Kate Brown and Barbara Kay Roberts, Governors of Oregon

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.18.20 AMYesterday Kate Brown was sworn in as Governor of Oregon. Previously she had served as Secretary of State. Since, there is no Lieutenant Governor in Oregon the Secretary of State is next in the line of succession. She was elevated to this office when Governor John Kitzhaber resigned after a scandal that disrupted his leadership. She is not the first woman to be governor of Oregon. That distinction belongs to Barbara Kay Roberts.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.17.57 AMGovernor Roberts was the First Woman elected as Governor and remains the only woman elected to the position of governor, since Kate Brown obtained the position through succession. Like Kate Brown, Barbara Kay Roberts had served as Secretary of State and she was the First Woman to hold that position in Oregon as well. She was also the First Woman to serve as majority leader in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Cast of Women

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 5.57.19 PMThank you to KUOW radio for introducing me to a film from 1939 that starred only women. Predictably titled The Women, it was based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce and adapted for the screen by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin. There were 130 speaking roles and, although the women talk a lot about men, there is not a single man shown in the movie. Even the pets and family portraits in the movie are female. Was this a first, at least in the commercial film business?

The list of women in the movie’s cast is breathtaking. Even if you are not a movie buff, you might recognize many of the names:

Norma Shearer

Joan Crawford

Rosalind Russell

Paulette Goddard

Joan Fontaine

Lucile Watson

Mary Boland

Virginia Grey

Marjorie Main

Phyllis Povah

Florence Nash

Ruth Hussey

Virginia Weidler

Butterfly McQueen

Hedda Hopper

The film made over $2 million (a tidy sum in 1939) but its production costs exceeded its gross. Did the content of the film keep it out of the popular annals of film history? That might not be the case. The film was directed by George Cukor, which would get a film historian’s attention. However, in 1939, it competed with a few other good (make that great) films. They included Gone with the Wind (which grossed ten times The Women). Other films grossing more that year were: The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Babes in Arms, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, and Ninotchka.

Libby Lane – Bishop

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 6.13.50 PMLast month Libby Lane was appointed the first female bishop of the Church of England. It was a long time coming.

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.

Martha McSally – First in Combat

AP Photo

AP Photo

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.

Katherine Drexel, Saint

katherine drexelA 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.

DREXEL