This blog post is part one of three artist timelines. We have selected six of the most influencial female artists spanning from 1844-2018 and will be writing about their lives and work. Read on to learn about the first two artists, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe.
Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania and fell in love with painting at a young age. Although her family was not supportive as her career as an artist (at the time women were encouraged to be a stay at home mother) she enrolled in art school at age 16. While attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, other students and teachers were discouraging and didn’t allow her to reach her full potential, so Cassatt headed to Europe. After facing many obstacles, Cassatt ended up settling in Paris to study the work of master artists. It was in Paris where she first met Edward Degas and fell in love with his work. His paintings, along with others in the Impressionism movement, inspired Cassatt to develop a style of her own. Many of Cassatt's works were portraits, unlike landscapes which were more popular at the time. She liked to explore ideas of femininity and motherhood. She also chose to create more candid portrait, as opposed to the posed and controlled portraits of the time, to show honesty in her art. At the end of her life, Cassatt went blind and passed away in 1926. Cassatt’s paintings are considered masterpieces and can be viewed in museums all over the world.
Georgia O'Keeffe : 1887-1986
We met Christina (Tina) Thomas through Lux Art Institute and were inspired by her story. Tina volunteered for the Peace Corps in the country of Georgia and now works at Lux. We would like to thank Tina for letting us interview her and sharing her amazing stories and advice.
Tina, right, with a friend Natia Kharibegashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia raising money for Women's Wellness Care HERA.
how did you get involved with the peace corps?
I was on the board of an organization when I first moved to Washington DC called Hope Through Health. We raised money to combat HIV and AIDs in Togo, Africa. That organization was founded by a returned Peace Corps volunteer and everyone on the board were former Peace Corps volunteers, except for myself. I had always wanted to go into Peace Corp but I always felt like I had to be a star ivy league college student or something, so I never thought about it. After about 10 years of living in Washington, a friend of mine who was a returned Peace Corps and served in Kazakhstan put the idea in my head. He told me that he thought I would really like it and he told me there was a short-term high-impact program called Peace Corps Response. In order to get into this program, you have to have served in Peace Corps before or have to have a least 10 years of experience in the position you’re applying for. So I went online and looked to see what openings were available and I saw that there was a fundraising and advocacy specialist position open for a women's health care clinic. Well, I had been involved in health care, fundraising, and doing advocacy for over 10 years so I figured, ‘well I might as well try to apply!’ And wouldn’t you know it, I can’t believe I got through, I was so excited. I think the medical exam was the hardest part. And I think they test your patience because they would keep making you come back for tests but I’m just so happy I did it. It was life changing and I met some of the most incredible people. I’m talking about lifelong change agents who really want to change the world.
So basically, what I did was I worked to raise money to combat breast cancer and to make sure women get treatment. I also did three strategic planning sessions for three different non profit organizations and I worked with them to establish their mission statement and three strategic objectives. I did one for a non profit that wanted to invest in women in tech. Getting young women your age or a little bit older to start learning about these kind of job skills. I worked for another organization that lead all of the volunteer coordination and leadership throughout the county, especially among young people, called Helping Hand. Another one was to provide services for displaced and homeless women in children from Russian-occupied territories, which is still going on. I’ll never forget, I was talking to the leaders of this project and I said, “we need to get more men involved,” and she said, “why do we need men Tina?!” I said, “ you know if we really want transform people's understanding we need to get the men involved and we need to have men on our side.” And she didn’t like that. It was just an example of how the genders are so separate in their identities instead of collaborating.
what did you learn in the peace corps?
I have travelled a lot, throughout the world since I was 16 and I think most people want to help, they just need to be asked. I think people need to be reminded that the world and people are innately good. I also learned that being yourself is very important. Before I went to Peace Corps I had some self-esteem issues and what I realized was that being myself and offering those innate talents that I had was the best. I learned that if there was another person who was really great at something and maybe I really wanted to be really great at that, I can’t. So why not focus on my own strengths, right? And I think people see that and respect that level of genuineness. I also learned how important it was to not forget to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Also, the people who are the most judgemental, are those who have the least experience or the least knowledge. They haven’t travelled, they only hang out with people that are in their group. I think you have to seek out situations where you might only be the white person in the room, or you might be the only girl in the room, and to know what it feels like. To empathize. And to read books on that. I don’t mean to get on a preach, but I do believe that there is white privilege out there. I would also say, and this is a hard one for me, but being willing to change your mind and admit you’re wrong.
The biggest lesson I learned was to never make assumptions about other people and other countries especially when they are negative. I found that those who judge the most know the least and and have experienced the least. I do believe that the people who talk negatively about other people are really just talking about themselves and not that other person.
how has the peace corps affected your daily life?
Family has become much more important to me. I lived with two families in Georgia and I love them as much as my family here, if not more so. I had a host-brother and a host-mother and I miss them. I befriended a young girl next door, and I taught her english and she taught me Georgian, she was about 11 years old. She had a big American birthday cake and I got to sit next to her at the head of the table and we still talk on Facebook! Her family can’t afford school supplies so I sent her an American Flag backpack, and apparently she went from being a shy girl to the most popular girl in school just because she had an American flag. That kind of stuff gives me goosebumps. You can make a big difference from some of the smallest decisions. Sometimes you do just have to start small.
what are some ways we can get involved?
First of all, I think what the two of you are doing is amazing, and it may sound cliche, but you know, leading by example, and I think that’s what you’re doing. I think if you don’t give up and you continue to persist and make an example, I think that is one of the things that you can do until you are of voting age. Some other suggestions I had for young adults are connecting with those people who are making a difference or want to. So reaching out to League of Women Voters, sending them an email saying, ‘this is an organization we have, do you have any ideas?” and keeping at it so by the time you do vote you know what the background is and you’ve created a following. And don’t be afraid to lead. I think nowadays especially woman, they’re afraid to lead. I mean, look at the number of women in the senate, it’s not good. So I think that confidence is a big part of it. I found for myself, just growing up, you know I was thinking about how I was in high school and I was voted ‘future lobbyist’ of my high school class cause I always had a big mouth. So I think part of it is not being afraid to discuss controversial subjects such as racism, gender violence, immigration, those kind of things. But don’t be judgmental about it, because I feel like people feel like their opinion is right and they only talk to people who agree with them and that just shuts down a level of communication. I think Just kind of opening up rather than saying ‘this is what it is, why do you disagree?’ it’s ‘what is your understanding of this and why do you feel that way?’
Tina also told as about a program called Girls Leading Our World, which many of her friends from the Peace Corps worked. We asked her about her experience working with GLOW and other organizations.
what is the glow program?
GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and it was started in 2005 in Romania. Basically, they were looking to start a program that fostered women's’ empowerment that went beyond gender stereotypes, that allowed women to get an education versus looking at just making babies and that kind of thing. They work with young girls who are teenagers and some college aged girls and help them build confidence and build healthy minds and bodies. They’ll learn tools they will need for employment. One of the big things I was doing when I was over in Georgia was coding. In a lot of these countries, you only see women in restaurants or you only see them doing janitorial work. Even in the home I had a host-brother who said that he didn’t do dishes, that it’s not a man’s job. And I said, “Well I have three brothers back home and they all do their own dishes, so you can do them to!” Anyways, the organization has been active for 20 years but unfortunately with the current funding (we lost a lot of Peace Corps funding with the new Trump administration) we haven’t been able to replicate that program as much as possible.
how were you involved with glow?
I personally was not involved in GLOW, but my friends and other Peace Corps volunteers who I worked with were. But I was involved in a program called Let Girls Learn. This program was started by Michelle Obama. If you Google it there’s a great video of her talking about it, and it has a similar concept to GLOW. It was lead by Michelle Obama from Executive Branch and they wanted it to be started out by Michelle Obama instead of a volunteer group in Romania. I proposed a project to get young women involved in breast health and breast cancer, because Georgia had one of the the highest mortality rates world wide for breast cancer. The stigma there is so bad that once, I was trying to get an honoree for a breast cancer event and she said that she hadn’t told her family, that they didn’t know, that she had made up a story. By the time women were getting diagnosed, it was too late. The rumors in the villages were that, “if I go in and get tested, that means I’m going to get it.” There were a lot of falsehoods and what I wanted to do was work with young women, especially of college age, to learn about breast cancer, to educate their moms and grandmothers as much as possible. They were more open to campaign and canvassing and that kind of thing. So based on that I was invited to the first conferences in Georgia, because Georgia was chosen as one of the countries that Michelle Obama wanted to concentrate on to discuss what projects we could start to implement. Unfortunately, because of the government transition, a lot of those programs, including this one, did not get funding. In fact, a worker from the Peace Corps who lead our gender initiative was laid off and they could no longer fund her position. But you all can help bring this back!
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” George Bernard Shaw
“It seems impossible until it’s done.” - Nelson Mandela.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” - Will Rogers
Child marriages occur all over the world. Some girls are forced into marriages at ages as young as 11 years-old. This not only results in a huge inbalance between men and women, but also results in the contraction of STDs and well as pregancy. Over 700 million girls and 150 million boys have been married under the age of 18 against their will.
why it happens
Many child marriages boil down to patriarchal social hierarchies still upheld in many countries. Women and girls need to be taken care of by men, and when they are younger, this responsibility falls to their fathers, who passes this responsibility to husbands at young ages.
Another reason child marriage occurs is due to economic instability in many countries. Families often sells their daughters into marriages in order to receive a ‘bride price’ or a dowry from the groom and his family. The bride and her family also see marriage as a way to secure economic stability for her and her family's future. Many girls who are sold into marriage are not educated and are not given an opportunity to go to school. With an education, girls are able to support themselves and are not forced into marriage. If girls were able to educate themselves they would be given more opportuntities within their community.
where it happens
how to help
A major way to help end child marriage is through educating and empowering girls. By working with girls in your community as well as educating the younger generations of problems such as child marriage we will be able to take more steps towards gender equality. Organizations such as Girls Not Brides and CAMFED put efforts into ending child marriages around the world.
another resource about child marriages is Memory Banda's plea against child marriage in her TedTalk: "Memory Banda: A warrior's cry against child marriage."
Our last workshop took place December 22nd at LUX Art Institute, where we were given a tour by the lovely Carla Roemer. We were able to view and discuss works of art by Andy Harper. We loved learning about his art and were inspired by his creations to create art of our own. Thank you to everyone who attended and donated and an extra huge thank you to Carla!
This past week, we interviewed our history teacher Mr. Cameron to learn more about women’s roles throughout history. During this interview we learned about how women’s rights have evolved, as well as steps we can take to promote gender equality at our school. We would like to give a huge thanks to Mr. Cameron for letting us interview him.
Camille: The right for women to vote was a huge step towards gender equality. What do you think are other notable events that have made advancements [towards gender equality] in history?
Mr. Cameron: So aside from the right to vote, other advancements that have allowed women greater freedom and independence, comes with regard to the ability to independently transport themselves, with, like, any sort of new modern technology. Prerogatively the ability to have disposable income and hold a job that provides the income for that independence, and similarly the transportation.
Camille: Were there any female-dominated societies or subcultures throughout history, and if there were, how were they seen by other cultures at the time?
Mr. Cameron: Examples of matriarchal societies can be seen in Post-Classical, bleeding into Early Modern West African Societies like the Ghana and Mali Empires. Matriarchal figures were revered for their reproductive capacities and general peaceful moderation strategies.
Camille: Personally, who are some female figures who you admire or would be good role models?
Mr. Cameron: First female role model: Malala Yousafzai, who despite undergoing some pretty tortuous circumstances has been able to turn that on its head and serve as an influential and inspirational person for people who are persecuted by any state conflict and use that personal experience to uplift those who are undergoing something similar. Secondly, Joan of Arc, of the Medieval France. No doubt working within the patriarchy and asserting her claims to authority by being the messenger of God. Thirdly, and going even further back into history, Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire. From prostitute to empress, and basically helping her husband stick with his emperorship despite massive riots. Thanks Theodora. Justinian loves you even in the afterlife.
Camille: What publications, books, Ted Talks, or movies would you recommend people watch or are your favorites that shine a light on gender equality?
Mr. Cameron: One really current issue that's regularly addressed regarding women's equality is the gender wage gap. There is one short piece by John Oliver (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsB1e-1BB4Y ) explaining the very nuanced and complex nature of figuring out how that gender wage gap is established.There's also a short John Green from vlogbrothers ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0EYBBl5LI ) on that same topic. Prager University ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcDrE5YvqTs ) problematizes that entire concept arguing that no gender wage gap exists. Looking between those three sources would be really useful.
Camille: In the classroom, how do you teach these values to give a more even view of history or just more balanced.
Mr. Cameron: Focusing on female perspectives in periods of history that are not contemporary (the end of World War I up until now) is really difficult to do. You could look back to any of those Western African nations that had primarily oral traditions, and there's no written record of that. Secondly, the sheer lack of sources from women in the pre-contemporary world makes it very difficult to teach that perspective and that point of view. Referencing the reality and regularly using vocabulary like patriarchy and matriarchy to establish the regularity of patriarchal practices and lacking matriarchal structures is what we can address prior to the regular production of sources by women in the contemporary era
Camille: Last question: To the high school students at SDA who are going to be reading this article, what do you think are some steps you can take towards gender equality around campus?
Mr. Cameron: I’ll speak specifically to the gentlemen reading this news article right now. Gentlemen, you claim that you love ladies and that you revere them, so: actions speak louder than words; listen to what they have to say.
It's been one year since we founded Creating for a Change*. Over the past year, we organized two workshops and raised just over $800. We donated $540 to camfed.org (Campain for Female Education) last December, and most recently we donated $280 to camfed as well. When we first set out to start this orginization our mission was to bring awareness to the importance of girls' education while encouraging creativity in children in our community. We've taken great steps towards our goal, and we have brought a lot of awareness to girls' education. Thank you so much to our friends, family, and community who have supported us over the past year.
*as you can see, we've changed our name!
Find us on instagram @creatingforachange and email us with any questions here through email@example.com
Below are some of the highlights from our workshops!
The Day of the Girl takes place on October 11 and is a movement that was started to help empower girls and to better girls’ lives around the world. The UN declared October 11 "Day of the Girl Child" in 2011 and has since raised awareness and brought attention to the quality of life of girls all around the world. Some topics that were brought up this year were human trafficking, sexual assault, forced marriage, as well as the educational road blocks young girls face. These topics are supported down below and are shocking and truly awful. This day allows us to discuss these problems and create a community of those who can support and empower girls around the world. Just being aware of these problems can help lead us to a brighter future and can help us make a positive change in a girl's life. We hope you can learn from this article and we hope you had a great Day of the Girl, celebrating the amazing and strong girls you have in your life.
- Due to sexual or physical violence, every 10 minutes a young girl dies
- Out of the 1.1 billion girls in the world, 15 million girls are forced to marry before the age of 18
- Out of 30 million people, between all ages and genders, 71% of humans who are trafficked are female, and of that 71%, 20% are adolecents
Nowadays, it’s common for people to buy their food from large retail stores, and only one-eighth of what we eat is local. Eating local produce not only has health benefits, but can help the economy, the environment, and lives around the world. Here are the top reasons you should buy local produce and support local businesses.
"Think globally, act locally." - Paul McCartney
Last weekend we hosted our second craft workshop! We had a great time and are beyond happy with the outcome. Our event took place at LUX Art Institute where we were given a tour by the lovely Carla Roemer. At Lux, they host 5 in house artists a year and display their work in their exhibit. The artist we got to learn about was Vibha Galhotra. We loved learning about her art and were inspired by her creations. After the tour of the gallery, we got to work on our own projects. We took magazine clippings, tissue paper, sequins, and other supplies to make a collage inspired by Vibha and Alison Renshaw, a local artist whose work was also displayed. All of the projects turned out amazing and are pictured below. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us or donated and an extra huge thank you to Carla Roemer and Emily Howard!
We also have more pictures posted on our 'photos' page.
Camille Zimmer and Mila Roemer