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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Ghosts from the New York Times

My friend (and probably yours), retired University of South Florida lobbyist Kathy Betancourt, greeted me at a recent function by saying that she was going back out to her car to get something she had been carrying around since March. I assumed that the faded appearance of the New York Times was because of our summer sun – but no, the newspaper deliberately made the front page of this special section look old and ghostly. It was titled “Overlooked: Revisiting 167 years of New York Times history to provide obituaries to women who never got them.”

The section provided full-page obituaries for twelve women, ranging alphabetically from photographer Diane Arbus to anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. It included two non-Americans, one from India and the other Chinese. Perhaps the most interesting page was the last one, an editorial by a man entitled “Why Most Obits Still Are of White Men.” That is understandable in the context of history, and I’m pleased that the Times now realizes the need for revisiting its past exclusions.

Not to be immodest, but yours truly has written lots and lots of bios – some for living women, but mostly for the dead. I started this in 1994 with my Prentice Hall book, American Women’s History: An A-Z. The contract called for 400 entries, including some on organizations, issues, and events. If we subtract entries such as the International Council of Women (organization), Prohibition (issue), and the nation’s 1876 Centennial (event), there probably remain at least 250 individual bios. They range alphabetically from “Abbott, Edith (1876-1957),” who founded the nation’s first school of social work at the University of Chicago, to “Zakrzewska, Marie (1829-1902),” a Polish Jew whose New England Female Medical College was so successful that she eventually limited her students to women who already had their medical degrees.

My 4-volume History of Women in the United States: A State by State Reference has a biography section after the narrative for each state (plus DC and Puerto Rico), with about a dozen bios per state. The math works out to 52 x 12 = 624, but who’s counting? Because of editors who thought that each state should get the same amount of ink, I had to introduce some ingenuity. I moved a number of New Yorkers, for instance, to their birthplaces, and I may have padded small states with “colorful characters” I would not have used in a larger state. “Cattle Kate,” a Wyoming rustler, thus made it.

And More

My last work with biographical sections was a two-volume set for Congressional Quarterly Press, American Women in Politics, which is arranged by offices. Among the most interesting bios in it: North Dakota’s Laura Eisenhuth, who in 1892, was the first woman to win a statewide election, as men elected her to be state superintendent of schools long before women could vote; Wyoming’s Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was the first female governor; Seattle’s Bertha Landes, the first mayor of a large city; Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the first elected to the US Senate; and Florida’s own Ruth Bryan Owen, the first congresswoman from the South and the first female ambassador. The section on the US Supreme Court bio still has just four bios, but tens of thousands of women have served in other offices, especially state legislatures, since Colorado set that precedent in 1894. With appointed offices and inclusions by ethnicity as well as gender, the “names” index of this work has 21 three-column pages. Of course, not all names got individual bios, but without explicit counting, the two volumes must have several hundred.

I almost forgot about the two women’s almanacs I did in 2000 and 2002, before the internet put an end to this kind of reference work. They featured women in world history as well as American history. I’ve also done entries for the Dictionary of American Biography and other books, including one on immigrant women. And there were a bunch I wrote for the National Women’s History Museum. So, in sum, I guess I’ve written something like a thousand brief biographies, many of which would fit into the 1851-2018 obituary framework of the New York Times. Being naturally curious, I tried to compare “my” women to theirs, but access to the website seems to cost money, which I don’t have. Maybe something will work out.


I spoke last week as part of the Friday noon lecture series conducted by OLLI, which is Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It was simply “Lifelong Learning” when the program started at USF, and I was displaced from my corner office by my friend Lee Leavengood, who became its longtime director. Under current director Joseph McAuliffe, it has expanded far beyond the university campus. Classes now are offered at nineteen locations, from Canterbury Tower in South Tampa to the Pebble Creek Community Center in the far north. There are five sites within a few blocks of downtown, as well as locations as far as Riverview. As the name implies, most of these lifelong learners are retirees, and many are newcomers who are eager to network and meet interesting people.

The Summer Catalog offers dozens of classes, most of which meet on weekday mornings or afternoons, but a few are on weekends. My old friend Harriet Deer, for example, holds a Sunday afternoon class on film at the Tampa Theatre. Dear friend Kay Menzel co-teaches two courses this term, one on hurricanes and the other on aging. Former City Council member Rudy Fernandez also has two classes, one on Cuba and one on finance. Another friend, Beryl Byles, teaches Greek mythology at the Straz Center. Barbara Goldstein, retired from HCC, explores “The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt” at University Village. “Civil Rights, Race, and the Supreme Court” is offered by political scientist Michael Gibbons. Longtime USFers Marilyn Myerson and Margaret Miller have classes on writing and on printmaking, while attorney Ron Weaver hosts “Tampa History: The Glorious and the Scandalous.”

And yes, there is a class on basket weaving! Under water, if you wish, in Candy Gale’s private pool. In addition, OLLI has free monthly pie socials at the Village Inn on 30th Street, as well as an annual potluck picnic at USF Riverfront Park. It offers travel packages, this year to London, the Great Lakes, New Orleans, and a Mississippi River cruise. Field trips include the Betty Walker Gardens in Seffner and three prehistoric mounds in Pinellas and Manatee. You even could check out the county’s recycling facility or cruise free around the Port of Tampa.

It was just a few years ago when my friends began using “OLLI” as the name for their volunteerism. That was because Bernard Osher endowed USF’s program, and it became Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. A financier and philanthropist, he is a native of Maine and lives in California. He awarded his first grant for these projects in 2001, and Osher now supports 123 programs in 49 states. No, I didn’t ask which state opts for ignorance. But you can, and you can get the catalog by calling 813-974-2403 or e-mailing ollivol@gmail.com

Don’t Litter the Landscape with Ego

Publisher Patrick doesn’t allow me to endorse candidates in this column – at least not until he has endorsed – so this is about an issue, not a person. The issue is illegal campaign signs, and any sign on publicly owned land is illegal. The roadsides belong to all of us, and no one has the right to use that space for himself. Yard signs belong in yards – the personally owned yards of people who have given their permission for the sign to be placed there. It is particularly disappointing when the candidate who violates the law is a judge.

The OLLI speech I mentioned above was at the Jimmie Keel Library in northwest Carrollwood, and on the way, I was unwillingly exposed to placards on public right-of-ways for Judge Jared Smith. I’d never heard of him and even thought this might be some kind of prank, but I googled the name and found that Governor Rick Scott appointed Smith as a Hillsborough County judge last year. By being appointed, not elected, I guess he missed the League of Women Voters campaign seminars wherein we scold about this. The Fletcher/Bearss roadside was littered with a half-dozen signs for him, with only one legally placed. It was inside a chain-linked yard that also featured advertisements for Trump/Pence, Jamie Grant, and Jesus. Now that, I think, comes very close to taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Code Enforcement in both Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa could make money by highlighting the rules on this, as it is clear who is accountable for this particular litter. Even if the placards were placed by an overly enthusiastic volunteer, the candidate remains responsible for informing the volunteer that signs go only on private property. I have seen a very few elections when it was enforced. Back in the late 1980s, when we had a better County Commission than we have now, Code Enforcement pulled signs from right of ways, trashed them, and sent bills to campaigns. I’d like to see that again, Mayor Bob and Whoever is in Charge at the County.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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