It’s Industrial Workers of The World Day Better Known as May Day!

May Day, International Workers Day

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Did you know that May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day? Typically we think about children dancing and twirling bright colored ribbons around the Maypole. Many people do not realize that May Day has its origins in the United States of America.

According to the Industrial Workers of The World:

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions.

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

So whether you’re a workers advocate or dancing around a May Pole, have a terrific May Day commemoration.

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Celebrating Florence Mills, Cabaret Singer and Dancer during National Women’s History Month

National Women's History Month, Baby Florence, Florence Mills

Image source: New York Amsterdam News

In celebration of the art of song and dance, today we feature Florence Mills during National Women’s History Month.

Florence Mills (January 25, 1896 – November 1, 1927), born Florence Winfrey was an African-American cabaret singer, dancer, and comedian known for her effervescent stage presence and delicate voice. She was a daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Nellie (Simon) and John Winfrey in Washington, D.C.

She became an entertainer as a young child, and was billed as “Baby Florence.” She worked in vaudeville and joined a touring company at eight years old before authorities found out she was underage. In 1910 Mills would form another vaudeville act—the Mills Sisters—with her siblings Olivia and Maude. Her major breakthrough happened in 1921 when she appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Shuffle Along. The following year, she appeared on Broadway in Plantation Revue, and later the song “I’m a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird” from Blackbirds became her trademark. 

Florence Mills, National Women's History Month, Baby Florence

Image source: biography.com

Mills later met and wed Ulysses S. Thompson, from the troupe the Tennessee Ten, in 1923. She earned a reputation for her wondrous high-pitched voice, unique dance movements, and comedic timing. This allowed her to become an unparalleled force during the Harlem Renaissance. She died in New York City on November 1, 1927 from appendicitis.

We recognize and salute Florence Mills and her amazing, although short-lived vaudeville career, during #NationalWomensHistoryMonth.

Susan B. Anthony, Crusader for the Woman Suffrage Movement

Susan B. Anthony, National Women's History Month, Women's Rights

Image source: Biography Online

As we continue celebrating National Women’s History Month, we peek into the life of Susan B. Anthony.
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. -Susan B. Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was an American pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement and president (1892-1900) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Born into a politically active Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. They worked to end slavery (the Abolitionist Movement) and were also part of the temperance movement, which wanted the production and sale of alcohol limited or stopped completely. Anthony was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman.

Susan B. Anthony, Dollar Currency, National Women's History Month

Image source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Along with activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. She realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote. It wasn’t until 14 years after her death in 1920, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed.In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony’s portrait on one dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored.

Dancing with Rita Moreno, First Latina to Win EGOT

Rita Moreno, National Women's History Month, EGOT

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Today we are celebrating a multi-talented performer who rose above the limitations of Hollywood typecasting to build a career spanning more than six decades. Rita Moreno, born Rosita Dolores Alverío is the first Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award (EGOT). She was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, and one of her best-known iconic roles was playing Anita in West Side Story.

During a time when decent roles were not created for ethnic actors and actresses, Moreno had to play roles in movies that she considered degrading. Among the better pictures she appeared in was the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I (1956).

Moreno married Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist who was also her manager. They have one daughter, Fernanda Luisa Fisher, and two grandsons, Justin and Cameron Fisher. Leonard died on June 30, 2010.

Rita Moreno, National Women's History Month

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Moreno won a 1972 Grammy Award for her contribution to the soundtrack album for The Electric Company, following three years later with a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “The Ritz” (a role she would reprise in the 1976 film version, The Ritz). She then won Emmy Awards for The Muppet Show (1976) and The Rockford Files (1974).

She has continued to work steadily on screen (both large and small) and on stage, solidifying her reputation as a national treasure. In June 2004 Moreno received the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President George W. Bush.

In celebration of National Women’s History Month, we are shining the spotlight on Rita Moreno, a true multi-talented pioneer in movies, television, and theater.

#NationalWomensHistoryMonth

Celebrating Viola Gregg Liuzzo, Civil Rights Activist, during National Women’s History Month

Viola Gregg Liuzzo, National Women's History Month

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Fighting for the disenfranchised and victims of injustice was the driving force behind Viola Gregg Liuzzo (1925-1965) who was the first white female Civil Rights Activist killed during the American civil rights movement. She traveled to Alabama in March 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Liuzzo knew firsthand about the racial injustices that African Americans often suffered in the South, having spent some of her youth in Tennessee and Georgia, among other places. Her decision to go to Alabama was influenced by the “Bloody Sunday” events in Selma.

Not long after her arrival, in an effort to register African-American voters in Selma, Liuzzo was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. She was the only known white female killed during the Civil Rights Movement.

Viola Gregg Liuzzo, Civil Rights Advocate

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Years after her brutal murder Viola Gregg Liuzzo was among the 40 civil rights martyrs honored on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, created in 1989. Two years later, the Women of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference placed a marker where she was killed on Highway 80.

According to Biography.com, in 2004, Paola di Florio showed her documentary on Liuzzo, Home of the Brave, at the Sundance Film Festival. The critically acclaimed film explored Liuzzo’s story as well as the impact of her murder on her children. The children had sued the federal government over her murder, but their case was eventually dismissed. In 2006, Liuzzo was also inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame.

For the bravery of women like Viola Gregg Liuzzo who fought for justice in a hateful and racially hostile environment, we salute you as we celebrate #NationalWomensHistoryMonth!

Celebrating Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles during National Women’s History Month

Carmen Amelia Robles, National Women's History Month, Mexican Revolution

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Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles (born Amelia Robles Ávila, November 3, 1889 – December 9, 1984), an Afro Mexican woman was a leader in the Mexican Revolution who fought alongside Emiliano Zapata. General Emiliano Zapata Salazar was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution who made alliances with battalions of Afro-Mexicans. These battalions included Afro-Mexican widows from Guerrero who also became soldiers.

Robles adopted a male identity not as a survival strategy but because of a strong desire to be a man. She dressed like a man of the times and assumed a more masculine stature fighting alongside men as did many women during this period. According to legend, she participated in many battles and could shoot her pistol with her right hand while holding her cigar in her left. Her male identity was accepted by family, society, and the Mexican government, and Robles lived as a man from the age of 24 until death.

Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles Avila, Mexican Revolution, National Women's History Month

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According to a former neighbor, if anyone called Robles a woman or “Doña”, Robles would threaten them with a pistol. Robles met Angela Torres in Apipilulco in the 1930’s. They later married and adopted a daughter together, named Regula Robles Torres. On his deathbed, Robles requested to receive honors for his military service and to be dressed as a woman in order to commend his soul to God. His death certificate noted that he lost his ability to speak before he died.

Based on the amount of information we were able to extract about Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles, it is evident that Robles was unorthodox, although not an unusual trendsetter for the LGBTQ movement of the 20th century.

Happy #NationalWomensHistoryMonth!

Celebrating Strong Phenomenal Women during National Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Month

Image credit: Photos Creative Commons / Collage designed by Amy Held

Women have always held a monumental position in history, whether they were given credit for their contributions or not. In a patriarchal dominated society, women from many cultures were led to believe they were of a weaker and inferior intellect. Of course, we know that is not true, especially as women are being recognized every day for their major contributions to unlimited industries universally, throughout history.

The National Women's History Project, National Women’s History Month

Image Credit: The National Women’s History Project

The United States Congress in 1987 designated March as National Women’s History Month. Women are stronger, smarter, devoted, loyal, dedicated and more inventive than we are ever given credit for. This year’s theme for the month is NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. While this month is an official celebration of shining the spotlight on many outstanding and pioneering women who paved paths where paths didn’t exist, we will continue to uplift and commemorate how instrumental women are and have always been in our historical footprints.