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It has been a few weeks since I’ve done a new mix, so I put together some songs for your listening pleasure.  It is cathartic for sure.  Hope you enjoy.

Sing out loud.

-Cara

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CW

Today’s super chic is, Charlotte Whitton, born March 8, 1896 in Renfrew, Ontario; died January 25, 1975, a Canadian feminist and mayor of Ottawa. She was the first female mayor of a major city in Canada, serving from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964. Whitton is sometimes mistakenly credited as the first woman ever to serve as a mayor in Canada, but this distinction is in fact held by Barbara Hanley, who became mayor of the small town of Webbwood in 1936. Whitton was Ottawa’s city controller in 1951. Upon the unexpected death of mayor Grenville Goodwin that August, Whitton was immediately appointed acting Mayor and on 30 September 1951 was confirmed by city council to remain Mayor until the end of the normal three-year term.

Whitton attended Queen’s University, where she was the star of the women’s hockey team. At Queen’s, she also served as editor of the Queen’s Journal newspaper in 1917. From Queen’s she became the founding director of the Canadian Council on Child Welfare from 1920-1941 (which became the Canadian Welfare Council, now the Canadian Council on Social Development) and helped bring about new legislation to aide children in need.

Whitton never married, but lived for years with her lover, Margaret Grier. Her relationship with Grier was not widespread public knowledge until 1999, 24 years after Whitton’s death, when the National Archives of Canada publicly released the last of her personal papers, including many intimate personal letters between Whitton and Grier.

The two women met in Toronto, where they were both residents at the Kappa Alpha Theta Society house on the campus of the University of Toronto. Whitton accepted a position in 1918 as assistant secretary with the Social Service Council Of Canada, and Grier worked with the juvenile court, the Big Sister’s Association and the Girl Guides.

In Grier, Whitton had found a soulmate, even though the two had very diverse natures. Grier was shy, fair and quiet, with delicate features and a calm spirit. Whitton, younger by four years, was considered intimidating, confrontational, ambitious and egotistical.

In 1922, they moved to Ottawa together in order to advance Whitton’s career. They set up house and lived in a “Bostonian Marriage” type of relationship.

Whitton often wrote poetry to Grier.

So softly your tired head would lie
With gentle heaviness upon my breast
And knowing but each others’ arms
Desiring nothing more we two would rest

They owned a cottage together on McGregor Lake and escaped many a humid Ottawa summer weekend there. One letter written by Grier to Whitton while she was away on business – which was often – seems to sum up the nature of their relationship: “Just two nights gone and I’m so lonesome I could cry whenever I stop to think for a minute – Oh Lawrie, dear, I’m just about crazy all the time you are away from me.” Grier, the love of Whitton’s life, died in 1947.

Despite her strong views on women’s equality, Whitton was a strong social conservative and did not support making divorce easier. She did believe in and fought for equal pay and equal opportunities for women in the public and private sector. However, she did not believe in married women working outside of the home and held very conservative views on abortion and divorce. Her views on sexuality have been described as “prudish.” I personally feel she over compensated for being a lesbian, but that is just based on my own personal thoughts.

I leave you with her most famous quote,

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.

;)

-Cara

I don’t know. I have no one in mind to write about today. I have done some research, but am still drained from writing and learning so much about Anne Sullivan last week that I think I am scared to start another heroine entry. lol.

OK, I could not find one woman that motivated me to write, but I did find a group of awesome women to talk about, SWOOP (Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Projects).

SWOOP, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which began in September 1996 in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in Raleigh, North Carolina.

According to their web site,

“Several friends emerged from their debris-strewn houses and yards and banded together to help each other clean up the mess. This group of women quickly discovered that, though the work was tough, they were totally invigorated by the power that they all felt from totally cleaning up a place that, when they arrived, had looked devastated.

After a couple of very full weekends of hurricane work, they decided that they enjoyed working together so much that they started “swooping in” to do outrageous one-day clean-up projects about once a month, and formally named themselves “SWOOP.” Quickly becoming specialists in awesome hurricane clean-ups, their numbers grew as friends told friends, who told friends. From the original 16 women, SWOOP membership has grown to over 500 women from the Greater Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) and beyond. Since 1996, SWOOPers have branched out from hurricane clean-ups to major yard clean-ups, fence-building, painting, refurbishing, construction, deconstruction, and renovation for those individuals or agencies that SWOOP serves. ”

These ladies are super fresh. They have done great things.

Here are two projects they have worked on,

“The Heads Up! Therapeutic Riding Program in Pittsboro, North Carolina, provides therapy to children and adults with special needs, using horses as dynamic interactive tools, to address impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities in people with neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction. The program had been given permission to ride on two adjoining tracts of land, but had no way to clear the trails that would make this possible. In February 2005, over 90 SWOOPers arrived at Heads Up! to clear the trails, and while there, also built a fence, made a playground, and refurbished the barn. This one-day project now allows Heads Up! riders and horses to get out of the riding ring and into terrain that provides greater stimulation, an important goal of the Heads Up! program.

Facing bankruptcy, Mary (not her real name) lacked the resources for necessary upkeep and repairs on her home. In April 2005, despite cold and rainy weather, nearly 70 SWOOPers descended on Mary’s home to make extensive carpentry repairs, completely repaint the interior of her six-room home, clean up the yard, haul off junk, and remove yard waste. Mary was not in a position to accomplish any of these tasks, and no other organization would or could devote the sheer numbers of workers and time necessary to do the job. SWOOP paid over $600 for all of the necessary construction materials.”

My mom and dad just moved to North Carolina. When I go see her next week I am going to tell her about it. She is about an hour from Raleigh I think…you never know!

Strong women rock!

-Cara


anne sullivan and helen keller

[Helen and Anne]

When I was younger I found the story of Helen Keller interesting, but she never really grab my attention. Anne Sullivan, on the other hand, did. There has always been something about her I was drawn too. Maybe the hardships she suffered and the fact that she didn’t give into it. She pushed and achieved more than those who suffered little and those who suffered greatly.

Anne’s personal story remains relatively unknown. Although some of her letters still exist, it is primarily through the the words of others, that we know of her life.

Anne grew up poorer than poor in Massachusetts. She was the eldest of five children, and one of the only two of whom reached adulthood. When Anne was 7 years old she developed trachoma, a bacterial infection in her eyes. This infection went untreated. She had almost no usable sight and after numerous operations on her eyes, at the age of 15, success, her vision was restored.

Her father, Thomas Sullivan, was an alcoholic and her mother, Alice Chloesy Sullivan, died from tuberculosis when Anne was 9 years old. At first, Anne’s siblings, Mary and Jimmie, were sent to live with their uncle, and Anne remained with her father. A few months later, Jimmie and Anne were sent to the Tewksbury Almshouse (February 22, 1876), an institution that housed the poor and needy. Anne was 10 years old at the time and any semblance of a childhood she might have had ended upon entering Tewsbury. Mary (whom she never saw again after being sent to Tewksbury), on the other hand, was sent to live with an aunt. Supposedly, she didn’t end up in the institution because she was easier to handle than Anne and Jimmie. Anne had strong opinions, and expressed them passionately and poor Jimmie suffered from a tubercular hip, both were too high maintenance for the aunt I suppose.

When Anne and Jimmie arrived at Tewksbury, Anne wanted them to remain together and made it known. As a result, both siblings were sent to the women’s ward, where inmates were physically and/or mentally ill. Jimmie’s condition resulting from a tubercular hip weakened him and he died a few months later. Anne was all alone in this horrible place and in life. Imprisoned in an institution where complaints were made to the state in regards to cruelty, sexually perverted practices, and even cannibalism.

Anne, during an investigation of Tewksbury by the head of the Perkins School for the Blind, pleaded with him to allow her to go to Perkins. He agreed, and Anne excelled in this new environment. It was because she did so well that a teacher at Perkins recommended she become a governess to the unruly deaf and blind six year old Helen Keller. Helen’s parents, Kate and Arthur Keller, had contacted the famous inventor and educator of the deaf, Alexander Graham Bell in Washington, D.C. for help. He, in turn, had put them in touch with the Perkins School for the Blind, and so began the relationship between Anne and Helen, that lasted throughout Anne’s life.

Alexander Graham Bell once said about Anne’s teaching skills, “You were at least not hampered by preconceived notions of how to proceed with your little pupil and I think that an advantage. You did not take to your task standardized ideas, and your own individuality was so ingrained that you did not try to repress Helen’s. Being a minority of one is hard but stimulating. You must not lay so much stress on what you were not taught by others. What we learn from others is of less value than what we teach ourselves.”

In 1904, Anne and Helen bought a farm and seven acres of land in Wrentham, Massachusetts. In Helen’s 1955 biography, “Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy“, she wrote that these were probably some of the happiest days of their lives.

In 1905, she married John Albert Macy, a young Harvard teacher (11 years her junior) and literary critic at the magazine “A Youth’s Companion”. Not long after they married, she burned her private journals for fear of what her husband might think of her. I am curious what such a strong woman would have to hide for her husband… Their marriage lasted only a few years and seemed to be more of a business arrangement (he was Helen’s manager and editor) to aide in getting Helen published, than a marriage. In the end, it is thought that jealously of Anne and Helen’s relationship was the reason Macy eventually left. For years after they separated (they never officially divorced) Macy would contact Anne for money, until eventually he faded out of the picture.

This picture shows Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, and Polly Thomson, with dogs Darky and Helga, circa 1931.

[Helen, Anne, and Polly]

In the fall of 1916, Anne stopped working for a period of time as a result of pleurisy and incorrectly diagnosed tuberculosis. On November 20, she and Polly Thomson (Polly started working for Anne in 1914 as her secretary) traveled to Lake Placid, New York without Helen in order for Anne to recover. While they were there Anne spotted an advertisement about traveling to Puerto Rico and immediately bought two boat tickets for her and Polly. Anne’s five months in the islands was one of the happiest times of her life.

Here is a letter from Puerto Rico she wrote to Helen in 1917,

Dear Helen:

I’m glad I didn’t inherit the New England conscience. If I did, I should be worrying about the state of sin I am now enjoying in Porto Rico. One can’t help being happy here, Helen—happy and idle and aimless and pagan—all the sins we are warned against. I go to bed every night soaked with sunshine and orange blossoms, and fall asleep to the soporific sound of oxen munching banana leaves.

We sit on the porch every evening and watch the sunset melt from one vivid color to another—rose asphodel (Do you know what color that is? I thought it was blue, but I have learned that it is golden yellow, the color of Scotch broom) to violet, then deep purple. Polly and I hold our breath as the stars come out in the sky—they hang low in the heavens like lamps of many colors—and myriads of fire-flies come out on the grass and twinkle in the dark trees! Harry Lake says that a beautiful Porto Rican girl went to a dance in a gown ablaze with fire-flies which she had imprisoned in black net.

Did you know that in tropical skies the stars appear much larger and nearer to the earth than farther north? I didn’t know it myself. Neither Polly nor I have ever seen such stars! It is no exaggeration to say they are lamps—ruby, emerald, amethyst, sapphire! It seems to Polly and me, if we could climb to the bamboo roof of our new garage, we could touch them. We lie on our cots and gaze up at them—the shack has no windows, only shutters and our view is unobstructed—we say over and over the names of stars we know, but that doesn’t help us to identify these. Is that long, swinging curve the Pleiades? We are ashamed to be so ignorant. If we could get hold of a book on astronomy, how we should study it here!

Do you remember the big globe in the rotunda at “Perkins?” Well, the moon looks as large as that sometimes, and often it is girdled with pearls as large as oranges, like the metal circle the globe hangs in. And several times we have seen it lighted as by lightning.

The place has cast a spell over me. Something that has slept in me is awake and watchful. Disembarking at San Juan was like stepping upon my native heath after a long, distressful absence. I will tell you more of these strange experiences anon.

Love to all,

Affectionately,

Teacher.

I really like that letter.

Anne, Polly, and Helen remained together, working and living until Anne’s death on October 20, 1936. Polly remained taking care of Helen after Anne’s death.

Anne some time before her death dictated the following excerpted message to Polly,

“I wanted to be loved, I was lonesome. Then Helen came into my life, I wanted her to love me and I loved her. Then later Polly came and I loved Polly and we were always so happy together, my Polly, my Helen. Dear children may we all meet to-gether [sic] in harmony.”

In Nella Braddy Henney’s book, “Anne Sullivan Macy“, Anne is quoted as saying, “How often I have been asked: “If you had your life to live over, would you follow the same path?” Would I be a teacher? If I had my life to live over I probably should have as little choice of a career as I had this time. We do not, I think, choose our destiny. It chooses us.”

Anne used her amazing abilities to bring the world to Helen and to bring Helen back into the world. In doing so it also opened up a world for Anne far from the place she began this life. It is true, we do not choose our destiny it chooses us, but I also think it is a person of strength who chooses to follow their destiny, instead of taking the simpler route.

That ended up being a few days of research and writing in between life, but more than worth it.

-Cara

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