HAPPY COFFEE DAY!

September 28th is National Coffee Day! It may be a fairly new holiday (started in 2015), but it’s becoming one of favorites.

Whenever I find a big hole in my knowledge stash, I immediately try to fill it. Thus, when my husband and I were lingering over our breakfast coffee—Kenyan, one of our favorites—and, for no identifiable reason, I said, “Does coffee grow in the United States?”

Bingo! Something to find out about!

Being my husband of many years, he immediately knew that I meant the continental U.S., not Puerto Rico or Hawaii, but he didn’t know. The answer is “yes.” Coffee is grown in California now, though it is a newcomer to coffee production.

As it turns out, I found researching coffee fascinating.  Although coffee is now grown worldwide, its roots trace back centuries to ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau.

According to legend, the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans when he noticed that after eating them, his goats became energized and didn’t want to sleep. (I don’t know how anyone could tell the difference.) He took the beans to a monastery where the head monk made a drink from them, felt the energizing effects, and shared the drink with other monks. And then the word began to spread.

By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia.

By the 16th century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. 

By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent—which raises the question of how the British came to be/stay tea drinkers, but that’s another story.

Afghani women grinding coffee beans

The common breakfast drinks of the time—beer and wine—quickly lost ground. Though people probably didn’t realize it, boiling the water in coffee generally made it much safer to drink than water. Coffee-drinking workers were alert and energized, and the quality of their work was greatly improved. (The National Coffee Association suggests that this was a precursor to the modern office coffee service.)

Coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, later called New York, by the mid-1600s. However, the American preference for coffee didn’t come until after the famous/infamous Boston Tea Party, when the colonists revolted against the high tax imposed on tea by George III. A fuller history of coffee and lots more coffee info can be had at ncausa.com.

Suffice it to say, lots of wise and not-so-wise people have commented on coffee.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women: “I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

Thomas Jefferson: “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.” 

Ronald Reagan: “I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”

T.S. Eliot: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

Anthony Trollope, The Warden: “What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?”

Vincent Van Gogh: “To do good work one must eat well, be well housed, have one’s fling from time to time, smoke one’s pipe, and drink one’s coffee in peace.”

Abraham Lincoln: “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”

Johann Sebastian Bach: “Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried-up piece of goat.” (FYI, he wrote a coffee cantata.)

Clark Gable: “I never laugh until I’ve had my coffee.”

Dave Barry: “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”

One measure of coffee’s ubiquity is the sheer number of quotes available! If you search coffee quotes on line, you will find lists ranging from 30 to 117. Even discounting repetitions, that’s saying a lot about coffee.

from Etsy

I’m not a coffee addict, though there are such—people who get headaches if they don’t have their caffeine fix. In truth, other sources of caffeine can be just as addictive (think soda, tea, or chocolate) but coffee is the one most often acknowledged/recognized. 

from Etsy

I typically drink only one cup of coffee a day, which some consider heretical, but even so, I have my preferences: start with roasted beans, grind, brew using a drip coffee maker. I drink it black, and prefer Kenyan or Tanzanian, sometimes Mocha or a darker roast.

In the U.S., coffee drinking is practically a cultural requirement, and as such, it’s everywhere, in many forms.  Black, cream, sugar, foam, no foam, full caf, half-caf, decaf, soy latte, instant (ugh!)—people love their coffee a certain way and often will not budge on change it.  I, on the other hand, like to change it up.

Coffee and coffee shops are a huge part of our social culture. Teenagers often start drinking it to keep up with late night homework and early morning bus schedules. Many people hang out in coffee shops to use the wifi or meet friends. Sending coworkers to fetch coffee or jumping the line at a kiosk is frequently a method of establishing or reinforcing workplace hierarchy. I know several parents who have special “coffee time” with their young children. (In every case I’ve heard of, the child drinks milk with maybe a teaspoon of coffee added.)

Believe it or not, some people are allergic to coffee or just really dislike it. In a country with (seemingly) coffee shops on every corner, what social implications might this have?

With whiskey and cream, pretending to be Irish?

And what about equipment? Grinder for freshly ground beans? Keurig for easy portioning? Where/when is it drunk? Made at home or purchased in a cafe? Milk or whipped cream or fancy syrup? SO many opportunities!

What’s your coffee habit? And how about your characters?

ONE RESOURCEFUL BLACK MAN

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that (among other things) August is Black Business Month. And then I heard about John P. Parker. He caught my attention because 1) my father’s name was John E. Parker; and 2) both moved to Ohio from points farther south, and died there.

Although there’s no other connection, that was enough to make me want to find out about this historical Parker—and an amazing man he was!

An Eventful Early Life

John P. Parker was the son of a slave mother and white father—name unknown, but reputed to be a Virginia aristocrat. At the age of eight, John was chained to another slave and forced to walk from Norfolk to the slave market in Richmond, VA. There he was resold and added to a chained gang of 400 slaves being herded to Mobile, AL. In Alabama, he was bought by a local physician.

“After the Sale: Slaves Going South from Richmond” by Eyre Crow, 1853
Encyclopedia of Virginia

Parker worked first as a house slave and companion to the doctor’s two sons. According to John’s memoir, he became good friends with the two boys and enjoyed being their playmate. Although educating a slave was against the law, the doctor’s sons secretly taught Parker to read and write.

When the sons went to Yale, John was supposed to go with them as their personal servant. However, in Philadelphia, the difference in public sentiment regarding slavery became obvious. Afraid that abolitionists would try to free John, the doctor’s sons sent him back to Alabama. His dreams of university were dashed.

John Parker returned to Mobile, where the doctor apprenticed him to a plasterer. The plasterer was a brutal drunk and after defending himself, Parker feared for his life and fled by riverboat. After months of pursuit and escape—well worth reading about!—he ended up on the docks in New Orleans. In a bizarre coincidence, Parker happened to cross paths with the Alabama physician and returned to Mobile. According to his memoir, Parker was quite happy to accompany the doctor home.

Returned to the doctor’s household, John was apprenticed again to a foundry. He thrived and learned there until he got into a fight with his boss. The doctor sent John to work in another friend’s foundry. Again, John’s temper ended in a fight with the superintendent. The argument was compounded by the superintendent’s theft of Parker’s design for an improved tobacco press. Fortunately, the superintendent was unfamiliar with patent law, and Parker was able to file the patent when he was a free man.

After this, the doctor claimed he didn’t know what to do with John and would have to to sell him as a field hand.

Finding Freedom

The three golden balls of a pawnbroker’s sign originally referred to the three golden coins on the medieval Medici family crest.

Desperate to avoid the brutality of a field hand’s life, John asked one of the doctor’s patients, a widow, to purchase him. He persisted in his petitions until she agreed to do so, for $1,800. 

Elizabeth Ryder, the widow, allowed John to hire himself out to earn money. She agreed that his wages could be used to purchase his own freedom. John Parker repaid that $1,800 plus interest at the rate of $10 per week. He earned the money doing piecework in Mobile iron foundries, as well as occasional odd jobs and running a “regular three-ball pawnshop.”

Parker was so motivated to repay Mrs. Ryder that he paid her far more than $10 every week.

John Parker gained his freedom in 1845, after eighteen months with the widow. This is a pretty amazing achievement: that $1,800 (never mind the interest) is the equivalent of $64,659 today. He was only 18 in 1845!  Clearly, he was both hard working and talented. And thanks to Mrs. Ryder, who “gave me a free hand to go where I wanted to and do as I pleased.”

Businessman

John Parker’s patents for a portable tobacco press, an improved tobacco press, and soil pulverizer

Beginning as an iron molder, Parker developed and patented a number of mechanical and industrial inventions, including the John P. Parker tobacco press and harrow (pulverizer), patented in 1884 and 1885. He had actually invented the pulverizer while still in Mobile in the 1840s.  Parker was one of the few blacks to patent an invention before 1900.

The “Parker-Built McColm Soil Pulverizer” produced from the patent diagrams by Ben Schulte of the University of Cincinnati College of Applied Science.
from Small Farmers Journal

In 1865, Parker and a partner bought a foundry, which they named the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company. “Parker managed the company, which manufactured engines, Dorsey’s patent reaper and mower, and sugar mill. In 1876 he brought in a partner to manufacture threshers, and the company became Belchamber and Parker. Although they dissolved the partnership two years later, Parker continued to grow his business, adding a blacksmith shop and machine shop. In 1890, after a destructive fire at his first facility, Parker built the Phoenix Foundry. It was the largest between Cincinnati and Portsmouth, Ohio.” (Wikipedia)

Family Man

I find John Parker’s personal life as impressive as his business achievements. After buying his freedom, Parker settled first in Jeffersonville, Indiana, then Cincinnati, Ohio. The port city of Cincinnati had a large free black community, with a variety of work available. In 1848, he married Miranda Boulden, free born in that city.  They had a small general store at Beechwood Factory, Ohio, but a year later moved to Ripley.  There they had seven children together, though some sources only include six.

  • John P. Parker, Jr, b. 1849, attended Oberlin College but died before graduating, in 1871
  • Hale Giddings Parker, b. 1851, graduated from Oberlin College‘s classical program and became the principal of a black school in St. Louis
    • Later, he studied law and in 1894 moved to Chicago to become an attorney
  • Cassius Clay Parker, b. 1853 (the first two sons were named after prominent abolitionists)
    • He studied at Oberlin College and became a teacher in Indiana.
  • Horatio W. Parker, b. 1856, became a principal of a school in Illinois
    • He later taught in St. Louis.
  • Hortense Parker, b. 1859 was among the first African-American graduates of Mount Holyoke College
    • After marriage in 1913, she moved to St. Louis and continued to teach music.
    • Her husband was a college graduate who served as principal of a school.
  • Portia, b. 1865, became a music teacher
  • Bianca, b. 1871, became a music teacher

In one generation from slavery, all seven of John Parker’s children were college educated. John and Miranda are noted in local records as owning the area’s largest collection of books, which they frequently loaned to neighbors in support of education.

Interestingly, in his will, John Parker forbade any of his children taking over his businesses. He wanted them to be upwardly mobile in the professions and Black middle class.

Abolitionist

Ripley, OH was in an area of growing abolitionist activity when John Parker moved there, and who is to say whether he would have been as much involved in the movement if he had lived elsewhere? Perhaps not.

But while living in Cincinnati, Parker boarded with a barber whose family was still held in slavery. Parker’s first successful extraction was to rescue the barber’s family from and eventually rescued the barber’s family from slavery—his first successful extraction—and it was launched from and came to a successful close in Ripley.

Ripley, so close to the Ohio River that separated slavery from freedom, was a natural station for the Underground Railroad.

Parker joined the resistance movement there, and for 15 years aided slaves escaping across the river from Kentucky to get farther north to freedom; some chose to go to Canada. Parker guided at least 440 (some sources put the number as high as 1,000) fugitives along their way, despite a $1,000 bounty placed on his head by Kentucky slaveholders. The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 increased the penalties for aiding escaping slaves.

Freedom Stairway” leading from the Ohio River to John Rankin’s house (John P. Parker’s neighbor) in Ripley, OH

Although he was known for keeping meticulous records of the people passing through Ripley, John Parker was equally meticulous in maintaining the secrecy of his Underground Railroad station. When he received word that someone had reached safety, Parker burned the records relating to that person. He insisted that his photo not be taken, and there is no confirmed photograph of him. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Parker dropped his entire book of fugitives’ names, dates, and original homes into the cupola of his own iron foundry.

Parker risked his own freedom every time he went to Kentucky to help slaves to freedom. According to the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune“He would go boldly over into the enemy’s camp and filch the fugitives to freedom.”  During the Civil War, he recruited a few hundred slaves for the Union Army.

But Ripley, like many towns in non-slave states, wasn’t united in support of escaping slaves. Residents on opposite sides of the issue often ended in physical conflict. In Parker’s own words, “I never thought of going uptown without a pistol in my pocket a knife in my belt, and a blackjack hand. Day or night I dare not walk on the sidewalks for fear someone might leap out of a narrow alley at me.” Even so, he helped at least 440 fugitives to flee.

This 1892 photo, of the dedication of the “Freedom’s Heroes” monument to abolitionists John and Jeanne Rankin in the Ripley, Ohio cemetery, is the most likely surviving photo of John P. Parker.
from the Ohio Historical Society and John Parker House

Parker’s Memoir

Parker’s story in his own word—HIS PROMISED LAND: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad wasn’t published until 1998. Parker gave interviews to the journalist Frank Moody Gregg of the Chattanooga News in the 1880s, when Gregg was researching the resistance movement. He never published this manuscript, but historian Stuart Seely Sprague found Gregg’s manuscript and notes in Duke University Archives. He edited the document for publication, keeping Parker’s language, and added a detailed biography in the preface.

The documents are still accessible in the Duke University archives online.

I’m calling it a memoir rather than an autobiography because this book is limited to Parker’s early life and his involvement with the Underground Railroad. It’s a fast, gripping read, but if you want to know about his business or personal life, you must look elsewhere.

The John P. Parker House

Parker’s house at 300 N. Front Street in Ripley, Ohio, is a National Historic Landmark. It is a small museum, open to the public Friday-Sunday, May-October.

YOU STILL HAVE TIME TO CELEBRATE!

“The beatings will continue until morale improves!”
August panel from the Queen Mary Psalter (14th century)

Yes, it’s August 10th, and some events are in the rearview mirror.

Nomony Hall, home of Robert Carter III
from Encyclopedia Virginia

Like the anniversary of the Emancipation of 500. On August 1, 1791, Virginia planter Robert Carter III shocked his family and friends by filing a deed of emancipation for his 500 slaves. Not all at once, but the document established a schedule such that 15 slaves would be freed each January 1 over a 21-year period. Children would be freed when they reached adulthood: age 18 for women and 21 for men.

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift
from Encyclopedia Virginia

In addition, Carter made legal provisions to care for freed slaves who were elderly or infirm. Before being emancipated, people were taught trades and set up with bank accounts and legal identity papers. The lands that had made up his multiple plantations were rented or sold cheaply to freedmen.

He wrote, “I have for some time past been convinced that to retain them in Slavery is contrary to the true principles of Religion and Justice and therefore it is my duty to manumit them.”

Robert Carter’s “Deed of Gift” is believed to be the largest act of emancipation in US history, and it predates Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by 70 years.

But some things are celebrated all month long, so there is plenty of time to observe the various “holidays” at your own convenience. 

August Holidays

American Adventures Month

I mentioned American Adventures Month in a Facebook post: the point is to celebrate vacationing in the Americas. People are encouraged to explore South, Central, and North America.

Outdoor adventures are a great way to maintain social distance while we wait for Covid to die out completely. I might add, doing so would raise awareness that the United States is not equivalent to America.

Black Business Month

Six months after Black History Month, the point of Black Business Month is to boost awareness of black owned and operated businesses. The month is dedicated to starting, maintaining, and buying from black owned businesses. Maggie Walker (founder of the Penny Bank, among other things) and Oprah Winfrey didn’t start at the top!

Score.org, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Mashable, NBC, and Oprah have suggestions for how you can support Black and minority-owned businesses.

Image from the 18th Annual National Black Business Month website

  • Boomers Making a Difference Month 
    • This is a relatively new one, dating only to 2010. Many organizations, including the AARP and Senior Living Magazine, arrange events to encourage those in the Boomer generation to volunteer in their communities. Some also celebrate baby boomers who have made special efforts to help others in need improve their lives.
Closing your eyes and covering your ears doesn’t make the screaming stop. The zombies will continue to attack.
  • Bystander Awareness Month
    • The Bystander Effect is a social psychological phenomenon: the more people who witness a person in need, the less likely that person is to get help. Everyone assumes someone else will step in. The purpose of this month’s awareness is to encourage people to be active bystanders and step up when witnessing injustice, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. Even traffic accidents and house fires cause this effect. It’s far better to have too many people call 911 than to have no one call.

Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

The American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages parents, doctors, teachers, and anyone working with children to look for signs of poor eyesight or eye health in August. In addition to near-sightedness or far-sightedness, children’s vision development is commonly affected by lazy eye, crossed eyes, color blindness, drooping eyelids, and astigmatism.

This is closely related to Children’s Vision and Learning Month, established in 1995. Because 80% of learning is dependent on vision, parents and educators need to be alert. Just before starting a new school year is the perfect time to schedule an eye exam. Estimates are that 25% of children have an undiagnosed vision problem.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

Support the happy transition to Kindergarten. Nearly 2 million children in the US enter kindergarten each year, changing not only their lives but the lives of their parents siblings, and teachers.

This year will be especially challenging for families and teachers making the change back from online school while trying to avoid new Covid outbreaks.

August is a good time to get kids adjusted to a new sleeping and eating schedule, ensure new students are up to date on all their doctor visits and vaccines, and buy a giant pair of sunglasses to hide your tears when your little one skips off to the classroom.

Happiness Happens Month

The Secret Society of Happy People breaks their solemn vow of secrecy every year to sponsor this event. The goal is to encourage people to express their happiness and discourage raining on anyone’s parade.

International Pirate Month

Technically, International Pirate Month is not celebrated in August. It’s celebrated in Ahrrr-gust!

It’s the perfect opportunity to practice your patois for Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19.

National Read-a-Romance Month

First observed in 2013, the title says it all!

I recommend this romantic story about the true love a dog feels for his bone.

National Traffic Awareness Month

Boiled down, it means be aware and take steps to not get distracted by all your car’s technology, cell phone calls, passenger talk, or any other distractions.

Reading in the car can lead so easily to sleeping in the car, which inevitably ends in drooling in the car.

National Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month

The goal is to bring attention to this congenital disease. By damaging the motor function nerves in the spinal column, SMA breaks downs patients’ ability to walk, move, eat, even to breathe.

Neurosurgery Awareness Month

The American Association of Neurosurgeons has designated August every year to raising awareness of neurological conditions. Each year, the focus is on a different type of disorder or injury, such as stroke or brain tumors. This year, the focus is on Traumatic Brain Injuries.

*Not an accurate representation of a neurosurgeon at work.

What Will Be Your Legacy Month

Many people do not realize how their actions affect others. They live their lives selfishly, not realizing the impact of their life choices on present and possibly future generations. So, the point of this month-long celebration is to have people reflect on ways to make make positive changes that will affect generations. Start by planting positive seeds in the children in our lives.

***NATIONAL IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS MONTH***

NIAM is part of an outreach program by the CDC, the WHO, local hospitals and health organizations. It’s a chance for researchers and health providers to focus on the critical role immunizations play in preventing life-threatening diseases among people of all ages and cultures. Each year in the US, tens of thousands of people die because of vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications—and that doesn’t include those who suffer pain or disability. 

Think COVID-19!

Get your vaccines to protect those who can’t.

Bottom Line: Find ways to celebrate this month!

TATTOOS: CONVICTS AND STREET GANGS

Japanese Yakuza

If you aren’t in a prison or a gang, who cares? More people than you might imagine! Think self-preservation and decision making—not to mention writing realistically.

  • Prison employees
  • Parole officers
  • Social workers
  • Police officers
  • Medical providers
  • Those new to the neighborhood/prison
  • Border patrol
  • Anyone living or travelling in Eastern Europe or Russia

Indeed, an extensive list of tattoos, with pictures and meanings, has been produced for the Canadian Border Patrol. It’s available online at publicintelligence.net (search tattoos and their meanings).

Another good source is corrections1.com.  

There is an abundance of on-line information about the meaning of prison tattoos, and it’s generally consistent. But keep in mind, there are varied meanings, and context is important.  One example here would be playing cards, typically found on the knuckles. In Russian prisons, the suit chosen have meanings. In other settings, this type of tattoo may indicate someone who likes to gamble, or who sees life as a gamble. (See below.)

The Nature of Prison Tattoos

Overall, prison tattoos tend to look dark and crude. Inmates tattoo each other using whatever equipment they can gather, such as staples, ballpoint pens, paper-clips, improvised needles, molten rubber, styrofoam, etc. 

Sometimes the “artist” will draw a picture on a wooden plank, place needles along the lines of the design, cover the needles with ink and stamp the whole tableau on the prisoner’s body. Another method is to slice the image onto the skin with a razor and daub the cut with indelible ink. When prisoners manage to get an electric shaver and a syringe with a needle, they can jury-rig a tattooing machine.

One of the least horrific photos I could find of an infected tattoo

Ink is hard to come by, so for dye, they can use pen ink. Also, they  can burn the heel of a shoe, and mix the ash with the prisoner’s urine – a practice superstitiously believed to reduce the chance of infection. Research has revealed a connection between tattoos and high rates of hepatitis C among prisoners.

Tattooing is typically slow and nearly always painful.  Conditions are inevitably far from sterile, so infections and complications are common.  Suffice it to say that what prison tattoos convey is important to the wearer.

Not All Tattoos are Voluntary

The most famous instance would be during the Holocaust when concentration camp inmates were tattooed with an identification number. Also see the section on gender below. Any tattoo that stigmatizes a prisoner, or invites abuse by other inmates, is likely to have been applied involuntarily.

White Supremacist Gang Tattoos 
  • KKK
  • Neo-Nazism
  • Arian Brotherhood (AB)
  • Family Affiliated Irish Mafia (FAIM)
  • Sacramaniac
  • Number tattoos
  • General white supremacist symbols
    • For example 1488 (or 14 or 88) found anywhere on the body identifies white supremacists/Nazi inmates.  There are a variety of tattoos associated with the Arian Brotherhood, important to identify, for they make up 1% of the prison population but commit 20% of inmate murders.
  • FAIM members sometimes wear a shamrock as well, signifying affiliation with the AB—but this is only allowed with permission of the AB
Russian Prison Tattoos

In the Soviet Union, particularly during Joseph Stalin’s time, non-political prisoners (thieves, murderers, arsonists, etc.) in the Gulag system were often given preferential treatment by prison guards. Tattoos told the guards as well as other prisoners how to treat a prisoner, including what labor assignments they got and whether to assign prisoners as enforcers. Eventually, non-political prisoners gained so much power within the Gulags that the Vor v Zakony (Thieves in Law) essentially ran many of the prison camps. Today, the Vory is one of the most powerful mafia organizations in the world. In many areas within the former Soviet Union, anyone with visible tattoos is assumed to be affiliated with the Vory or pretending to be.

  • Star
  • Manacles
  • Epaulette
  • Birds on horizon
  • Barbed wire
  • Symbol of the cross
  • Crowns and rings
  • Scarab beetle
  • Playing cards
  • Cat
  • A cat tattoo represents a thief.
    • One cat = the prisoner worked alone
    • Multiple cats = the prisoner was part of a gang of thieves
    • A cat tattoo (think stealthy as a cat) is considered good luck for a thief
    • If worn on the chest, it also signals a dangerous criminal who hates law enforcement 

Playing card suits carry specific meanings: spade represents a thief; clubs symbolize criminals in general, diamonds label stoolpigeons and informants – and was probably applied by force—and hearts imply that someone is looking for a romantic partner in the prison, which may also be forcibly applied.

The knife through the neck tattoo, in Russian prisons, means the bearer is a murderer—and proud of it. Much has been written about Russian prison tattoos. If interested, you can find information specific to Japan, Australia, France, Italy, etc.

Street/Prison Gang Tattoos

MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha)
  • Mara Salvatrucha 13
  • Black Guerrilla Family
  • Red Blood Dragon
  • Gangster Discipes
  • Santana
  • Mexican Mafia
  • Mexikanemi
  • Texas Syndicate
  • Almighty Latin King Nations
  • 18th Street Gang
  • Sureños
Crips
  • Norteños
  • Texas Chicano Brotherhood
  • Border Brothers
  • Hells Angels
  • Bloods
  • Crips
  • Indian Warrior
  • Laotian Boyz (LB)
Common Symbols
  • Tiger
  • Spider web
  • Tear drop
  • Three dots
  • Five dots
  • Angel of death
  • Clown faces/masks
  • Vida loca
  • Barbed wire
  • spiderweb, typically representing a lengthy incarceration, is commonly found on the elbow or neck. 
  • Teardrops can mean a lengthy prison sentence, that the wearer has committed murder, or that one of the inmate’s friends was murdered and the tattooed one is seeking revenge.

According to corrections1.com, “One of the most widely recognized prison tattoos, the teardrop’s meaning varies geographically. In some places, the tattoo can mean a lengthy prison sentence, while in others it signifies that the wearer has committed murder. If the teardrop is just an outline, it can symbolize an attempted murder. It can also mean that one of the inmate’s friends was murdered and that they are seeking revenge. The teardrop has been popularized recently by rappers and other celebrities, but still remains a staple in prisons. Those who are newbies behind bars with a teardrop tattoo will make a lot of enemies, fast.”

Alternatively, Mental Floss says, “There are many stories about why a prisoner would have this tattoo, but the most common is that an unfilled teardrop might symbolize the death of a loved one, while an opaque one might show that the death has been avenged.

Three dots representing “my crazy life” (vida loca) refers to the gang lifestyle, but no particular gang; typically applied at the corner of the eye or between the thumb and index finger. Sometimes three dots, like three crosses, represents the holy trinity of Christianity. 

Five dots between the thumb and forefinger represents time done in prison. It’s found internationally. Located elsewhere on the body, this design may mean association with the People Nation gang.

A clock with no hands represents doing time and a lot of it. Ditto watch without hands or an hourglass.

Barbed wire tattoos are fairly common and many have no specific meaning. Sometimes each barb represents a year served in prison.  On the forehead, such tattoos typically mean serving a life sentence.

Laughing and crying clown faces/masks often means “Laugh now, cry later” attitude of the gang lifestyle.

Gender As a Factor in Prison/Gang Tattoos

Although there is much online discussion of convict tattoos in general, most of the images shown feature men. From this, with an overlay of gender stereotypes, one might conclude that tattoos among female inmates are rare.  But I found one research paper to the contrary.

“This study confirmed that there is a high frequency of tattoos among female offenders, but disproved the hypothesis that the frequency would be higher and more aggressive among violent offenders in comparison to non-violent offenders. Based on these findings, non-violent female offenders were more likely than violent female offenders to have a tattoo or tattoos, to have multiple tattoos, and to have aggressive or masculine tattoos. However, offenders convicted of violent crimes like robbery and assault or battery had the most visible tattoos, primarily located on the hands, face, fingers, and wrists.” 

(Sullivan, Megan, “Crimes Committed By Tattooed Female Offenders and the Significance of Body Art Content and Location” (2011). All Regis University Theses. 48 (.https://epublications.regis.edu/theses/483

I found no indication that the images and/or their meanings differ by gender. 

And according to Wikipedia, “Forced and enslaved prostitutes are often tattooed or branded with a mark of their owners. Women and girls being forced into prostitution against their will may have their boss’ name or gang symbol inked or branded with a hot iron on their skin. In some organizations involved with the trafficking of women and girls, like the mafias, nearly all prostitutes are marked. Some pimps and organizations use their name or well-known logo, while others use secret signs.  Some years ago, the branding mark was usually small, only recognized by other pimps, and sometimes hidden between the labia minora, but today some “owners” write their names in big letters all upon the body of the victim.”

Bottom line: Tattoos can carry a lot of meaning. When deciphering that meaning, tread carefully.

TATTOO!

Quick: what’s the first thing that came to mind?

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film of the same name
Vladimir Franz, a candidate for the Czech Presidency in 2013

Last week, a woman said to me (approximately), “People  think permanent make-up is a new thing, but Cleopatra’s famous eyes were tattooed on. Soot was applied with knives.” I’d never heard such a thing, and I’ve actually been to Egypt. I always assumed her face was painted. As with anything that pricks my curiosity, I googled it. Lo and behold, it’s a much more complicated topic than I ever considered.

Bontoc Warrior with Chaklag Tattoos

Basically, any time an indelible design is created by inserting pigment under the epidermis, the result is a tattoo. Tattooing has been practiced in various cultures over centuries.

How Many Centuries? 

Ötzi the Iceman

As for bodily evidence of tattoos, for a long time the oldest known examples were Egyptian mummies, dated about 2000 BCE. However, Ötzi the Iceman, found on the Italian-Australian border in 1991, pushed that back. His mummified skin has at least 60 tattoos and was carbon dated a thousand years earlier, making him 5,200 years old.

This pre-Cucuteni figurine was made sometime between 4900 and 4750 BCE, with what look like evidence of cultural tattoos.

If one considers non-body evidence such as figurines and and paintings, then tattooing was practiced in Egypt in the Predynastic period, around 3100 BCE.

Tattooing Was Everywhere 

Moana was also the first Disney film to feature characters with tattoos!
Tätowierung Inuitfrau, an Inuit woman painted by Jens Peder Hart Hansen, circa 1654

The word tattoo started as the Polynesian word ta, meaning to strike. It evolved into the Tahitian word tatatau, meaning to mark something. As seen in the animated film Moana, these traditional tattoos were applied by means of rapidly striking a bamboo rod to drive an inked thorn into the skin.

A marriageable girl of the Koita people of Papua New Guinea, who had new tattoos added every year since she was five years old

In nearly every ancient culture, such as those in Greece and Rome to Native Americans, Japanese, sub-Saharan African, Australian Aboriginal, and Innuit, evidence has shown that tattooing was and most modern cultures tattoos were and are everywhere.

But Why Tattoo?

Preserved skin of a British military deserter, tattooed with a D
  • A cultic symbol dedicating the wearer to a specific god or belief
    • For example, Amunet was a priestess of the goddess Hathor.
  • As a brand signifying servitude/slavery/shame
    • For example adulterers marked with an A, T for thief, etc.
  • As a professional identification (e.g., prostitute, priestess)
  • As a permanent amulet seeking protection
    • Sailors having anchor tattoos or miners with lamps tattooed on their foreheads were trying to bring good luck.
    • The patterns of tattoos on Egyptian women’s abdomens and thighs seem to have been for fertility and for protection during pregnancy and childbirth. 
Japanese prostitute of the Kansei Era (circa 1888) painted by Tsukiok Yoshitoshi
  • Tattoos may have been a therapeutic tool, similar to acupuncture. 
    • The Ice Man had tattoos on his hands, lower back, and feet in areas that showed signs of stress damage.
  • As a declaration of group membership (think Marines, college fraternities, or Nazis)
  • As a visible means of intimidating the enemy (think Maori warriors) or showing bravery or success in battle
  • As a personal symbol of a meaningful event (e.g., birth of a child) or belief (sayings of Jesus or Buddha), or tribute to a beloved person
  • And, of course, as pure body art/decoration
  • Tattoos used by gang members and prisoners are often extraordinarily complex and will be covered in a separate blog post of their own.
    • The tattoos used by the Nazis in concentration camps were a form of branding, not in the same class as voluntary markings prisoners have chosen to put on their bodies for various reasons.
  • Tattoos to repair or restore
    • Today, plastic surgeons often work with tattoo artists to cover scars, burns, the effects of alopecia or vitiligo.
    • Many women get tattoos on their breasts after cancer surgery.
      • Along with her other artistic work, Amy Black (Pink Ink Fund) is a tattoo artist well known in the Richmond, VA area, for creating realistic-looking nipples or other art for women who have had cancer surgery. 

Permanent Make-Up, the Daughter of General Tattooing  

The goal is to look natural, or like externally applied makeup, enhancing colors on the face, lips, eyebrows, and eyelids. This type of tattooing (also known as cosmetic tattooing, dermapigmentation, micropigmentation) is also older than one might think.

Tattooed Eyebrows and Eyeliner

The first documented permanent makeup artist was Sutherland MacDonald, in the U.K. in 1902! His specialty was “all-year-round delicate pink complexion”—i.e., rouged cheeks. By the 1920s, it was popular in the U.S. The tattooist George Burchett wrote about beauty salons that tattooed women using vegetable dyes without their knowledge under the rise of “complexion treatment.” (Personally, I can only imagine that those women were willfully ignorant, given that tattooing is generally an uncomfortable procedure with visible aftereffects, such as temporary scabbing.) 

Mrs. M Stevens Wagner, 1907

As with all matters of fashion, popularity varies over time. During the 1960s and 1970s, the popularity of tattoos took a sharp uptick. According to one article (the guardian.com) in 2016, a US poll revealed that 29% of people had a tattoo, up from 21% four years earlier. Of people born between 1982 and 2004, 47% have at least one.

General Considerations 

Whang-od Oggay is the last Mambabatok (master practitioner of the traditional Kalinga tattoo method) of the Butbut people of the Philippines.

Do multiple tattoos create a different impression from a single one? And if so, in what way? What difference does the reason for the tattoo make? What about the nature/content of the tattoo?

But Back to Cleopatra 

Retrato Femenino: Fresco of a woman believed to be Cleopatra from a villa in Roman Herculaneum, circa 1st Century CE

According to accepted academic evidence, in Egypt—unlike most cultures—only women were tattooed. The tattoos most often seemed related to fertility and childbirth, or identifying the woman as high ranking. However, I found nothing specific to Cleopatra’s face. Bummer.

Bottom Line

Permanent body decoration serves psychological and/or practical purposes for the tattooed one. In addition, body decorations send out a range of social signals—intentional or not. Think about it.

WORDS FROM WAR

In last week’s blog, I discussed nom de guerre, literally war name, that in current French usage has come to mean any pseudonym. Like any other in-group, soldiers develop their own jargon—which often lingers in subsequent slang, often with a morphed meaning.

This blog will showcase just a few such words/phrases.

US Army poster from WWI (Gordon Grant)

A.W.O.L. (Absent Without Leave) Even before the Civil War, this meant a soldier who has gone off without permission. Now business executives, teenagers, spouses—virtually anyone—can be AWOL, pronounced A-wall. The unexplained or unexcused absence is often trivial.

S.N.A.F.U. (Status Normal: All F*cked Up) The Marines are usually credited with this particular acronym, which originated during World War II. There is some evidence that radio operators came up with the phrase to give humorous meaning to a commonly used set of letters from coded messages. In modern usage, this acronym has essentially the same meaning, lacking only the cynical mocking of commanding officers. (S.U.S.F.U. [Situation Unchained: Still F*cked Up] was coined as a follow-up, but it has largely fallen out of use.

F.U.B.A.R. had several variations of meaning, though “F*cked Up Beyond All Repair” pretty much covers it. Occasionally, it was defined as “F*cked Up By A**holes in the Rear” to express frustration with military command issuing orders from the comfort and safety of their offices well out of harm’s way. Like SNAFU, it originated as military slang during World War II, and it has retained its original meaning in modern slang.

Ambulance Dogs in WWI were sent with medical supplies to find wounded soldiers who could not be otherwise reached. They were also called Mercy Dogs because, very often, all they could do was comfort the dying.

Basket case is used in a fairly lighthearted way today (often describing someone who repeatedly makes stupid mistakes, or who crumbles under pressure), but it has a strange history. Shortly after World War I, rumors circulated of multitudes of soldiers who had been so badly injured that they had to be carried from the battlefield in a barrow or basket, usually having lost all four of their limbs. This belief was so strong that it persists in the public imagination today despite direct evidence to the contrary. In 1919, the Surgeon General of the Army made a public statement that this was not the case, and only one quadruple amputee from the war is known to have survived. Ethelbert Christian lost all four limbs at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, but he learned how to walk on prosthetics and lived what appears to have been a full and happy life.

Blue-footed booby
In Spanish, “bobo” is a clown or a fool.

Booby-trap has been in use since the mid-19th century for a fairly harmless prank or practical joke. A “booby” was used in English slang to mean a stupid or gullible person as early as the late 17th century. But in WWI, it morphed into meaning an explosive device deliberately disguised as a harmless object. The English journalist Sir Philip Gibbs (1877-1962) said, “the enemy left … slow-working fuses and ‘booby-traps’ to blow a man to bits or blind him for life if he touched a harmless looking stick or opened the lid of a box, or stumbled over an old boot.”

As a nickname for body lice or head lice, cooties first appeared in trenches slang in 1915. It was presumably derived from the coot, a species of waterfowl known for being infested with lice and other parasites. Today it’s a children’s term for an imaginary germ or a repugnant quality transmitted by obnoxious or slovenly people.

In the 19th century, dingbat was used like thingamajig or whatchamacallit as a  placeholder for something or someone whose real name the speaker couldn’t come up with at the moment. It came to be used for a clumsy or foolish person during the First World War, before morphing to mean shell-shocked, nervous, or mad. Now it’s used for a stupid or eccentric person.

In British English, “to be in a flap,” meaning “to be worried,” dates from 1916. It was originally a naval expression derived from the restless flapping of birds, but quickly spread into everyday English during the First World War. The adjective unflappable, meaning unflustered or imperturbable, calm in the face of crisis, appeared in the 1950s as a reference to the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Son of a Gun is generally held to originate as a euphemism for the child of a military father away on a lengthy deployment (and thus somewhat suspicious paternity). In current usage, it is an epithet similar to “son of a bitch,” with positive or negative meanings depending on the speaker.

Brainwashing is a literal translation of the Chinese phrase xi nao, to wash the brain. During the Korean War, military reports estimated that 30% of American prisoners of war collaborated with their Korean and Chinese captors. To explain how this was possible, the media created the term brainwashing: systematic, intensive interrogation techniques and indoctrination procedures used by hostile forces to change allegiances of prisoners of war. The term gradually came to be used to label any change of opinion or allegiance—though it still implies unsavory, unfair, or unethical methods!

Skedaddle, meaning to run away or desert from military service, became popular during the American Civil War. Now it means to leave quickly or hurriedly, to run away. In true American fashion, the etymological origins of this word are a mix of many possible languages or perhaps none at all.

OMG (Oh My God!) is very often used as an abbreviation in electronic communication. The first appearance of OMG was in a sarcastic letter Lord Fisher, a retired Naval Admiral, sent to Winston Churchill in 1917, complaining about the number of knighthoods being bestowed upon Naval officers. It has become so common that people sometimes use it as an acronym when speaking aloud: “ohemgee!”

Kilroy or Kilroy Was Here might be considered a bit of visual military jargon that has made its way into common use. James Kilroy wrote his name on sections of Navy ships under construction to certify that he’d personally checked the welding. Because his name seemed to be everywhere, British and American service members took to writing it on every surface imaginable in Europe and Asia, most likely as good-luck totem. (The origins of the accompanying long-nosed, bald man are unknown, but it may have started as a British cartoon.) Kilroy is still one of the most commonly graffitied images in the world today, with or without his name.

Bottom line: Word meanings are fluid, so be aware of timeline and context in order to truly understand what the speaker is trying to communicate.

NOM DE GUERRE AND OTHER PSEUDONYMS

Ioseb “Soso” Dzhugashvili is better known by the name he used as a Bolshevik, “Steel.” The Russian translation is Josef Stalin.
Montbars the Exterminator was the nom de guerre of Daniel Montbars, a French buccaneer.

Nom de guerre is French for “war name.”  

In 1716 France, a war name was mandatory, and in some ways was functionally similar to a dog tag for soldiers today. Soldiers were identified by their first name, family name, and war name. The war name was typically either the hometown or a particular physical or character trait. Examples would be Jean Louis of Paris, or Pierre Renaut the Red Haired One.

Some famous noms de guerre were chosen deliberately to the warlike, violent, or intimidating characteristics of the bearer. Pirates Captain Blackbeard and Montbard the Exterminator are examples of this.

Sometimes the alias replaced the family name.

Simone Segouin used the nom de guerre Nicole Minet when fighting Nazi occupation of France.
Ernesto Guevara was better known to his comrades as “el Che” or Che Guevara.

During Word War II, noms de guerre were adopted by the French Resistance for security, and to protect family members from the enemy.  Today mercenaries, resistance fighters, terrorists, and guerrillas adopt war names for the same reason.

Nom de plume has retained its specific meaning of a writing name that differs from a given name. Over time, the usage of nom de guerre became much more general, such that in ordinary French today, it’s a generic descriptor, like pseudonym.

By now, soldiers and writers are a small minority of people who take different or additional names.  And their reasons for doing so offer great plot points!

Members of a royal family often adopt a public name when they marry or assume the throne. Queen Noor of Jordan was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby.
  • Taking or keeping a professional name different from the family name
  • Personal identity
    • Wanting a less or more ethnic name
    • To fit gender identification
    • Simple dislike of one’s current name: too common, too outlandish, too juvenile, too likely to be embarrassing if mispronounced or misspelled, etc.
  • Marriage
    • Changing a name after divorce
    • Husband taking wife’s name
    • A couple choosing to combine parts of their names or hyphenate the two last names to make a new family name
    • Partners sharing a surname
  • Changing a child’s surname to mother’s, father’s, or adoptive parents’ name
  • Religious reasons
  • Criminal history or association
  • To be more or less closely associated with a famous (or infamous) relative
  • Political reasons
  • Entering witness protection program
Sith Lords took new names upon completing their training, either given by their masters or chosen by the Force. Anakin Skywalker is better known by his Sith title: Darth Vader.

A small sample of well-known people who changed their names. If you don’t know why these people changed names, the info is available on line.

Emilio Estevez deliberately did not share his father’s nom de guerre because, as he said, he “didn’t want to ride into the business as ‘Martin Sheen’s son’.”
Harpo Marx had two name changes. Born Adolph, he changed his first name to to Arthur avoid anti-German in childhood; “Harpo” was bestowed as a nickname by a friend.

Many modern surnames have similar origins, derived from occupations, geographic origins, political or religious affiliations, or personal characteristics. Consider some of the most common family names in the world today.

Malcolm X also adopted a new name twice. He changed his surname from Little to X to signify the loss of his African heritage; after going on pilgrimage to Mecca, he took the Muslim name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.
  • Wang (the most common, registered surname in the world) is the Chinese word for “king,” and there are historical records of several families adopting this surname for various reasons.
    • During intra-family arguments, descendants of a disgraced former royal often changed their family name to remind people of their origins.
    • Local custom sometimes meant that the family of whoever was in power at the time all be addressed as “Wang.”
    • Conquerors, usurpers, and invaders might change their family name to “Wang” as a way to validate their claims to the throne after the fact.
    • Entirely unrelated to their Chinese name-sharers, Scandinavian and Germanic families with the surname Wang are more likely to have been associated with a grassy meadow (vangr in Old Norse) or their presumably distinctive cheeks (wangl in Middle German).
  • Singh, the Sanskrit word for “lion” or “hero,” was used by Guru Gobind Singh (born Gobind Rai) to replace family names among all male Sikhs as a way of eliminating the caste system and demonstrating community equality.
  • Nguyễn was a powerful Vietnamese royal dynasty, and many families adopted the name to ally with the rulers.
  • Ahmed means “the highly praised one” and was one of the names of the Prophet Muhammed listed in the Quran. It was adopted by many families originally as a sign of religious devotion or of descending from the Prophet.
  • Devi is both the Sanskrit word for goddess and the mother goddess in the Hindu faith. Many women, especially in rural areas today, adopt Devi as a surname when they marry.
Silent film star Rudolph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella. He changed it when he came to the US in 1913.
  • Many of the most common surnames in the US are the result of emancipation, immigration, or assimilation.
    • Former slaves were often assigned a surname shortly after Emancipation. This was often the name of a former owner, but it might also be a trade, a defining characteristic, a local landmark, a parent’s first name, or any other surname chosen by the individual. According to the 2000 Census, 90% of Americans with the surname Washington are of African descent.
    • Immigrants coming through Ellis Island and Angel Island did not (as myth would have us believe) have their names changed by confused or lazy immigration officials. However, it was not uncommon for recent immigrants to the US to change their surname to one that was easier to spell with the English alphabet or to one less likely to attract anti-immigrant biases.
    • Changing surnames was a means of removing identity and forcing assimilation of people already living in America before Europeans. People were assigned names, often at random, as part of the effort to break up nations and outlaw traditional identification.

Bottom line: Names carry a ton of meaning!

HISTORY OF WOMEN’S WORK

First the rant: When I started researching this blog, all I found was a history of paid employment. I’m not alone in bemoaning the fact that women’s household contributions, care for household members, kitchen gardens, work on family farms, etc. is largely discounted, and vastly undervalued! 

“A man works from sun to sun. A woman’s work is never done.”

According to Investopedia, in 2019, Salary.com put a dollar value on the work of a stay-at-home-parent. Depending on the size of the house, family, pets, and numerous other conditions, a stay-at-home parent may work upwards of 96 hours per week, providing services worth a median annual salary of $178,201!

Analysis from Oxfam in 2020 reported on stay-at-home women (who still outnumber men) doing unpaid labor in the U.S. Using minimum wage per hour for its calculations, their unpaid labor in 2019 was worth $1.5 trillion.

Unfortunately, no matter how valuable the unpaid labor, it remains unpaid. When women enter the paid labor force, the job is typically in addition to the unpaid labor.

In 2018, 57.1 percent of all women participated in the labor force. This was about the same as the 57.0 percent who participated in 2017, and about 3 percentage points below the peak of 60.0 percent in 1999.

In 2019, there were 76,852,000 women aged 16 and over in the labor force, representing close to half (47.0%) of the total labor force.  57.4% of women participated in the labor force, compared to 69.2% of men.

Percent of women aged 20-62 in the workforce in the European Union (2011)

Women are now making 83% of what men earn for the same job. (The gap is even wider for women of African or Latin American heritage.) This isn’t a perfect number, but it is improving — thanks to women in the workforce.

By striving to obtain more education, women have a better chance of finding jobs, getting better opportunities and entering fields that were previously male-dominated.

Women in the labor force: a databook : BLS Reports: U.S. …

19th Century

Coaltub pulled by female “Drawer”

“The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries changed the nature of work in Europe and other countries of the Western world. Working for a wage, and eventually a salary, became part of urban life. Initially, women were to be found doing even the hardest physical labor, including working as “hurriers” hauling heavy coal carts through mine shafts in Great Britain, a job that also employed many children.”

Wikipedia, Women in the workforce.

Mother and children making doll clothing, New York, 1912

During the 19th century, the number of women working in factories drastically increased.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the most common form of employment for women in Europe and North America was piecework, which involved needlework (weaving, embroidery, winding wool or silk) that paid by the piece completed. It was poorly paid and involved long hours, up to 14 hours per day to earn enough wages to survive.

According to the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury, employers often preferred to hire women, because they could be “more easily induced to undergo severe bodily fatigue than men.”  Pregnant women worked up until the day they gave birth and returned to work as soon as they were physically able.  In particular, employers liked to hire married women: “They are attentive, docile, more so than unmarried females, and are compelled to use their utmost exertions to procure the necessaries of life.”

Taking in washing was a potential source of income but was not included in the Census

The 1870 US Census was the first to count “females engaged in each occupation” and provides a snapshot of women’s history in the workplace. Women workers showed up in interesting places. The majority of women working outside the home held typically “feminine” positions, such as childcare, dress-making, millinery, and tailoring. Two-thirds of teachers were women.

Women were 15% of the total work force (1.8 million out of 12.5). They made up one-third of factory “operatives.” Women could also be found in relatively unexpected places.

Female mine workers in Wales scandalized Victorian society by wearing trousers
  • Iron and Steel Works (495)
  • Mines (46)
  • Sawmills (35)
  • Oil Wells and Refineries (40)
  • Gas Works (4)
  • Charcoal Kilns (5)
  • Ship Rigger (16)
  • Teamster (196)
  • Turpentine Laborer (185)
  • Brass Founder/ Worker (102)
  • Shingle and Lathe Maker (84)
  • Stock-herder (45)
  • Gun and Locksmith (33)
  • Hunter and Trapper (2)

20th Century

Women’s Leagues, like the one run by these ladies in Newport, RI in 1899, worked toward a variety of social welfare goals. Improving education and working conditions for women and children were major efforts of the Leagues.

Education was a major driver toward equality, both among the lower classes and for girls in particular. At the turn of the 20th century, attitudes towards educating girls were changing. Women in North America and Western Europe were more educated, largely due to the efforts of women to further their own education, defying opposition by male educators.

Dame school in East Anglia, circa 1900

Many women organized “dame schools” for local children, teaching elementary literacy and arithmetic to students who probably would not have learned otherwise.

By 1900, four out of five colleges accepted women and the concept of coed education was becoming more accepted.

In the United States, the rise in demand for production from Europe during World War I (among other economical and social influences) facilitated the entry of women into the workforce.

Bell Telephone switchboard in 1922

In the first quarter of the century, women mostly occupied jobs in factory work or as domestic servants, but as the war came to an end they moved on to other jobs: salespeople in department stores, clerical, secretarial, and other so-called, “lace-collar” jobs. Broadening telegraph and telephone networks provided appropriately ladylike work in operation centers.

Towards the end of the 1920s, married women exited the work force less often. Labor force productivity for married women 35–44 years of age increased from 10% to 25%. There was a greater demand for clerical positions and, as the number of women graduating high school increased, they began to hold more “respectable,” steady jobs. 

Australian women, like their American sisters, stepped up to join the military effort in World War II

World War II created millions of jobs for women.

Thousands of American women  joined the military:

Although almost none of the women in the military saw combat, they replaced men in noncombat positions and got the same pay as the men would have on the same job! 

One of the most interesting (and often overlooked) units of the US military during World War II was the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. It was the only all-female, all-African American Army unit. The “Six Triple-Eights” was an entirely self-contained unit, not attached to any male unit. Major Charity Adams led her troops to the European Theater of Operations (being bombed twice just getting there) to sort the problem of years’ worth of mail sent to the front. The 6888th Battalion was given six months to sort out and deliver the warehouses full of letters and parcels that had been untouched for more than two years; they had everything sorted in three.

As 16 million men left their jobs to join the war in Europe and elsewhere, even more opportunities emerged for women to join the job force. 

A friendly reminder from Monsanto that women did not belong in the workforce and would be sent back to the kitchen as soon as the War was over

Although two million women lost their jobs after the war ended, female participation in the workforce was still higher than it had ever been.  In post-war America, women were expected to return to private life as homemakers and child-rearers.

Nevertheless, jobs were still available to women.

They were mostly what are known as “pink-collar” jobs such as retail clerks and secretaries.

The Quiet Revolution

Transition Era refers to the time between 1930 and 1950, when the discriminatory institution of marriage bars—which forced women out of the work force after marriage—were eliminated. Additionally, women’s labor force participation increased because there was an increase in demand for office workers. However, women did not normally work to fulfill a personal need for a fulfilling career or social worth; they worked out of necessity.

From 1950 to mid-to-late 1970s, the movement of women into the workforce  began to show signs of a revolution. Women’s expectations of future employment changed. They began to see themselves going on to college and working through their marriages, even attending graduate school.

Many had brief and intermittent work force participation, without necessarily having expectations for a “career.” Most women were secondary earners, and worked in “pink-collar jobs” as secretaries, teachers, nurses, and librarians.

The sexual harassment experienced by these pink collar workers is depicted in the film 9 to 5. Nevertheless, labor force participation by women still grew significantly.

The fourth phase of the “Quiet Revolution” began in the late 1970s and continues today. Beginning in the 1970s women began to flood colleges and grad schools. They began to enter profession like medicine, law, dental, and business. More women were going to college and expected to be employed at age 35, as opposed to past generations that only worked intermittently due to marriage and childbirth. These women defined themselves prior to a serious relationship.

“What a blessing… to know that we’re ready and able to take care of her…”

Research indicates that from 1965 to 2002, the increase in women’s labor force participation more than offset the decline for men.

Some scholars have attributed this big jump in the 1970s to widespread access to birth control pills.  While “the pill” was medically available in the 1960s, numerous laws restricted access to it.  By the 1970s, the age of majority had been lowered from 21 to 18 in the United States (largely as a consequence of the Vietnam War), which affected women’s right to make their own medical decisions.

Since it had become socially acceptable to postpone pregnancy even while married, women had the option of pursuing education and work.

Also, due to various labor-saving devices, women’s work around the house became easier leaving with more time to pursue school or work. Due to the multiplier effect, even if some women were not blessed with access to the pill or , many followed by the example of the other women who entered the work force for those reasons.

The Quiet Revolution is called such because it was not a “big bang” revolution; rather, it happened and is continuing to happen gradually.

Still Not a Bed of Roses

Women in India who created and run an all-female cabinet making company
Women in Dumka, Jharkhand making items from bamboo and reeds to sell at market

Working women get carpal tunnel syndrometendonitisanxiety disordersstress, respiratory diseases, and infectious diseases due to their work at higher rates than men. Women’s higher rates of job-related stress may be due to the fact that women are often caregivers at home and do contingent work and gig work at a much higher rate than men. 

Another significant occupational hazard for women is homicide, which was the second most frequent cause of death on the job for women in 2011, making up 26% of workplace deaths in women. 

Nevertheless, women are at lower risk for work-related death than men, probably (at least partially) due to their lower proportion of workers in certain high-risk job such as lumberjacks and garbage collectors. 

Cuban doctors fighting COVID-19 in South Africa wearing PPE designed for men

Even so, personal protective equipment is usually designed for typical male proportions, which can create hazards for women who have ill-fitting equipment.

Immigrant women are at higher risk for occupational injury than native-born women in the United States, due to higher rates of employment in dangerous industries.

Sexual harassment is an occupational hazard for many women, and can cause problems including anxietydepressionnauseaheadacheinsomnia, feelings of low self-esteem and alienation. 

Some women are able to compromise by bringing their children to work with them

Women overall are at higher risk for occupational stress, which can be exacerbate by balancing roles as a parent or caregiver with work.

Many job opportunities for women are still limited. For example, skilled workers who train by getting apprenticeships with certified professionals (such as electricians or plumbers) include few women—and these are high paying jobs.

Bottom Line: The history of women’s work is still being written.

FEMALE SUPERHEROES: NOT A NEW THING (Part 1)

There are rumors of an upcoming Marvel movie focused on the A-Force, an all-female group of superheroes. This screenshot from the end of Avengers: Endgame highlights several members of the A-Force ( l-r: Okoye, Valkyrie, Gamora, Rescue, Captain Marvel, Wasp, Mantis, Shuri, and Nebula).
Tiger Baby

I’m sure there are many people out there who know a lot more about superheroes than I do. Before researching this blog, I would have been pressed to name any beyond Wonder Woman, possibly coming up with Bat Girl and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Like so many things on the internet, seek and ye shall find!

Bat-Baby

The Golden Age of creating these female superheroes seems to have been 1940-1941. Subsequently, many of them made it to both the small screen and the big one, and—like James Bond—appeared and reappeared. (See those marked with *.)

Here, in chronological order, are a few of the very first female superheroes who might interest you as a reader and/or a writer. This is Part 1 of 2, covering female comic stars who debuted through 1940. Heroic ladies who debuted in 1941 and after will be covered on Tuesday, March 23rd.

If your character has a superhero interest, who and why? What superpowers might they wish for? How about a secret superhero crush?

1938

  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle 
    • Sheena debuted almost four years before Wonder Woman. She was the guardian of the jungle, with numerous superpowers: superhuman strength, the ability to talk to animals, and expertise with several weapons, mostly blades. Sheena was one of the most powerful superheroes.

1940

  • Fantomah
    • The “Mystery Lady of the Jungles” was the protector of the entire continent of Africa. Fantomah was a supernatural being with superhuman abilities, including telekinesis and the ability to turn into a blue-skinned monster. Her origins were never revealed, nor was the reason she had fair skin and had blond hair.
    • Initially, Fantomah was almost identical to Sheena. As she developed, Fantomah became nearly omnipotent, creating some truly bizarre punishments for slavers, poachers, thieves, and others she decided to punish. At one point, she became the queen of a lost civilization descended from the Egyptians. The writers got tired of that storyline, and the civilization became lost again.
  • *Hawkgirl/ Hawkwoman
    • Depending on the comic run, Hawkgirl is either the reincarnation of an Ancient Egyptian princess or an alien police officer from planet Thanagar. Or she is both at the same time but in parallel universes. Or maybe she is the reincarnated spirit of an Ancient Egyptian priestess who is actually the avatar of a goddess who is now inhabiting the body of a winged alien police officer. The writers kept changing their minds.
Hawkgirl’s costume from 1940 to 2015
    • However she came by her powers, Hawkgirl has superhuman strength, speed, durability, and advanced healing. Her wings are incredibly strong for their size and let her perform extreme acrobatic flight maneuvers.
  • *Catwoman
    • In her first appearance in Batman #1, Selina Kyle was simply known as The Cat. Originally, she was either an orphan who learned thievery to survive on the streets or a former flight attendant with amnesia who turned to crime with no memory of any former skills. An enduring love interest of Batman, Catwoman was recently (partially) reformed from her more criminal activities. She’s an expert cat burglar with acrobatic prowess. She prefers to rely on her brains and a whip. She prowls the streets helping those who need her most, but she also steals from the evil rich to help those in need and fill her own coffers.
    • *Catwoman was reintroduced in 1989, but this time she was portrayed as either a prostitute or a dominatrix who was inspired to become a costumed cat burglar after watching Batman’s antics.
  • Lady Luck 
    • Brenda Banks was the very rich daughter of wealthy Irish mine owners who simply got bored and decided to put on a disguise and fight evil.  She was aided by her chauffeur (sometimes a burly Italian man and sometimes a woman trained in martial arts). Lady Luck has no superpowers (other than being Irish), but she was a terrific fighter. The storyline revolved around her being in love with the Chief of Police.
  • Golden Girl 
    • Making her first appearance in the world of Captain America, Elizabeth “Betsy (originally Betty)” Ross became a costumed hero in her own right after impressing Allied intelligence forces. She started out as a WAAC officer and FBI agent before she became part of the SSR project to create supersoldiers. After World War II, Ross put on a bulletproof cape and joined the third Captain America as Golden Girl. Because of her various careers (soldier, spy, teacher, dancer, etc.), Golden Girl had many talents, but no superpowered abilities.  Her intelligence kept her in the ranks of superheroes.
    • This Betty/ Betsy Ross is not related to Betty Ross, the romantic interest of Bruce Banner/ The Incredible Hulk.
  • Red Tornado 
    • Abigail Mathilda “Ma” Hunkel was initially intended to be a parody of the superhero comic genre, but the Red Tornado grew so popular that she became a regular co-star in the Scribbly Jibbet comics. A shopkeeper and housewife in Brooklyn, Ma Hunkel stood up to a gang harassing her neighborhood by taking inspiration from her son’s obsession with the Green Lantern. She became a caped vigilante by wearing a t-shirt over red long-johns, a black cape, and a cooking pot with eye holes. The Red Tornado was extremely strong and durable but not superhuman (she was sometimes mistaken for a man). She eventually had two sidekicks, her daughter and niece, Sisty and Dinky.  Additionally, Ma Hunkel was a fantastic cook and honorary member of the Justice League.
  • *Black Widow 
    • Claire Voyant, created in August, 1940, by Timely Comics (later known as Marvel Comics), might be the first female superhero to be possessed by a mystical being. She and her family were murdered, and she made a deal with the devil in order to return to seek revenge.  Her superpowers: she could use psychic powers, defy physics, curse enemies with severe bad luck, and kill people instantly with a touch. Black Widow was resistant to disease and aging, and could suppress and/or replace memories.
    • During World War II, she helped the Allies by spying and by killing Nazis to send their souls to Satan. In the Battle of Berlin, Black Widow was captured by Nazi scientists and put in suspended animation with several other superheroes. The Twelve were found and woken up in the 21st Century to continue working for the US government.
    • She is not related to the Black Widows created by the Soviet Red Room program.
1940 Woman in Red
  • The Woman in Red 
    • She first appeared in March 1940 in Thrilling Comics. Along with Lady Luck she was one of the first vigilante female superheroes.  Peggy Allen donned red after getting fed up with criminals manipulating the legal system and avoiding justice. Her real job was as a police officer specializing in undercover work, so one might label her a rogue cop. The Woman in Red had no special superpowers, but was highly skilled in hand-to-hand combatant and a brilliant tactician.
1943 Woman in Red
    • There were essentially three versions of the Woman in Red, depending on the writer.
      • Initially, Peggy Allen was taller and stronger than most men, knew a bit of jiu-jitsu but quite a lot about shooting her pistol, and was not trusted by the police.
      • In the middle of 1941, Peggy Allen became a woman of average size and strength, a very good detective, and an ally of the police.
      • The Peggy Allen of 1943 had near superhuman strength and agility, was a skilled martial artist and pilot, and worked with the police, who knew her secret identity. In 1943, the Woman in Red also got a costume change before disappearing.

Bottom Line: Long as the list is, these female superheroes are just the beginning! Check back on the 23rd for more pioneering superheroes. There is much more information online. For example, the wrap.com/female-superheroes-badass-memorable-batwoman-supergirl/. Also, gamesradar.com/best-female-superheroes/. And car.com/female-superheroes-created-before-wonder-woman/

Super ArchitectorBridgerConstructing Smartiest Lady

FIVE WOMEN WHO SHAPED PSYCHOLOGY

Share of female researchers by country: 2013 or closest year
Source” UNESCO Science Report towards 2030 data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Like so many professions, psychology has been male-dominated. Asked to name a psychologist, men like B. F. Skinner, John B. Watson, Stanley Milgram, and Sigmund Freud are likely to be mentioned —even though Freud was actually a medical doctor who founded psychoanalysis. But many of the most important movers and shakers in psychology were women. Here—in no particular order—is a brief introduction to just a few of them. I’m not including references; they are available on line in many forms.

Anna Freud 

(3 December 1895 – 9 October 1982) 
Anna Freud was born in Vienna, the sixth and youngest child of Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays.  She is reported to have had an unhappy childhood, and she did not have a close relationship with her mother.  Her older sister Sophie was the family beauty; Anna the one with brains.  She may have suffered from depression, and she went to health farms to rest, exercise, and gain weight, implying eating disorders. At the same time, Anna was a lively child with a reputation for mischief.

Contrary to other members of her family, she had a close relationship with her father—something both of the psychoanalytic Freuds must have had thoughts about!  Anna made good progress in most subjects, apparently mastering English and French and basic Italian easily.

Anna left her teaching career to care for her father. Sigmund Freud was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1923. He underwent many operations and required long-term nursing assistance, which Anna provided. She also acted as his secretary and spokesperson, notably at the bi-annual congresses of the  International Psychoanalytical Association, which her father was unable to attend.

Ultimately, she followed in her father’s footsteps into psychoanalysis. Alongside Hermine Hug-Hellmuth and Melanie Klein, Anna Freud may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology. She is credited with expanding interest in child psychology.

Anna expanded on her father’s work. Although Sigmund Freud recognized the id, ego, and superego, Anna’s work emphasized the importance of the ego. Among her many accomplishments, my favorite is her development the concept of defense mechanisms.

Anna Freud never married. Her only partner of record (as far as I know) was Dorothy Burlingham.

Mary Salter Ainsworth

(December 1, 1913 – March 21, 1999)
Mary Dinsmore Salter Ainsworth was an American-Canadian feminist, army veteran, and developmental psychologist who specialized in child psychology.  Ainsworth devised an experiment called the “Strange Situation” in reaction to John Bowlby’s initial finding that infants form an emotional bond to its caregiver.

In Ainsworth’s experiments, the infant was placed in scenarios with or without the mother as well as with or without a stranger. The child’s behavior was observed in these “anxious” conditions. Ainsworth stated that infants react in 4 different attachment patterns (secure, ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized) based on the extent of their bond to their primary caregiver.

The “Strange Situation”

The eldest of three daughters, Mary Dinsmore Salter was born in Ohio to Mary and Charles Salter.  Although he possessed a master’s degree in history, her father worked at a manufacturing firm in Cincinnati.  Her mother, who was trained as a nurse, was a homemaker. Both valued education highly.  In 1918, her father’s manufacturing firm transferred him to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where Salter spent the rest of her childhood.

Salter was a precocious child. She began reading by the age of three. Similarly to Anna Freud, she was close with her father, who tucked her in at night and sang to her. Also like Anna Freud, Salter did not have a warm relationship with her mother.

Mary Salter excelled in school, and decided to become a psychologist at the age of 15.  She began classes at the University of Toronto at age 16, where she was one of only five students admitted to the honors course in psychology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1935, her master’s degree in 1936, and her PhD in 1939, all at the University of Toronto.

Salter’s dissertation, “An Evaluation of Adjustment Based on the Concept of Security,” shaped her subsequent professional interest. Her dissertation stated that “where family security is lacking, the individual is handicapped by the lack of a secure base from which to work.”

In 1942, Salter left teaching to join the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. She left the military in 1945 with the rank of Major.  She married Leonard Ainsworth, a graduate student in psychology, in 1950. They divorced in 1960.

While working at Johns Hopkins, Ainsworth did not receive the proper treatment considering her skills and expertise: she was paid less and had to wait two years for an associate professor position even though her qualifications surpassed the job description.  At the time, women and men had to eat in separate dining rooms, which ultimately meant women could not meet powerful male faculty members in the same informal way men could.  

She eventually settled at the University of Virginia in 1975, where she remained until her retirement in 1984. As a professor emerita she remained active 1992.

Ainsworth received many honors, including the G. Stanley Hall Award from APA for developmental psychology in 1984, the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Child Development in 1985, and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 1989. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992.  She died of a stroke on March 21, 1999 at the age of eighty-five.

Mamie Phipps Clark 

(April 18, 1917 – August 11, 1983)
Mamie Phipps was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas and died  of cancer in New York City in 1983. She was the first Black woman to earn a degree from Columbia University, and the second Black student to earn a doctorate (after her husband Kenneth).

She entered Howard University in 1934 to study math and physics.  While still an undergrad, she met her future husband. Kenneth Clark was a master’s student in psychology and urged her to switch to psychology. Both her B.A. and M.A. degrees were from Howard. After graduating magna cum laude, she worked in a law office for a time before matriculating at Columbia.  Before graduating in 1943, she had had two children!

While working as a testing psychologist at an organization for homeless Black girls, Clark noted how limited mental health services were for minority children.  In 1946, Clark and her husband founded the Northside Center for Child Development, which was the first agency to offer psychological services to children and families living in the Harlem area of New York City. Mamie Clark served as the Northside Center’s director until her retirement in 1979.

In her now-classic experiment, the Clarks showed Black children two identical dolls, one Caucasian and one Black. The children were then asked a series of questions including which doll they preferred to play with, which doll was a “nice” doll, which one was a “bad doll,” and which one looked most like the child.

The researchers discovered that not only would 59% the children identify the Black doll as the “bad” one, nearly 33% selected the white doll as the one they most resembled. Her research was central to demonstrating that separate is not equal.

A mother and daughter celebrating Brown vs. Board of Education

Yes, she faced prejudice based on both her race and sex, but she went on to become an influential psychologist. She developed the Clark Doll Test as a tool for her research on racial identity and self-esteem. Her research on self-concept among minorities was ground-breaking. She played a role in the famous 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case.

Clark’s work on racial discrimination and stereotypes were important contributions to developmental psychology and the psychology of race. Her effort on the identity and self-esteem of Blacks expanded the work on identity development.

Clark is not as famous as her husband. It has been noted that she adhered to feminine expectations of the time and often took care to “remain in the shadows of her husband’s limelight.” She often seemed  shy. She achieved professional success while maintaining a fulfilling home life. She received a Candace Award for Humanitarianism from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1983.

Leta Stetter Hollingworth

(May 25, 1886 – November 27, 1939, of abdominal cancer)
An early pioneer in U.S. psychology, Leta Stetter Hollingworth made her mark by her research on intelligence testing and giftedness. In particular, contrary to her contemporaries beliefs in genetic determination, she believed that education and environment were important factors.

Important as that work was, I admire her especially for her research on the psychology of women! At the time, women were believed to be inferior to men, and their intellect and emotions were at the mercy of their menstrual cycle. Hollingworth’s research demonstrated that women are as intelligent and capable as men, no matter where they are in their monthly cycles.

When her mother died giving birth to her third child, her father abandoned the family. The children were reared by their mother’s parents for a decade, until her father reclaimed the children and forced them to live with him and his new wife.  Stetter later described the household as abusive, plagued by alcoholism and emotional abuse. Her education became a source of refuge.

Stetter left home when she graduated high school in 1902, at the age of 16, and enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Leta completed her bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in 1906 and married Harry Hollingworth in 1908. She moved to New York so that her husband could pursue his doctoral studies.  Originally she planned to continue teaching, but New York did not allow married women to teach high school at that time!

As a prime example of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” she enrolled at Columbia University and earned a master’s in education in 1913.  Leta Hollingsworth took a position at the Clearing House for Mental Defectives where she administered and scored Binet intelligence tests (testing for IQ).  She completed her Ph.D. in 1916 and took a job at Columbia’s Teachers College, where she remained for the rest of her career. 

She is also known for her work in the first two decades of the twentieth century that contributed in a small way to changing the views toward women that led to women having the right to vote in a nation that had too long denied them that right.  One of her students who became well known is Carl Rogers.

Although she died at age 53, her influence on psychology has been impressive.

Melanie Klein

(30 March 1882-22 September 1960)
Melanie Klein was a psychoanalyst who was pivotal in developing play therapy. Working with children, she observed that they often utilize play as one of their primary means of communication. Play therapy is commonly used today to help children express their feelings and experiences.  Young children aren’t able to participate in some of the more commonly used Freudian techniques, such as free association. Klein used play as a way to study children’s unconscious feelings, anxieties, and experiences.

Note: This was a major disagreement with Anna Freud, who believed younger children could not be psychoanalyzed.  Today, Kleinian psychoanalysis is one of the major schools of thought within the field of psychoanalysis.

At the age of 21 Melanie Reizes married an industrial chemist, Arthur Klein, and soon after gave birth to their first child; subsequently, she had 4 more children. She suffered from clinical depression, and these pregnancies taking quite a toll on her. This and her unhappy marriage led Klein to seek treatment. She began a course of therapy with psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi, during which she expressed interest in studying psychoanalysis.

In 1921, Klein moved to Berlin and joined the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Society under the tutelage of Karl Abraham. Even with Abraham’s support for her pioneering work with children, neither Klein nor her ideas received general support in Berlin. As a divorced woman who did not even hold a bachelor’s degree, Klein was a clear outsider within a profession dominated by male physicians. Nevertheless, Klein’s early work had a strong influence on the developing theories and techniques of psychology.

As I said in the beginning, these are just a few examples of women who deserve more recognition and credit. There are many. 

For example, Mary Whiton Calkins attended Harvard without being formally admitted. Although she had completed all of the requirements for a doctorate, Harvard refused to grant her the degree on the grounds that she was a woman. Even so, she became the first female president of the American Psychological Association in 1905.

Similarly, Christine Ladd-Franklin studied at John Hopkins and completed a dissertation, but the school did not grant women Ph.D.s at the time. Finally, in 1926, nearly 44 years after completing her degree work, John Hopkins awarded her a doctorate.

Bottom line: Choose any profession that interests you, look for members who made significant contributions to that profession but are under appreciated, and you will find women! 

Editor’s Note: One of the reasons women are under appreciated for their work is that they are missing from the historical record. To correct that problem, Suw Charman-Anderson declared the second Tuesday of every October to be Ada Lovelace Day, an opportunity to raise the profiles of women in STEM fields. One of the ways everyone can participate is by creating or improving the Wikipedia pages of significant women who are not as well-known as they should be.