“Woman Walks Ahead” A Film Worth Seeing

Based on true events, this 2018 film astounded me with a story I had never heard before. WOMAN WALKS AHEAD is the story of Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a New York artist in the 1880s, who traveled alone out to North Dakota with the purpose of painting an authentic portrait of Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes).

woman-walks-ahead

When she arrives at Standing Rock, she is confronted with open hostility from the US Army. They have stationed troops around the Lakota reservation to undermine Native American claims to their own land. This film is mainly about the close relationship that develops between Catherine and Sitting Bull, but their lives are both threatened by US government forces, in a lead up to the massacre of many Lakota members at Wounded Knee.

In reality, this woman’s name was Caroline Weldon, a name she gave herself after a few scandalous affairs in her past. She was born in Switzerland and came to the US in 1852. After divorce she became active in the summer of 1889 and traveled to Dakota Territory to fulfill her dream of living among the Sioux. She joined NIDA, the National Indian Defense Association, embarking on a quest to aid the Sioux in their struggle to fight the US government’s attempt to expropriate vast portions of the Great Sioux Reservation for the purpose of opening it up for white settlement,  with the intent of rendering the creation of the two new states of North and South Dakota. She befriended Sitting Bull, leader of the traditionalist faction among the Sioux, acting as his secretary, interpreter and advocate.

Sitting_Bull_by_Caroline_Weldon_oil_on_canvas_1890I found this film to be beautifully and sensitively made, well-written with lines from Catherine like her need to fight “a battle of insignificance” as a woman in 1880s America. She did finally create four portraits of Sitting Bull. Two are known to have survived. One is now held by the North Dakota Historical Society in Bismarck, ND and the other at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, AR. I enjoyed a few lines from Sitting Bull like when he said, “To place and hold in your heart this moment.” and as he referred to death as “to cross over into the spirit world…”

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Where did the term “Black Friday” come from?

Black Friday 2012

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

The most commonly repeated story behind the post-Thanksgiving shopping-related Black Friday tradition links it to retailers. As the story goes, after an entire year of operating at a loss (“in the red”) stores would supposedly earn a profit (“went into the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving, because holiday shoppers blew so much money on discounted merchandise. Though it’s true that retail companies used to record losses in red and profits in black when doing their accounting, this version of Black Friday’s origin is an inaccurate story behind the tradition.

The true story behind Black Friday is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Not only would Philly cops not be able to take the day off, but they would have to work extra-long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache.

By 1961, “Black Friday” had caught on in Philadelphia, to the extent that the city’s merchants and boosters tried unsuccessfully to change it to “Big Friday” in order to remove the negative connotations. The term didn’t spread to the rest of the country until much later, however, and as recently as 1985 it wasn’t in common use nationwide. Sometime in the late 1980s, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the “red to black” concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America’s stores finally turned a profit. In fact, stores traditionally see bigger sales on the Saturday before Christmas.

The Black Friday story stuck, and pretty soon the term’s darker roots in Philadelphia were largely forgotten. Since then, the one-day sales bonanza has morphed into a four-day event, and spawned other “retail holidays” such as Small Business Saturday/Sunday and Cyber Monday. Stores started opening earlier and earlier on that Friday, and now the most dedicated shoppers can head out right after their Thanksgiving meal. According to a pre-holiday survey this year by the National Retail Federation, an estimated 135.8 million Americans definitely plan to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend (58.7 percent of those surveyed), though even more (183.8 million, or 79.6 percent) said they would or might take advantage of the online deals offered on Cyber Monday.

A Wonderful Week for American Women!

us flagOur population is more than 50% women, and yet only 20% of our Congress is made up of female members. After Tuesday’s elections, a record number of women will serve in Congress come January 2019.                            UPDATE: With votes still trickling in, 99 women have been elected to the U.S. House, 12 women to the U.S. Senate and 9 women will serve as governor. The number of women in power has grown steadily, but this year’s election, with more than 270 women running for Congress and governor, shattered records. Source: 11/6/18 LA Times

A little history on this topic from my old Midlife Crisis Queen blog:

Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity”

votes for womenThis is the story of our Grandmothers, and Great-grandmothers, as they lived only 90 years ago. It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote…Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women didn’t vote this year because why? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that we could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have our say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself.

‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use–or don’t use–my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Sunrise Meditations, Number 1

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United we stand. Divided we fall. 

Hatefulness is not the way…

It cannot be more clear to me that our enemies are winning in this race to see how best to destroy our country. Russia and probably China (and who knows who else) would like to see us fall into division and disarray. They love to watch this president sow seeds of anger, hate and doubt. In his mind, everyone is responsible except for him, just like a child.

I have never seen such hatefulness in my country in my 63 years here. Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence, and anyone who knows anything about human behavior knows that blaming is a thoughtless and childish way of ignoring the part we each play in this destruction of our country.

There is no way Trump will be maturing anytime soon, so what are the rest of us to do about this cancer of divisiveness? Arguments have been made on both sides about “going high,” “going low” or standing up to the stupidity and lies we see daily. I have no answer except to say:

We all want the same things. I am certain of that. We do not want to end over two hundred years of American history, by descending into hatred and chaos.

Each of us must be honest, see what is happening here and choose a higher road than that of our president. If we don’t, hate and stupidity wins and we all lose.

Women’s Liberation Yesterday and Today

learn from the past history or repeat it

Sometimes it feels to me that the young American women of today need a serious history lesson in exactly how much things have changed in the past fifty years. Being age 63, I have a pretty good perspective on these changes. I have witnessed, in my lifespan, gigantic changes in how American women are seen and treated, and I fear the younger women just don’t get that. They only see how far we still need to go, not how far we’ve come in the past 50 years.

Let’s start with something as simple as control over your own body. Here’s an excerpt from my book “Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife”:

Today, it seems normal and natural to limit progeny or choose to remain childless, but boomers are the first generation of Americans to even have this option. With the invention of the birth-control pill in the 1950s and the legalization of abortion in 1973, reproduction rules changed drastically.

Limiting progeny, bettering ourselves through training and education, and then choosing the career that best suits our natural abilities, talents, and character are options not even imagined by our grandparents and great-grandparents. Here’s a summary of women’s prospects in the 1800s from the book In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age by Patricia Cohen:

“For women, adulthood was one long, undifferentiated stretch of mothering with scarcely any leisure time. Mothers gave birth, then gave birth again, and again, and again. In 1800, the average woman had seven children and spent seventeen years either pregnant or breastfeeding, although without antiseptics, anesthesia, or antibiotics, there was barely a parent who escaped burying a child. Giving birth often left women severely weakened or disabled. . .By the time all the children were grown, she was well into her sixth decade—or more likely dead.”

How’s that for thought-provoking? These were the lives of the women who came before us. How many had more children than they wanted and then died without ever doing anything they wanted with their lives? How many brilliant women led lives of quiet desperation because they could not find respect for their unique gifts and talents? Women were seen as entertainment and prizes for wealthy men only decades ago.

1933 Miss America swimsuits

MISS AMERICA 1933 SWIMSUIT COMPETITION

Check out this news report from CBS Sunday Morning on the protests around the Miss America pageant of 1968. It was not so long ago that our beauty was our only way to “get ahead.” I know it is hard to believe, but this is also too true. Women only got the vote in 1920. We can thank the women of the West for being the pioneers in getting us that right!

Now we are faced with a president and Congress who would like to move us back to the good old days (for them!), when women were seen as pretty, but told to keep their mouths shut. Do you value your right to control what happens in your life and your own uterus? Than get active and show it!

Alcohol: A Cheap Excuse For Terrible Behavior!

After watching Dr. Ford’s testimony just now, and hearing every excuse in the book for “boys being boys,” I need to say, does Judge Kavanaugh have a serious drinking problem? Should that disqualify him from joining our Supreme Count? Everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that he sure was a big drinker in high school and college. Is binge drinking now the norm in our country?

No one so far in these Congressional hearings has brought up that angle to our apparent problem confirming him to sit on the highest court in the land. Have we fallen this far in our assessment of terrible alcoholic behavior?

“Oh well, he drank too much. So what if he assaulted a fifteen year old…”

Christine Ford

I feel I’ve heard it all now. He could have easily “accidentally killed” Dr. Ford back in 1982. Of course she remembers it! If you know much about rape and murder, you know it happens all the time with drunks. They try to silence their victims and end up silencing them FOREVER.

If Kavanaugh gets away with this, after the Republicans ignored Obama’s nomination for over a year, than I give up on justice in this country.

Heroes and Anti-Heroes this summer

firefighterMy American heroes for this summer are the valiant men and women who work day and night to save American lives and homes. Of course I’m completely biased because those same heroes saved my home about one month ago. I also congratulate our Sheriff’s department and the National Guard members who came in on a moment’s notice to maintain the peace in an extremely desperate situation. I am convinced that without their help, our entire county would have burned.

But, until you’ve been evacuated you really don’t get it!

And then we have the true anti-hero of this summer: President Trump.

What is an anti-hero?

According to Wikipedia: “An antihero is one who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality. Although antiheroes may sometimes do the right thing, it is not always for the right reasons. They primarily act out of pure self-interest.”

Instead of showing some concern for the millions of Americans who are losing their homes to floods and wildfires, our president decides to obstruct justice while on trial for obstructing justice. Someone please tell him that Jeff Sessions does not have the power to end the Mueller investigation. Does our president even care that the Russians are running our elections now?

We now have far too many super smart people thinking about and talking about this idiot and his stupid tweets! So many difficult problems to solve and nothing going on at the White House but tweets and ten day vacations.

Sorry guys. I try to avoid politics, but this situation is unbearable to me now!