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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.

Quick Thoughts

  • I see that Florida gamblers have driven the Powerball lottery up to new heights.  I also see that bankruptcies are significantly up, for the first time in nearly a decade.  Trump effect?  People modeling their personal economic policies on his?
  • Speaking of which, bone spurs.  X-rays of my spine show a bunch of them pinching nerves, and as you probably know, bone spurs never get better.  So I can tell you for a fact that if I had had this painful condition when I was young enough to be drafted, I would not be walking around golf courses at age 72.
  • Speaking of which again, he's on record as saying that anyone who pleads the 5th Amendment -- the constitutional provision that allows a witness to avoid self-incrimination – uses that amendment only to avoid prosecution for perjury.  Guess who pleaded the 5th more than ninety times in his first divorce case?
  • Happy news:  I see that electrical production via wind and solar is increasing much more quickly than expected, while coal mining is way down.  That's not so much because environmentalists are winning – although we are – but because coal's production cost is making it unprofitable.  Florida has a good deal of wind and we brag about our sunshine, so when will our elected representatives insist that our electric companies join the future?


A Really Big Deal that I'd not thought of as Such


     I'm revising my 1998 book on women's right to vote for next year's centennial of that, and at the moment, I'm working on a longish epilogue to cover the follow-up period, 1920 to 2020.  My publisher wants it to be arranged by subject area, not chronologically, and that is a bit difficult for me.  I'd always thought that chrono-LOGICAL is the logical approach to writing history, but whatever…


     So I'm dividing it into topical areas such as the Equal Rights Amendment (first filed in 1923 and never ratified); the precedents women have set in office (first woman in the US House in 1916, but no US Senate president yet, nor any president); and other painfully slow achievements.  Did you realize, for example, that Florida women could not sit on juries until 1961?  Jury duty variations by state will be my biggest research challenge.  But that's why I do this stuff – to learn and to create something new.  It certainly doesn't pay well.


     Anyway, while working on the Reproductive Rights section, I had a thought that I'd never thought before.  I knew from previous research that, in the early twentieth century, birth control was considered more immoral than abortion.  I always rather assumed that public attitudes on preventing pregnancy changed because of the long educational campaign led by Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood.  But not so much anymore:  instead of Sanger, I'm proposing to credit the US military for this societal revolution.  Yes.  It was not feminists, but the military that was the most important factor in making birth control acceptable.


     I've written two books about women in World War II, and of course I examined birth rates and similar data that can reveal the rate of conceptive use.  I also have written on World War I and the Chamberlain-Kahn Act, which attempted to limit venereal disease by restricting the lives of women who lived near military camps.  Many towns, for example, imposed curfews that assumed a woman who was out alone after 9:00 PM was a prostitute and subject to arrest.  But instead of censoring behavior, WWII leadership acknowledged sexuality and the need for sex education.  This is what I wrote:


Standing in Line for Condoms


"The military probably did more than any other institution to provide the nation with sex education and to encourage the use of contraception.  With a million cases annually of syphilis alone, officers were very concerned about venereal disease, especially overseas.  In mandated sex-education classes, troops saw graphic movies portraying the effects of these diseases. The US Public Health Service developed a sex-education campaign with a surprising number of candid posters on the subject.  Just a few years earlier, these images would have been confiscated as obscene.


"Most of the lurid posters were placed where men, but not women, would see them, but protection of innocent wives and children was a recurrent theme.  The military gave more than mere advice, too, as soldiers in Hawaii stood in long lines for free condoms before they shipped out to the Pacific.  Although India never was a serious war front, American men there used condoms at a rate of four per man per month – and doctors considered their supply insufficient.  Female soldiers got less graphic education, but their awareness of sexuality increased – and of course members of the Army and the Navy Nurse Corps had been aware all along.


"That filtered back home, and lawmakers who never would accept sex education in the schools found a way to address VD circuitously.  In 1943, midway through the war, Alabama became the first state to require blood testing for syphilis as a part of the process for a marriage license.  Others quickly followed – but state laws varied widely, with some requiring blood tests for grooms, but not brides, and many requiring only an official caution about the dangers of VD.  Oklahoma was the only state that thoroughly followed through by refusing to grant a license if an applicant proved to have venereal disease.


"The war, ironically, may have done more to change attitudes on sex education and especially on contraception than all of the work of birth-control advocates.  The military not only condoned the use of condoms for what clearly was going to be sex outside of marriage, but even compelled that use.  This was an entirely new cultural idea for many soldiers, especially young men from unsophisticated areas. 


"Contraception of any sort was not easily obtainable, and some heavily Catholic states banned the sale of any device to prevent pregnancy or venereal disease.  The military and most clergymen were complete opposites on this:  his superior officers told the soldier he must use condoms, while especially the Catholic Church told him that he must not use them, even within marriage." 

It's complicated, and I urge you resist those who oversimplify.


Tampa's 96-Year-Old Genius


Our dear friend Lula Joughlin Dovi, who turned 96 last November, is out with another book.  She calls this one "Midnight Avocado," and here's the title poem:


That gnarly-skin fruit

Leered at me

From the refrigerator shelf.

I HAD to slice into its green perfection

As my taste buds

Foretold a waiting delectation.

Never mind my teeth were all brushed and flossed

I dived into the creamy little boat –

I navigated around an oversize seed –

A dash of balsamic vinegar –

I had a very Haas delectable!


         Lu has about forty poems in this slim new volume, which was illustrated by her son, Atlanta artist and musician Enrico Dovi.  The one that I double-starred is "Venus and Mars:"


Our Planetary warnings

Leer at us nightly,

Cosmic leftovers

From some cosmic era

Rounding out

An awesome destiny –

Used up – in some ways –

Shining their limits

As we observe

Only Star-Gods Now

Alluding to mythic powers:

Venus and Mars, antagonists,

Left to blink at Earth.


         "Cosmic leftovers."  "Shining their limits."  Such wonderful words.  Lu is a wonderful person, too, and I'm sure she would be willing to share her new book with you at almost no cost.  Shoot me an e-mail, and I'll forward it to her.  Yes, at 96, she continues to use her computer.  And if you happen to need a person who can produce a similar artful book for you, call Sallie Williams at Unlimited Printing.



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