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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.

Florida Women's Hall Of Fame

Back in ancient history, when Democrat Bob Graham was governor, he created a Florida Women's Hall of Fame.  His two terms ended with the 1986 election, and Bob Martinez -- former head of the Tampa teachers' union -- switched from Democrat to Republican, resigned as mayor, and was elected governor.  His administration took down the plaques for the Women's Hall of Fame (WHOF) that had been displayed in the governor's office, and they were lost until several years later -- when they turned up on a high shelf in a broom closet. 


When Democrat Lawton Chiles ran against Martinez in 1990, my USF colleague Dr. Marcia Mann and I extricated a promise that he not only would restore the Commission on the Status of Women and the Women's Hall of Fame, but that he also would act with legislature to create law so that future governors could not choose to ignore it.  I researched institutions that honored women's history in other states, and at the next session, the legislature enacted the law.  I chaired the Hall for the next eight years.  I may be immodestly patting myself on the back, but I am pleased to say that 2021 is its 30th anniversary.


The law that we wrote defines a period of time for nominations, and we routinely got upwards of fifty per year.  Many came accompanied by thick resumes and letters of recommendations, and in those pre-internet days, our staff did a lot of Xeroxing; they stuffed big shopping bags full of information for each committee member to review.  The act required that the WHOF committee narrow down the nominations to ten, of which the governor could choose no more than three annually.  We began the precedent of hanging biographical plaques in designated Capitol space outside of the attorney general's office.  Democrat Bob Butterworth was attorney general then, and we knew he would watch to see that this history didn't end up in a broom closet.




Although I didn't know it until recently, Tampa's Maruchi Azorian now chairs that committee, and you can watch an excellent video in which she explicates the biographies of this year's nominees at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=262128979060635.  Maruchi is a Cuban-American who owns a lovely shop, Villa Rosa Linens at the corner of MacDill and Bay-to-Bay.  Whether or not her Tampa residence was a factor, five of the ten finalists this year are Tampans.  This is good, as dating all the way back to the Graham administration, a disproportionate number came from Tallahassee, Miami, and Jacksonville.  The five from Tampa this year, in alphabetical order, are:


·      Pam Bondi, Florida's first female attorney general

·      Jane Castor, pioneer police chief and current mayor

·      Virginia Covington, an early female lawyer and federal judge

·      Arthenia Joyner, civil rights advocate, former senator, and the state's long-practicing African-American female lawyer

·      Susan Macmanus, internationally known USF politically scientist and frequent television commentator


When I chaired the committee, I always tried to include at least one truly historical, non-living woman among the nominees.  If I were voting this year, I would add May Mann Jennings to the Hall.  The wife of a former governor and the president of the Florida branch of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, she was our state's most brilliant strategist on the fight for women's right to vote.  She led another former governor's wife, Mrs. Napoleon Broward, and other women, including a young Marjorie Stone Douglas, in lobbying for the vote.


Florida's legislature was one of the few still in session in June 1919, when Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that granted the vote to all American women.  It went to the states for ratification, and May Mann Jennings astutely took a pass rather than have it fail on its very first tally.  Even though she had spent years working for this goal, she could count votes:  she knew that the legislature was unlikely to ratify, and she sacrificed possible personal glory rather than risk a national political disaster.  A few days later, three Midwestern states ratified simultaneously.  Unless you count Tennessee, no Southern state legislature voted for women's right to vote.


The details make a good story, and you can read about it in "They Dared to Dream:  Florida Women Who Shaped History."  I wrote that book under the aegis of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, and it is available from the University Press of Florida.  Google it.   And think about going to Tallahassee in November, when at least one of our town's women should be honored.


         Okay, I probably shouldn't add this, but I shall.  Did you notice that the list ends with my good friend Dr. Susan Macmanus?  Her name starts with "M," in the middle of the alphabet, and no one follows.  I want to delicately raise this question:  Might there be a need to address alphabetical discrimination?  I say this not because my name starts with "W" – I've gotten my share of attention – but because I've sat through ceremonies in which this thoughtless but routine discrimination is clear.  I have a friend whose surname begins with "Zy."  The one thing she can count on is that any arena will be empty by the time her name is called.




         In the midst of people who invent conspiracies on everything from vaccinations to election fraud, I find it comforting to remember that we always have had crazy people among us.  The weird thing about our current folks is that they are skeptical of science and of "elitists" who actually know what they are talking about, while being perfectly willing to cast their lot with the latest weirdo to jump off the turnip truck.  Many examples exist throughout history, but the one I find most instructive in America's past is the "Millerites." 


         William Miller, an Ohio farmer with roots in nearby rural New York, claimed to have discovered a biblical clue that pinpointed the second coming of Christ – and incidentally, the end of the world – to be October 22, 1844.  He and his followers preached this so sincerely that many people believed:  they gave away or sold their property at a loss, donned white robes, and waited to ascend to heaven.  That didn't happen, of course, but reality did little to cool Miller's conviction that he and he alone could see things invisible to others.  He still was redoing his calculations when he died in 1849, and some of his followers continued to believe. 


It's their families I feel sorry for, especially wives who saw their labor disappear when these guys gave up their farms and businesses because they believed another guy.  You may have noticed that most conspiracy theorists today also are guys, and I continue to ponder that problem.  It's probably because of a need to feel "cool," to be an insider, and to bond with other men.  Of course, there were women among the Millerites and women at the Capitol invasion, but many fewer of them than men.


There also are many, many fewer women than men in prison, and almost none who are mass murderers.  Until we acknowledge this reality, I don't think we ever will get a handle on criminal justice and mental health.  Yet when I mention a societal need for more research in this area, I can expect an accusation that I'm a eugenicist and maybe even a Nazi.  Yet facts are facts.  Let's accept that and dig deeper into the reasons why.  Let's abate our long historic concentration on protecting girls and women and instead teach them to stand up for themselves.  And mostly, invest in developing better boys and men.




         Did you see that the town of Whitefish, Montana organized to ostracize its most notorious resident, white nationalist Richard Spencer?  He complains that he can't get a table in local restaurants, which is different from 2017.  Then he apparently thought that Trump's election gave him permission to terrorize others.  He led the fatal right-wing riot in Charlottesville that year, for which he's now facing trial.  He claims he can't afford a lawyer, even though he ran his fascist organization out of his mother's $3 million dollar Whitefish home.  He says his wife divorced him -- something that Millerite women couldn't do, by the way, as no state allowed divorce in the 1840s.  I'm grateful for that, and for the Montanans who are standing up to this bully, as well as the Floridians who didn't turn up when he preached his hatred in Gainesville.


         I'm also grateful to the many writers, especially men, who are expressing their outrage about the crazies in Texas.  But I have sometimes wondered why, in addition to our constitutional right to privacy about our own bodies, we women don't use the Constitution's 13th Amendment, which prohibits "involuntary servitude."  There could be no greater instance of involuntary servitude than mandating that a woman carry a child within her body for nine months, deliver in pain and risk, and then be charged with maintenance for the next eighteen years.  That never would happen if male biology allowed such involuntary servitude.


         Along those lines, publisher Patrick recently wrote: "It still surprises us that lawmakers continue to craft legislation that is so blatantly unconstitutional that it doesn't last but a few weeks before the courts shut it down."  Florida has been doing that for a long time.  Even though most legislators are lawyers, they often pass laws they know are judicially unacceptable because they hope for political popularity.  This reminds me that back in the 1970s, my feminist friends and I referred to these bills as "Charlene Carres Employment Acts."  Charlene was very effective at winning in court what we lobbyists had lost – and the taxpayers had to pay the court costs, including her fees.




         My colleague Joe O'Neill recently ran some funny lines, including ones on church signs.  One was:  "Jesus is Coming." Look Busy."  This reminded me of a little hardware store in Thonotosassa, long before the days of Home Depot and Lowe's.  Businesses back then didn't hesitate to combine personal views with advertising, and this sign said:  "Jesus is Coming Back.  Screen doors, $20."  It was there for ages and made me smile every time I passed it.


         I also smiled at the advertising on a jar of Justin's Honey Peanut Butter, made in always-cool Boulder, Colorado.  It read:  "This product is not the bee's knees.  I don't know who is spreading those vicious rumors, but I'm tired of the heartless accusations.  I assure you that my Honey Peanut Butter spread is made only with the finest, most responsibility-sourced honey – with absolutely no knees or other bee joints."



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