns sitting on the floor. The taller women held the younger girls on their laps. The pastor fed them scraps that were leftover from meals so that his family members would not get suspicious. While in hiding Immaculee lost over 40 pounds and when finally freed weighed only 65 pounds.

The women could not speak or make any noise in the tiny bathroom because it had thin walls. Hutu marauders came by the house often looking for them. They had seen Immaculee and several others go into the house but no one had seen them come out. The brave pastor kept them hidden in the tiny bathroom and tried to steer the killers away whenever the marauders came to his house. Though the pastor was a Hutu he could have been murdered as a traitor for hiding the women. Several members of his family knew the secret of the hidden women, but not all of them. Fear of reprisals was strong and the pastor would not endanger anyone else.

The walls were only 1” thick and often Immaculee could hear the Hutus calling her name as they searched for her. Immaculee turned to God for comfort and strength. Many times she was just sure that they would be found and hacked to death as many others Tutsis were. They could hear the sounds of Tutsis outside begging for mercy only to be brutally tortured and killed. Once the Hutus were infected with the blood lust they went about seeking all Tutsis to kill. Work throughout the whole country was postponed and came to a standstill it seemed until all of the “cockroaches” (Tutsis) were exterminated. It is extremely difficult for us to understand this. It is hard to understand man’s inhumanity to man. We remember the German holocaust against the Jews, Japanese persecution of Chinese and many other events in history. This was tribal warfare. Both were black; both were Rwandan. How could this hatred exist?

The killers never found Immaculee or the other women. Living through that horror the only thing that kept Immaculee going was her faith in God. She knew deep inside that her mother and father and two of her brothers were dead. But she knew that they were in Heaven and she would see them again. They had died brutally, but she would later find out that all had died nobly while protecting others.

left to tell coverWhile in the bathroom, Immaculee had a dream that she would be working for the United Nations
someday. She knew she would need to know English. She had nothing else to do and really no one else to talk to in her situation since utter silence was maintained at all times. She asked the pastor for a French/English dictionary and some books in English. (Immaculee spoke the Rwandan dialect and French. The Belgians had brought French to the educated in Rwanda. Immaculee explains more of this history in her book, which you will not be able to put down once you start reading it.)

What wonderful hope and faith Immaculee had. In just a few weeks Immaculee taught herself English. Though the devil would often tempt her to give up on God, she would always turn to God for strength. She never gave up but actually believed that God had a future for her. There was a purpose for all of this horror, she was sure.

And indeed after the genocide ended Immaculee did get a job at the United Nations. She eventually emigrated from Rwanda to the United States in 1998. She has married and has two children. Immaculee went on to receive five honorary doctoral degrees. She has written a number of books.

Immaculee’s goal has been to promote peace. In fact, Immaculee astonished many people when she returned to Rwanda to find the man who killed her father. He was expecting her to hate him. Instead, she offered him her forgiveness. Immaculee longs for the hatred and killing to end. If one side is able to forgive the other then peace has a chance. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Truly Immaculee has followed Jesus.

For a live interview with Immaculee that will touch your heart go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Od6V6Z3ug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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