Archive for March, 2012

Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment

This year I kicked off Women’s History Month as the luncheon speaker at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (more about that later) in Washington, DC. The Board’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, headed by Sheila Clark, decided to celebrate Women’s History Month by hosting a high noon tea.  This year’s theme was “Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment,” and it was the perfect topic to discuss the life of Millicent Fenwick.

Born in 1910, Millicent Fenwick’s life embodied the times. When her father was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 1925 her brother and stepbrother were allowed to stay in the United States to continue their education at St. Paul’s boarding school, but Millicent and her sister, Mary, were not afforded the same opportunity. The sisters were pulled out of Foxcroft Boarding School to accompany their father to Spain. Since Mary was a senior she was granted her high school diploma, but not Millicent. She was 15-years-old when her formal education ended. Despite her quest for knowledge, Millicent Hammond Fenwick never graduated from high school.

In 1938, in the wake of divorce, Fenwick sought employment. She applied for a job at an upscale New York department store. The interview went well until she was asked what college she went to. When she said she didn’t go to college, she was asked what high school she graduated from? She told them she attended high school for two years, but never graduated. That information promptly ended the interview. They wouldn’t hire anyone without a high school diploma.

Fenwick didn’t let her lack of a formal education hinder her path forward, but it took her longer to empower herself. At the age of 59, she was tired of following the “typical female pattern … I finally learned that when a man wants more he says, ‘Listen George, I want a bit of the action.’ Well, we’ve been taught, ‘You have to wait to be invited to the dance.’” Fenwick was tired of waiting. In 1967, she was hoping party leaders would select her to run for a state seat. They didn’t. Two years later, she didn’t make the same mistake. She spoke up and was named the Republican candidate for the Eight District Assembly seat. She won, launching her political career and, in essence, marking the beginning of her journey towards the nation’s Capitol.

Fenwick was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. She was 1 of 18 women in Congress. All were in the House, none were in the Senate. Today there are 90 women serving in Congress, 17 of whom are in the Senate.

Since I was speaking at the Federal Reserve, I shared a story about Fenwick being on the “Banking, Currency, and Housing Committee,” a freshman assignment she detested and referred to as Beirut. Maybe if she visited the Federal Reserve she would have a different opinion.

I’ve lived in Washington for years, but the Federal Reserve was one building I’d never been inside. DeAnna Neill, the event coordinator, gave me a private tour of the building after the luncheon. Not only did I get to see the grand staircase, but also where Chairman Bernanke’s office and conference room were tucked away. The ornate conference room was in use, but the adjacent conference room was just as stunning. Most surprising, was the art. The Federal Reserve has its own art collection donning the walls. Who knew?

 

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Brian Lamb

One of the few staples in my life has been watching Brian Lamb on C-Span every Sunday night at 8 p.m. First, it was for his hour-long author interview program called Booknotes. Each week it featured a different author and book; and Brian Lamb read them all. Then that program, in 2004, morphed into Q & A. It was still an hour-long program, but not necessarily with an author.  “Every Sunday night, we introduce you to interesting people who are making things happen in politics, the media, education, and science & technology in hour-long conversations about their lives and their work.” That’s how C-Span describes Q & A.

Today, March 19, marks the 33rd anniversary of C-Span, and a surprise announcement. Brian Lamb, the CEO and founder of the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-Span), is stepping down. His efforts to bring more transparency to government by providing public access to the political process by offering live feeds from the House and Senate floors and congressional hearings, has transformed the landscape of political news coverage.

He also transformed lives. When I started down the biography path I knew no writers nor I had taken any writing classes. What Brian Lamb did through Booknotes, was bring authors to my living room. He not only asked them questions about their subject, but also their writing process. And what those authors shared gave me new ideas, and, often validated what I was doing. It was the best education one could get, and it was accessible and free.

Although Brian Lamb is stepping down from the C-Span helm, he plans to continue hosting Q & A. My Sunday night tradition will continue.

 

Six Degrees of Millicent – First Anniversary

One year ago today I started this blog – Six Degrees of Millicent – and a year later I’m still at. As a biographer there are serendipitous connections to your subject everywhere and it’s fun to share those stories through this blog.

As you can tell from the name. the blog started out as six degrees of Millicent Fenwick, the subject of my first book, and more recently has morphed into a blog about my second biography, “Leading Justice: The Life of Nicholas Katzenbach” scheduled to come out next year.

This blog gives you a double dose of the many intersections I discover between my subjects and the present. And if you don’t know who Millicent Fenwick or Nicholas Katzenbach are, hopefully you will enjoy learning about them as much as I have.

Like all bloggers I encourage you to share this blog with friends, comment on posts, like it on facebook, and subscribe (top right) or follow it so you can be notified each time there is a new post (usually a couple times a month).

Below are some highlights from the past year and they can all be found in the Archives:

Green Eyes, February 23, 2012

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/green-eyes/

The Jackie Kennedy Tapes, September 14, 2011

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/the-jackie-kennedy-tapes/

Take Three, August 31, 2011 about the Martin Luther King, Jr.  Memorial

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/take-three/

As Indispensable as Sensible shoes, August 11, 2011

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/as-indispensable-as-sensible-shoes/

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, June 11, 2011

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/the-stand-in-the-schoolhouse-door/

Biographers Unite, May 28, 2011

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/biographers-unite-2/