35 Alexander Hamilton
36 George W. Bush
37 Howard Dean
38 John Edwards
39 Michelle Obama
40 Wilbur Mills
41 Thomas Jefferson
42 a-4, b-1, c-2, d-3, e- DUH
Number of Incorrect Answers
0-5 You would make Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater proud
6-10 Newt couldn’t do better
11-15 You don’t watch MSNBC, do you
16-20 Yeah, you’re an Democrat
21-25 I’m guessing you’re under 25
26-35 You may have voted for Obama
36-42 You voted for Obama twice AND support ObamaCare. You may be stupid.
ANSWERS TO FROM THE FRONT QUIZ
A Family of Female Accomplishment
Feminism has been around since the term was coined in 1837, and long before in various movements to achieve equality for women. It has long been associated with voting rights and equal opportunities in education, employment, and treatment of women generally. Great strides have been made, despite some silly sideshows along the way like burning bras in the 1960s and the attempted obfuscation of words like “person-hole cover” in place of manhole cover. Much has been made over the strident activist efforts of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and others. Less has been said about the impact of Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Dolly Madison and so many others who elevated the status of women in their direct achievements. I have been blessed with the presence of many of those women in my family. This is about them.
It started, in my memory at least, with my grandmothers. My dad’s mother was a stoic, yet jocular woman. She was a “prairie” kind of woman, though she never left her home in Taunton, Massachusetts. (My dad was the only one to go west.) She raised 16 children, “all by one man, and not one of them on welfare,” she would boast half-serious and half good-natured. My grandparents were dairy farmers, a not-unusual vocation for Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Islands. I recall summer vacations visiting “Vovo” and “Vovu,” walking to the dairy barn with my grandfather, a tall, slender man, with a perpetual Lucky Strike cigarette dangling from his lips as we walked. While he was far from lazy, his days consisted of milking the cows in the morning and evening, and kicking back with the family the rest of the time.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was up at the same time, around 5am, with a day full of butchering chickens or other barnyard animals, making the ever-present 10 gallons of soup, baking bread, and cooking generally for the hordes that would gather in the cellar kitchen/dining area. Meals were usually in 2-3 shifts, with an assortment of relatives besides the siblings. Not long after breakfast, she would start on “supper” and dinner would soon follow. It was like this every day.
With 16 kids, there was help around the house, the barns and the hayfield, but still it was the matriarch around whom the activity was centered. Besides the domestic tasks, which were constant and many, she also ran the business part of the dairy, dealing with suppliers, customers, handling finances and every thing else. Grandpa milked, and she did the rest. As if that wasn’t enough, she also had a contract with the city to haul the “ashes” (fireplace ashes and paper waste – “not garbage,” she would clarify). She ran 3-4 large trucks (similar to compacting garbage trucks) with my uncles as operators. She did all of this as a first generation Portuguese immigrant who spoke only broken English. To my knowledge, she never once burned a bra.
My maternal grandmother was similar in dedication to family, character strength and loving nature – the business side would come later. She raised six children, losing one more in infancy and another in childbirth. She came from a very religious family, also from the Azores, with relatives who settled in Bermuda as well, where she lived for a time. My grandfather, a very religious man, was cast in a traditional role as the “leader” of the family. Sadly, that role, with the help of alcohol, would translate into abusive behavior at times. As was expected of the times, my grandmother would tolerate this condition for the “sake of the family.” To her credit, and the strength it took to do so, she left my grandfather and moved across country to begin a new life on her own. She was close to 60 at the time, also a first generation Portuguese immigrant who had worked in the mills of New England, and spoke broken English. (While at the mills, she once brokered a labor dispute between management and the many Portuguese workers.)
She left Fall River, Massachusetts and ventured west, together with her youngest daughter. She had a modest sum she had saved for this purpose and did what she knew. Having no other business skills or training, she opened a small restaurant; after all, she could cook. She bought a little place named “Hilltop Café” in Redondo Beach, with a cottage residence adjacent. She and my Aunt Emily created a menu of home cooking that would include chili, burgers, homemade pies and all the usual fare. She didn’t know marketing from mozzarella, but learned quickly aided by her talented and English speaking daughter. It wasn’t long before the truckers that passed the place daily started making it their stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They loved grandma and affectionately called her “Mom.” Emily would banter with them as well, and the Hilltop Café became a successful little enterprise. Not bad for a 60-year old single mother, with no skills and limited English. No, she never participated in a single march for equality.
When my dad completed his service in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy, he was discharged in California. He returned home to Massachusetts to reunite with my mother and their two young daughters. After years of often wicked Boston area winters, and drawn by the weather he had observed in California, Dad made a decision that the family should move west. My mom supported that decision, despite having no friends or other family in the distant west coast. Dad left on his own to find work and secure a place to live. He wrote as he explored the options and told Mom that he would send for her in a few months to join him. “Like hell,” she responded, buying a train ticket for her and the girls, and now one-year old me as well, and headed out west. Such was her nature: devoted, independent and wise!
My mother was a classic wife and mother of the era. With five kids and the myriad of activities associated with our clubs, sports and school involvements, she still managed to maintain the home and prepare meals daily, do the laundry, and entertain dad’s clients and their friends. She was also the disciplinarian. There was none of that “wait until your father gets home” stuff. No, if one of us was out of line, she took care of things on the spot! Our attitude toward Mom was an abiding love and admiration… and a healthy and respectful fear.
My parents grew up during the Depression. Both came from large families and were taught “family values.” My dad took care of the major decisions – like whether to go to war with Russia, when the government should raise or lower interest rates, and whether to support Eisenhower or Stevenson. Mom took care of the small matters: where to live, where to go to church, and what was for dinner.
Running a household and raising five kids is a challenge for the average mother. My mother was not average. In addition to many home activities, she was involved in her kids’ education, and president of the PTA at Haman Elementary School, which we all attended, and later made a Life Member of the Wilson Intermediate PTA. She organized the Santa Clara Philharmonic, and served as its first president. She served as secretary of the Soroptimist Club, and was involved in the Santa Clara Project. She was involved with the Santa Clara Cultural Society and was First Vice-president and Secretary of the Santa Clara Women’s Club. You know the Community Chest from the Monopoly game… my mother knew it from her first hand involvement as president.
Mom was recognized by the San Jose Mercury-News as “Mother of the Year,” in or around 1960, and twenty years later, on June 13, 1980, would be honored by resolutions from both the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. It is often said that to get something done, give it to a busy person. Mary Semas was that person time and time again. Years later, my mother would scoff at the notion of “feminism” as a movement. “In my day,” she would declare, “we didn’t need permission or an organization to be equal; we just did what needed to be done.” Women like her were not the tail wagging the dog – they were the dog.
I have had three wonderful sisters in my life. Judy, the eldest, sadly passed away about a year and a half ago, after a lifetime of achievement. Joan (now Elizabeth) was the next in line and lives here in the Reno area, near my brother and me. Marie, was the youngest, an accomplished physical therapist and a former Miss America finalist as Miss Massachusetts.
To those who knew her growing up, Judy might have seemed a bit shy, even timid. She was anything but. She was just focused on achievement. Throughout her school years, she was among the brightest in her class. She was also a cheerleader, a member of numerous clubs and groups, and very popular. Despite her popularity, she was a champion for the underdog, and would always rise to defend those less able. That caring and kindness for others would follow her through life.
I’ve celebrated Judy’s life elsewhere in these pages, but let me just recap them here:
Santa Clara University – first class of women admitted to the formerly all-male university (and my alma mater)
Stanford Bank – hired as secretary to the bank president; became Cashier and an officer of the bank, then, in a merger with Union Bank, became Union’s Corporate HR Officer
City of Santa Clara – Hired as Personnel Manager; was heir apparent to City Manager Don Von Raesfeld
Hope Rehabilitation – Hired as a “temp” for the foundering non-profit organization. Six months later was made CEO and turned the organization into one of the most successful in the country; started a highly esteemed and accomplished foundation to supplement day-to-day activities for developmentally disabled
Freelance Writer – Decided to pursue her passion for writing, producing over 600 pieces published in over 200 magazines and newspapers.
My other sister, Elizabeth, is no less talented and accomplished though by way of a different path. She left school early, becoming a mother at a young age. Though a single mother for much of her child-rearing years, she brought a wonderful son and incredibly talented stepdaughter into the world. Along the way, she became a self-taught sales and marketing whiz in the male-dominated construction and publishing industries. She was highly thought of and recognized with numerous awards along the way. Though not professionally trained in such activities, if you are putting together a gala event, planning a memorable party, or decorating a home worthy of Architectural Digest, she would lead the field in talent and creativity.
I have been in the company of women of achievement all of my life – beginning with those in my family. I have listed those that preceded me, and those who accompanied me. The list continues with those to follow. Among my nieces and grandnieces, all of whom are both bright and beautiful, are: two psychiatrists, a CPA, a Chiropractor, a professional hair stylist, and two very successful actors (don’t call them actresses), one of whom is also an accomplished singer and ballerina, and is pursuing her college degree.
I don’t believe a single woman in my family would describe themselves as a “feminist.” Labels such as that are for people who desire standing as a matter of title. The women in my family have all acquired standing by virtue of their accomplishments. They didn’t need to be awarded equal rights; they took them. They didn’t need to be invited to the party; they simply showed up. They didn’t need any special preferences; they earned their achievements on their own.
The roster of incredibly accomplished women throughout history is a long and growing one. I have been privileged to know too many to list. But those in my own family are a good place to start.
Note: I have focused on immediate family, but could have added to the list my wonderful and talented sister-in-law and daughter-in-law, and countless other women of accompishment I have been honored to know in various walks of life. This article could run 1,000 pages if I were to list them all. But I think the point is made.
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it.”
- Margaret Thatcher