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AAUW is launching a new website on February 20 — and we’re bringing our blog home to live on aauw.org where it belongs. But that means that some recent comments may be lost in the transition. We hate to lose any reactions to our posts, but we’re sure the fresh new look and ease of use that come with the update will be worth it. Be sure to update your bookmarks to aauw.org/blog on February 20. Thanks for being a part of our online community — we’ll see you on the new site!

Portia MaultsbySome people choose to stay in their comfort zones, while others live on the edge. Then there are the people who completely rethink the edge and don’t just jump off it; they soar. Portia Maultsby is one of those individuals. In 1970 she was one of only 46 AAUW Coretta Scott King Fellowship awardees. The fellowship was established to support the work of women in African American studies, peace studies, and nonviolent movements.

Maultsby opened her grant application by writing, “My primary goal for graduate study in the Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology [at the University of Wisconsin] is to become a leading black scholar in Afro-American music.” At the time, this was a fairly surprising statement. According to Maultsby, African American music was not well-established in ethnomusicology in the early 1970s, and her interest in popular music was even more radical. But Maultsby was never one to stay within traditional boundaries. Instead of working within an academically established specialty, she brought legitimacy to the study of popular African American music — and on her own terms.

The AAUW fellowship freed Maultsby up to dive deeper into the aspects of music that she found interesting and underrepresented in academia. Courses in sociology and history expanded the context of the music she was studying. She was also interested in computers and how they could be used in the study of music. In 1970, computers were the size of rooms, and few people connected them with music. But as always, Maultsby forged ahead with the conviction that computer technology would offer a meaningful contribution to her field.

Maultsby also used the AAUW funds to attend conferences around the country, where she saw and challenged the lack of respect for traditional African American music studies. Only a few years after Maultsby endured criticism for her specialization, the study of African American music became in vogue, and she received more job offers than any of her peers.

This photo accompanied Maultsby's original AAUW application.

This photo accompanied Maultsby’s original AAUW application.

The AAUW fellowship affected Maultsby’s career long term. Conferences led to connections, which later led to multiple job offers and writing opportunities. Maultsby began teaching at Indiana University, where today she is the Laura Boulten Professor of Ethnomusicology. Her computer experience has proven helpful in creating multiple websites, including collaboration with Carnegie Hall on an interactive and rich time line of the history of African American music in the United States.

After decades in her field, Maulstby is poised to finish what she sees as her last few projects, namely two new books: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Black Popular Music (1945–2000) and another about African American music in the Netherlands.

With a long list of accomplishments — from organizing the first symposium on African American popular music (Black American Popular Music: Rhythm and Blues 1945–1955) for the Smithsonian Institution to founding and directing the Archives of African American Music and Culture — there is no doubt Maultsby’s innovation has paid off. Many people begin their careers wanting to be the best in their field, but few actually accomplish that goal. In November 2012 Maultsby delivered the keynote Charles Seeger Lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the highest honor in her field and the highlight of her career. Maultsby’s advice is simple: Forget tradition and boundaries, take risks, and if you believe in your vision, take the leap and go for it.

Portia Maultsby was a 1970–71 AAUW Coretta Scott King Award recipient. The Coretta Scott King Educational Fund was created through a special drive initiated by AAUW members in 1968 to secure money for grants primarily for black women undergraduate and graduate students in Afro-American studies, peace, and nonviolent change.

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

The accomplishments of AAUW women never cease to amaze me, and Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee is no exception. Ferebee, a physician, health care advocate, and AAUW board member, tirelessly worked to ensure access to health care for underserved communities.

Dorothy Ferebee

Ferebee, a child of former slaves, was born in 1898 in Norfolk, Virginia. She graduated from Simmons College in 1924 and subsequently earned her medical degree from Tufts University. Although she graduated in the top five of her class, she met with discrimination when she applied for positions at “white” hospitals. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities available to black female physicians in Massachusetts, Ferebee moved to Washington, D.C. She became an obstetrician serving the African American community at Freedman’s Hospital, which is now Howard University Hospital.

Ferebee left her mark on Washington in many ways. In 1925, concerned about the lack of access to public health and family services in the black community, she established Southeast Neighborhood House. This group of physicians provided medical care and other community services, including a day care facility to meet the needs of working mothers. By this act alone, Ferebee was clearly ahead of her time; remember, this was 1925.

During the Great Depression, Ferebee volunteered her time as medical director of the Mississippi Health Project, a program sponsored by the first African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Black physicians provided medical care to the residents of Mississippi, a state with notoriously limited access to doctors and hospitals for its black residents.

Within AAUW, Ferebee was a member of the AAUW Washington (DC) Branch. She also served as chair of the Social and Economic Issues Committee. Importantly, in 1969, she was nominated to become implementation chair for AAUW’s Human Use of Urban Space study. She was an especially fitting pick for the job since this fledgling program was created to come up with solutions to community problems left in the wake of urban renewal. No doubt public health concerns and a lack of access to basic medical services were challenges that AAUW leaders felt confident Ferebee could handle.

In addition to her AAUW service, Ferebee succeeded Mary McLeod Bethune as president of the National Council of Negro Women, was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and served as vice president of the Girl Scouts. But to be honest, the complete list of her accomplishments and contributions is too lengthy to mention in its entirety.

In a quote from Ferebee’s obituary in the Washington Star dated September 17, 1980, the writer accurately said that Ferebee “was the sort of person who enlarges other people’s ideas of what can be done by those enterprising enough to want to.”

AAUW rising largeAs Eve Ensler says, I’m “over it.”

I’m over the public safety warnings from my university alerting the community of another violent crime.

I’m over the headlines about another woman becoming the 1 in 3 worldwide to be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

I’m over the jokes, the slut-shaming, and the blaming.

I’m over Congress dragging its feet on passing a bill that would ensure protection for the 1 in 4 women who experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

I’m over violence against women.

Each day there are new stories of harassment, stalking, and violence, and with these stories emerge new victims who join the 1 billion other women who will be violated in their lifetimes.

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally considered a day to celebrate love, today is also for remembering women who have suffered physical, emotional, and social pain due to violence. Rather than spending the day enjoying boxes of chocolates and card and flower deliveries, Ensler, author and playwright of The Vagina Monologues, invites women around the globe to walk, dance, rise, and demand an end to violence against women.

As part of her One Billion Rising campaign, Ensler aims to raise consciousness about the global problem of violence against women. By encouraging women and men to join in solidarity, Ensler hopes to change the cultural and political ways we address violence.

AAUW is risingWhile the dancing is slated for just one day, spreading awareness does not end today. One way to keep the movement going is to join AAUW in urging Congress to reauthorize the  Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). For me and millions of my college peers, reauthorization of VAWA is particularly important. One in 5 women will experience sexual assault while in college. Since policies from the Campus SaVE Act are included in the Senate-passed VAWA reauthorization, we could see better and stronger policies from colleges detailing their handling of claims of sexual assault and violence. We could also see prevention activities at every school and better reporting on more types of incidents on campuses. But that only happens if the House includes these provisions in their bill as well.

By dancing for One Billion Rising and supporting the reauthorization of VAWA, women can re-energize awareness about violence against women and ignite change. This Valentine’s Day, forget the chocolate and the roses. Get up and dance, or contact your representatives in Congress. Tell them you are over violence against women.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member and AAUW Public Policy Intern Bethany Imondi, whose SAC membership is sponsored by Dagmar E. McGill in memory of Happy Fernandez and Helen F. Faust.

Obama SOTU 2013AAUW completely agrees with President Obama’s remark last night — equal pay needs to happen now, not later. In 2012, AAUW found that college-educated women already earn 7 percent less than men just one year out of college — even when women have the same major and occupation as their male counterparts. It doesn’t have to be this way. In addition to Congress passing the Paycheck Fairness Act this year (take action to urge your representative to co-sponsor!), AAUW strongly believes there are concrete actions that the Obama administration can take that would enable women to bring home the pay they have rightfully earned. Here are some of our ideas:

  • Issue an executive order forbidding federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask questions about compensation. With federal contractors and subcontractors making up nearly a quarter of the federal civilian workforce, this order would protect millions of workers seeking equal pay for equal work.
  • Replace the Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) current guidelines for investigating wage discrimination. OFCCP ensures that federal contractors and subcontractors (which employ millions of workers) provide equal employment opportunity through affirmative action and nondiscrimination. In January 2011, the OFCCP proposed recalling and replacing the two guidelines that shape how it conducts these investigations. The current guidelines obligate the OFCCP to follow an identical procedure for all compensation discrimination investigations “regardless of the facts of a particular case.” AAUW called on the OFCCP to rescind these antiquated guidelines back in 2011.
  • OFCCP should implement a much-needed compensation database. AAUW has long supported OFCCP conducting a survey of contractor employment data to target enforcement efforts and better understand why women and people of color continue to be paid less relative to their counterparts. OFCCP should ensure that the data collected can be used to conduct in-depth analyses of pay practices in various industries to identify the most problematic fields and provide industrywide guidance where there are systemic problems.
  • Ask the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to develop regulations directing employers to collect wage data including the race, sex, and national origin of employees. This information is not currently collected, making it difficult for the EEOC to investigate discrimination allegations.
  • Ensure adequate enforcement of all civil rights laws through sufficient funding and staffing of the EEOC, OFCCP, and various civil rights divisions. AAUW is worried that ongoing budget pressures will lead to reduced funding for these agencies, leaving millions of Americans without access to civil rights law enforcement.

The Obama administration has a real opportunity to further equal pay for equal work despite congressional gridlock. These and other administrative actions are available to the administration right now. We know the president is committed to equal pay for women. Let’s not make women wait any longer. Help us spread the word: Share this blog with your friends and participate in AAUW’s tweetstorm from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern today. Tweet #TalkPay and this blog to encourage the administration to take action on equal pay.

Eleanor-gif_6New Orleans, the host city for our 2013 convention this June, is perhaps most widely known for one thing: Mardi Gras. Some may dismiss tonight’s events in the Big Easy as simply colorful beads, loud music, and revelry lasting into the early morning hours. Those who do are sorely mistaken. Beyond a night of letting loose, Mardi Gras represents a centuries-old festival with rich traditions celebrated the world over.

Mardi Gras has roots as far back as the Roman Empire, when the weeklong festival of Lupercalia in February honored the Roman fertility god Lupercus. Celebrants indulged in rich food, drink, and revelry and hoped for healthy families and a good harvest. It’s believed that early Christians in Rome adopted this celebration in an effort to make converting to their new faith a little easier. Given that the festival fell before the penitent Lenten period, it was reinterpreted as a time to feast before the long fast.

As Christianity spread across Europe and into the New World, so did the festival. Unique celebrations of Mardi Gras are still found today in much of Europe, including some particularly distinctive ones in Germany and Great Britain. In the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world it is celebrated under a different name — Carnival — with the world’s largest annual celebration in Rio de Janeiro.

The French became particularly enamored with the holiday, lending it its popular name: Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday. The first U.S. Mardi Gras celebration was held in a French colony in 1703 in modern-day Mobile, Alabama. The celebration quickly became popular among the rest of the French colonies in North America, including Louisiana.

New Orleans, perhaps more than any other place on earth, adopted Mardi Gras as its own. Here, a rich blend of new and old traditions flourished. Today’s celebrations include the popular colorful parades with elaborate floats, sponsored by an elite group of krewes. Perhaps less well-known are the glamorous masquerade balls with fabulous costumes. For other people, Mardi Gras is a quiet celebration at home, as families gather with friends over a king cake. There are perhaps as many different ways to celebrate Mardi Gras as there are people who celebrate it.

New Orleans doesn’t stop having fun after the beads have been swept away, the ball gowns have all been packed up in storage, or the last slice of cake has been eaten. It’s a year-round attitude that permeates the very soul of the city: Laissez les bons temps rouler, as the locals say. This mix of diverse cultures, rich traditions, and a deep appreciation for life’s beauties is something you really have to see in person to fully appreciate.

Mardi Gras isn’t the only chance to see New Orleans at its best. AAUW will hold a celebration of our own in the Big Easy this June: the 2013 National Convention. In the spirit of tonight’s festivities, we all come from different backgrounds but share a common passion for women’s equity. We look forward to celebrating that passion with you and charting a path forward together. Join us as we gather to honor our accomplishments, reflect on new challenges, and discuss our next steps in the path toward equity for women and girls. While you’re there, reconnect with old friends or make new ones as you soak in the city’s unique zest and joie de vivre. Register for convention today to take advantage of our early-bird rate.

This post was written by AAUW Member Leadership Programs Associate Ryan Burwinkel.

Last week, the Obama administration proposed new regulations for determining which religiously affiliated employers and nonprofit organizations would have to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans. Under the adjusted policy, churches and other houses of worship are still exempt from having to provide this coverage, and other religious entities (such as charities or universities) would not have to issue plans that directly provide birth control coverage. Employees at those organizations would instead, as the Washington Post put it, receive a “stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.”

This decision protects women’s ability to access contraception without co-pay. AAUW is pleased that the administration resisted efforts to exempt for-profit companies from providing this critical health insurance coverage. The decision will lead to real benefits, including fewer unintended pregnancies and a better quality of life for women. If you’d like to learn more about whether your insurance plan covers these services, a health advocacy group has prepared an easy-to-use tip sheet.

However, we are concerned that another regulation, also announced last week, could limit women’s ability to access this care. The proposal would exempt student health plans self-funded by colleges from benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

This proposal would affect only about 30 institutions — mostly major private and public research universities — that self-fund their student health insurance plans, but this loophole could inspire other schools to begin self-funding their plans to remove contraceptive coverage, which AAUW would strongly oppose. As one consumer group put it, “Without federal protections and only minimal state oversight, self-funded plans are free to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, offer limited coverage with low annual limits on benefits, and commit a number of consumer abuses that the ACA was designed to eliminate.”

Although these are modifications to existing policies, they’ll have a big impact on women across the country. Subscribe to AAUW’s Washington Update to keep up to date on these developments and what they mean for women and girls.

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