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(1:5) The U.S. commander in Vietnam, General William C. Westmoreland, said of Raye, “A great soldier!” Raye was awarded the 1993 Presidential Medal of Freedom for her lifetime of dedication to America. When she died in 1995, just short of age 79, she was given a special exception to be buried in the military cemetery at Fort Bragg, NC, a request she had made two years earlier. (1:5) (55) Tsuyako Kitashima Stepping forward to tell the Japanese-Americans’ internment story After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America entered World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt declared the West Coast a military area and the U.S. government uprooted 120,000 Japanese-Americans for internment for national security reasons. At first, most families were placed in temporary holding camps, some having to use horse stalls as homes. Families Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 26 were fragmented and separated from each other, dispersed among 10 internment camps scattered throughout the West, Southwest, and Arkansas. Some families were separated for up to three years. Very few of the Japanese-Americans protested this injustice at the time. (51) Over 35 years later, when President Jimmy Carter appointed a commission on relocation and internment to investigate the Japanese-American internment camp experience, ex-internees were still very reluctant to step forward and testify.
(51) Eventually, Kitashima became the spokesperson for the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, and a legendary redress activist and organizer. She spearheaded many letter-writing campaigns, petition drives, and fund-raising efforts to make redress a reality, and lectured regularly on the internment experience before educational and community forums. (52) Kitashima’s courage and hard work paid off when Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (subsequently the Entitlement Bill of 1989), apologizing for the mistakes of the internment decision. The Act awarded reparations to surviving internees. (51) American women war journalists tell the story from the front World War II offered courageous women the professional opportunities to tell the story of war from the front lines. Dozens of women fought for – and won – the right to cover the biggest story of the century. By war’s end, at least 127 American women had secured official military accreditation as war correspondents, if not actual front-line assignments. (49) It is also a legacy of determined women who demonstrated that they were more than a match for the gender discrimination among officers and editors. They showed they could handle physical hardship as well as their male competitors, and could do a war correspondent’s job as well or better. These correspondents did not receive special treatment from the military, and these women often had to operate on their own. (50) The women journalists, photographers, and broadcasters of World War II followed two centuries of trailblazers. During the 1700s, Mary Katherine Goddard, Anne Royall, and other women ran family printing and newspaper businesses along the East Coast. By the late 1800s, the growth of higher education for women had spawned a new market--and jobs--for writers of women's news. At the turn of the 20th century, the woman's suffrage movement opened opportunities for female reporters to cut their teeth on national politics under the guise of women's news. However, female reporters often worked without permanent office space, salaries, or access to the social clubs and backrooms where men conducted business. In response, women began their own professional associations, such as the Women's National Press Club, founded on September 27, 1919, by a group of Washington newswomen. The organization eventually merged with the National Press Club after it admitted women in 1971. (49) When the Great Depression threatened the tenuous foothold of women on newspaper staffs, Eleanor Roosevelt instituted a weekly women-only press conference to force news organizations to employ at least one female reporter. During World War II, many of the newswomen in the First Lady's circle served as war correspondents. (49) Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 27 Those who did get to the front followed a path begun a century earlier by pioneers such as Margaret Fuller (the New York Herald Tribune's European correspondent in the 1840s), Jane Swisshelm (Civil War), Anna Benjamin (Spanish-American War), and Dorothy Thompson (overseas correspondent in the 1930s). One of the most important predecessors was Peggy Hull, who on September 17, 1918, won accreditation from the War Department to become the first official American female war correspondent and went on to serve as a correspondent during World War II. (49) Virginia Irwin scored one of the major scoops of World War II as a correspondent for the St.
Louis Dispatch. She was one of the first three Americans, and the first woman journalist, to enter Berlin while it was still under siege by the Russian army and to send back dispatches written as the battle roared around her. An article appeared in the Missouri Historical Review that chronicled Irwin’s wartime accomplishments. The most dramatic of Irwin’s stories was written in Berlin on April 27, 1945–four days before Adolf Hitler’s suicide in his bunker and two weeks before the American military allowed any war correspondents into the German capital, which had fallen to the Russians. She and another American reporter, Andrew Tully, had managed to convince an American sergeant to drive their U.S. Army jeep to Berlin, taking a route behind the advancing Russian lines and then north to the German capital, persuading a Russian commander to allow them to push forward to Berlin. They were the first Americans to reach Berlin during the war. (32) Another great example is Martha Gellhom. As an early anti-facist, she knew the sad, ruined towns of Spain that had been devastated by Franco’s army. She sneaked aboard a hospital ship, hid in the lavatory, and became the first woman ashore after the Allies invasion at Normandy on D-Day and at war’s end walked through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. (50) The Library of Congress sponsored a travelling exhibit titled, “Women Come to the Front” in
1997. Outstanding examples of some the work of these women war correspondents can be viewed at http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/wcf/wcf0002.html.
A legacy of courage is a beacon of inspiration Women have been courageously serving mariners in distress longer than there has been a federal government or the precursor of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Lifesaving Service. In 1776, when John Thomas joined the Continental Army to fight in the Revolutionary War, his wife Hannah took over his job as lighthouse keeper of Gurnet Point Light, near Plymouth, Mass.
In 1789, the new Congress appropriated funds for lighthouse maintenance and operations, and some of the first federal employees were lighthouse keepers. The majority of these “keepers” were the wives and daughters of the initial keepers, or Lighthouse Board employees, who died on the job. Researchers have found the names of 138 women who were employed as lighthouse keepers between 1828 and 1947. For instance, in 1883 Katherine Walker assumed the keeper duties of Robbins Reef Light, off Staten Island, NY, after her husband’s death. For the next 33 years she saved some 50 people from drowning. Keeper duty was arduous, selfless duty.
Keepers were paid very little. They rarely were able to depart the lighthouses, and were required to fill the kerosene lamp within the light tower lens several times each night. When ships were in distress, the crew would typically deliberately ground their ships in the vicinity of the lighthouses, and the keepers would conduct rescue operations to recover the crews. Keeper Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 28 duties set the foundation of the U.S. Coast Guard's present day core missions: lifesaving, aids to navigation, maritime safety, and security. (62:1-2) One of the most celebrated of the women keepers was Idawalley (Ida) Zorada Lewis who served for 54 years as the keeper of the Lime Rock Light on a small island in Newport, RI. After her father (Captain Hosea Lewis-the official keeper) died in 1857, she assumed responsibility for tending the light at the age of 15, along with her mother. She received quite a bit of notoriety (for that time in history) for her lifesaving feats. In 1869, she was on the cover of Harper's Weekly, and her rescue feats were the focus of many literary tributes. The Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York honored her. The General Assembly of Rhode Island proclaimed an “Ida Lewis Day.” President Ulysses Grant, General William Sherman (famous Civil War general), and George Dewey (future Admiral and hero of Manila Bay) visited her at the lighthouse. In 1879, the government officially acknowledged her as the keeper of Lime Rock. She was bestowed the title of the “bravest woman in America” by the Society of the American Cross of Honor. She was awarded membership in the American Legion of Honor, medals from the New York and Massachusetts humane societies, and a lifetime pension of $30 dollars a month from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. During her 54 years of selfless service she was officially credited with saving 18 people. Her last rescue occurred when she was 64.
She died October 24, 1911 at the age of 69 after collapsing five days earlier in the line of duty just after extinguishing the light’s lamp in the morning. The Lime Rock lighthouse was renamed Ida Lewis Lighthouse. (58:142-152) (35) Today the U.S. Coast Guard honors these courageous women by naming a number of its new, advanced, multi-mission, mixed gender crewed, 175 foot buoy tenders after female lighthouse keepers. The first of the “Keeper” class of coastal buoy tenders was commissioned in 1996 as Coast Guard Cutter IDA LEWIS (WLM-551), homeported
in Newport, RI. The other similarly named Coast Guard Keeper class 175' buoy tenders are:
♦ ABBIE BURGESS (WLM 553), Rockland, ME.
♦ BARBARA MABRITY (WLM 559), Mobile, AL.
♦ KATHERINE WALKER (WLM 552), Bayonne, NJ.
♦ MARIA BRAY (WLM 562), Atlantic Beach, FL.
Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 29 Summary The goal of this paper was to inspire reflection on the leadership lessons. It provides just a sampling of lessons that can be drawn from our diverse history.
The leader’s job requirements of passion, commitment, and caring far outweigh those of experience. (18:3) It is an option for action that is available to every individual involved or affected by the situation at hand. (18:6) This paper presents an option for the pursuit of knowledge, to truly tap the richness of our diverse history, and strengthen the future foundation for our organization and ourselves.
Under the right circumstances, each of us has the power and ability to lead. Of course, each of us has a great deal to learn about effective leading and leadership, but we need not wait until we have given a title or position before we take action. The first step is self-knowledge, the second is self-improvement, and the third is recognizing your passion and then seizing and creating opportunities to take action. It takes vision, courage, (credibility) and a will to make something happen--a desire to make a difference. (18:5) When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she was only one person, taking individual action. She certainly did not have a title or prominent position, but she decided to do the right thing. Today, we are still feeling the beneficial cultural impact of her vision and courage. She had no intention of shocking the world, or of leading a civil rights movement, but she felt so strongly about the issue that she had to act. She was a leader and a powerful source of change. (18:7) Each of the women discussed in this paper offer us similar lessons in courage, determination, and leadership. Let us respect, encourage, and emulate that kind of leadership as we celebrate Women’s History Month 2001.
Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 30
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