Women Whose Stripes are Red and White and Blue

America celebrated the Fourth of July yesterday. Patriotism reigns. Often that patriotism is expressed by quoting great Americans—usually white males. There are voices that have been suppressed for many years. These quotes are from women whose stripes are red and white and blue.

On Freedom

Image of the Statue of Liberty against a pale blue and yellow dawn sky with a quote from one of the Women whose stripes are red white and blue: Coretta Scott King' said, "Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation."

Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.

Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr.

I’d like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free.

Rosa Parks

On Patriot(ism)

A patriot is not someone who condones the conduct of our country whatever it does. It is someone who fights every day for the ideals of the country, whatever it takes.

Kamala Harris, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,

True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth, universal brotherhood and good will, and a constant striving toward the principles and ideals on which this country was founded.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book of Common Sense Etiquette.

On America

The essence of America, that which really unites us, is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion. It is an idea, and what an idea it is—that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.

Condoleezza Rice

The fact is, with every friendship you make and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world.

Michelle Obama

Our nation has not always lived up to its ideals — yet those ideals have never ceased to guide us. They expose our flaws, and lead us to mend them. We are the beneficiaries of the work of the generations before us, and it is each generation’s responsibility to continue that work.

Laura Bush

In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.

Amy Tan, The Opposite of Fate.

We believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone, for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and for people with disabilities. For everyone.

Hillary Clinton

Celebrating America

Image of soldier, an African American woman whose stripes are red and white and blue.

I stand proud and brave and tall. I want justice for us all. So color me America, red white and blue.

Dolly Parton, “Color Me America”

Whether you love or hate fireworks, apple pie, or other American things remember America isn’t perfect. Our imperfections and injustices are many. But always remember to celebrate the dream of America. Remember the men and women who soldier on for our ideals, for freedom and justice for all. Listen to the men who gave voice to those ideals. And always listen for the voices of women whose stripes are red white and blue.

On Memorial Day Remember Women Who Made the Final Sacrifice

The practice of honoring those who have fallen in battle dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans. This Memorial Day enjoy your holiday, but also take a moment to remember women who made the final sacrifice as well as all the men who’ve died in military service for our country.

image of a pair of combat boots, a helmet, and dog tags on a metal foot locker--remember women who made the final sacrifice

Continuing with this blog’s tradition of reporting on women of history, I remember women who made the final sacrifice while serving in one of the United States military services. I include links where lists of names or histories of individuals are available.

The American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775-September 3, 1783) women often accompanied their husbands. They foraged food, cooked meals, mended uniforms, and tended the sick. We know women served on the front lines, too. They swabbed cannons with water and carried water for the soldiers to drink. Women also acted as spies. Stories about Margaret Corbin, and Deborah Sampson are available on this blog.

Were some women who posed as men in the military killed during their service? Probably, but records are incomplete.

The American Civil War

According to battlefields.org, an accurate count of women who served in the Civil War (April 12, 1861-April 9, 1865) is impossible. The women who served often disguised themselves as men. Some of them died as men and their gender only revealed during burial. 

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman enlisted as Private Lyons Wakeman. She served nearly two years before she succumbed to an illness. She remains buried under her male nom de plume. Her true gender remained a secret until in 1976 when her letters home were discovered.

Spanish American War

Twenty-two service women died while in service during the Spanish American War (April 21, 1898-December 10, 1898). According to this list, most of them died from Typhoid Fever, one from Malaria, and one of an undiagnosed illness.

World War One 

Image of rows of wooden crosses with a red poppy in the center of each cross--remember women who made the final sacrifice in WWI

During WWI (July 28, 1914–November 11, 1918) women took on new roles in the workforce and in the armed services all over the world. Thousands of women served in American military services. The Army and Navy Nurse Corps included 22,804 American women. This blog posted stories about two veterans of the Great War, Loretta Perfectus Walsh and Opha May Johnson.

More than 200 Army nurses died in service. Thirty-six Navy nurses died. 

Names of a few of these women can be found on this site

On The Internet Archive you can access as complete a record of American soldiers (male and female) who died in Europe during WWI, Soldiers Of The Great War, Volume 1-3, by Doyle, A. C. (Alfred Cyril), 1893-; Haulsee, W. M. (William Mitchell), 1889-; Howe, F. G. (Frank George), 1890-; Soldiers Record Publishing Association. Volume 1 has links to the second and third volumes.

World War Two

A story about some amazing WWII nurses appeared on this blog.

When her plane went down on her 196th rescue mission, U.S. Army Nurse, Aleda E. Lutz of Freeland Michigan, became the first U.S. military woman to die in a combat zone during World War II.

Sadly, More than 400 military women lost their lives during World War II (Sept.1, 1931-Sept. 2, 1945). Some records say more than 500 died.

You can search casualty lists available on The National Archives’ Online Public Access catalog. Click on Military Personnel under the heading Genealogy / Personal History. 

Korean War

There were some 120,000 women in the United States who were on active duty during the Korean War (June 25, 1950 –July 27, 1953). Most of them were nurses. For more information visit koreanwar-educator.

Viet Nam War

Image of the Viet Nam Memorial Wall showing reflections in the wall of people viewing it.

There are eight women service members who died during the Viet Nam War (November 1, 1955 –April 30, 1975) whose names are on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. Visit the virtual wall to see the list and biographical information.

The War On Terror

From 2001 to 2020, 173 female service members have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria according to congressional record. These women’s names can be searched for in The National Archives. Below are links to information about a few of those women.

Gulf War (January 17, 1991–February 28, 1991)

During the Gulf War, more commonly known as Desert Shield/Desert Storm, fifteen U.S. women died while serving our country.

Afghanistan War (October 7, 2001-Present)

1st Lt. Ashley White, 24, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 22, 2011. She was part of a Cultural Support Team (CST), a team to help make connections with local Afghan citizens.

IRAQ WAR (Mar. 20, 2003-Dec. 15, 2011)

U.S. Army Specialist Lori Piestewa, 23, was killed in action in Iraq on March 23, 2003. She was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military. 

Army Corporal Jessica Ellis, 24, was killed in action in Iraq on May 11, 2008. She was serving her second tour as a medic in Iraq.

Thank You

Two small words that hold a full heart of gratitude and respect while we take a moment to remember women who made the final sacrifice to their country. If you know of a woman who died while serving in one of the United States military services, please add her name in the comments below so readers may include her in their remembrances. And if you are not from the U.S., take a moment of your day to remember the women who’ve served and died for your country.

Joy and Peace to All

No matter what holidays you celebrate or don’t, I’m wishing joy and peace to all of you.

image in blues of clouds and mountain tops and sky--an image of peace and joy

To say it’s been a hard year for everyone is a little glib. For some, it has been beyond difficult. My heart aches for all your losses, big and small. 

We’ve finally come to the end of the year. You may wish to never look back at the year 2020. There were so many negative thoughts and feelings and events you may recall nothing else. 

Memories

It’s easy to look back and see all the negative. The challenge is to to find the moments of joy and peace. Maybe it was the birth of a child or a quiet moment in nature, where and what is different for each of us. 

The problem is that we recall bad memories, traumas, the negative stuff far more easily than the good. These highly emotional events trigger the parts of our brains that record memories. 

What’s the message there? That we need to guard and record our good memories, moments of joy and peace. For some people, that’s taking lots of photographs. Others record their lives in journals. Still others keep a memory jar.

image of a jar labeled "our best memories" full of small rolls of paper tied up with bright pink string--record your moments of joy and peace

Thank You

My blog readers and readers of my books have brought me many moments of joy. I’m not just saying that. A writer spends most of her time alone with pen and paper or computer and keyboard. I, for one, spend many hours learning and practicing my craft. Then I spend hours putting words together and putting them out there for you to read. I often have no idea if I’ve successfully conveyed the ideas I wanted to share. Then one of you comments or reviews my books. You have no idea the joy that brings. I am truly very thankful for each and everyone of you. 

image of a Christmas tree made of white snowflakes on a blue background of a field of snow with a church building with one lighted window--joy and peae

And no matter what you experienced in the past year. I hope you can look back at 2020 and recall some good times. Most of all, let me wish joy and peace to all — today and for the year to come. 

Mixing Holiday Traditions With Science

Putting up the Christmas tree is one of my beloved holiday traditions. For many years, I went to a tree farm a couple of weeks before Christmas. We’d cut down a tree, bring it home, and decorate it. I wasn’t mixing holiday traditions with science back then. But the science of Christmas trees is fascinating. 

image of a red Christmas bulb ornament on a green Christmas tree--is mixing holiday traditions with science a good thing?

The Traditions

The Romans decorated their temples with fir trees for the festival of Saturnalia. Christians used fir trees as a sign of everlasting life with God. Many people credit the Germans with bringing the Christmas tree into their homes. 

Records show that Martin Luther, a 16th century preacher, was one of the first to bring a Christmas tree into his house and put lights on it.

Read more about the first Christmas trees.

Oh Christmas Tree

image of a pine tree branch with a pine cone frosted with snow

When shopping for a Christmas tree, we want the right shape, the right height, and color. We want the tree to hold on to its needles as long as possible. And we want the tree to look fresh for weeks. These are the traits Christmas tree growers want to foster in their trees.

Fraser and noble firs are the most popular species for Christmas trees. Christmas trees are grown on tree farms in all 50 states and in Canada. Oregon is the number one state in the US for harvested trees. North Carolina is second and Michigan is third.

It can take 5-15 years for a fir to grow to 6-7 feet tall. Not only does it take years to grow, the grower must remove all pine cones by hand. And each tree can grow hundreds of pine cones. The grower also must be wary of root rot. 

Applying Science to Christmas Trees

Image of branches of a green fir tree--are we improving the planet when we are mixing holiday traditions with science?

Scientists are helping Christmas tree growers create a better Christmas tree. They want to improve the growth rate and durability of the trees. And they want trees that are resistant to root rot. 

Root rot is caused by the water-mold genus Phytophthora, a tree stricken with it can die in a matter of days./ And once the fungus is in the soil, it’s impossible to get rid of.

The Scientists

Bert Cregg

Cregg is a forest researcher at Michigan State University and a renowned expert on Christmas tree production. Wired reported on his work to reduce coning in Christmas Trees using growth regulators. His method works but is not yet a financially feasible technique.

John Frampton

Frampton is a professor in the department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. He is an expert on Fraser firs. Frampton is helping growers fight root rot. 

He tested 32 of the world’s 50-odd true fir species and found a Japanese tree called the Momi fir strongly resists phytophthora invasion. The Momi fir is not a Christmas tree, so Frampton helps growers make chimeric trees. He shows them how to graft seedling Fraser firs to Momi seedling roots. It works, but it’s a time-consuming process.

“We are doing DNA sequencing to understand the DNA of Christmas trees, and in the long term, this may lead in the future to genetic engineering,” Frampton said. “But there is still more knowledge and techniques we need to develop before we’re to the point that agriculture is now.” 

John Frampton as quoted on PopSci.com

Dr. Rajasekaran Lada

Dr. Lada, a professor and founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, is working with the hormone (ethylene). It is the hormone that triggers the tree to release its needles. 

He discussed two methods to slow or prevent needle release on a December 2010 episode of Science Friday In that episode; he revealed that his team discovered that trees that drink the most water after you bring them home, lose their needles the fastest. His team also discovered that the types of lights we string on the trees also affect how long the tree keeps its needles. (Hint: using white spectrum lights are best.)

Mixing Holiday Traditions with Science

image of vintage red car with Christmas tree tied to the roof--maybe we shouldn't be mixing holiday traditions with science.

Science fascinates me. But sometimes scientists take things too far. Genetic manipulation of food animals, of animals facing extinction, and of plant foods are all being attempted. 

Reactions to science also fascinates me. My reaction is mixed. I think creating better Christmas trees is good for survival of the trees. And I fear that commercial desires drive the science and worry about future consequences. Are we improving the planet when we are mixing holiday traditions with science? I don’t know? What do you think?

Does the DNA sequencing, experiments, and possible future genetic manipulation of and on Christmas trees bother you? Is it the idea of mixing holiday traditions with science that is most disturbing? Messing with nature? Or are you okay with genetic manipulation of plants we don’t eat? Should we be mixing holiday traditions with science?

Do You Know Rudolph Like I Know Rudolph?

Welcome to the second installment of holiday fun and an interview with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Do You Know Rudolph Like I Know Rudolph? 

image of the cover of Robert L. May's book available on Amazon--Do You Know Rudolph?

Rudolf’s Birth

In 1939, the Montgomery Ward Company asked their ad man to create a story for a Christmas promotion. The ad man, Robert L. May, wrote catalog copy for the company, but he had a way with limericks and parodies

May’s life situation depressed him. He was heavily in debt trying to pay for his dying wife’s medical care.  And his failure to be the novelist he dreamed of haunted him.

But May believed in his story. He had a friend illustrate his manuscript. Together, he and his friend convinced his boss to publish the story. 

Rudolph’s Q&A

1. Who is your role model?

Santa Claus. He’s always jolly and kind. Unlike certain reindeer. Not that I hold a grudge.

2. Who knows you the best?

Santa Claus. He knows when I am sleeping. And he knows when I’m awake. He knows when I am bad or good. 

3. What would your friends say about you?

They used to laugh and call me names. Now they say I’ll go down in history.

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

It’s alway the same. Where did you get that nose?

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I would never ridicule a reindeer or a person for their looks.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

Saving Christmas one foggy night.

7. What is your greatest failure?

white space image of reindeer horns with ornaments hanging from it, two black eyes and a red nose. Do you know rudolph?

Hating my nose and not believing in myself. 

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

That we all have a purpose in life. Sometimes it’s a big thing, but more often it’s a tiny thing to us but a huge thing for someone else. Sometimes we never know who that someone else is, and that’s okay.

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

Helping people who look different feel better about themselves through my story.

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

Not one thing. I used to hate my red nose, but it helped Santa more than once now. I learned that sometimes our imperfections are our greatest assets.

The Rest of the Story

Read the original story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a bit different from the versions we see today, but it remains delightful. 

The Montgomery Ward Company sold more than 2 million copies of the story. But apparently the company thought of the story as nothing more than a promotion. They gave the rights back to May.

May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, was a songwriter. May talked him into writing a song about Rudolph. Harry Brannon sang the song first. Then in 1949 Gene Autry picked up the song. And it sold more than 25 million copies and the rest as they say is…history.

Do You Know Rudolph?

Image of an outline of Rudolph and a Christmas tree on a blue background--do  you know rudolph

Learning about Rudolph and interviewing him was fun. I hope you enjoyed it, too. If you missed my interview with Frosty, please take a minute to read it. 

Do You Know Rudolph? If you didn’t before, you know him better now. Happy Holidays!