March is Women’s History Month and what better way to end it than on a personal note.
Several weeks ago I saw a PBS ad for a special on Harriet Tubman which triggered a childhoold memory of a book I was given by my godfather. I want to say his name was Fred. He was a lawyer, I think, and he and his wife went to our church. That’s how we all met and how they became my godparents when I was baptized – at the not-so-tender age of 10 (give or take).
Anyway, Fred and Barbara gave me a book. A rite of passage, if you will, now that I had been admitted into the Episcopalian Church.
v. admit (someone) into a specified Church by baptism
The book contained stories about famous women of the U.S.A. – beautifully illustrated. I wish I could remember the title but I DO remember some of the ladies: Harriet Tubman, Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, and Dorothea Dix. Their lives were inspiring and was another example of how, early on, men like my Dad and my Godfather helped shape me into becoming an independent woman. An early “women’s libber”.
Two of the women in the book especially made an impression on me…
In 1889, Jane Addams set-up a grand house right in the middle of tenements in Chicago. Hull House, as it came to be known, was open to the poor (and mainly immigrant) in the neighborhood with the objective being to help alleviate the poverty of her low-income neighbors. She provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare. While her life focused on the development of individuals, Jane’s ideas continue to influence social, political and economic reform in the United States, as well as internationally. Hull House remained in operation until January 19, 2012.
(I remember well the intro paragraph where Ms. Addams spied a woman outside the house trying to keep a bag of flour dry while navigating the street during a heavy downpour. Needless to say, the bag got wet, spilling its contents all over the street. Seeing how devastated the woman was Jane ushered her inside, serving her tea and lending a sympathetic ear. Before the woman left, I think I remember Jane giving her some money. I thought she was so compassionate and kind.)
Born April 4, 1802, Dorothea Dix advocated on behalf of the mentally ill (most of whom were indigent and being treated inhumanely and regularly abused) creating the first generation of American mental asylums. Ms. Dix was instrumental in the founding or expansion of over 30 hospitals for the treatment of the mentally ill. She also believed the women should be educated to the same level as men.
Named after her, the Dorothea Dix Hospital was founded in Raleigh, NC in 1856 and closed in 2012. (The same year Hull House was closed…)
(Another very kind and compassionate individual who made a lasting impact on the lives of those who struggle with mental illness.)