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Archive for January, 2011

There’s something in the air at the end of January, and not just everyone’s favorite frozen ice crystals.  The last few days have been awesome for historical anniversaries.

January 20 was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s first inaugural address, that soaring speech that makes you feel like it’s possible that America could live up to its own ideals.  I have a book of Kennedy’s speeches and other writings, from a seminar I took in college, titled simply “Let the Word Go Forth.”  Every time I see it I hear JFK’s voice in my head, and I feel a little more optimistic.  Rhetoric can’t change the world all on its own, but it can certainly do something to get ideas caught in peoples’ heads.

(Incidentally, I’m just noticing that that book is currently sitting on my shelf between Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty and a collection of medieval primary sources called, pedantically, Classics of Western Thought.  How is that both totally fitting and completely nauseating?)

For filing under Best Birthday Ever: January 20, 1961 was also my mother’s 7th birthday.  On my 7th birthday George H.W. Bush was declared Time Magazine’s “Men” of the Year.  Mom wins. (Correction, from the Department of I Know What Year My Mother Was Born, Honestly: That was her 9th birthday, not 7th.  Sorry, Mom!  Same point still applies.)

January 22 was the 38th birthday of Roe V. Wade, celebrated by feminists as a great step forward in equality and women’s health, and taken by Republicans as an excuse to once again make sure that women making their own reproductive health choices (except, maybe in the way that Republicans would like them to decide) remains a taboo in American society.

So, JFK and Roe v. Wade are important, but my favorite late January historical anniversary is actually today’s, January 23, which, in 1849, was the day that Elizabeth Blackwell received her medical degree- the first woman in America to do so.  The Blackwells and their extended family (including Lucy Stone, and Antoinette Brown) are my favorite American historical family – feminists, doctors, suffragists, abolitionists, ministers – and that’s just the women!

Also of note this weekend: Rebecca Traister’s latest article, awesome as always,  this fabulous piece (though I may be a little bit biased towards the author) about Gabby Giffords, women in politics, and girl power, and, in case you didn’t know it already, I <heart> Rachel Maddow (the fun starts at about 1:12).

One more thing – Friday marked the one-year anniversary of a way less cool thing: the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision.  How’s your democracy doing now?

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