Ottawa, Illinois is a small town in the rural Midwest that is about 85 miles southwest from Chicago. In 1922, to the excitement of many of the residents, a small ad ran in the local paper which stated that young women were needed for fine brushwork. It advertised “ideal location and surroundings. Unusually clean and attractive work”. The ad was placed by a new company that had just set up their new factory in Ottawa, Radium Dial. The president was a man by the name of Joseph A Kelly. They already had loyal employees such as Lottie Murray and Mr. and Mrs. Reed who became household names in the area. Many young women began to apply in great numbers (just as we saw in NJ), as the pay was just too good to pass up.Continue reading “The “Shining” Women and the Battle for Workers Health Rights: Part 2″
In 1917, a new factory opened in New Jersey. It advertised that it was hiring young women of the local community. For a working-class woman, this was a great opportunity. The pay was above average and it was a skilled job where a young woman could gain experience. The advertised job was a dial painter. They would paint the faces of luminous watches (the numbers and hands of the clock). The paint that was used caused the watch face to glow in the dark. This was extremely useful for those in military service at this time. It was a very technical job as the watch faces were small and a fine pointed brush would have to be used. Women’s hands were smaller, so they were coveted for this detailed job. The girls were a paid commission per dial completed. Some of the top performers were able to make three times what their own fathers made. It seemed like a dream come true to many women which attributed to the high demand for employment at the company. Girls would quickly start to recommend family and friends to join them at the factory.
One of the most exciting things about this new job was that one worked closely with Radium. At this time, radium was the wonder drug and one of the most valuable substances on Earth. The media hailed this as the “miracle pill”. It was effective in cancer treatments and was sold in pharmacies in a pill form to cure just about anything. It was even included in toothpastes and cosmetics. The girls would become known as “ghost girls”. The dust from the radium would coat their clothes, hair, skin, etc. and give them an ethereal glow. The women would purposely wear their nice clothing to work at the factory so they would glow as they went out dancing later that night. Everyone was jealous of the girls who worked at the radium factory.Continue reading “The “Shining” Women and the Battle for Workers Health Rights: Part 1″
August 2020 marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment was passed. This amendment provided women with the right to vote in the United States. It is hard to believe that it was not until 1920 that the female citizens of America received a right that should have been automatic as a citizen of the country. This right is often taken for granted today and it can be difficult to imagine a time when a woman would actually be arrested for voting in an election! It is important to remember this anniversary and to remember how hard the women who came before us fought. They fought so we could participate in government and in the decision making of this country. It is critical that we exercise this right every opportunity we have. During August (and likely the months beyond), I would like to highlight some of the tactics the suffragettes used to have their voice heard, famous standouts, and highlight how much hard work was put into the movement.
“The female sex has been left defenseless for a long time now, like an orchard without a wall and bereft of a champion to take up arms in order to protect it…”
–The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan, 1405
Feminism in the 15th century? This is considered a rare concept during the medieval period. This was an era of serfs/lords, arranged marriages, and a time when women were viewed as little more than property. This period lacked champions to stand up to the patriarchy that dominated society. Well, such a champion did exist, though many may not have been familiar with her. She is considered France’s (even Europe’s) first profession female writer and was popular internationally. Her name was Christine de Pizan.
Christine is considered one of the first feminist figures as, through her work, she directly addresses many of the injustices her sex had been subjected to. She calls out the injustice of their treatment in a very progressive manner. This is evident in two of her most famous books, The Book of the City of Ladies and The Book of the Three Virtues. Christine’s version of feminism in the 15th century is still not like it is today (as she was still a woman of her time), but it was extremely radical for the period she lived through. I first learned about this amazing woman in an art history course in college and she has been a figure that I have wanted to highlight for a long time now. Continue reading “The Creation of a City of Ladies: Christine de Pizan and her Legacy”
I have yet to figure out this blogs main theme, but I am looking to research what I am most interested in (European medieval/renaissance/baroque history and women’s history), but I found the Empress Wu so fascinating I had to post this blurb that I wrote about a month ago. I hope you all will enjoy!
I was listening to a podcast this month and became fascinated with Empress Wu, the only female ruler of China. She was born during the Tang dynasty and lived from 624-705. This is a very early period and it surprised me how such an ambitious woman could become the sole ruler of China and remain the only one for centuries. Wu Zetian had a very interesting life and broke many of the social norms for women during her day, but she is also remembered for her corruptness and ruthlessness when she did take power.
“Like men, do women not have a rational soul? Why then shall they not enjoy the privilege of the enlightenment of letters? Is a woman’s soul not as receptive to God’s grace and glory as a man’s? Then why is she not able to receive learning and knowledge, which are lesser gifts? What divine revelation, what regulation of the Church, what rule of reason framed for us such a severe law?”– From a Spiritual Self Defense, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
I have recently been watching the Netflix show titled Juana Ines. It is a very enjoyable historical drama and I thought all the actors were very good. I love these types of shows because they always inspire me to look into the real events and people. I never knew about the genius nun, Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, from Mexico (then New Spain) during the 17th century. Sor Juana loved to learn and study, yet she was constantly in conflict with the restrictions for women during her time. I admire her because she continued to fight to follow her dreams. In her writings she fought for a woman’s right to learn and questioned the norms of society at the time. She was much ahead of her time in that respect. How had I not been taught her incredible story before? She was a genius, a brilliant writer, and a fighter for the rights of women.