Since 1861 women have been deaconesses in the Church of England but no women became full deacons until 1987. During the First World War women were appointed as lay readers and even led missions and churches, but that practice stopped after the war and was only started again in 1969. The first women priests were ordained in 1994, twenty years ago. In 2010 more women were ordained than men. The wider Anglican Church has ordained bishops for several decades, but the Church of England has held fast against promoting women until just recently. Although there was some dissent, the vote in favor was significant at all levels, including in Parliament.
After the election earlier this fall, Republican Martha McSally was ahead of her competitor Democrat Ron Barber, the current representative, by less than 200 votes. A recount was conducted and, six weeks later, McSally was still ahead—by 167 votes. Her opponent conceded, and she will represent Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District in the next Congress.
McSally is a retired Air Force with two impressive military firsts:
–the first woman to fly in combat
–the first woman to command a fighter squadron
Although these are impressive, even more impressive is her battle against the military hierarchy. She filed a lawsuit that forced the Pentagon to end the requirement that U.S. servicewomen cover themselves in traditional Islamic clothing while off-base in Saudi Arabia.
A descendant of the founders of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Katherine Drexel was born into a philanthropic family. At a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, Katherine asked the Pope to send missionaries to the Native Americans whose plight had come to her attention during travels to the Western United States. The Pope’s answer was to suggest that Katherine become a missionary herself. She followed that call and used her own fortune to establish 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 states.
Katherine Drexel then turned her attention to blacks living under Jim Crow laws. In spite of threats from the Klan and other segregationists, she founded a secondary school for blacks, the first institution of its kind in the United States. Eventually she established schools for blacks in 13 states and her first secondary became Xavier University.
Today a prep school in New Orleans bears her name. I took this photo of the Katherine Drexel Preparatory School marching band during Mardi Gras last year.
When Elise Stefanik was elected to Congress this week, she became the youngest woman ever elected, making her the first female thirty-year old to serve. The record for the youngest female member of the House was held previously by Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman, who was 31 when she was sworn in. Her record has stood since 1979.
Also this week, the President nominated Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General of the United States. If she obtains the post she will be the first African-American woman to hold the post, following the first African-American man to serve as Attorney General.
A man also made The First Woman To. . .history book this week.
As Emily’s List celebrated in an email. “Scott Brown made feminist history. He lost two Senate races in two states to Democratic women. That’s pretty awesome.”
Please note: The photos for the new representatives were taken from their official campaign websites; photos for the senators are from their official senate websites.
While studying for my Ph.D. in higher education management at the University of Michigan I took a law course taught by Virginia Nordby. The first day I walked into her class, I thought she was another student. She sat at the round table in the classroom quietly smiling and looking like someone’s grandmother. She was a charming, graceful woman whose passions slipped through the cracks of her teaching but rarely distorted her presentations.
We studied legal cases in a style similar to, although gentler than, most law schools. After a couple of classes, when Professor Nordby asked a question everyone would freeze, because we knew that it wouldn’t really matter what answer we gave; she would take the opposite viewpoint, and persuasively so, whatever we said.
We learned how the case was made for segregation through a carefully constructed series of court cases. We dissected opinions that affected education and then, when we had exhausted the topic, our professor would tell us the how the personal lives of the judges had affected their decisions. Without ever raising her voice, she enlightened us about injustices in the system, but applauded its logic. She showed us how universities really ran, and how they were molded by the law. In my future career as dean and Vice Chancellor, it was the most useful class from my doctoral studies.
In a classroom, it is not unusual to learn about the life of a professor, but Virginia Nordby did not reveal much. We knew she was in the same law school at Stanford as Sandra Day O’Connor and that women were not called on in class. Little else was revealed. We gleaned her passions from the cases she presented to us and our knowledge about her work for affirmative action at the University of Michigan but, unlike other professors, she volunteered little else
I was delighted—and not at all surprised—to find, while working on this First Woman To. . .Project that Virginia Nordby was a first woman. I learned that she was the first woman delegate to Rotary International’s Council on Legislation. The Council met in New Delhi, India that year, fitting since India was the first country to petition the Council to admit women to Rotary. In July of 1995 she was one of the first eight women to become district governors of Rotary in the United States.
As I continued my research, I learned that she was the principal drafter of the Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act, labeling rape as a violent crime and protecting the victim. The language she crafted became a standard, used for countless other bills. She also served on the Women’s Commission, which analyzed Michigan laws to study how they differed in application and language between men and women.
It is fitting that she received the Susan B. Anthony Award from the University of Michigan and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a model for all those women who quietly worked, and continue to work, for women’s rights. She is probably not atypical of women who do excellent work without bragging about their accomplishments.