If It’s Going to Count for Today’s Chicago Woman, Independence Day Is Not Just July Fourth, It’s Every Day

Dear Readers,

Here is my July Today’s Chicago Woman/ChicagoNow blogpost.
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Maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of my Today’s Chicago Woman blogposts have a history flavor to them.

This is no accident. I love reading, and writing-about, American (women’s, especially) history: So much so that I studied American history in graduate school, and wrote my master’s thesis on Jane Addams and the relationships among the women who created Hull House.

But, shortly thereafter, I realized that the role of college professor wasn’t right for me. I loved the stuff I might get to profess about, but I needed to find a more vital and public venue in which to study history and find it instructive—for today’s Chicago woman, for that topic was my real passion.

Well, one of those venues is this one, the pages of Today’s Chicago Woman.

Indeed, I think that today’s Chicago woman can benefit, in myriad ways, from understanding (keep reading), the work and life of her foremothers and fore-sisters, most especially the work and life of those with deep Chicago connections (again, keep reading).

So, here goes my women’s history lesson for this month’s—Independence Day’s month—(today’s) Chicago woman. Notably, I’m thinking July Fourth, Independence Day, as I write.

Though I admit I’m actively thinking about those last few days off baking in the sun, going to the beach, and hanging-out with friends and family, never far from my mind these last (June, May, April) —and soon-to-be, July!—days is the Gulf oil spill, the disaster BP has wrought.

To give credit where credit is due, as we discussed the “BP massacre” one recent night, my husband reminded me, Rebecca, the amateur historian and fierce political blogger, who should have this fact on the tip-of-her-tongue at all times, that it was an amazing woman, who first said what time it is about “Big Oil.”

That would be Ida (Minerva) Tarbell, who, over a century ago, wrote: “They [“Big Oil,”] had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me.”

And that’s one of Ida Minerva’s milder comments.

And who was Ida Minerva writing about? Well, none other than Standard Oil (at its last, headquartered in Chicago and employing hundreds of today’s Chicago women), a cousin of BP, bought by BP a few years back.

In 1904, Tarbell published The History of the Standard Oil Company. “…[o]ne of the most thorough investigations ever written of how a business monopoly exploits the public by using unfair tactics, [it] has been called…’arguably… the single most influential book on business ever published in the United States.’”

Now, this bit about Ida Minerva isn’t some obscure bit of women’s history trivia, of interest only to those of us whose favorite form of trivial pursuit is the one about women in American history.

No. This bit about Ida Minerva is really, really important for all today’s Chicago women, today and everyday.

Why? Well, because Ida Minerva had the guts, the guts to get to the gut (wrenching) heart-of-the-matter, as I noted above, over a century ago, about Big Oil’s avaricious and unending willingness to exploit women, men, the environment, the vanity of public officials, you-name-it; the guts to write about the willingness of Big Oil to exploit whatever in pursuit of its holy grail, Big Profits.

You could say that this is all a justifiable, totally reasonable, smart (businessman’s) reaction to the American public’s “stuck-on-stupid” approach to (not) saving our environment, because of our well-of-desire for cheap oil, but I think this analysis too facile.

No, there is something bigger at-hand here, and that something is our repeatedly-apparent, for over two centuries and counting, unwillingness to understand and take-hold-to what Independence Day is really about: American days un-dogged by the willful and injurious actions of British, or, for that matter, any other, kings.

Hear this: Ida Minerva, just like another amazing American woman journalist named Ida, Ida B. Wells, who I’ve also written about in these pages did what we all need to do everyday, not just on the Fourth of July: She celebrated the Fourth of July, Independence Day, not by going to the beach, but by writing tirelessly and unceasingly about the meaning of the Fourth of July, Independence Day: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”un-dogged, even in the dog days of summer, by the willful and injurious actions of kings.

Forget the beach, the barbecue, and the brew: July Fourth is about our independence from kings’ oppression. On July 4th 1776, it was the oppression of King George; on July 4th 2010, it’s the oppression of another, and no better, British king, British Petroleum.

Go here, today’s Chicago women: and tell the BP British king to go back where he came from, just like our ancestors told King George he should do; we today’s Chicago women, are just not having you here on our shores.
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Sincerely,

Rebecca

Subscribe to my blog here.

Working Mothers in the Great Recession

http://www.tcwmag.com/blogs/working-mothers-in-the-great-recession

Dear Readers,

So, here we are, the day after the Senate failed to pass a jobs bill, to help the millions and millions of unemployed Americans.

So, I share with you (see above link) my June 2010 column for Today’s Chicago Woman because, at the end of the column, you’ll find a list of my faves for guidance for taking action. They are the: YWCA, Women Employed, and Women’s Business Development Center.

Let’s tell those Senators what we think!

Best wishes.

Rebecca

SiveSiftingsRebeccaSiveTalksBack

If Ida B. Wells Were Alive Today

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to my February post for Today’s Chicago Woman: http://www.tcwmag.com/blogs/sivesiftings.

Ida B. Wells is inspiring in any month, but particularly so in this Black History Month, as women, all women, of all colors, gather together to figure out how to save healthcare reform, so that it will matter for women.

Ida B. Wells taught us both how to fight and how hard to fight: a writer, community organizer, and tireless advocate for justice, she never, ever, gave up.

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Here is my fan-letter post about Ida:

One of my favorite heroines of Chicago history–in fact, of all American history–is yesterday’s-Chicago-woman, Ida Barnett Wells. (See: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=W041.)

Ida B. Wells was born and educated in post-Reconstruction Mississippi, in a time when, and in a place where, African Americans experienced the very worst of what post-slavery white America offered-up to post-slavery black America. Lynching was common, and in Ida’s Mississippi homeplace, as well as in Memphis, Ida’s home as a young adult, all forms of public life were strictly segregated. (See: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_people_wells.html.)

Ida was a young woman when the U.S. Supreme Court infamously decided that “separate [could be] equal (for blacks and whites),” including in public transportation. (See: href=http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_plessy.html.

Indeed, Ida B. Wells first came to public notice when, still her 20s, and newly arrived in Memphis, she fought against just this kind of segregation, on the railroads.

Ida filed a lawsuit; she wrote editorials in the local newspaper; she spoke-out without fear. But, when a friend was lynched, and Wells spoke out against the lynching, Ida was forced to flee to safety, to Chicago.

In fact, Chicago was thought to be the “the promised land” for many of Mississippi’s African Americans.

The Chicago Daily Defender preached this message to Mississippians, distributing the newspaper at the very train stations where Mississippi’s African-American families boarded the (segregated) trains for Chicago.

Of course, times were tough in Chicago, too, but times weren’t nearly as tough as they were in Mississippi, where the sharecropping economy meant the meanest form of poverty.

Ida hit Chicago and started “blogging,” writing for the Chicago Daily Defender, among others.

And, girl(s), did she “blog.” Ida said what she thought, when she thought it. She was clear as a bell, at times caustic, and always, always, writing about the political matters of the day most important to African Americans. She was also a stirring and untiring voice for equality for women.

Fast-forward to today. At Today’s Chicago Woman, I try to say “…what time it is,” too.

And here’s what time it is, as I write in mid-January 2010: The U.S. Congress is about to come to agreement on a healthcare bill–with the votes of the women of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in-hand–a bill that renders American women separate and unequal (just what Ida fought against a hundred years ago), by virtue of its approach to reproductive healthcare to American women.

How can this be, you ask?

Here’s the back-story: According to Jessica Arons, writing for the Center for American Progress, (http://www.americanprogress.org/), and RH Reality Check, (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/), federal legislators made a “deal” at the outset of developing the healthcare reform bill, a deal that included a commitment to maintaining the federal status quo regarding access to abortion.

That status quo is the deal made by an infamous Chicago Congressman, Henry Hyde. Why infamous? Well, “The Hyde Amendment” denies federal funding to Medicaid-covered poor women seeking abortions, while their richer sisters can continue to be reimbursed by their (private) health insurer.

Surprise, surprise: In the run-up to the healthcare reform bill, neither the anti-choice Republicans, nor the anti-choice Democrats, kept their end of the deal Jessica describes. Instead, they proposed new, and, again, surprise, surprise, worse terms.

To add insult to injury, instead of fighting these proposals, say, in the way Ida would have, the pro-choice women in the U.S. Congress basically folded. The result: “the Stupak Amendment” (see http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/, for a refresher on that one), as well as the Senator Ben Nelson deal (see same place for a refresher on that one), both amendments effectively eliminating–each in its own special way–the federally-guaranteed right to access to abortion.

THESE WOMEN LEGISLATORS, OUR SUPPOSED ADVOCATES, ENDORSED A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN WHICH ACCESS TO ABORTION, (A FORM OF HEALTHCARE, AFTER ALL), WOULD BE EXEMPTED, SOLELY, FROM THE ORDINARY COURSE OF HEALTHCARE TREATMENT AND PAYMENT.

NO HEALTHCARE FOR MEN, PILLS FOR IMPOTENCY, SAY, WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ANY RESTRICTIONS TO THE NORMAL COURSE OF TREATMENT OR PAYMENT: NONE, NONE, AND NONE.

As I write [in mid-January], we don’t know what the final version of the healthcare bill the Congress sends to the President will be. Nor do we know whether the President will wake-up and remember who elected him (among others, America’s women and African Americans), and, therefore, decide that he ought to lead, instead of to follow, when it comes to insuring our equal rights.

However, and in any event, we know this: As we celebrate Black History Month, and as we look ahead to next-month’s celebration of Women’s History Month, history is being rewritten, for the (way) worse.

Ida would rail against this rewrite, and so should you.

Ida wouldn’t have stood this for a hot minute. She would have said, plainly and forcefully:

WE WON’T, AT THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE, OR END OF ANY DISCUSSION IN WHICH WOMEN’S VERY LIVES ARE AT STAKE, ALLOW ANYONE TO SUBJUGATE US.

WE STAND FIRM AND UNITED. IF THE CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT THINK OTHERWISE, JUST LET THEM TEST US.

WE WON’T MAKE DEALS. WE WILL MAKE WOMEN’S LIVES BETTER.

As your Today’s-Chicago-Woman Ida-surrogate, I say to you: Let’s do what Ida would do. Shout these words from the rooftops–in Black History Month, in Women’s History Month, in every month until the right deed is done.

Rebecca Sive

www.rebeccasive.com/blogSubscribe.htm

White Men Can’t Jump: The Senator John Kyl Edition

Good morning,

So here’s a classic: Check-out today’s USA Today story regarding healthcare reform:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/insurance/2009-10-04-womens-health_N.htm?csp=34

Here’s the key portion of the story:

“Some Republicans, such as Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, say basic policies shouldn’t be required to include coverage for things that not everyone will use.

“‘I don’t need maternity care and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive,’ Kyl said during a debate about the legislation last week.

‘I think your mom probably did,’ Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., shot back.

“Their spat has become a hit on YouTube, with nearly 150,000 hits as of Sunday.

Here are some of the facts about women and health insurance, as reported in the USA Today story, based on information from The National Women’s Law Center, one of the best organizations around, of any kind. See:
http://www.nwlc.org/reformmatters/

“According to the National Women’s Law Center, a non-partisan legal advocacy group:

“• Forty states and the District of Columbia allow ‘gender ratings,’ in which insurance companies can charge women more for the same health coverage as men and can charge businesses with mostly female workers higher group rates. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 4.7 million women last year bought individual insurance in states with this pricing practice.

“• In eight states and the District of Columbia, insurance companies can deny coverage to victims of domestic violence.

“• Insurance companies may offer policies that exclude coverage for some pre-existing conditions. If a woman has delivered a baby by cesarean section, for example, companies can deny coverage for future C-sections. In other cases, some insurers will deny maternity coverage if a woman is pregnant when she buys a policy.”

At my recent blogpost for Today’s Chicago Woman:http://www.tcwmag.com/Blogs/Sive-Siftings.aspx, I begin with the following quote from an amazing woman, Adolphine Fletcher Terry (check-her-out here: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=716).

“The men have failed…it’s time to call out the women.”

I’m repeating myself.

Rebecca

P.S. If you have a chance, call Senator Stabenow and Senator Mikuski, and thank them. They are great leaders for all of us.