November 26, 2012

The Women and Men of Thanksgiving

Many of us know the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present-day Massachusetts, in 1621.  But it took more than 200 years for President Abraham Lincoln to declare the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving in 1863, and only in 1941 did the U.S. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday.

This may never have occurred were it not for a strong and confident woman: Sara Josepha Hale.

Sarah J. Hale, a poet and novelist, became editor of the Ladies' Magazine in 1828.  In 1837 the Ladies' Magazine became known as the Lady's Book, still led by Hale until 1877.  During her tenure as editor, Hale made the magazine the most recognized and influential periodical for women, and was involved in numerous philanthropic pursuits.  She used her position as editor to advocate the education of women. 

For 15 years, Hale waged a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  But not until she enlisted the help of President Lincoln did her campaign succeed.

In 1939, toward the end of the Great Depression, the last Thursday of November was going to be November 30, and retailers complained to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that this only left 24 shopping days to Christmas.  Begging FDR to move Thanksgiving just one week earlier, it was hoped that Christmas shoppers would have the extra week to purchase more. 

When FDR issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1939, he declared that Thanksgiving would be held the second-to-last Thursday of the month, causing a tremendous uproar – calendars were incorrect, school holidays had to be rescheduled, even football schedules had to be redone.  His political opponents questioned the right of a president to changing a holiday, even coining the holiday name as “Franksgiving.”

Twenty-three states followed the presidential order and changed the date for Thanksgiving, and 23 other states kept the traditional date.  Colorado and Texas decided to honor both dates as holidays.  In 1941, Roosevelt again announced Thanksgiving to be the second-to-last Thursday of the month, and 31 states honored the earlier date while 17 maintained the tradition by celebrating the last Thursday of November.

Lincoln had established Thanksgiving to bring our country together, but the confusion was tearing the country apart until Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941 that Thanksgiving would now occur annually on the 4th Thursday in November.

(Another woman, artist Margaret Cusack, provided the design of a commemorative Thanksgiving stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2001.  It was a style resembling traditional folk-art needlework, depicting a cornucopia overflowing with fruits and vegetables under the phrase “We Give Thanks.”)

We are thankful for the passion and leadership each of you – women and men – give to the work of Chrysalis.  From each of us, our best wishes for a lovely and relaxing holiday.

November 19, 2012

Gen X Philanthropy

Many may think that the Generation-Xers are just beginning to understand philanthropy.  According to a recent article in US News, for many young professionals, giving to charity isn't just about writing checks.  Instead, the focus is on volunteering, socializing, and networking -- while also contributing to good causes.

"Many Generation X-ers are more interested in social advocacy and engagement philanthropy," says Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. That means they are more likely to want to work directly with organizations instead of just donating money, he explains.

Interestingly, the Center notes that giving rates rise with education levels: 90% of persons with graduate degrees contribute to charity, while only 58% of persons with high school educations or less do.  And the average annual gift for a college graduate is $2,633, it reports.

But some young people want to do more - they want to get involved.  For example, Lindsay Hyde.  During her freshman year at Harvard, she wanted to become a mentor to younger girls in the area, but when she looked into potential opportunities, she couldn't find any groups willing to work with undergraduates.  So she organized her own team of volunteers and found two elementary schools interested in working with them.  When Hyde graduated from college in 2000, she officially launched a nonprofit which now works with over 400 girls a year in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Miami.

Strong Women, Strong Girls uses lessons learned from strong women throughout history to encourage girls and young women to become strong women themselves.  The curriculum focuses both on elementary age and college age young women, recognizing that both ages really need many of the same experiences and education.  Three basic tenets form the curriculum:

RELATIONSHIPS:  Research which shows that girls and young women need supportive relationships in order to thrive.  For elementary girls, the relationships form with college women, with peers, and with program leaders.  The young women in college form relationships with the younger girls and with peers, but also with participating college advisors and one adult mentor, who is paired with the college student each year.

SKILLS:  Younger girls need help developing social and emotional skills, while the young women develop leadership and professional skills including resume writing and interviewing.

ROLE MODELS:  A role model helps girls develop aspirations for the future - both through the experience with college students and through reading a weekly biography of a women in history.  College students learn from professional women and field experts, who can assist in their preparation for a career.

Strong Women, Strong Girls has developed a range of resources for individuals and organizations interested in working with girls and young women.  It also has tracked its success, based on participant surveys and academic achievement.

This program is similar to Chrysalis After-School programs because it intentionally brings in college age women who develop mentoring relationships with the girls.  This year, Chrysalis will begin a formal high school mentoring program, designed to teach the high school girls ("graduates" of Chrysalis After-School) how to develop relationships with younger girls, how to be a role model, and how to instruct about specific skills important to their healthy development.

We look forward to reporting on the success of this program at the end of the academic year.  And we're delighted to have your support and leadership in continuing the work of building future women leaders through Chrysalis After-School.  We’re in 30 schools this year, half elementary, half middle schools – in Des Moines, Indianola, Bondurant, Saydel, Southeast Polk, and Urbandale.  Between 500 and 600 girls and approximately 65 facilitators take part in weekly meetings, with specific curricula created by Chrysalis for the following:

GIRLSTRONG!                  Health and wellness
ON THE MONEY             Financial literacy
BRAINCAKE                      Science, technology, engineering, and math
DRAKE PHARMACY     Safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines
ProjectSTOP                     Violence prevention

Thank you for all you give to Chrysalis.

November 13, 2012

Election History

I’m certain that “election exhaustion” finally hit us all this week, and we’re happy to never see a scowling politician’s face or hear the ominous background music of the thousands of negative ads.

Today, our Board President sent me an article that share some brighter news from election results:
­  20 women were elected to the U.S. Senate – the most ever
­  77 women (with a few races still uncertain) were elected to the House of Representatives
­  the first Asian-American woman, Mazie Hirono, was elected to the Senate – she is also the first Senator born in Japan and Buddhist
­  Massachusetts has elected its first female Senator, Elisabeth Warren
­  a 31-year-old female Iraqi war veteran, Tulsi Gabbard, who is also Hindu, was elected to Congress
­  Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person, and the first woman Wisconsin has elected, has a new seat in the Senate
­  Iraqi war veteran and triple amputee Tammy Duckworth take a seat in Congress
­  Claire McCaskill defeated Todd Akin to retain her seat
­  New Hampshire, which elected a female governor this year, will send the first all-female congressional delegation to Washington

2012 is also a year setting a record in the number of 28 minority women elected: 13 African American, 9 Latinas, and 6 Asian/Pacific Islanders.

The Huffington Post summarized women’s impact on the election:  Women proved once and for all that female voters are paying attention, and that their support wins elections.  Obama would not have been able to win the election without the support from women – female voters made up 54% of the electorate and favored the President by 11%, resulting in an 18-point gender gap.

In a country that is more than half female (50.8%) with an electorate over half, one in five Senators will be women, and 18.13% of Representatives will be female – nearly an 8% increase since the 2008 election.

We’ve come a long way since Jeannette Rankin was elected as the first female in Washington in 1917…but there’s a long way yet to go.

Description: <a href="/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=202">Jeannette Rankin</a> (right) on April 2, 1917, with Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, at the group&rsquo;s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Later that historic day, Rankin was officially sworn into the 65th Congress.
Jeannette Rankin (right) on April 2, 1917, with Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, at the group’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Later that historic day, Rankin was officially sworn into the 65th Congress.

Thank you for working on behalf of 50.8% of our population with 110% of your energy.

November 5, 2012

Gender Pay Disparity

Terry Hernandez, Executive Director of Chrysalis, just completed a television interview with WHO TV13 regarding the continued gender pay disparity.  When she asked the reporter what prompted interest in this issue, she noted the report in today's DES MOINES REGISTER listing salaries of state employees.

Once again, we need to count down to the 21st name on this list to find the first female: women's head basketball coach Lisa Bluder.  This is distressing enough, but our frustration should be compounded by the fact that her annual salary is less than half the salary of the lowest paid men's head basketball coach - and in this case, former men's basketball coach Todd Lickliter.

In the recently- released report SHE MATTERS, it was reported that in Iowa, women still make only 79% of what a man with equal education and experience is paid.  Calculating what this inequity means in today's dollars, if a woman (average salary $34,534) were to use the dollars represented by the gap (average salary for a man is $43,872), she could buy one of the following:

- 2,312 more gallons of gasoline
- 82 more weeks worth of groceries
- 14 more months of rent payments
- 8 more months of mortgage and utility payments
- 29 more months of family health insurance premiums

Today Chrysalis presented this information - in addition to the other disparities of note - to a group of women in higher education across the state, then at a workshop on teen pregnancy prevention.  We agree that, even though the Equal Pay Act was signed nearly 50 years ago, we are still far from being paid equally when our experience and education are the same.

Our work continues to be both to educate our community and stakeholders about issues like this, and to provide solutions to such problems.  Even more important, then, is our work teaching girls to advocate for themselves and be bold in asking for what they need, our work helping women become employed in "nontraditional" jobs that may pay higher wages, and our work in the corporate community to help leaders understand the reality and create workplaces that are more female- and family-friendly.

Simple things like flexible work schedules, onsite services such as ATMs or child care, and family medical leave will help keep women in the workplace as a skilled talent pool.  And these are the types of workplace benefits new young professionals should request as they seek careers.