Women’s Gains in the Job Market: Good News and Bad News

“American women have just achieved a significant milestone,” reports Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times. Women now hold slightly more (50.4 percent) payroll jobs than men. While women passed this milestone once before in mid-2010 during the recession, the economy is now doing well. What has made the difference? Miller explains that

  • Male-dominated occupations, like manufacturing, are shrinking
  • Female-dominated occupations, like healthcare and education, are growing. Men don’t want these jobs, even when they are higher-paying jobs, like nurse practitioners, that are more secure than many jobs in male-dominated occupations

So what is the problem? The problem for men is that they remain under- or unemployed when they refuse to take healthcare or education jobs. But women are also experiencing a problem. When occupations remain female dominated, the pay remains low and the work is devalued. At the other end of the scale, when women enter fields in large numbers that are traditionally male dominated, the pay declines. Let’s look more closely at what is going on that keeps these gendered dynamics in place.

Miller points out the many reasons for the decline in work for men:

  • The rise of automation
  • The waning power of unions
  • Rising incarceration rates
  • Factories that move overseas
  • Challenges to switching jobs, like retraining
  • Gender norms

The United States economy is now service dominated, which means it is female dominated. Women are 84 percent of social service workers and 78 percent of healthcare workers. The norms of masculinity make it hard for men to take jobs that require feminine skills such as interpersonal finesse or care work. Miller explains that markers of masculinity are having a good-paying job that is about making things (not providing services) and “distancing oneself from feminine things.” Miller cites a study by Margarita Torre Fernández, a sociologist at the University Carlos III of Madrid, using data from the census and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth from 1979 to 2006. She found that men would not apply for jobs in nearly every female-dominated occupation, and “some men would rather endure unemployment than accept a relatively high-paying women’s job and suffer the potential social stigma” for doing so. Miller adds that men who have taken pink-collar jobs in the United States are more likely to be black or Hispanic and have the least education and the lowest earnings. Even though these jobs pay less overall, they often pay more than the jobs that black and Hispanic men had access to previously.

Why are women experiencing success in the labor market? Miller suggests that women’s success has been driven by:

  • Educational gains
  • More black and Hispanic women entering the workforce
  • More flexibility and willingness to retrain

The United States is likely to remain a service economy for the foreseeable future. What would improve conditions for the economic health of both women and men? As Miller notes, researchers suggest “that improving the quality of pink-collar jobs, in terms of wages, stability, benefits and hours . . . could attract both men to these jobs and also benefit women.” If these jobs were more highly valued in our society, men would be more likely to want to enter them and women would benefit from higher wages. Miller closes by saying, “Improving the quality of pink-collar, working-class jobs has the potential to close gender gaps—and also to shrink the widening gaps between the highest and lowest earners, both women and men.”


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Millennials Become Family Caregivers

Becoming a caregiver for an adult family member is not uncommon. My sister and I dropped everything to take care of our mother in the last months of her life as her brain tumors advanced and she became helpless. Lorene Cary of the New York Times writes that one in five Americans care for dependent adult family members. She notes that, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, “the annual economic value of unpaid caregiving is $470 billion.” While becoming a caregiver is a frequent experience for baby boomers when they hit middle age, I was surprised to read that more and more of the millennial generation now find themselves in the caregiver role for an adult family member. It seemed to me that they are a little young to find themselves in this role, but I learned that isn’t the case.

Susan B. Garland of the New York Times writes that due to changes in family structure during the boomer generation, millennials are finding themselves in the caregiver role earlier in life than previous generations. Garland reports that, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, “one-fourth of the 40 million caregivers in the United States are millennials, ranging in age from their early 20s to late 30s.” What changes brought millennials to the caregiver role so early in their lives? Here are just a few:

  • Baby boomers had their children later in life.
  • Boomers had fewer children to provide care.
  • Boomers are more often divorced and single than previous generations, leaving caregiving to their children rather than a spouse.

Garland explains that millennials will experience long-term consequences that differ from those of the typical middle-aged caregiver. Millennials are just starting out in their adult lives to build careers and families. Consequently,

  • Caregiver responsibilities can make it difficult for millennials to start climbing the economic ladder. Younger caregivers spend an average of twenty-one hours per week on caregiver tasks, which can limit their employment choices. Limiting work hours and options so early in life can run the risk of lower lifetime earnings, retirement savings, and social security benefits.
  • Millennial caregivers are more likely than older caregivers to get warnings about performance and attendance, be turned down for promotions, and get fired, according to AARP.
  • Many millennials who are caregivers feel they have more limited choices when it comes to having children or getting married because of the demands on their time from work and caregiving.

We need a better system of care in this country that does not leave caregivers isolated and feeling they must carry these family responsibilities alone. The expense of numerous available services is prohibitive for many families. Surely social media can be used to help people coping with these stresses and responsibilities to find each other and share resources and support. We can do better than this.


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Intel Leads the Way: How Transparency Can Fix Pay and Promotion Gaps

Intel became the first company in the United States to voluntarily disclose pay, race, and gender data required by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Jeff Green and Hannah Recht, writing for the Los Angeles Times, explain that while the Obama administration required the EEOC to collect 2017 and 2018 data on gender, race, and pay disparities from nearly all US companies, the data can remain private unless a company chooses to make them public. Intel released their data voluntarily, hoping to encourage other companies to do the same. “It’s difficult to really fix what you aren’t being transparent about,” explained Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

The Intel data for fifty-one thousand US employees reveals disparities that are not surprising for the technology industry but are disturbing nonetheless:

  • White and Asian men dominate the top levels of pay.
  • Among the fifty-two top executives, twenty-nine are white men, eleven are Asian men, eight are white women, one is a black woman, one is an Asian woman, and one is a black man.
  • The ratio of race and gender representation for top executives is similar across managerial, professional, and technical job titles.

Green and Recht note that “overrepresentation of white men in the highest-paying jobs contributes to the nation’s wage gap: American women earn 20% less than men do, and the gap is even wider for women of color.” The authors point out that simply raising the salaries of women and minorities is not enough. These underrepresented groups need to get promotions into the higher paying roles, and organizations need to ensure they are welcome and supported once they get promoted in order to keep them.

Wage and hiring transparency is important, but the EEOC says that it does not plan to collect this information in the future. The Obama law requiring the collection of this data by the EEOC was terminated by the Trump administration. This first round of collection was only completed because of a federal court order to do so. We must keep pressure on our government for wage transparency going forward if we want any chance of closing the wage gap.


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Women in Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges

Women are now equally represented in medical school enrollment in the United States. The field of medicine offers some opportunities to women who want to be both doctors and mothers that are not available in other professions. These opportunities, which include flexibility and predictable schedule, are available in some medical specialties but not others. Emma Goldberg of the New York Times writes about the special challenges for women who have a passion to become surgeons. The field of surgery remains male dominated, with only 23 percent of practicing surgeons being women. What are some of the challenges women face who want to become surgeons? Goldberg notes the following:

  • 72 percent of female medical students reported verbal discouragement from going into surgery.
  • Surgical residencies can last up to seven years and require eighty-hour work weeks with little flexibility.
  • Students start training in their midtwenties and continue into their early thirties, which are prime childbearing years.
  • Parental leave policies for pregnancy are not uniform.
  • Flexible schedules are not allowed when returning from pregnancy leave, requiring twelve-hour shifts that don’t allow for breast-feeding or childcare.
  • Access to lactation spaces or breaks for pumping is limited or nonexistent.
  • Women don’t get childcare support.
  • Pregnant residents are subject to microaggressions from faculty and coresidents who feel a pregnant doctor is a burden.

While the obstacles are significant, many women want to be surgeons and bring important sensitivities to the doctor-patient relationship. Institutional changes can make the training of surgeons more inviting to both women and men who want to have families and help close the looming deficit of surgeons needed in the United States.

Some medical specialties offer more family-friendly options. Claire Cain Miller writes in the New York Times about the choices some women have made to go into specialties that are not always their first choice and sometimes are lower paid in order to practice medicine in a more family-friendly specialty, such as pediatrics, dermatology, geriatrics, and child psychiatry. In fact, women are the majority in these specialties, and they are less likely to stop working after childbirth than women in other professions. Here are some of the reasons women are drawn to these specialties:

  • This type of work offers flexible and predictable hours.
  • These professionals are part of a large group practice where more people are available to help cover the work. The majority of female doctors now work for large group practices as employees rather than as independent owners of a medical practice.
  • Women doctors who work reduced hours tend to be paid proportionately. For example, they receive 80 percent of pay for working 80 percent full time.

The more time-intensive specialties, such as surgery, are still male dominated and pay more. As young men going into medicine are beginning to demand more work-family balance, perhaps specialties such as surgery and oncology will reform their requirements for eighty-hour work weeks during training, thereby attracting more women. In the meantime, medicine, overall, has become a model that other professions could follow to create more equitable and family-friendly work environments. Policies and procedures in many medical specialties that work for women are

  • Lactation rooms and breaks for pumping
  • Flexible and predictable schedules
  • Part-time schedules with proportional pay
  • Childcare support
  • Support networks of “doctor moms” who share resources and encouragement and help each other out
  • Parental leave policies that include fathers and support part-time return after childbirth

These policies and practices are needed everywhere.


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How to Encourage Men to Take Family Leave: New Research

Two new studies show that while men are as likely as women to say they need time off from work to care for babies, aging parents, or sick family members, men are less likely than women to take unpaid leave and they take shorter paid leaves than women. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times notes that both new studies find a gulf between men’s desires to be more involved with caregiving and with reality. In other words, men are finding it difficult to balance career and family—something women have known for decades. Even though men are more likely than women to have access to paid leave, they don’t take it or don’t take all that they could. Women, on the other hand, will take unpaid leave because they have to.

Why is this happening? Miller summarizes the two studies as saying that the primary cause of men taking less leave, when it is available, is that when challenges arise with balancing work and family, both women and men tend to resort to traditional roles where men are breadwinners and women are caregivers. These decisions have long-term consequences for women’s careers and account for a large portion of the gender-pay gap.

The first study, a report from the New America summarized by Miller and conducted by the NORC study at the University of Chicago, included a nationally representative sample of 2,966 Americans. They found that men were only slightly less likely to have taken family leave, but when they did, the time off was shorter. Just over half of the men in this study, and slightly more women, reported that one reason men don’t take leave is because “caregiving isn’t manly.”

The second study reported by Miller was conducted by the Boston College Center for Work and Family, which focused on 1,240 white-collar workers at four companies that offer gender-neutral paid leave. This study found widespread support for leave, yet women were much more likely than men to take the full amount of leave offered by their company. Men say they want it, but they don’t take it when it becomes available.

Why? Traditional gender roles are deeply embedded in societal and family cultures. Miller surmises that both family members and people in the workplaces give subtle messages about what is acceptable gender-role behavior—even in workplaces that offer gender-neutral paid family leave—which then affects the decisions of men about whether to take family leave or for how long. Both of the new studies recommend changes that can make a difference in shifting gender-role expectations and encourage men to take family leave:

  • Senior male leaders can be role models who take family leave themselves and talk about being fathers.
  • Men need to see that their male colleagues who take leave are not penalized.
  • Managers need to encourage men to take family leave.
  • Organizations can make full-length paternity leave the default, requiring men to opt out if they want to take less leave.
  • Organizations can put systems in place to help cover the workload of women and men who take family leave.
  • Fathers can be included in parenting groups and flextime policies.

These types of changes in attitudes and structures can make a difference. Without them, traditional gender roles that limit the ability of fathers to have the relationship they want with their children—and that limit the ability of mothers to have full careers—will stay in place.

What else do you think can contribute to changes in gender-role expectations?


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Misogyny in Politics: Women in Politics Face Violence and Abuse

Whether women are elected to local, state, or national office or are appointed to visible senior roles in federal government, they face more threats and attacks, sometimes physical, than ever before. Adeel Hassan of the New York Times reports that 79 percent of mayors in the United States “report being the victim of harassment, threats or other psychological abuse, according to a recent study” published in the academic journal State and Local Government Review. Hassan goes on to note that in a statistical analysis of the study data, gender stood out as a predictor of whether a mayor would be a target:

  • Female mayors were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience psychological abuse, such as online threats.
  • Female mayors were almost three times as likely to experience physical violence.

Hassan notes that while many mayors now accept that verbal and physical abuse are part of public life, it doesn’t keep people from running for office, “but it burns people out once they’re in it.”

In the United Kingdom, women running for office report a significant increase in death threats, abuse on social media, and threatening graffiti. A study, reported by Megan Specia of the New York Times and conducted during the most recent election, “showed that female lawmakers received disproportionately more abuse on social media, with women of color receiving an even larger share.” In 2016, Jo Cox, a Labour lawmaker, was shot and killed by a man shouting “Britain first” and “Death to traitors” as she campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union. While women are still running for office in the United Kingdom, they are more cautious about how they campaign since the death of Jo Cox.

Julian Borger, writing for the Guardian, reported that Dr. Fiona Hill, the senior director for Europe and Russia in the National Security Council in the US government, said she has been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation, which reached a new peak after she agreed to testify in congressional impeachment hearings. Since those hearings, the harassment has continued and intensified.

Misogyny, or the hatred of women, is deeply embedded in white Western cultures and is a big factor in why women are not equitably represented in senior leadership roles. Women of color are subjected to a double dose of discouragement and intimidation as they deal with both sexism and racism when they seek leadership roles. Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina of the New York Times note that in her candidacy for president of the United States, Kamala Harris could neither get support from the Democratic Party nor raise the funds she needed to continue her campaign because as a black women she was deemed “unelectable” in majority-white areas.

What will it take for the talents of women of all races to be valued and for the harassment and threats to stop? Let us hear from you about what you think could bring positive change.


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Six Ways Female Start-Up Founders Succeed: New Research

Encouraging new research from Lakshmi Balachandra, assistant professor in entrepreneurship at Babson College near Boston, reported by Janelle Nanos of the Boston Globe, identifies six tips from successful female entrepreneurs. Balachandra notes that after publishing several research reports on how little venture funding women raised between 2012 and 2014—only 183 women’s start-ups out of 6,517 companies received venture funding in that period—she decided to study successful women entrepreneurs. These women were successful despite

  • Not being taken seriously by the business community
  • Having their leadership abilities questioned
  • If they are mothers, being written off by potential funders who assumed they would be too busy with family concerns to succeed
  • Facing skepticism about their age as young women while young men are given the benefit of the doubt
  • Assumptions by investors that women are pursuing a business as a hobby
  • Questions about their business’s viability even when earning millions in revenue if the business is run by a woman
  • Feeling unwelcome at CEO networking events because too few or no other women are there

Nanos writes that Balachandra’s research on successful entrepreneurs, published in October 2019, included thirty successful female entrepreneurs whose business earned at least $5 million annually (with an average of $43 million a year). Balachandra reports the following sources of success for her sample:

  • Look beyond venture capital—The barriers for women seeking funding in the venture capital world remain high. For this reason, many successful female entrepreneurs seek other sources or provide their own capital from savings to maintain control of their companies. Consequently, their growth may be slower, but this can also be an advantage.
  • Take it slow—Many of the successful businesswomen in Balachandra’s study intentionally grew their companies at their own pace and did not let anyone else dictate their timetable. They reported feeling that this slower approach allowed them to establish a secure foundation for their businesses.
  • Invest in your employees—The research participants reported that building a supportive environment for their workforce as a long-term investment pays off.
  • Lift others up—Supporting other woman-owned businesses by either buying from or funding them shores up opportunities for others.
  • Create your own networks—Balachandra’s research participants acknowledged the importance of both networking with men and building their own women-centered networks. They also seek out and offer mentoring.
  • Make it personal—Women control half the total wealth in the United States and are informed consumers. Trust your own personal experiences as a consumer to inform your business.

This truly is encouraging research.


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New Research on Women in Politics from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation, formed twenty years ago by Barbara Lee to advance women’s equality in politics, is nonpartisan and research based. Lee, described by Stephanie Ebbert of the Boston Globe as “the Paul Revere of women,” has a foundation that has studied the political campaigns of every female candidate for governor—both Democrat and Republican—for the past twenty years, provided real-time polling data to the candidates, and championed women’s candidacies, such as that of now–US Representative Ayanna Pressley in Boston. The new research report from the Lee Family Foundation explains that this most recent study focuses on governorships because previous research showed that executive offices are hardest for women to attain: voters have long been more comfortable electing women to legislatures than to offices where they can make unilateral decisions.

The new research from the Lee Family Foundation has good news and bad news. The study found that most Americans recognize that women face double standards when running for office. That’s the good news. The bad news is that many people with this awareness still apply double standards to women anyway. The new research is based on twelve focus groups and a phone survey of 2,500 likely voters, which is a substantial study. The researchers asked voters to evaluate hypothetical women running for governor against white men. The study found that

  • Voters do not demand the same qualities in male and female candidates. Men are assumed to be qualified while women are not.
  • Women are further penalized if they are deemed “unlikable.” The likability expectation is applied disproportionately to women.

When researchers looked closely at the intersections between gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they found that

  • Black women and lesbians face many more challenges than white women.
  • White voters in particular do not like it when black, Latina, and Asian American candidates mention their race or ethnicity. These white voters say things like, “Introducing yourself by a particular ethnicity perpetuates the problem.”
  • Candidates from different demographics had to use different strategies to prove they were qualified. For example, being “a business owner who creates jobs and balanced budgets” made Asian American women seem likable to most voters but did not help Latinas as much. “Working across the aisle” was a key likability trait for Latina and lesbian candidates from both parties but did not benefit straight white Republicans.

It’s time for all of us to stop applying double standards to women when they are running for office. We need to keep a critical awareness about our own judgments and reactions to women candidates and ask ourselves if we are holding women to a different standard than we do for men. If we stop and reflect on this possibility, we can catch ourselves being unfair and break out of these patterns. Let’s do this!


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Global Update on Gender Issues: Signs of Change

Women in different parts of the world have both similar and different experiences. Here are some updates from South Korea, Nigeria, Spain, France, and Saudi Arabia on workplace barriers, the #MeToo movement, and domestic violence.

South Korean Entrepreneurs

Women in South Korea, frustrated by a lack of opportunity in male-dominated corporations, are starting their own businesses at a record pace. Michael Schuman, writing for the New York Times, cites Park Hee-eun, principal at Altos Ventures, as saying, “In education we are equal to men, but after we enter into the traditional companies, they underestimate and undervalue women.” Schuman adds that only 10 percent of managers in South Korean companies are women and, in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the pay gap between men and women is the widest among countries studied.

Schuman reports that women in South Korea are taking matters into their own hands. A Mastercard report on fifty-seven global economies found that South Korea shows the most progress in advancing women entrepreneurs and that more women than men are engaged in start-ups. Despite slow changes in societal attitudes about gender roles, difficulties in being taken seriously by male bankers, investors, executives, and employees, and constant discrimination and sexual harassment, more than 12 percent of working-age women in South Korea in 2018 were involved in starting or managing new companies. Go, women of South Korea!

Nigeria and the #MeToo Movement

Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times reports that the #MeToo movement came to Nigeria in February 2019, when a young pharmacist in the north took to Twitter to describe a sexual assault by her boyfriend. “Stories of abuse soon flew around the internet, many of them tagged ‘#ArewaMeToo,'” or #MeToo in the north. A few months later, after years of silence, Busola Dakolo came forward to accuse her pastor, a famous and powerful religious leader, of raping her when she was a teenager. Many more women came forward to accuse this same pastor, government officials, other church leaders, and university professors of abusing their power to solicit sex or commit sexual assault.

As in Europe and the United States, the backlash has been strong against the #MeToo women of Nigeria, who receive death threats and threats of criminal charges. Breaking their silence is particularly hard for Nigerian women, who fear shaming their families, scaring off potential husbands, and taking on the region’s most powerful men. These women are courageous, as are all women who speak out about sexual assault.

Spain and France on Domestic Violence

On Monday, November 25, 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was established twenty years ago by the United Nations, Spain and France moved in opposite directions on protections for women. Violence against women remains a serious problem in both countries:

On November 25, 2019, in France, the prime minister unveiled comprehensive new measures to combat domestic violence. While criticized for underfunding these initiatives, the government at least recognizes the seriousness of the situation. In Spain, however, the secretary general of the recently elected far-right Vox party took the opportunity to reaffirm his party’s intention to repeal a fifteen-year-old law intended to stop violence against women. Instead, the secretary general of Vox gave a speech about men who have been killed by women, as well as women who have suffered “violence from their lesbian partners.” This is a sad state of affairs.

Saudi Arabia and Women’s Rights

Mixed messages are coming from the leaders of Saudi Arabia about whether women actually have more rights. Megan Specia writes that the notoriously repressive country has long enforced an interpretation of Islam that restricts every aspect of life for women. While Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, took steps in 2017 to lift some restrictions for women, including allowing them to drive, the government also recently released a video that listed feminism, homosexuality, and atheism among ideologies that are considered to be “extremism.” While the video was taken down and declared by bin Salman to be a “mistake,” Saudi Arabia’s top women’s rights activists are still imprisoned, tortured, and subjected to physical and sexual violence. Definitely a mixed message.

We need to stay awake to all the progress and regression taking place globally so we can be ready to support each other.


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Forgotten Women in History

I find it inspirational to read about women in history who I have never heard of but who have accomplished amazing things. Thanks to attempts in recent years by the New York Times to make amends for not acknowledging these women at the time of their deaths, their belated obituaries are now published from time to time. Here are a few of these women:

Elizabeth A. Gloucester (1817–1883)

Steve Bell writes that “Elizabeth A. Gloucester was considered by many to be the richest black woman in America at her death at age 66 on Aug. 9, 1883.” Gloucester built her fortune, the equivalent of about $7 million in today’s dollars, from owning and operating fifteen or more boarding houses in the New York area, including the elegant Remsen House in Brooklyn Heights, which she purchased for $3 million in today’s dollars.

Gloucester and her husband contributed financially to antislavery activist John Brown, who stayed with them whenever he was in New York. Gloucester also led efforts to raise money for New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum.

Dorothy Olsen (1916–2019)

Dorothy Olsen, born in 1916 on a farm in Oregon, dreamed of flying from an early age after reading a biography of the World War I flying ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen. Sam Roberts writes that Olsen saved money from teaching to pay for flying lessons. When World War II broke out, she was one of 1,074 women to complete army air force training and join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), the first women to fly military aircraft for the United States. Roberts notes that the WASPs collectively flew an estimated 60 million miles, and Olsen herself flew sixty-one missions. She was also one of only a dozen women certified for night flying.

Always considered civil service employees and not military personnel, the WASPs had to pay for their own food and lodging. Olsen recalled, “When the war was over I was fired, just like that.” The WASPs were finally recognized as veterans, eligible for benefits, in 1977.

Claude Cahun (1894–1954)

Lucy Schwob, born in 1894 in France, decided she would rather be called Claude Cahun in a protest of gender and sexual norms in early twentieth-century France. Joseph B. Treaster writes that Cahun devoted her life as a writer and photographer to the “exploration of gender and sexual identity.” Cahun lived before our current understanding of gender identity and gender-neutral pronouns. Cahun would most likely have preferred “they/them/theirs” as pronouns and explained that “neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”

Cahun and her lover, Marcel Moore, engaged in small acts of sabotage against the Nazi occupation of France. They were caught and sentenced to death but were freed when the war ended.

Elizabeth Keckly (1818–1907)

Nancy Wartik tells the amazing story of Elizabeth Keckly, who was born enslaved in 1818, bought her freedom, and eventually became the friend and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln during her years in the White House. Keckly survived years of savage beatings and rapes during her enslavement before starting her own business as a seamstress. She was able to buy freedom for herself and her son from her owners for the sum of $1,200 in 1855. A talented seamstress, she moved to Washington, DC, and was in high demand. Mary Lincoln hired her to make the gown she wore to her husband’s inauguration festivities. Keckly soon became a friend and confidante to Mary Lincoln.

After President Lincoln’s assassination, Keckly wrote a memoir of her life called, Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. Keckly became one of the first African American women to publish a book. Her sympathetic but honest portrayal of the Lincolns’ domestic life angered Mary Lincoln, who severed their relationship, but the book remains one of the most important slave narratives and accounts of daily life in the Lincoln White House.

Deborah Sampson (ca. 1760–1827)

The true story of Deborah Sampson, summarized by Alison Leigh Cowan, is a little known tale of “a woman who stitched herself a uniform, posed as a man and served at least 17 months in an elite unit of the Continental Army.” Details of Sampson’s military service recently came to light with the discovery of a long-forgotten diary recorded more than two hundred years ago by a Massachusetts neighbor of Sampson.

Enlisting in May 1782, Sampson is one of few women to take on a combat role during the American Revolution. Her secret went undetected until she fell ill in Philadelphia and was found out by a doctor in 1783. Dressing as a man was illegal in Massachusetts, and she fought for years to get back pay for her service. Paul Revere and John Hancock both took up her cause and helped her get partial payment after the war.

Isn’t it great to know about these women? I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did.


Photos are in the public domain and are courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.