Lee Tai-Young: Woman Warrior

Lee Tai-young 03.jpg
Public Domain.

Lee Tai-Young was the first Korean woman ever to become a lawyer and a judge as well as the founder of the first Korean legal aid center. She was born in what is now North Korea in 1914, the daughter of a gold miner. She received a degree in home economics from Ewha Womans University, a Methodist college, and married a Methodist minister in 1936. Lee had dreams of becoming a lawyer when she came to Seoul to study at Ewha, but when her husband fell under suspicion of being a spy for the U.S. and was jailed for sedition by the Japanese colonial government in the early 1940s, she had to go to work to maintain her family. She took jobs as a school teacher and a radio singer, and took in sewing and washing as well.

After the war, Lee continued her studies with the support of her husband. In 1946, she became the first woman to attend Seoul National University and earned her law degree in 1949. She was the first woman ever to pass the National Judicial Examination in 1952. Five years later she founded the Women’s Legal Counseling Center, a law practice that provided services to poor women. Lee, along with her husband, were participants in the 1976 Myongdong Declaration, which called for the return of civil liberties to Korean citizens. Because of her political views, she was arrested as an enemy of President Park Chung-hee, and in 1977 received a three-year suspended sentence along with a loss of civil liberties including being automatically disbarred for ten years.

Her law practice evolved into the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations and served more than 10,000 clients per year. She authored 15 books on women’s issues, beginning with a 1957 guide to Korea’s divorce system. In 1972, she published Commonsense in Law for Women; other notable titles include Born A Woman and The Woman of North Korea. She also translated Eleanor Roosevelt’s book On My Own into Korean. In 1975, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation chose her as the recipient of their Community Leadership Award; she was given an award by the International Legal Aid Association in 1978. She received international recognition from many quarters, including an honorary law doctorate from Drew University in Madison, NJ in 1981. In 1984, she published a memoir, Dipping the Han River Out with a Gourd, four years before she passed away at the ripe old age of 84.

“No society can or will prosper without the cooperation of women.”
— Lee Tai-Young
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Mary Mcleod Bethune: A Dollar And A Dream

By Carl Van Vechten – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID van.5a51728. Commons:Licensing, Public Domain.

In 1904 Mary McLeod Bethune started a school on $1.50 and dreams on the grounds of a former dump. “I haunted the city dump retrieving discarded linen and kitchenware, cracked dishes, broken chairs, pieces of old lumber,” she remembered later. The humble beginning has now blossomed into Bethune Cookman College in Daytona, Florida.

She wasn’t daunted by the idea of all the hard work it would take to make her dreams come true; she was used to picking 250 pounds of cotton a day and pulling the plow when the family mule died. The fifteenth of seventeen children born to former slaves, Mary was brought up as a strict Methodist to believe in the sweat of the brow and faith in God. At the age of twelve, she was given a scholarship by the Quakers to be educated at an integrated school in North Carolina, later going on to Moody Bible College. From these experiences, she had a profound respect for education, particularly for its value in helping her people rise from poverty.

Mary’s school succeeded through her combination of penny-pinching abilities and excellent fundraising skills (she even got J.D. Rockefeller to contribute). She trained the students to pick elderberries to make into ink, used burned wood for chalk, and bartered free tuition for food for her students. Soon she added an infirmary on the site when she realized blacks couldn’t get medical treatment within 200 miles of that part of the Atlantic Coast; eventually that grew into a training hospital for doctors and nurses. By 1922, the school boasted 300 students, and Mary stayed on as president of the college until 1942.

She had a strong commitment to African Americans, particularly women. While running the school, she led the campaign to register black women voters, despite threats from the KKK. Her civil rights activism and humanitarianism brought her into contact with many people, including Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom she became good friends. Bethune ended up serving people in many leadership roles, including as the founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women, the leading member of the “Black Cabinet” who were advisors to FDR on African American needs and interests, and the Director of the Office of Minority Affairs of the National Youth Administration. When she was seventy-seven, concerned over the inability of blacks to get life insurance, she started the Central Life Insurance Company, becoming the only woman president of a national life insurance company in the entire United States.

For these and other accomplishments, Mary McLeod Bethune was regarded as the most influential black woman in America until her death in 1955. Mary’s rise from poverty to national leadership is sheer sheroism.

“I leave you. I leave you hope…I leave you racial dignity.”
— Mary McLeod Bethune
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Kalpana Chawla: The First and Only Indian Woman in Space

By NASA – Public Domain.

Kalpana Chawla was born in 1962 in Kamal, Punjab, India. Perhaps it was foresight that made her parents name her “Kalpana”, meaning “idea” or “imagination”, because while other girls her age liked playing with dolls, Kalpana preferred to draw airplanes and had an inquisitive mind. After getting a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, she moved to the United States in 1982 where she earned a master’s in aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington in two years. Undeterred by the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Kalpana went on to earn a second master’s and then a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1988. Later that year, she started work as a NASA scientist, researching power-lift computational fluid dynamics. She joined Overset Methods, Inc. in 1993 as a research scientist as well as vice president. She was also rated as a flight instructor and held commercial pilot licenses for airplanes, gliders, and seaplanes.

When she succeeded in being naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1991, Kalpana had applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps; she was accepted and began training in 1995, and was soon scheduled for her first space shuttle mission, joining the six-astronaut crew of the space shuttle Columbia. The two-week mission in late 1997 circled the Earth 252 times, and she was in charge of deploying a Spartan satellite using a robot arm; Kalpana had become the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person ever to fly in space. After the mission, she did technical work for NASA relating to the space station. She was chosen for a second mission in 2000, but technical problems with the shuttle engine prevented it from going forward. At last she returned to space in 2003 aboard Columbia, but after a 16 day mission involving more than 80 experiments by the seven-astronaut crew, the shuttle, which had sustained heat shielding damage to a wing upon launch, did not survive re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, and the entire crew was lost. Kalpana was posthumously awarded Congress’ Space Medal of Honor; scholarships were established in her name, and an asteroid was named after her.

“When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”
– Kalpana Chawla, at her first launch
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Sally Ride: Pioneering the Extraterrestrial Frontier

By NASA; retouched by Coffeeandcrumbs – Description page (direct image link), Public Domain.

Sally Ride was a physicist and the first American female astronaut. Born in 1951, she grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a political science professor. Besides her interest in the physical sciences, she was also a nationally ranked tennis player. She went to Swarthmore College for a couple years, then transferred to Stanford University as a junior. At Stanford, she first earned double major bachelor’s degrees in physics and English and then went on to obtain a PhD in physics there in 1978, with a focus on astrophysics and free electron lasers. That same year, Sally was accepted into NASA’s astronaut training program – a coup, since a thousand others had applied. After completing their rigorous program, Sally became the first U.S. woman astronaut as part of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983; only two women made it into space before her, both members of the Russian space program. As part of the Challenger crew of five, she deployed satellites and did pharmaceutical experiments.

The next year, Sally flew another shuttle mission and logged a total of 343 hours in space; she did eight months of special training for a third shuttle mission, but when the Challenger tragically exploded in a disastrous launch malfunction in January of 1986, the mission was canceled. She headed a subcommittee on the presidential commission that investigated the shuttle explosion; many years later, after her death, it was revealed by General Donald Kutyna that she had discreetly given him key engineering information that led to identifying the cause of the explosion. She continued with NASA at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., after which she led NASA’s first strategic planning initiative and founded its new Office of Exploration. Sally left NASA in 1987 to work at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she became a physics professor at UC San Diego as well as director of the university’s California Space Institute.

In 2001, Sally started Sally Ride Science, a company that created educational programs and products whose aim was to inspire girls to stay with their interests in science and math, serving as the company’s president and CEO. She received the NASA Space Flight Medal as well as the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award and later inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Before passing away from pancreatic cancer, Sally Ride left her mark on Earth as well as in space. After her passing, it was revealed that she had been partners with another woman, a school psychology professor, for 27 years; Tam O’Shaughnessy now carries on Sally’s legacy as the CEO and chair of the board of Sally Ride Science.

“When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen. You have to reach a level of comfort with that risk.”
— Sally Ride
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Hannah Arendt: A Life of the Mind

By Unknown – American Memory, Public Domain.

German-born Hannah Arendt was a political theorist and philosopher who climbed out of the ivory tower to take direct action against the spread of Fascism. A student
of theology and Greek and the protege/lover of German existentialist philosopher Karl Heidegger, the brilliant student was granted a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg at the ripe old age of twenty-two. After a brief arrest by the Gestapo (she was Jewish), she fled to Paris where she worked for a Zionist resistance organization that sent Jewish orphans to Palestine in the hopes of creating a new united Arab-Jewish nation.

By 1940, she had fled to New York where she lived among other immigrants and worked for the Council on Jewish Relations, as an editor for Shocken Books, and served at the head of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, which, post-war, collected Jewish writings that had been dispersed by the Nazis. With her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she pointed out the common elements in Nazi and Stalinist philosophies as well as discussing the roots of anti-Semitism and racism through all of Europe. Her subsequent books include On RevolutionThe Human Condition, and Thinking and Writing, as well as discussion of the trial of a Nazi war criminal, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, and countless articles and commentaries on such far-reaching subjects as Watergate, Vietnam, and her famous attack on Bertolt Brecht for his “Hymn to Stalin.” The first woman to become a full professor at Princeton, she also taught at various other institutions and translated and edited the works of Franz Kafka.

A serious thinker, she became a very public and controversial figure with her beliefs that revolution and war were the central forces of the twentieth century; that there was little organized resistance on the part of the Jews in Europe; and that the Nazis were not monsters but pragmatic rational people accepting evil commands in a banal manner.

Arendt’s contributions to the intellectual community are beyond calculating. She made an insular forties America and post-war world look deeply at all the possible causes of the Holocaust. According to his article in Makers of Nineteenth Century Culture, Bernard Crick credits Hannah Arendt with “rescue(ing) American intellectuals from an excessive parochiality.”

“Human beings…[are] put into concentration camps by their foes and into internment camps by their friends.”
— Hannah Arendt
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Karen Horney: Facing the Father Complex

CC BY-SA 3.0, Public Domain. 

Freud frequently tarried overlong on theories of hysteria and other so-called female neuroses. The first critic to respond to these theories was Karen Horney who challenged his bias against women, stressing the social rather than the biological factors in feminine psychology. She also argued that neurosis is not inevitable, but arises from childhood situations that are preventable. She met with much opposition for her sensitivity toward the plight of the patient, and her peers were appalled at her cheek in daring to criticize the “Big Daddy” of psychoanalysis.

But she was no stranger to making her own way. Born in Germany in 1885, Karen Danielson surprised her blustery and abusive Norse sea-captain father by insisting on not only seeking higher education, but studying medicine, whether he liked it or not. At university, Karen met a law student, Oscar Horney, and they married in 1909. While earning her medical degree from the rigorous University of Berlin—her thesis was on traumatic psychoses—she had three daughters in four years.

Undergoing psychoanalytic training from 1914 to 1918, she first opened a private practice while a faculty member at the Berlin Institute, where she applied a special affinity for trauma victims while working with shell-shocked veterans of World War I. Beginning around this time, Karen sought to overturn Freud’s theory of penis envy, a tired theory at best, reasoning that it is not the penis women envy, but the privilege modern society accords men in contrast to the suppression of women. Horney posited an alternate theory: the castration complex in young girls is brought on by their inability to follow their father’s path, when doors open for men are slammed shut for women. Her theory was fairly well received and established her as a force to be reckoned with.

Karen’s independent streak didn’t end with her neo-Freudian theorizing; she divorced her husband in 1926 and emigrating to Chicago, cofounding the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. The New York Psychoanalytic Institute was next on her plate where she taught, did clinical research, and began a career as an author, publishing The Neurotic Personality of Our Time to high praise and Our Inner Conflict, a book about denial of pain that sounds like it would do fine in the popular self-help world we live in today. Karen Horney refused to agree with the accepted psychoanalytic gospel of the day and continued to emphasize the effect of environment upon the psyche. “There is no such thing as a normal psychology that holds for all people,” she proclaimed.

Perhaps Horney’s optimism was the biggest division between her and the rest of the psychoanalytic pack. She believed people could help themselves. She had a severe parting of the ways with her peers when she suggested that patients need not live a life of pain, a Freudian notion, and that people can work out of their neuroses. She was booted out of the New York Psychoanalysis Society and Institute in 1941 upon the publication of her book, New Ways in Psychoanalysis, which laid out a series of refutations and refinements of Freud’s doctrine. Undaunted, she founded her own institute, taking several other free-thinkers with her.

Karen Horney was way ahead of her time. Had she lived fifty more years, she would be safely ensconced in a comfy chair across from Oprah Winfrey, where her self-help positivity would be fully embraced. Psychoanalytic pioneer and humanist, Karen Horney shows us that even the most sacred of cows need to be led off to pasture, especially if they’re wrong! Here’s to the shero who deep-sixed penis envy!

“Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.”
— Karen Horney
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Olga Skorokhodova: True Visionary

By DK Clews: uploaded 22 Jul 2016, Public Domain. 

Olga Ivanovna Skorokhodova was a Soviet scientist, writer, teacher, and therapist. Born to poor Ukrainian peasant parents circa 1911, she was a sickly child who proved to have great strength of spirit and a powerful mind. Olga lost her sight and hearing at age five after a bout with meningitis. When her mother died in 1922, Olga was sent to a school for the blind in Odessa. Three years later, Olga arrived at the School-Clinic for Deafblind Children in Kharkiv; though at that point she was almost completely mute, under the care of Professor Ivan Sokolyansky she was able to recover the ability to speak. She began to keep self-observation notes. In 1947, she published a book titled How I Perceive the World; it drew public interest to how she was able to recover speech and won the K.D. Ushynsky literary prize. She expanded upon this original work with 1954’s How I Perceive and Represent the World and 1972’s How I Perceive, Imagine and Understand the World. Olga became a research fellow at the USSR Institute for the Handicapped for the Academy of Educational Sciences in 1948, later rising to be a senior research fellow, and worked there for the rest of her life. She authored a number of scientific works concerning the development of education and teaching of deaf/blind children.

“I must say I owe all of my knowledge and literary speech to reading, above all fiction.”
— Olga Skorokhodova
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.