Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney

She made history as the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States. Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Her parents, originally from North Carolina, were freed slaves. They moved north before the Civil War, where they would face less discrimination. Mary Eliza attended the Philips School, one of the first integrated schools in Boston.

From an early age, Mary Eliza knew that she wanted to be a nurse. For fifteen years, she worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, now known as the Dimock Community Health Centre, before she was accepted into its nursing school, the first in the United States. She was 33 years old when she was admitted.

After she received her nursing diploma, Mary Eliza worked for many years as a private care nurse. She worked for predominantly white, wealthy families who praised her for her efficiency. Her professionalism raised the bar for others in her profession, especially among minorities. She was recognized for her skills and preparedness. And this reputation earned her the respect of some of the families she worked for who insisted that she join them for dinner but she was a humble woman. She ate her meals with the household staff she worked with.

Her reputation opened many doors for Mary Eliza whose goal was to change the way of patients and their families thought of minority nurses. She wanted to abolish any discrimination that existed in the nursing field, believing that it had no place there and that all people should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams without any fear of racial discrimination.

Mary Eliza served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York from 1911 to 1912. The asylum served as a home for freed colored children and the colored elderly and it was run by African Americans. It was at this institution that Mary Eliza ended her nursing career.

In 1896, Mary Eliza became one of the original members of Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC) which later became known as the American Nurses Association (ANA). In the early 1900s, the NAAUSC, a predominantly white association, did not welcome African American nurses into their association, so, Mary Eliza retaliated by founding a new and more welcoming nurses’ association with the help of other founders. In 1908, she was the co-founders of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Not surprisingly, this association did not discriminate against anyone and its goal was to support and congratulate the accomplishments in the registered nursing field and to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing community. A year later, Mary Eliza spoke at the NACGN’s first annual convention and in her speech, she documented the inequalities in her nursing education and in the nursing education at the time. She was given a lifetime membership in the NACGN and a position of chaplain.

During her retirement, Mary Eliza was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage. In 1920, after women’s suffrage was achieved in the United States, she was among the first women in Boston who registered to vote. She was an active participant in the advancement of Civil Rights in the United States. She died in 1926 at the age of 80.

Notes to Women salutes this woman who was and still is an example of professionalism and champion for civil rights and women’s rights. She challenged discrimination against women of African Americans in nursing and proved that she had what it took to enjoy a very successful career and at the same time, transcend racial barriers. She held firm to the conviction that everyone should be able to achieve their dreams without having to deal with racial discrimination.

She was the first woman in the United States to graduate as a registered nurse. A pioneer for the nursing profession, she received many honors and awards and inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the epitome of professionalism and an outstanding example for nurses of all races. In recognition of this, the NACGN established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936.

We are forever indebted to Mary Eliza for paving the way for the advancement of equal opportunities in nursing for minorities.

 

Mary Eliza Mahoney
Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

Mary Seacole

I just finished reading a very long but interesting biography of Mary Seacole. When I mentioned her to my husband, he immediately knew who I was talking about. He’s from Jamaica where Mary was born. She was born on November 23, 1805 to a Scottish father and Jamaican mother. Her father was a soldier in the British Army and her mother was a free woman. Mrs. Seacole was a doctress, a healer who used traditional Caribbean and African herbal remedies. She ran Blundell Hall, a boarding house, considered one of the best hotels in Kingston. It was from watching and helping her mother, that Mary became interested in nursing.

Mary was proud of her Scottish ancestry and called herself a Creole. Legally, she was classified a mulatto, a multiracial person with limited political rights. She was also very proud of her black ancestry. “I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related—and I am proud of the relationship—to those poor mortals whom you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns.” Being the educated daughter of a Scottish officer and a free black woman with a respectable business would have afforded Mary a high position in Jamaican society.

Mary married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, rumored to have been the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and his mistress, Emma, Lady Hamilton. Edwin was a merchant. The newly married couple moved to Black River where they opened a provisions store which failed to succeed. In the early 1840s, they returned to Blundell Hall.

During the years 1843 and 1844, disasters struck Mary and her family. They lost much of the boarding house in a fire on Kingston. Blundell Hall burned down and was replaced by the New Blundell Hall which was deemed “better than before.” She lost her husband and then her mother. Overcome with grief, Mary didn’t move for days. Then she composed herself and assumed the role of manager of her mother’s hotel and plunged herself into work, turning down many offers of marriage. She became a widely respected among the European military visitors to Jamaica who frequently stayed at Blundell Hall.

During the cholera epidemic of 1850 which killed 32,000 Jamaicans, she treated patients and blamed the outbreak to infection brought on a steamer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after she arrived in Cruces, Panama where her half-brother moved, cholera struck. Familiar with the disease and having treated those who had the infection, Mary moved into action, treating the first victim who survived. This did wonders for her reputation and many patients were brought to her as the infection spread. The epidemic raged, causing many casualties which filled Mary with exasperation with the victims, claiming that they “bowed down before the plague in slavish despair.” Towards the end, she too became sick but managed to pull through.

During the Crimean War, disease broke out and hundreds perished, mostly from cholera. Hundreds more died while waiting to be shipped out or on the voyage. It was during this time that Florence Nightingale was charged with the responsibility of forming a detachment of nurses to be sent to the hospital to save lives. After suitable candidates were selected following interviews, Florence left for Turkey. Mary tried to join the second group of nurses to the Crimea. She applied to the War Office and other government offices but arrangements for departure were already underway. She applied to the Crimean Fund, a fund raised by the public to support the wounded in Crimea for sponsorship to travel there but again, she was refused. Resolute, she decided to travel to Crimea using her own resources and to open a British Hotel.

On the ship Malta, Mary met a doctor who recently left Scutari, where Florence Nightingale was. He wrote Mary a letter of recommendation to Florence. Mary visited Florence at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, asking for a bed for the night as she planned to travel to Balaclava the following day to join Thomas Day, her Caribbean acquaintance. In her memoirs, Mary mentioned that Florence was very friendly. They found a bed for her and breakfast was sent to her in the morning.

As she had planned, Mary opened the British Hotel near Balaclava. Meals were served there and there was outside catering. It prospered. Meals and supplies were provided for the soldiers. One frequent visitor was Alexis Soyer, a French chef who advised her to concentrate on food and beverage service and not to have beds for visitors as the few either slept on board the ships in the harbor or in tents in the camps.

The Special Correspondent of The Times newspaper highly commended Mary’s work, citing, “Mrs. Seacole…doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessings.”

Florence Nightingale acknowledged favorable views of Mary to Soyer and Mary had told him how kindly Florence had given her board and lodging. When Soyer mentioned Mary’s inquiries of her, Florence responded pleasantly and with a smile that , “I should like to see her before she leaves, as I hear she has done a great deal of good for the poor soldiers.” Yet, Florence didn’t want her nurses to associate with Mary and in a letter to her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, she insinuated that Mary had kept a “bad house” in Crimea and was responsible for “much drunkenness and improper conduct”. This letter came at the time when Mary approached Sir Harry for the opportunity to assist in the Franco-Prussian War because of his involvement in the British National Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded.

In spite of this, Mary moved in royal circles. Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a nephew of Queen Victoria was one of Mary’s customers in Crimea when he was a young Lieutenant. Perhaps as a token of gratitude and appreciation, he carved a marble bust of her in 1871 which was exhibited in the Royal Academy summer exhibition a year later. Mary also became the personal masseuse to the Prince of Wales who suffered from white leg rheumatism.

Sadly, while she was well-known at the end of her life, Mary quickly faded from public memory and her work in Crimea was overshadowed by Florence Nightingale’s for many years. And there were controversies surrounding Mary. It has been argued that she is being promoted at the expense of Florence Nightingale. According to Professor Lynn McDonald, “…support for Seacole has been used to attack Nightingale’s reputation as a pioneer in public health and nursing.”

There are claims that her achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons and a plan to erect a statue of her at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, describing her as “pioneer nurse” has sparked some outrage. According to those who oppose, Mary has no connection with the institution whereas Florence Nightingale did. In Dr. Lang’s opinion, she “does not qualify as a mainstream figure in the history of nursing.”

Mary’s name appears in an appendix to the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum, as an example of a significant Victorian historical figure but teachers are not required to include her in their lessons. At the end of 2012, it was reported that she would be removed from the National Curriculum. This was opposed by Greg Jenner, the historical consultant to Horrible Histories. He believes that removing Mary from the curriculum would be a mistake in spite of the fact that her medical achievements have been exaggerated.

In January 2013, Operation Black Vote launched a petition to request that Education Secretary Michael Gove not drop Mary Seacole or Oloudah Equiano from the National Curriculum. Reverend Jesse Jackson and others wrote a letter to The Times, protesting the proposed removal of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. The campaign was a success as Michael Gove was forced to concede after receiving approximately 35,000 signatures.

Today, Mary Seacole is remembered in the Caribbean. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 1954, the headquarters of the Jamaican General Trained Nurses’ Association was christened “Mary Seacole House”. This was quickly followed by the naming of the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. A ward at the Kingston Public Hospital is named in her memory. In Britain, buildings and organization now commemorate her by name and near the bottom of Fleet Street in London a Seacole Lane existed until it was redeveloped in the 1980s.

Notes to Women celebrate this pioneer in healing and helping those who were sick. She may not have been a registered nurse and her achievements may have been exaggerated but what matters is that she had the heart for nursing. There are some in the nursing profession who not in it because it is their passion. Mary Seacole had the heart and the passion for nursing and she was a blessing to many of those whom she treated. We think that this phenomenal woman should be recognized for what she has done.

She is a role model for all of us.  She was proud of her heritage.  She defied racism and bigotry and she embarked on her calling to help others, not allowing rejection or any other obstacles to get in her way.  If you have a goal in life, make it happen.  Don’t dream.  Act.  Florence Nightingale was not the only light.  Like Mary Seacole, you can be light too wherever you are.

I must say that I don’t appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion. If it had been as dark as a nigger’s, I should have been just as happy and useful, and as much respected by those whose respect I value: and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks.

I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related to those poor mortals you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. Having this bond, and knowing what slavery is, having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors, is it surprising that I should be somewhat impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have endeavoured to assume over me.

I have always noticed what actors children are……….whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll soon contracted it…….before long it was very natural that I should seek to extend my practice, and so I found other patients in the cats and dogs around me.

Doubts and suspicions rose in my heart for the first and last time, thank Heaven. Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?

 

Mary Secole

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Seacole; http://www.biographyonline.net/humanitarian/quotes/mary-seacole.html

The Oscars Highlights

As usual, after promising myself that I wouldn’t watch it, I ended up watching the Oscars Red Carpet show and the last hour and a half of the Oscars.  I enjoyed the show more in the past.  Nowadays, it seems anything goes.  I didn’t appreciate Sean Penn’s remark when Birdman won for the Best Picture and I am thankful that I missed Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear.  I wonder if he will be invited back next year.  I think Billy Crystal was by far the best host.

The highlights were seeing Tara Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle, author of the autobiography The American Sniper, Oscar nominee for best pictureChris was killed at a shooting range in Texas in February 2013.  Tara was at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony to represent him.  She is a an American author, veteran family activist and advocate for women and families who have lost family members while serving in the war.  She travels around the country speaking about Chris and others like him.  In August 2013, the state of Texas passed the Chris Kyle Law (SB162) which was created to “expand the effort to help ease employment challenges for active duty military members and their spouses”

Tara founded Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.  A frog’s skeleton is a symbol of a fallen Navy Seal.  The foundation’s mission is is to “serve those who serve us by providing meaningful interactive experiences that enrich family relationships”.

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The other highlight was Julianne Moore.  I haven’t seen the movie, Still Alice, but the clip they showed of the movie when the announcement for Actress in a leading role, convinced me that she deserved the honor.  The scene was short but very powerful.  It was of a woman desperately looking for her keys and refusing to take her husband’s advice to wait until the morning.  It’s as if she could feel herself slipping away and was struggling to hold on.  It’s a movie on a disease that affects everyone–those diagnosed with it and their loved ones.  Alice described it as her brain dying.

“Alice: I miss myself.
John: I miss you too, Ali, so much.”
Lisa Genova, Still Alice

“In the ladies’ room, Alice studied her image in the mirror. The reflected older woman’s face didn’t quite match the picture that she had of herself in her mind’s eye.” p 35”
Lisa Genova, Still Alice

Women are more likely to get Alzheimer’s partly because they live longer than men.  Genetics are also a factor.  In the movie, Still Alice, Alice looked young, not the typical person you would expect to have Alzheimer’s.  It is no longer a disease of old age.  In fact, many people with early onset are in their 40s and 50s. They have families, careers or are even caregivers themselves when the disease strikes.

In her acceptance speech, Julianne said, “I’m so happy, I’m thrilled that we were able to shine a light on Alzheimer’s disease,” Moore said. “So many people who have this disease feel marginalized. People who have Alzheimer’s disease deserve to be seen so we can find a cure.”  She poured her heart into this role.  She spent four months researching for her role, talking to women with the disease, doctors and visiting a long-term care facility.  This was well earned Oscar win.  Congratulations, Julianne for bringing to life and light a disease that affects so many.  Thank you for raising awareness and helping those who live with the disease not to feel like they are alone.

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Initially, when I heard that Lady Gaga was going to sing a medley from The Sound of Music, I was very skeptical.  I didn’t think she had it in her but I was pleasantly surprised.  I found myself wondering why the medley and then, Dame Julie Andrews steps out on the stage to the delight and surprise of the audience.  You could see that Lady Gaga was a bit emotional. With her usual gracefulness, Dame Julie said, “Dear Lady Gaga, thank you for that wonderful tribute.”

Seeing Dame Julie Andrews step out on the stage was the biggest highlight of the night for me.  She looked terrific as usual.  She was there to hand out the Oscar for the Best Original Score and also in honor of the movie, The Sound of Music which celebrates its 50th anniversary.  It will always be one of my favorite musicals.

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I was thrilled when the song, “Glory” won for Best Original Song.  It was a moving tribute to the civil rights’ movement.   The cast and some in the audience were in tears.  Congratulations to Common and John Legend for their much deserved win.

In his acceptance speech, John Legend said, “We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now.  We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you, ‘We are with you. We see you. We love you. And march on.'”

Congratulations to Patricia Arquette and Eddie Redmayne.  It was touching the way he dedicated his Best Actor Oscar to “all of those people around the world” battling motor neurone disease – the illness that left Professor Hawking in a wheelchair.  Redmayne thanked the Hawking family and his wife, Hannah, telling her,  “I love you so much. We’ve got a new fella coming to share our apartment!” His acceptance speech was refreshing and sweet at the same time.

Notes to Women wish to congratulate all the Academy Award winners for 2015.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taya_Kyle;

http://www.alzinfo.org/articles/why-women-may-be-more-likely-to-get-alzheimers/; http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_early_onset.asp;

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/julianne-moore-wins-oscar-best-actress-29153141

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/glory-wins-best-original-song-at-oscars-brings-cast-to-tears-20150222

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/oscars/11428940/Oscars-2015-Watch-Eddie-Redmaynes-adorable-Best-Actor-acceptance-speech.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/stephen-hawking-praises-eddie-redmaynes-5213165

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the eldest of thirteen children.  She was born on October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Her great-grandfather was Hans Schad, alias John Shadd, who served as Hessian soldier with the British army during the French and Indian War.  Her father, Abraham Doras Shadd was trained as a shoemaker and owned a shop in Wilmington and later in the nearby town of West Chester, Pennsylavania.  In these two places, he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and involved in other civil rights activities.  He was an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and in 1833 he was named President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Colour.

It’s not surprising that the Shadd family moved to Pennyslavania when it became illegal to educate African American children in the the state of Delaware.  In Pennyslavania, Mary attended a Quaker school.  In 1840 Mary Ann returned to West Chester where she established a school for black children.  She taught in Norristown, Pennsylvania and New York City.  Three years later, Abraham was forced to move his family to Canada, settling in North Buxton, Ontario.  The reason of this move was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  The law threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves into bondage.   In 1858, Abraham D. Shadd became the first black man to be elected to political office in Canada.

Mary Ann founded a racially integrated school in Windsor with the support of the American Missionary Association.  She ran The Provincial Freeman, an anti-slavery newspaper which made her the first female editor in North America.  Her brother, Isaac managed the business affairs of the newspaper and at his home he hosted meetings to plan the raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Mary Ann traveled around Canada and the United States, an advocate for full racial integration though education and self-reliance.  She promoted emigration to Canada amongst freemen.  In 1855 when she attempted to participate in the Philadelphia Colored Convention, the assembly debated whether or not to even allow her to sit as a delegate.  She was viewed as a controversial figure becuase of her advocacy for emigration.  By 15 votes she was admitted and according to Frederick Douglass’ Paper, although she gave a speech advocating for emigration, she was so well received that the delegates voted that she be given ten more minutes to speak.  Unfortunately, her presence at the Convention was omitted from the minutes most likely because she was a woman.  How sad.  Here we have blacks who know what it’s like to be discriminated because of color and yet they were discriminating against Mary Ann because she was a woman.  How difficult it was to be a black woman in those days.  She faced prejudice because of her color and prejudice because of her gender.

In 1856 Mary Ann married a Toronto barber named Thomas F. Cary who was involved with the Provincial Freeman.  They had a daughter and a son.  After Thomas died in 1860, Mary Ann and their children returned to the United States.

During the Civil War, at the request of abolitionist, Martin Delany, she served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army in the state of Indiana.  After the Civil War, she went back to teaching.  She taught in the black schools in Wilmington before she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught in public schools and attended Howard University School of Law.  In 1883, at the age of 60, she graducated as a lawyer, becoming the second black woman in the United States to earn a law degree.  Age didn’t slow this remarkable woman down.  Not only was she writing for newspapers such as National Era and The People’s Advocate but she organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise.  She joined the National Woman Suffrage Association where she worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage.  They testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of the Representatives.

Mary Ann Shadd died in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 1893.  She was interred at Columbian Harmony Cemetery.  She left behind her a great legacy.  Her former residence in the U Street Corridor was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.  In 1987 the National Women’s History Project designated her a Women’s History Month Honoree and Canada honored her by designating her a Person of National Historic Significance.

Like her father, Mary Ann was an advocate for civil rights –the right to freedom and education among blacks.  She was an anti-slavery activist, journalist, teacher and lawyer.  She was a wife and mother.  She was a wonderful example to her children.  She taught them that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  No one should have their freedom and right to education taken away from them.

Notes to Women salute this amazing woman who showed us that the things we sometimes take for granted are to be cherished.  Freedom and education are two things we should fiercely guard.  There are some countries in the world where human rights are violated.  Women are treated as second class citizens or worse, girls are denied education and Christians are denied the freedom to worship.  Be thankful for the freedoms you currently have.

“Self-reliance Is the Fine Road to Independence.”

 

220px-Mary_Ann_Shadd

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ann_Shadd;

http://www.womeninhistoryohio.com/mary-ann-shadd-cary.html

WHO: Five keys to safer food

April 7 is World Health Day and the topic for this year is Food Safety.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is working on a campaign to ensure global food safety.  Their campaign will begin in April.  You can help them by sharing the following video with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  It’s a fun and creative way of sharing the importance of food safety.

Unsafe food is linked to the deaths of an estimated 2 million people annually. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, the need to strengthen food safety systems in and between all countries is becoming more and more evident (WHO).

If you are interested in learning more about WHO’s campaigns, programmes and projects or to sign up for updates, visit their website

 

 

Lena Horne

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women are going to celebrate a few notable women.  We begin with singer, actress, Lena Horne.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Bedford-sTuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Her father, Edwin Fletcher Horne left the family when she was three years old.  Her mother was the daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron.  She was an actress with a black theatre troupe and travelled extensively.  Lena was raised by her grandparents.  When she was five, she was sent to Georgia to live.  For seeral years she travelled with her mother.  For two years, she lived with her uncle who would later serve as an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

At the age of sixteen, Lena joined the chorus of the Cotton Club and became a nightclub performer before she moved to Hollywood.  In Hollywood she had small parts in movies, notably Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather.  She was never cast in a leading role because of her race and the films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theatres would not show films with black performers.  Interestingly enough, Lena was the first African American elected to serve on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors.

In 1951, Lena wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in the MGM’s version of Show Boat but lost the part to her friend, Ava Gardner due to the Production Code’s ban on interracial relationships in films. Lena stated in the documentary, That’s Entertainment! III that MGM executives wanted Ava Gardner to practice her singing using Lena’s recordings. Both actresses were offended by this.

Not surprisingly, Lena was disenchanted with Hollywood and she began to focus more on her nightclub career.  She made two major appearances in MGM films in the 1950s, Duchess of Idaho and Meet Me in Las Vegas.  It was during this time that she was blacklisted for her political views.

After she left Hollywood, Lena made waves as one of the premier nightclub performers of the post-war era.  She headlined clubs and hotels throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.  In 1958, she was the first African American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical”.  She appeared in variety shows on TV such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show and The Judy Garland Show and in 1969., she starred in her own television special, Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne.

In 1970, she co-starred with Harry Belafonte in ABC’s show, Harry & Lena and in 1973 with Tony Bennett in Tony and Lena.  She toured the U.S. and U.K. with Bennett.  In 1981, she received a special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne:  The Lady and Her Music.  In the 1990s she was active in the recording studio.

Lena was also a Civil Rights activist.  She was involved in the movement for years.  In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and Paul Robeson, another blacklisted performer.  During World War II, Lena refused to perfom for segregated audiences or for groups where German POWS were sitting in front of African American servicemen.  The U.S. Army refused to have integrated audiences so Lena ended up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black U.S. soldiers and white German POWs.  When she saw that the black soldiers were forced to sit in the back seats, she walked off the stage to the first row where they were seated and performed with the German POWs behind her.  Way to go Lena!

She was a participant at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers the weekend before he was assassinated and she met John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated.  She participated at the March on Washington where she spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC adn the National Council of Negro Women.  She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt, another champion of civil rights, to pass anti-lynching laws.  She received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1983.

On a more personal note, Lena was married to Louis Jordan Jones.  They had a daughter and a son.  Sadly, their son died of a kidney disease.  In 1940, Lena and her husband separated.  They divorced in 1944.  In 1947, she remarried.  Her second husband was Lennie Hayton, Music Director and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM.  In the early 1960s they separated but never divorced.  Lennie died in 1971.  In her biography, Lena, she recalled the pressures they faced as an interracial couple.  She admitted that she married him to advance her career and cross the “color line” in show business but had learned to love him very much.

Fame runs in the family.  Lena’s daughter, Gail, a best-selling author, was married to director, Sidney Lumet.  Their daughter, Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter, is known for her award winning screenplay, Rachel Getting Married.

On May 9, 2010, Lena Horne died in New York city of heart failure.  Among those gathered to pay their respects at her funeral were Leontyne Price, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minnelli, Jessye Norman, Chita Rivera, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Leslie Uggams and Lauren Bacall.  At the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony held on February 27, 2011, actress Halle Berry presented a tribute to Lena.

Notes to Women salute this phenomenal woman who was not afraid to speak out against racism and was the first African-American actress to have a major studio contract with the stipulation that she would not have to play any demeaning, stereotypical roles.  In doing this, she paved the way for other African American actresses.

In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I’m black and a woman, singing my own way.

I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.

Always be smarter than the people who hire you

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman, I’m not alone, I’m free. I say I’m free because I no longer have to be a credit, I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

I never considered myself a movie star. Mostly, I just sang songs in other people’s movies.

 

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Horne; http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/a/qu_lena_horne.htm; http://www.qotd.org/quotes/Lena.Horne; http://www.blackclassicmovies.com/Artist_Profile/lena_horne.html; http://www.biography.com/#!/people/lena-horne-9344086; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0395043/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Golden Girl Betty White

Golden Girl Betty White

Seven time Emmy winner, Betty White is still going strong.  Her wit and sense of humour is still as sharp as ever.  I love her on The Golden Girls as the sweet and naive Rose Nylund.

Betty  has a lot of titles under her belt–actress, comedienne, singer, author, and former game show personality.  Her career began in 1939, three months after she graduated from high school. Betty found work as a model and her first professional acting job was in at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre.  Her career was interrupted when World War II broke out causing her to join the American Women’s Voluntary Services.  In the 1940s, Betty worked in radio, appearing on shows such as Blondie, The Great Gildersleeve and This Is Your FBI. Then she got her own radio show, called The Betty White Show.

In 1950 Betty made history by being nominated for her first Emmy Award as “Best Actress” on television.  This was the first award and category in the new Emmy history designated for women on television.  The Emmy went to Gertrude Berg.  Two years later Betty hosted Hollywood on Television, White co-founded Bandy Productions with writer George Tibbles and Don Fedderson, a producer.  In 1954, she briefly hosted and produced her own daily talk show, The Betty White Show, on NBC.

Betty’s fame picked up in the 1960s and 1970s thanks to her long stint as hostess and commentator on the annual Tournament of Roses Parade broadcast on NBC.  She was later replaced by NBC due to her success on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a show on rival network, CBS.  Betty admitted to People Magazine that it was difficult  “watching someone else do my parade”, although she soon would start a ten-year run as hostess of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for CBS.

From 1973-1985, Betty enjoyed success in sitcoms such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Betty White Show, Mama’s Family and in 1985, she landed the role on The Golden Girls which turned out to be the biggest career hit of her career. The show enjoyed a successful run from 1985 through 1992. The cast could not have been more perfect–Beatrice Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan.  I remember watching the show in New York every Saturday night with my mother and sisters.  I watch the reruns and still laugh out loud.

Betty won one Emmy Award, for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, for the first season of The Golden Girls and was nominated in that category every year of the show’s run (the only cast member to receive that distinction. I was sorry when the show ended but it ended on a positive note–Dorothy got married again.

I remember learning that Betty was the oldest cast member of the show but is the only surviving member, following the deaths of Estelle Getty in July 2008, Bea Arthur in April 2009, and Rue McClanahan in June 2010.

Betty was originally offered the role of Blanche in The Golden Girls, and Rue McClanahan was offered the role of Rose (the two characters being similar to roles they had played in Mary Tyler Moore and Maude, respectively). Jay Sandrich, the director of the pilot, suggested that since they had played similar roles in the past, they should switch roles, Rue McClanahan later said in a documentary on the series.

Initially Betty was scared to play Rose, feeling that she would not be able to play the role—until the show’s creator took her aside and told her not to play Rose as stupid but to play her as someone “terminally naive, a person who always believed the first explanation of something.” I am thankful that the roles were switched.  I can’t imagine anyone playing Rose but Betty and no other actress could pull of the role of Blanche as Rue did.

Life after The Golden Girls was very good for Betty. She guest starred on shows like Ally McBealThe Ellen ShowMy Wife and KidsThat ’70s ShowEverwoodJoey, and Malcolm in the Middle.  She was nominated for her appearances on  Suddenly SusanYes, Dear and The Practice. She won an Emmy in 1996 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, appearing as herself on an episode of The John Larroquette Show. She has lent her voice to popular animated shows such as The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy.

She joined in the cast of The Bold and the Beautiful in December 2006.  Her 2007 parody of Ugly Betty earned her a part on Ugly Betty as herself.  White had a recurring role in ABC’s Boston Legal from 2005 to 2008 as the calculating, blackmailing gossip-monger Catherine Piper, a role she originally portrayed as a guest star on The Practice in 2004. This character was a far cry from Rose Nylund but it just went to show what a talented actress Betty is.  She pulled it off so well.  She attended the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner.

On May 8, 2010, Betty hosted Saturday Night Live at the age of 88, making her the oldest person to host the show.  She published her latest book If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), was published in 2011.

On a personal note, Betty married Dick Barker, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot in 1945. The marriage was short-lived. In 1947, she married Lane Allen, a Hollywood agent. This marriage ended in divorce in 1949.  On June 14, 1963, White married television host and personality Allen Ludden, whom she had met on his game show Password as a celebrity guest in 1961, and is legally Betty White Ludden. He proposed to her twice before she accepted.  Sadly, Allen died from stomach cancer on June 9, 1981.  The couple did not have any children.  Betty has not remarried.

We salute this remarkable woman who is a pet enthusiast and animal health advocate who works with a number of animal organizations and a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including her induction into  the Television Hall of Fame in 1995; the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. She was formally inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1995.  and the Screen Actor’s Guild.  We thank this funny lady for all the golden years of comedy she has brought to us.  We wish her all the best.

Betty White - Interview

 

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_White