Archive: November2013

Executive Chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse

Photo borrowed from Chez Panisse website

The official start of the holiday season has begun. In the weeks to come we will gather, celebrate and EAT, EAT, EAT.  Some of us will prepare meals that have been passed down through the family from one generation to the next, while others of us will daringly try that new recipe for chili rubbed turkey with the side of chipotle mashed potatoes featured in the cooking magazine that just arrived. As a nation, we will make pilgrimages to the grocery store, the farmers market, the farm, the backyard garden with lists in hand, or perhaps a shovel, to select the perfect ingredients for what just might be some of our biggest meals of the year.
It seemed only fitting with Thanksgiving just days away and thoughts of food filling our collective thoughts and conversations, that History’s Heroine’s honor Executive Chef and Co-founder of Chez Panisse restaurant, Alice Waters.
The restaurant, located in Berkely, CA, was founded by Chef Waters and friends in 1971 with a focus on what has now been popularly coined as “Farm to Table” cooking; a concept which centers on organic, seasonally appropriate, and sustainably grown and harvested foods. That we are familiar with the term “Farm to Table”  has much to do with Chef Waters,  who, in 1992, became the first woman to receive the James Beard Foundations “Best Chef in America” award and whose restaurant, in 2001, was rated the “Best Restaurant in America” by Gourmet magazine. With a long list of credits and accomplishments to her name, Chef Waters has become one of the most important  and well-respected people in the business of food globally.
As expected, her journey was not quick, easy or straight, but perfect for where she landed. Combining her  degree in French Cultural Studies from UC Berkley, and her time abroad in French markets and restaurants heavily influenced the course Chez Panisse would take and eventually lead her to be the gastronomic activist she is today.
In 1996, Ms. Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard, a one acre farm and classroom based on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School campus in Berkley, CA. The program allows one thousand of the schools students to be involved in all aspects of food production from growing and harvesting to preparation. The food grown by the children is then served in the schools lunch program.  That the Edible Schoolyard program takes a hands on approach to the food cycle has its roots in Chef Waters time as a Montessori teacher in London after her graduation from UC Berkley.  Since then, the program has spread to other school campuses nationwide, including to a student run program at Yale University.
Finding success with the Edible Lunch Program and her continual efforts to lobby the White House, Chef Waters not only was instrumental in encouraging the creation of First Lady Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden, but with the passage of the School Lunch Initiative. Much as President Kennedy initiated a nationwide adoption of Physical Education curriculum, the School Lunch Initiative strives to incorporate gardening and healthy, nutritious foods to be a daily part of the public school lunch program.
With children participating in growing the foods they eat, they may be more likely to make better food  choices as adults, and in the meantime, they might even eat their brussel sprouts, or chili rubbed turkey with chipotle mashed potatoes.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By the time Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born, in 1933, women had had the right to vote and hold elected office for thirteen years, but that by no means meant that they were considered equal to their male counterparts. Public opinion at that time held women in tightly bound, gender-specific roles that made the pursuit of interests and professions outside those confines difficult. Despite those challenges, the young Mrs. Ginsburg not only attained a law degree from Columbia Law School, (tying for top of her class) but did so while raising her first child and caring for her husband who was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer. She herself is a double cancer survivor.

In her early professional career, Justice Ginsburg experienced gender discrimination that would shape the Justice she would become. She would make academic history by becoming the first female tenured professor at Rutger’s University Law School and follow that accomplishment by serving as the General Counsel for the ACLU and as the chief litigator for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. During that time she made historic decisions to protect gender equality, women’s reproductive rights, and workers rights. Following a successful career with the ACLU she would serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for thirteen years before achieving the biggest promotion of her life. In 1993 then President Bill Clinton chose her from a handful of male candidates for the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice,  a nomination for which she achieved Senate confirmation.  It would be the first time since President Lyndon Johnson nominated Justice Thurgood Marshall that a Democratic President had appointed a Supreme Court Justice. She would become the second woman appointed to the court, after Sandra Day O’Conner, who was appointed in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, and the first female Jewish Justice. During her time on the Court, she has continued her work to end discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, advocate for the rights of workers and the separation of church and state.
May all those in power serve with the respect, responsibility and care shown by Justice Ginsburg.

Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

The year is 1868 and the tumultuous tide of change had recently flowed through the United States with the end of the Civil War. Through the years of her young adulthood, Susan B. Anthony, having worked to support anti-slavery measures,  would ride that wave of change to begin the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Along with friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two would, that year, publish “The Revolution”, the first women’s rights publication and the following year begin The National Women’s Suffrage Association; a group that worked for women’s right to hold elected office and vote in elections.  Later, that group would merge with another to become the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. With the combination of the publication, the Association and the work of anti-slavery and temperance groups, the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the U.S. was gaining speed.

Meanwhile throughout Europe and in Britain in particular, similar groups were established. By 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst and daughters established the Women’s Social and Political Union with the original intent that it would be a peaceful organization, a common thread among all international groups. However, the peaceful protests had come to an end too soon turning the gatherings into violence, which garnered a public sentiment among men that if women turned to violence over voting rights, what would they do should they assume the power of a public office.

But the world was changing once more and with the start of World War I many of the European Suffrage groups postponed the movement in order to join the war effort. While in the United States, President Woodrow Wilson remained neutral in the war, his hand was forced, and in 1917 declared war against Germany, thus engaging the U.S. in the war.

It wasn’t until 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles , which brought the war to an end that many countries agreed to women’s right to vote legislation. On June 4, 1920, the U.S. enacted the 19th Amendment which prohibited the restriction of voting based on gender.

Though Susan B. Anthony and the many, many women (and men) who fought for the voting rights women possess today did not live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment, she knew the change would come. It did and we thank her and the Women’s Suffrage movement for changing the world for the better.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” ~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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