25th

International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women passed by the U.N.  November 25, 1999

The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution designating November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The resolution, which was introduced by the Dominican Republic, marked the anniversary of the death of three sisters, Maria, Teresa, and Minerva Mirabel, who were brutally murdered there in 1960. While women in Latin America and the Caribbean had honored the day since 1981, all UN countries did not formally recognize it until 1999.

Many organizations, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), had been pushing for international recognition of the date for some time.

A year earlier, Noeleen Heyzer, the director of UNIFEM, gave a speech at a fundraising breakfast in Toronto, Canada, encouraging men and women to participate in 16 days of activism against gender violence. The voluntary effort was to begin on November 25 and last through December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was passed in 1948 as a response to the genocidal terror of the Nazi regime. This 16-day period had particular significance for Heyzer’s Canadian audience, for one of Canada’s most horrific tragedies occurred on December 6, 1989, when Marc Lepine went on a shooting spree at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. Lepine had entered the college with a shotgun and murdered 14 female engineering students before turning the gun on himself in what later became known as the “Montreal Massacre.” In his suicide note, Lepine declared his murdering spree to be an attack against feminism.

Women’s organizations worldwide have successfully pulled together for increased awareness and support of their cause. Although this is a sign of positive change in the struggle to end violence against women, statistics show that there is still much work left to do. A report released in 1994 by the World Bank, entitled Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden, estimated that one out of every four women worldwide has been, or will be, raped. The report also said that violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

 

 

 

1846: Carrie Nation born (reformer, prohibition activist)

  • was a radical member of the temperance movement, which opposed alcohol in pre-Prohibition America. She is particularly noteworthy for promoting her viewpoint through vandalism. On many occasions Nation would enter an alcohol-serving establishment and attack the bar with a hatchet. She has been the topic of numerous books, articles and even an opera.
  • She began her temperance work in Medicine Lodge by starting a local branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and campaigning for the enforcement of Kansas’ ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to serenading saloon patrons with hymns accompanied by a hand organ, to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks such as, “Good morning, destroyer of men’s souls.” She also helped her mother and her daughter who had mental health problems.
  • Dissatisfied with the results of her efforts, Nation began to pray to God for direction. On June 5, 1899, she felt she received her answer in the form of a heavenly vision. As she described it:
  • The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, “GO TO KIOWA,” and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, “I’LL STAND BY YOU.” The words, “Go to Kiowa,” were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but “I’ll stand by you,” was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: “Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them.”
  • Responding to the revelation, Nation gathered several rocks – “smashers”, she called them – and proceeded to Dobson’s Saloon on June 7. Announcing “Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard’s fate,” she began to destroy the saloon’s stock with her cache of rocks. After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.

 

1865: Kate Gleason born (businesswoman)

  • an American engineer and businesswoman known both for being a revolutionary in the predominantly male field of engineering and for her philanthropy.
  • Her father was the owner of a machine tool company, later named Gleason Works, which later became (and still is) one of the most important makers of gear-cutting machine tools in the world. When she was 11, her stepbrother Tom died of typhoid fever, causing hardship at her father’s company because Tom had been an important helper. At the age of 12 she began working for her father to fill the void left by Tom’s death.
  • In 1884, she was the first woman to be admitted to study engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, although she was unable to complete her studies at Cornell due to her required presence in the factory. She continued her studies upon returning to Rochester at the Mechanics Institute, later renamed Rochester Institute of Technology. She was actively involved as the treasurer as well as saleswoman for Gleason Works. In 1893, she toured Europe to expand the company’s business, one of the first times an American manufacturer tried to globalize their business. Today, international sales make up almost 3/4 of the company’s business.
  • Ellen Gleason was a friend of fellow Rochesterian Susan B. Anthony, and Kate Gleason later cited Anthony as a source of advice. Gleason undertook several efforts supporting Women’s Suffrage after Anthony’s death.
  • Due to conflicts with her family she left Gleason Works in 1913 and found work at the Ingle Machining Company. In 1914, she was the first woman elected to full membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and represented the society at the World Power Conference in Germany.
  •  In 1918, she was appointed the president of First National Bank of East Rochester while the previous President was enlisted in World War I. She used this position to further her humanitarian efforts in Rochester, starting eight companies, including a construction company that built houses for the middle class. Later, she left Rochester for business opportunities in South Carolina and California, eventually setting in France, where she helped a town’s recovery after World War I.
  • Gleason viewed marriage as a hindrance to her business life, and she never married nor had children.
  • She died January 9, 1933 of pneumonia and is interred in Riverside Cemetery in Rochester. She left much of her $1.4 million estate to institutions in the Rochester area, including libraries, parks, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Kate Gleason College of Engineering at RIT is named in her honor, and her bust stands proudly in the hallway. Kate Gleason Hall is an RIT residence hall. Gleason Works is still in operation today and retains a strong connection with RIT.

 

1900: Helen Gahagan Douglas born (actor, public official)

  • was an American actress and politician. She was the third woman and first Democratic woman elected to Congress from California; her election made California one of the first two states (Illinois was the other state) to elect female members to the House from both parties.
  • In the 1940s, Gahagan Douglas entered politics. She was elected to the United States House of Representatives from California’s 14th congressional district as a liberal Democrat in 1944, and served three full terms as “a principled advocate of women’s rights, civil liberties and world disarmament.
  • “Democratic National committeewoman for California from 1940 to 1944; vice chairwoman of the Democratic State central committee and chairman of the women’s division from 1940 to 1944; member of the national advisory committee of the Works Progress Administration and of the State committee of the National Youth Administration in 1939 and 1940; member of the board of governors of the California Housing and Planning Association in 1942 and 1943; appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a member of the Voluntary Participation Committee, Office of Civilian Defense; appointed by President Harry S. Truman as alternate United States Delegate to the United Nations Assembly; elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-ninth, Eightieth, and Eighty-first Congresses (January 3, 1945-January 3, 1951); … lecturer and author.” Excerpted from Bioguide Congress
  • In 1950, Gahagan Douglas ran for the United States Senate even though the incumbent Democrat Sheridan H. Downey was seeking a third term. William Malone, the Democratic state chairman in California, had advised Douglas to wait until 1952 to run for the Senate, rather than split the party in a fight with Downey. Gahagan Douglas, however, told Malone that Downey had neglected veterans and small growers and must be unseated. Downey withdrew from the race in the primary campaign and supported a third candidate, Manchester Boddy, the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News. When Gahagan Douglas defeated Boddy for the nomination, Downey endorsed the Republican U.S. Representative Richard M. Nixon.
  • It was rumored that Douglas would be given a political appointment in the Truman administration, but the Nixon-Douglas race had made such an appointment too controversial for the President. According to Democratic National Committee vice-chair India Edwards, a Douglas supporter, the former congresswoman could not have been appointed dogcatcher. In 1952, she returned to acting, and eight years later campaigned for John F. Kennedy during Nixon’s first, unsuccessful presidential run.She also campaigned for George McGovern in his unsuccessful bid to prevent Nixon’s 1972 reelection, and called for Nixon’s ouster from office during the Watergate scandal.
  • At its 1979 commencement ceremonies, Barnard College awarded Gahagan Douglas its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.
  • She died on June 28, 1980, at the age of seventy-nine, from breast and lung cancer. Senator Alan Cranston of California eulogized her on the floor of the Senate, on August 5, 1980, saying: “I believe Helen Gahagan Douglas was one of the grandest, most eloquent, deepest thinking people we have had in American politics. She stands among the best of our 20th century leaders, rivaling even Eleanor Roosevelt in stature, compassion and simple greatness.”

Quote for Today

“Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains.”

— Helen Gahagan Douglas

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