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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.

Have You Noticed?

Since November, there have been six special elections for vacancies in state legislatures, and Democrats have won five of the six. The latest was in Delaware last Saturday, when Democrat Stephanie Hansen, an attorney, defeated her Republican opponent, a realtor, by an astonishing 17 percentage points. This is a real reversal of the longtime rule for special elections, in which Republicans were more likely than Democrats turn out their loyalists and win. Indeed, Republicans in Florida won many of their gains during the 1970s, when that party started being a serious contender in the South, because of special elections in which a tiny minority of registered voters can pull off an election.

The Delaware race was especially important because its Senate was tied 10-10 after the vacancy, and the state’s Republicans poured a lot of money into their attempt to gain the one-vote majority. It was a hard-fought campaign, and not at all predictable that the Democratic woman would win -- let alone by the large margin that she did. Added to the victories in other states, I think voters already are showing regret at November’s outcome. Of course, it is important to remember that Hillary really did win – as did Al Gore in 2000. If Americans are to believe that every vote counts, we must abolish the antiquated electoral college. Sign those petitions when they arrive in your inbox!

A Different Inbox Note

By the way, have you noticed an up-tick in the number of those weird e-mails you get from strangers who promise a ton of money if you’ll just click on the link below? I have a pretty high anti-spam setting and seldom get e-mails that aren’t directly linked to my previous political activity or online shopping. (I recommend Coffee for Less, Pro Flowers, and Dover Books.) But ever since the election, I’m getting at least one e-mail a day from someone who introduces himself/herself and then immediately offers me a fortune if I’ll simply reply. Of course I never do, so I don’t have any idea what would be the result if I were as gullible as they these senders think I am. Do you?

The other observation is their huge preference for honorifics. The name in the sender line begins with “Mr.” Or “Mrs.” or even “Doctor” or “Honorable.” None are from “Ms.,” and almost none come in with simply the name, the way that Americans address each other. Other language is awkward, too, indicating a foreign origin. Or, perhaps, do these messages come from English-speakers sophisticated enough to disguise themselves as humble folks just seeking needed help?

I kind of doubt it. I think that most senders really are abroad. They always portray someone stranded in Spain or unable to collect inheritance in India or dying of cancer in Cancun. A recent one was entirely in a Chinese (or perhaps Korean) script, without any English. I just now switched over from word-processing to e-mail and there was another. It began “Dear Sir.” Apparently the sender did not realize that I am not a “sir,” although he offered me a $130 million contract. With head-scratching detail that made no sense, Mapa Greg talked about his “High Profile Client” who must remain anonymous. The guy with the contract that will make me rich is a “two-time minister and still serving” – but there was no clue as to where he supposedly serves.

I have no dog in this fight, but am simply curious. I’d like to know if the senders are bilingual boys hacking around for the fun of it, or if people in other nations truly think that Americans are this gullible. After the recent election, I can see why they might decide we are indeed a bunch of credulous fools willing to believe anything. And as I said, there’s been a definite increase since the election. Is this how Russian hackers are spending their time, now that Hillary’s e-mail is a dead issue? What is the point? What do they expect to get out of it, other than causing grief to strangers? Let me know what you think.

Electronic Revolution and Real Revolution

Many of my inbox messages and Facebook notifications, especially those from women, show a new spirit of activism; they are regretting the apathy that allowed us to lose our first real chance of electing a woman as president. In both parties, lots of people are fearful of the rise of hatred that the rightwing victory has fueled; they are shocked by attacks on synagogues and mosques, to say nothing of purely random gun violence.

Even some high-ranking officials aren’t afraid to say they are afraid: I got an e-mail from former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, who nearly died from a gunshot, correctly excoriating a congressman who said he feared that holding a town hall meeting could cause violence. He had the audacity to cite her shooting as a reason why he would not meet with his constituents. No courage, no backbone, certainly no determination to uphold the free speech and free assembly that were so important to American revolutionaries back in 1776.

It reminded me of a recent speech I made to the DAR, or Daughters of the American Revolution. They gave me a subscription to their magazine, and I’m very pleased to report that the February issue was all about Black History Month and the contributions of African Americans to the American Revolution. It was full of information that I did not know, or barely knew, and I’m happy that the DAR is publicizing minority history. The organization has excellent archives in Washington, which I have used for women’s history, but this attention to race is new and welcome.

Women in the American Revolution

The DAR speech was mostly a reading of bullet points from my Milestones: A Chronology of American Women’s History. I began with the 1765 end of the French & Indian War, which -- as so many wars do – led directly to the Revolutionary War.

1765 – The Sons of Liberty begin to agitate against British rule, and the Daughters of Liberty soon join them. These women will be vital to the effectiveness of boycotts against products imported from the British Empire. They make homespun cloth rather than buy fabric from British textile mills, and they grow substitutes for the tea that comes from British colonies. The Daughters of Liberty will be the nation’s first female political association, holding meetings, marching, and even physically attacking Loyalists.

1773 – Sarah Bradlee Fulton becomes known as “The Mother of the Boston Tea Party” when she handles the make-up and clothing of men who disguise themselves as Mohawks to destroy tea.

1774 – When her husband dies, Margaret Green Draper inherits the Boston News-Letter along with the printing contract for the colony of Massachusetts. Draper will vocally support the established government; she drives six competitors out of business and has the last newspaper operating in Boston when the British evacuate in 1776. Like other Loyalists, she then flees to England.

1774 – Ten months after the Boston Tea Party, women in Edenton, North Carolina, formally vow to support the revolution. The group, organized by Penelope Baker, meets at the home of Elizabeth King, and 51 women sign a pledge “not to drink any more tea, nor wear any more British cloth.”

1775 – When the British retreat from the Massachusetts battle of Concord, Betsey Hagar recovers six damaged cannon they leave behind and repairs them for the rebels. A machinist by trade, she also makes muskets and ammunition.

1776 – Gang rapes by British troops in the Philadelphia/New York area are so common that a Staten Island commander says court martials for rape occur “every day” – and characterized the testimony as “most entertaining.”

1776 – Pennsylvanian Margaret Corbin, who accompanied her husband to war, fights at Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. When her artillery-gunner husband is killed almost as soon as combat begins, she takes over and fires for hours, even after she is wounded. She permanently loses the use of one arm and becomes the first woman to earn a soldier’s pension.

1776 – Loyalists burn the New Hampshire home of Mary Bartlett, whose husband is in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress. In New York, Tories loot the home of Catherine Beeker, stealing “every article.” On Long Island, Mary Lindley Murray aids retreating revolutionaries by inviting a British general to a leisurely breakfast, allowing the Americans time to get away.

1777 - Mary Katherine Goddard uses her Maryland Journal to publish the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that includes the signers’ names. She does this to encourage open rebellion by forcing politicians to make their identities known.

1777 – In the Hudson Valley, Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, the mother of fourteen, sets fire to her ripening wheat crop rather than allow British soldiers to have access to it.

1777 – Philadelphian Lydia Darrah, who practices as a mortician, overcomes both fear and the qualms of her Quaker conscience to tell General Washington about the plans of General Howe, which she knows by spying on British troops quartered in her home.

1780 – Esther DeBerdt Reed, who immigrated from England only a decade earlier, leads Philadelphia woman in a door-to-door canvass for money for revolutionaries. At Washington’s request, they buy linen and sew more than 2,000 shirts.

1781 – Guerrilla warfare continues in South Carolina, where Emily Geiger rides horseback for two days, crossing a British-occupied wilderness to deliver a message between two American generals. She is taken prisoner briefly, but manages to bluff her way out and complete the mission. The ride is much longer and more dangerous than that of famed Paul Revere.

1781 – In North Carolina, British-born Margaret Gaston is forced to watch while her physician husband is shot to death for treating rebels. In Georgia, Nancy Morgan Hart placidly fixes a meal for demanding British soldiers. She serves them corn liquor, and as they relax, draws a gun and holds them for hanging.

1781 – Rachel Wells, an artisan who makes wax models, loans £300 to New Jersey’s rebel government. She requests reimbursement at the war’s end, but never is repaid. In contrast, many Loyalists who lost property are compensated.

1781 – The British lose what will turn out to be the last major battle of the war at Yorktown, Virginia, as Lord Cornwallis surrenders the world’s largest army. It fulfills the earlier prediction of a commander: “We may destroy all the men in America and we still shall have all we can do to defeat the women.”


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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