The 2010 film by Disney connects the horse, one of the most beautiful creations in world, to the Bible with, "More than 3,000 years ago, a man named Jobe complained to God about all his troubles and the Bible tells us that God answered, 'Do you give the horse his strength? Or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?' "
And from this eternal notion of life and creation of how much is given in this world. the viewer comes to a more routine domestic setting of Penny Chenery, a housewife who is in the middle of serving breakfast for her four children, two boys and two girls who range in age from high-school to about fourth grade with the girls being the eldest. It is 1969 in Denver as Penny is busy serving, cooking breakfast and taking grocery lists for her husband's business dinner when the phone rings. When she answers and listens, she drops the batter on the floor. Her mother has passed away and the routine life of one family is about to change.
When Penny goes back to her family stable, she comes to terms with her father's condition of senility and knows she must either save the stables financially or have them liquidated. In order to retain the stables there has to be someone to run them and Penny wants to take on the role of leader though her husband is not happy about the change in their lives. He takes her interest in non-conventional roles as a type of betrayal and their relationship becomes strained though not overburdened.
On a coin toss Penny wins Big Red, a prodigious colt who later comes to have the official name of Secretariat. He is a stunning and vibrant animal with the right amount of attitude to win. Penny has some business failures along the way when she tries to get buyers on Big Red's exorbitant stud fees before he has won The Triple Crown. But, she was also near desperate not to liquidate her farm. Eventually Secretariat wins race after race to take The Triple Crown with record breaking times. And Penny keeps her farm.
By Sarah Bahl
Recently, A Woman’s Bridge interviewed Executive Director and Founder Robin Floyd-Ramson about her organization, Chess Girls DC.
Started as an initiative to build the confidence of young girls by creating an inclusive space for girls to learn and play chess, Chess Girls DC plays a vital role in closing the gender gap, one chess game at a time. Since its original founding in 2013, the organization has grown and sponsored tournaments, field trips, and speaking events to help young girls develop fundamental leadership skills, analytical and strategic thinking, and risk taking. The same skills taught through chess, the organization argues, also help girls take on professions in leadership roles, STEM careers, and more.
What was the inspiration for Chess Girls DC?
I founded the organization because girls could use chess to build confidence. I came to this realization when I saw my daughter playing at 5 years old. I also noticed there might be 100 boys at a co-ed tournament, and maybe 20 girls at a girls-only contest. My daughter really liked chess, and I found that girls don’t usually stay involved in activities unless their friends are involved.
What impact have you seen on the girls in your program?
I think what I see is the confidence. We have dynamic speakers in our chess club, dynamic lectures, and they return to school with more confidence. I see more confidence when they play.
Recently, four of our girls crossed over to become high level players. These communities of high level players have few African Americans. When [our girls] play with others, I see they realize that they are intellectually equal to the other boys and everyone else there. Girls are self-conscious, I think boys are more self-confident but that’s only because they spend more time in activities that build up their confidence and risk taking.
What is your hope for the growth of girls and women in traditionally male dominated STEM fields?
I think that when you look at the root of most of these small programs, I think the take away is confidence and focus. When we think of the first year of college, some are more prepared with time management skills and confidence. We know from studies that men are more likely to go into an interview with a high level of confidence that helps them get the job, even if they are not as qualified.
We need to instill this confidence early by showing girls that they can do it. In my personal life, I had a great chemistry teacher. I was bad at math, but this teacher always made me feel good and slowly built up my confidence. There was nothing that stood in my way and I eventually got into radiation therapy and became an entrepreneur.
We don’t see many chess programs for girls because of marginalization, the little effort made to appeal to young girls to the game, and the social questions of why girls aren’t given an incentive or desire for these activities. The chessboards we play on are standard regulation, just turned pink and colorful. I am trying to coordinate a city-wide tournament for girls. I’m attaching a scholarship to the winner of each level, and that has never been done before. If we can hold that college incentive carrot, it will encourage more parents and the city to have more chess programs. Girls should learn early on the advantages of risk taking to get a high-powered job.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Robin: Chess players have the same skill and great leaders. We invite guest speakers in leadership roles to speak with our girls. This year we had the highest-ranking female chess-player speak. We also had the president of Pepco, Donna Copper, talk about how she designed a life plan because she always knew she wanted to run a company. Our speakers talk about having the confidence to do their job, how to work with men, how not to be distracted, and other skills. Not all the girls will be chess masters, [but they can use the skills they learn for other roles].
Something like a chess club should be multifaceted. We celebrated the day of the girl and learned about barriers to girls’ success. Kids find confidence with games. When that male-dominance gets to them, they can realize these are the things great leaders do. All the school programs are trying to tie things to STEM, but I feel like we forget about the artistic and the creative aspect. A lot of people who are artists also benefit from chess because it is cognitive development.
Past speakers include Aprille Ericsson, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Admiral Michelle Howard, and chess champions Nazi Paikidze, Phiona Metusi, and Irine Kharisma Sukandar. Since Chess Girls DC’s founding in 2013, the organization has grown from working with 5 families to 35. Activities that the organization offers includes, etching girls how to play chess, how to participate in tournaments, how to read and write chess notation, chess theory, and to learn about chess scholarships.
To find out more information about the DC Chess Girls, please visit their website.
By Jessica Flores
This 2009 film, is about beating the blues of modern life. Julie Powell, is about to turn 30. Her career is based as a temp which she finished doing after six years to become a first level government worker in a cubicle, and her uncompleted novel that no one wants to publish adds a finishing touch to an existence that is very beaten down. The one redeeming factor in her life is her husband, Eric, who she consistently descrbes as a, saint.
Julie doesn't like her career powerhouse girlfriends and her lunch conversations with them are quite painful. They answer their cells and as one friend makes a multi-million dollar real estate deal while keeping Julie from eating breadsticks another makes an interview date with her. The article that comes from it is titled, "Is 30 the New 20?" This brings into question the maturity of our protagonist's overall existence.
She looks for a refuge, a hobby, something outside of the ordinary to make her happy. And she finds Julia Child, the famous cook, whose book of French recipes sold the world over. So Julie embarks on a quest, to finish 524 recipes from the book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days.
One can be uncertain as to the reality, not to mention expense of the actual endeavor itself. As cooking that many recipes in a single year seems impossible due to time limitations alone. But, the blog Julie writes garners public attention, if not the respect of its ultimate host, Julia Child.
And as Julie goes about her life, the past of the actual Julia and the making of the book comes alive. Her times with her husband in France are among the happiest of her life. And not wanting to be thought of as a frivolous housewife, the 6 foot 2 inch woman, decides to take a professional cooking course. And from there she befriends Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The three friends begin on the odessey of creating one of the most comprehensive cookbooks ever published. The book will eventually come into the hands of a girl not yet born, who will in time be desperately in need of a good friend and guidance.
By Sarah Bahl
Washington, DC is filled with museums, from the Smithsonian’s National History Museum to the smaller independent exhibits across the district. But finding an exhibit dedicated solely to the works of women is difficult, even more so to find an entire museum. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only major gallery in the nation dedicated specifically to the work and often forgotten stories of women artists.
Sister Mary Berchmans, President Emerita & Monastery Superior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, is frequently stopped by people who thank her for wearing her habit. She explains why some nuns wear habits and others don’t and if there are special habits for particular occasions.
What was the original purpose of the nun's habit and has that purpose shifted over time in the U.S.?
Originally, Sisters wore the dress of the peasants of their era of foundation – it was to be simple and poor. Since they became known by the style of their dress I presumed that gradually this became their, “habit.”
Are there different habits for different occasions? And for those that wear a habit, when it is appropriate for it to be removed?
I believe that all Orders and Congregations have only one habit style. It can be changed into work clothes when doing manual labor or while engaged in active sports. The principle is to adapt to the needs of the moment.
Of those who choose not to wear one (and is there a specific demographic you can think of that generally chooses not to), is this a controversy at all? What are the arguments against wearing one that you have heard? Are there generally accepted alternatives?
After Vatican II there was a shift away from wearing traditional habits, which were complicated and difficult to care for. The first step for most orders was a simplified version - such as the Visitation sisters wear today.
Can you describe the similarities/differences between a nun wearing a habit and other religions that ask women to cover their heads such as a Muslim woman wearing a hajib and an Orthodox Russian woman wearing a scarf over her head in church?
Gradually many religious groups have moved away from wearing any kind of habit; I believe it was a question of being more one with the people they serve and avoiding a sense of separateness.
Do you think people react to nuns who wear a habit differently? And if so, in what way?
As a member of a community that continues to wear a modified habit, we do so for several reasons:
witness sign: we have been told that it is a reminder of eternal values
simplicity: it is less expensive, no need to be “in style”
community unity: by obviating the problem of having one sister have more than another because she has family that can provide it
Traditionally, women are often pictured wearing some kind of hair covering – whether it is a veil, a special kind of bonnet, (pioneer women). I think of art pictures of Mary and she is always pictured wearing a veil. Although modern American culture has done away with this tradition, it lives on in other cultures.
Frequently, I am stopped by complete strangers who thank me for wearing a habit. I think it represents an element of the sacred for them and lifts their minds and hearts in welcome to a counter-cultural statement. On the other hand, I am certain that sisters who do not wear a habit convey the same principles by their dedication and hard work with the needy people in our world. “The habit does not make the nun!” We can never allow the habit to become a sign we hide behind.
What do you think nuns will be wearing in 50 years?
WOW! In 50 years I will be “long gone!” Your guess is as good as mine. If life becomes more secular the habit could well disappear. I am sure there will not be a return to wearing a habit by Sisters who have gone without wearing one. I would hope that simplicity would always be a determining factor in the selection of secular clothes.
Interview by Suzette McLoone Lohmeyer