Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notable women

We all know the jokes about getting to that certain age where you look first at the obituaries in the newspaper to see if your name is there. Well, I don’t think I have to worry about that, yet. But I found out about two fascinating women who recently passed on by reading their notices, and then doing a little research online.

Anna Walentynowicz was one of the victims in the terrible plane crash that took the life of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including many Polish leaders. They were on their way to a ceremony honoring the Polish officers who were massacred by the Soviets in WWII.

Anna was “a labor leader whose firing as a crane operator at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk in 1980 touched off the strike that led to the founding of Solidarity and the unraveling of Communism in Poland.” She published a labor newspaper, and would even hand copies of it to her bosses. She was such a force in the labor movement that workers refused to meet with authorities during negotiations unless she was reinstated. She was known as the “grandmother of Solidarity.”

The full article from the NYTimes is here, and there are many other sites with bits about her.

On this side of the globe, we have just lost Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe. The fact that she was elected to that position, in itself, makes this woman unique.

Her career started by “volunteering in tribal affairs and leading campaigns for new health and school programs, like Head Start. She landed a job as economic stimulus coordinator for the Cherokee Nation, emphasizing community self-help”. After many accomplishments to help improve life for her people, she was elected as the first female deputy chief, and later, the first female principle chief. Her focus was always on helping the people of the Cherokee tribe. In recognition, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1998. She recently passed away at age 64.

The full article from the NYTimes is here, although there are many other articles on the internet about her.

I find it fascinating that women were/are accomplishing great things during my lifetime. Just as the brave women who crossed the plains in wagons, or rode in the stinking belly of ships for months to reach a new land, these women went beyond what was "normal" and expected of them. Please take a few minutes to read both short obituaries. I'm sure you'll find them interesting.

Full disclosure: All quotes above are directly from the NYTimes articles about these women.

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