Quaker Oats Company has had six models of Aunt Jemima for their pancake mix. In the 1940’s it was Edith Wilson.
Born Edith Goodall to a middle class family in Louisville, Kentucky, Edith first performed as part of a blues trio with Lena and Danny Wilson. She recorded 17 songs in 1921 and 1922 with Columbia with Johnny Dunn’s Jazz Hounds. Edith remained a nightclub and theatre singer working for years in New York City.
Edith became a major star in the New York black entertainment world. She was part of the famous “Lew Leslie’s Plantation Review” at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Edith also traveled to England where she established herself as an international star. Though she lacked the emotional depth that artists such as Bessie Smith and Ida Cox brought to the classic blues form, Wilson helped introduce the blues to white audiences, both in the U.S. and in Europe
Edith sang with The Hot Chocolates revue performing alongside Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. Edith Wilson would appear with all the greatest names in black show business of the day, including Bill Robinson, Duke Ellington, Alberta Hunter, Cab Calloway, Noble Sissle, and many others.
Edith did extensive work as an actress appearing on radio in Amos and Andy playing the part of Kingfish’s mother-in-law and in the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Becall class film “To Have and Have Not”.
After WWII she became the face of Aunt Jemima for the Quaker Oats Company. Some criticized Edith Wilson for playing a black stereotype, but she refused to be intimidated and was proud of what she considered the aura of dignity she brought to the character.
Edith Wilson retired from show business in 1963 to work as an executive secretary with Negro Actors Guild and to involve herself with other charitable, religious, and literary activities. She returned from retirement in 1973, her last appearance was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980.
As I prepare for a summer vacation in Alaska, I thought it would be fun to look back at all female Arctic and Antarctic explorers.
Five women: Ann Daniels, Caroline Hamilton, Zoe Hudson, Pom Oliver, and Rosie Stancer reached the South Pole. They planned it. organized it, trained for it, raised the funds and in November 1999 walked over 700 miles across the most inhospitable continent in the world to reach the South Pole on foot. The first all British women’s team to do so.
Ann Daniels (a mother with triplets) had a dream of putting together the first women’s team to ski from land to the North geographic pole. Apart from her previous experience in a relay, Ann’s first expedition, where fresh team members were brought in on each leg, no all women’s team had completed the entire journey. In fact due to the extreme difficulty of the terrain and climate, very few expeditions had ever walked the complete distance to the pole. She asked Caroline Hamilton and Pom Oliver to join her and together they put together the M&G North Pole Expedition, spending over a year planning and training for the arduous and extreme challenge.
As they set off from Ward Hunt Island their sledges weighed almost 300 pounds. Temperatures as low as –50º for the first 26 days severely hampered the expedition’s progress and success looked doubtful. The team of three girls were hit by storms so severe that they were unable to put their tent up and had to huddle under tent material for 3 days, with little food or water. On day 37 they had completed just 69 miles of the 500 mile journey.
A journey across the Arctic Ocean is fraught with difficulties. Not least the extreme temperatures in a marine environment but the very ice they skied across moved and changed constantly as the enormous power of arctic currents and wind drove the ice together and at other times cracked it wide open. They encountered huge ridges, at times 30 to 40 feet in height, thin ice, open water, rubble fields and of course the constant threat of a polar bear encounter.
They suffered from severe frostbite, back problems and carbon monoxide poisoning from contaminated fuel. After 47 hazard filled days Pom Oliver had to leave the expedition as a result of frostbite and wet gangrene, leaving Ann and Caroline over 300 miles to cover in 30 days. Although the pole looked impossible neither were willing to give up and skied for over 15 hours each day, with little sleep in between. Both fell into the ocean and had to swim across open expanses of water but their determination to succeed prevailed.
After 80 days on the ice, they reached the North Pole, exhausted but triumphant and planted the union jack. They sang the national anthem terribly and celebrated with whiskey saved for the occasion.
Against all odds they had become the first all women’s team in the world to ski to both poles. A feat that has never been repeated.
Trixie Friganza was born on November 29, 1870 and given the name Delia O’Callaghan.
She began working at a young age (12 or 13 years old) in order to help support her family, securing a cash girl position at Pogue’s store, and earning $3.00 a week. When she was sixteen she was promoted to the handkerchief counter at Pogue’s store and her salary went up to around $4.50–$5.00 a week. It was her boyfriend at the time, who encouraged her not to waste her talents as a singer and actress and to venture onto the stage where she could double or triple her current salary. She took her mother’s maiden name Friganza and the nickname Trixie stuck.
Her mother was inconsolable and devastated at her daughter’s decision to take to the stage. She notified Cleveland authorities who brought Trixie before a Cleveland judge to justify her decision to work in theater. She presented such a compelling and rational case for this career move (she had to prove to the judge that she was neither “silly” nor “stage-struck”, that this was a business move) that the judge granted her clemency and telegraphed her mother saying that Trixie was doing the right thing. She remained on stage in some form or another for the next fifty years.
Trixie Friganza was civic minded and socially attuned. She was not progressive by modern standards, but for a woman at the turn of the twentieth century to align herself with women’s suffrage and to promote a positive female body image was pretty radical. On October 28, 1908, Trixie attended a women’s suffrage rally at New York City Hall where she delivered a speech for women’s rights.
She transitioned to film in the early 1920s mostly playing small characters that were quirky and comedic and retired from the stage in 1940 due to health concerns. She spent her last years teaching drama to young women in a convent school and when she died she left everything to the convent. She became a highly sought after comic actress after the success of The Chaperons.
Trixie toured with many theatre companies in the coming years working her way from roles in the chorus to more prominently featured roles with speaking parts. Part of her success can be attributed to her constant willingness to step in and take over roles when others fell ill or could not appear. These instances provided her an opportunity to demonstrate her ability and ingenuity. She impressed agents, audiences and other actors alike with her stellar singing voice and ability to command audiences with her humorous interpretation of characters.
On Saturday, January 21, 2017 about 175,000 people came to Boston to protest against newly elected President Trump. It was an outpouring of energy and patriotism expressing the crowd’s concerns about protecting all rights for women, immigrants, the LGB community and even democracy itself.
Photographer Frank Siteman was there documenting this “sea of love” capturing the variety of signs and faces. I’ve included just a few of his images here. You can see more by going to this link:
Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), often called the first professional female author, wrote to support herself and her family. She is one of the few women who had prominence as a secular writer during a time when women were neither educated nor independent.
Christine was born in Venice in 1364. When she was five, her family moved to France so that her father, a physician and astrologer, could work as a councilor to King Charles V.
In Paris Christine’s mother wanted her to learn domestic skills, but her father believed that it would benefit her to learn how to read and write. In the milieu of a court that had an immense library, she learned Italian, French, and some Latin.
When she was 15 years old, she married Étienne du Castel, a nobleman and courtier who became the king’s secretary. But that same year Charles V died and her father lost his position, and with it the high income. Three years later her husband died, leaving her with the burden of three small children. Her widowed mother, also dependent on her, cared for her children while Christine threw herself into literature, philosophy, and anything she could learn.
Instead of remarrying, she decided to enlarge upon her studies. Fortunately she was allowed access to the libraries of the courts. In 1394 she began to write and sell her poems and receive commissions by patrons of the court.
As Christine continued to write poetry and prose, a feminist voice emerged. In The Book of the City of Ladies she created a utopian world where women had power and control and proved that many of the negative myths regarding the female sex were false.
In this illustration from The Book of the City of Women, aided by Reason, Uprightness, and Justice, she lays the foundation of a City exclusively for women who have served the cause of women (female warriors, politicians, good wives, lovers, and inventors, among others). The imagined City will be crowned by the glory of the Virgin and sainted women.
Its sequel, TheTreasure of the City of Ladies, was different, written specifically for upper-class women and members of the court, to give them advice on managing their homes during their husbands’ absences. In this book she cautioned against dishonest governors and protecting one’s rights as a landowner so that unscrupulous agents would not take advantage of a woman’s status.
Christine was knowledgeable in farming and spoke to the role of women as housekeepers in a time when their domain included fields, crops, laborers, and maids.
“The good housekeeper must keep her eyes wide open.” Christine was well acquainted with the chores involved in livestock maintenance, as well as agriculture. Every detail of the work involved in a responsible woman’s life was spelled out. She stressed that the mistress of a domestic enterprise should constantly be watchful.
The left side of this illustration shows Christine reclining on a canopied bed trying to rest after finishing The Book of the City of Ladies. The three Virtues awakening Christine giving her such a mighty tug that she pulls her into an upright position, commanding: Have you already put away the tool of your intelligence and consigned it to silence? Take your pen and write.
The right side of this miniature portrays all of the women addressed in the text. The middle class women are seated on a bench in the foreground, with their backs to the viewer. Three of these women wear hoods with long tails hanging down their backs. These hoods indicate their lower status. There are several women on the bench with white horned headdresses identical to the one our author wears, spelling out their slightly higher status as servants of the court, or members of the affluent middle class.
The Book of the Queen contains the largest extant collection of Christine’s writing, and was written and decorated under her supervision, commissioned for Isabeau of Bavaria, the queen consort to Charles VI of France.
Christine’s life was dramatically altered by the Hundred Years War clash between France and England. Sometime after France lost the Battle of Agincourt she entered a convent in Poissy, France. In 1429 she penned a work to praise Joan of Arc. This proved to be her final contribution to literature. Christine died around 1430.
No one can photograph dark energy itself. But a new camera is looking for the effects of dark energy by gathering data on more than 300 million galaxies whose faint light has been traveling toward Earth for a very long time.
The so called Dark Energy Camera is part of the Dark Energy Survey (DES) and has been fitted to the Victor M. Blanco Telescope located at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. It has been in use since September 2012, with the survey starting in August 2013. This combined optical/near-infrared survey will be used by cosmologists to probe the dynamics of the expansion of the universe and the growth of large-scale structures such as galaxies in their early history.
Our universe is not only expanding, but that expansion is speeding up. The faster an object moves away from the Earth, the more its light shifts toward a red color. Measurements of distant galaxies show all of them are red-shifted and moving away from us and from each other. The Dark Energy camera is able to image large swaths of the night sky while accounting for these large red shifts.
The Dark Energy Survey is a five-year effort to map that survey area in unprecedented detail. Scientists will use the data collected to probe the phenomenon of dark energy, the mysterious force that makes up about three-quarters of the universe. The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 300 scientists from 25 institutions in six countries. Funding for DES projects are provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and other funding agencies.
The Dark Energy Camera is in its third year of capturing eye-popping images of the cosmos.
Ting Li, a Texas A&M astronomy graduate student, developed her own instrument designed to help scientists understand more about the cosmos. Her breakthrough device called the Atmospheric Transmission Monitoring Camera or aTimCam measures subtle changes in the light that is constantly moving through out the atmosphere. The aTimCam has four charge-coupled device cameras equipped with four photographic camera lenses that serve as telescopes individually capture unique images of the wavelengths of light transmitted by a particular star. Li then can track changes in the atmosphere by observing the specific features of each image. The resulting data will be used by scientists as part of the Dark Energy Survey.
Tracking dark matter will show us where our universe has been and hopefully where it will be in the future
Gertrude Sanford Legendre was an American socialite who served as a spy during World War II. She was also a noted explorer, big-game hunter, environmentalist, and owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina.
Mrs. Legendre was born in 1902 in Aiken, S.C., the youngest of three children of John and Ethel Sanford. She, her brother, Stephen Sanford, an internationally recognized polo player known as Laddie, and her sister, Sara Jane Sanford, were said to have been the inspiration for Philip Barry’s 1929 play ”Holiday,” made into a classic movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Gertie was in her teens when she took a hunting trip to the Grand Tetons of Wyoming and shot her first elk.
Horseback riding with her new husband, Sidney Legendre, in 1929 the couple came upon Medway Plantation in Berkeley County. They purchased the circa-1705 main house and bought neighboring land to form a 6,700-acre estate. Gertie restored the house, putting in bathrooms and electricity, and filled its rooms with trophies from the many expeditions she and Sidney took to Africa and the Far East. Here they hunted, entertained, and raised two daughters.
But the world was constantly calling to Gertie. In 1927, she and Laddie had gone off to East Africa, where she killed her first lion. Two years later, she financed an expedition to Ethiopia to gather specimens for the American Museum of Natural History. The Legendres went next to French Indochina (now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) to find more exotic creatures for the museum’s collection. In love with places off the map, they came across Laos’ megalithic Plain of Jars, and their photographs remain some of the earliest known images of it. Sidney documented their adventures in his 1936 book, The Land of the White Parasol highlighting his wife’s bravery and drive.
The pair’s wanderlust was inexhaustible. In 1936, they took a brutal three-month expedition through Southwest Africa, this time for the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. “When we weren’t dripping under the tent flies, we were getting stuck in ant bear holes as big as subway tunnels,” Gertie later wrote. Undaunted, she next financed a museum expedition to Iran.
When World War II erupted, Sidney signed up while Gertie volunteered, eventually being placed with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. She became the first American woman captured in France when, on a visit to the front northeast of Paris, she found herself pinned down by German sniper fire. Held as a prisoner of war for six months, she escaped and went by train to Switzerland. The train stopped short of the border; as she dashed to the frontier, a German guard ordered her to halt or be shot. She continued, and reached the border.
Two years after the war, Sidney and Gertie were in India, collecting birds and mammals for the Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Known as one of the grand dames of Charleston, Mrs. Legendre gave a New Year’s Eve costume party that was a tradition for half a century. At one of the last of those parties, she offered a toast: ”I look ahead. I always have. I don’t contemplate life, I live it. And I’m having the time of my life.”
Despite Sidney’s death in 1947, Gertie kept traveling, visiting Nepal for the Peabody and financing an expedition to French Equatorial Africa under the aegis of the National Geographic Society. But she always returned to Medway. Before her death in 2000 at the age of 97, she had the land protected with conservation easements so that no matter who bought it, it would always be wild and untamed, a bit like Gertie herself.