Tag Archives: FDR

Women’s History: April 24

24 Apr

Happy Birthday, Helen Tamiris

Happy Birthday, Helen Tamiris. Tamiris is credited as one of the founders of Modern Dance. Tamiris learned about movement and dance through a social services agency called the Henry Street Settlement. Tamiris danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and was strongly influenced by Isadora Duncan.  She was one of the first choreographers to use jazz and spiritual music to explore social themes via dance.  Tamiris gained a great deal of recognition for her suite of dances called Negro Spirituals which was created between 1928 and 1941 and for How Long Brethren? (1937), a dance for the Federal Dance Project of the WPA that explored the problems facing African-Americans.

What really drew me to crafting a story on Tamiris was that she played a pivotal role in establishing the Federal Dance Program, which was funded by FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The WPA was enormously successful in creating jobs and helping the United Sates emerge from the Great Depression.  I long for leaders like FDR today.  I used to think Obama had that spark of a progressive leader, but his consistent acquiescence to Republican conservatives while chastising, what I believe to be, his progressive base proves otherwise. I can not even imagine our government sponsoring a program for dance, nor for any jobs in the arts.  Of course, if they did those jobs would then be subject to the approval of the church–so much for separation of church and state.  I think was saddens me most is that without social services and the WPA, we may never have had Helen Tamiris and thus, Modern Dance. Click here to learn more about Helen Tamiris.

Women’s History: April 9

9 Apr

Honoring Marian Anderson

Although Marian Anderson was one of the best known contraltos in the 20th Century, she did not have an easy time securing venues for her amazingly beautiful instrument. All during Anderson’s career and lifetime, America was a very race torn and divided country, not like today, cough cough cough!  In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience.  I can just see Michele Bachmann again saying, ” we need to remember that all of us came here to be free,” and Marian Anderson looking at her saying, “Excuse me?”

With the help of President and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson performed her critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson would spend the rest of her life breaking down barriers for both women and blacks.

While Antonin Scalia and Rand Paul will hate the introductory comments from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they are certainly germane right now.  I hope you enjoy the video of the recording of Marian Anderson. Click here to hear FDR’s introduction and Anderson’s performance.

Women’s History: February 17

17 Feb

Social Reformer, Dorothy Kenyon

Happy Birthday, Dorothy Kenyon. Kenyon was best known for her work in the areas of social justice and women’s rights. In 1930 Kenyon served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union, at that time a still nascent organization. Kenyon devoted much of her time and energy to liberal and progressive causes, including the New Deal, women’s rights, the labor movement, and consumer cooperatives.  She is what I would call a real “do-gooder.”  Like our Margaret Sanger, Kenyon was very vocal about her support for birth control–we sure do need her voice again now! In 1938 she was named the U.S. representative to the League of Nations Committee for the Study of the Status of Women. While we know she dated serious several men at different times through out her life, she wanted to retain her independence and maintained her decision not to marry. Big shock that Uncle Joe McCarthy charged her as a member of different communist organizations. It is her response to McCarthy that I love:

He’s a lowdown worm and although it ought to be beneath my dignity to answer him, I’m mad enough to say that he’s a liar and he can go to hell.

Let us just hope that we have many many young Dorothy Kenyons getting ready to take over the House of Representatives in the next two years!

Happy Birthday, Marian Anderson. Anderson was one of the best known African American women in the 20th Century

Quote of the day:

(In her response to prejudice)

    Sometimes it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.  Marian Anderson
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