by Yoon Joung Lee
A New England Socialite and Heiress
Frances Glessner Lee, who was known as “fanny” to her family, was born in March 25, 1878, in Chicago as a daughter of a wealthy family whose fortune later came from International Harvester. Her father, John Jacob Glessner, was an industrialist and a founder of the International Harvester Co. Her mother, Frances M. Glessner, was a supportive woman for the family who always considered the family’s well-being as her priority.
Their house was built in 1886 on Prairie Avenue, the wealthiest area of a booming city, Chicago. The house was designed by the era’s well-known architect, H.H. Richardson and it has now become “The Glessner House Museum.” Since both of her parents obsessed with furnishing and decorating their home, she was raised in this castle-like home surrounded by various handcrafted furnishings and servants. As her parents were somewhat overly protective, she was tutored in private at home. As a result of this extreme attention and care, she was able to develop an eye for details and be exposed to great minds and thoughts, even though she did not attend schools like other kids. She was not allowed to pursue higher education while her brother went on to university. Even though she had an interest in forensic pathology, she could not take her first step toward her career until her age of 52, a year after her brother died in 1930.
When she was 20, she married Blewett Lee who was a young attorney and law professor at Northwestern University. They were married for eight years and had three children. Their marriage seemed to start happily at the beginning. However, they eventually divorced after the 8 years of marriage. Failure of marriage led her life into a whole new direction.
Meeting “George Burgess Magrath”
Her interest in legal medicine began when she first met her brother's classmate, George Burgess Magrath, who spent his summer vacation with the Glessner family at their thousand-acre summerhouse at the White Mountains, New Hampshire. He was then a medical student at Harvard University and later became a professor in pathology at Harvard Medical School and the chief medical examiner at Suffolk County in Boston. Sharing his interest in medicine, investigation and death fired Frances’ ambition on her future career. Meeting Magrath became the seeds of her interest in legal medicine, especially in death investigation.
Since that time, their friendship had remained until Magrath died in 1938. Frances, in fact, followed Magrath’s career path and her interest in legal medicine apparently benefited Magrath’s career as well. In 1931, she donated $250,000 in support of establishing a department of legal medicine at Harvard with Magrath as first chair and she even paid for the salary of its first professor. She later built the George Burgess Magrath Library and made a donation of more than 1000 books and manuscripts to the Library. Her supports enabled Harvard to hold various seminars, which have trained their students to become medical examiners. However, Magrath could not enjoy this long enough and died in 1938.
"The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’
She presided the grand-fashion seminars at Harvard twice a year and she was the only woman among about 40 men. She invited police officers and other professionals involved in law enforcement from all over the nation. The seminars were held through crafting dystopian dollhouses, which were eighteen dioramas she constructed, named the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, as convinced by the theory of criminology that crimes could be analyzed and solved by scientific analysis of visual and material clue.
The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death contains every detail needed to investigate and recreate the crime scenes by using photos and witness accounts. She made the dolls, painted faces and stitched clothes by hand. She also placed tiny magazines or newspapers stuffed into drafty cracks in the wall, tiny crushed cigarettes, and even prescription bottles with labels she printed by hand. From broken glass to a pile of letters, all these items in the Nutshells were her invention and important clues for the manner of unexplained death.
She spent a great amount of time on each Nutshell. She hired the carpenter Ralph Mosher, to be able to make what she wanted and he worked for her for eight years until he died. Later, his son took over his father’s job and worked for Frances. She sometime purchased already-made miniature furniture on her trips over the world. She made about three Nutshells per year in the 1930s to ‘40s, and each of them were as expensive as an average house in those days.
In 1942 Frances became a volunteer police officer with an honorary captain’s rank in the New Hampshire State Police. She was the first female to become a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
When she got old and lost her vision, a doctor recommended her to stop working. However, her ambition could not easily stop her. She had listened to the police reports everyday in her room through radio, until she died in 1962 and many mourned the death of her.
The dioramas were donated to Harvard in 1945. However, they have been placed at the office of the Maryland Medical Examiner in Baltimore since 1966 when the department of legal medicine was dissolved. A former professor in the department of legal medicine at Harvard, Dr. Russell Fisher, brought them with him, as he became a chief of the Maryland’s medical examiner. They still use them in various seminars, miniaturists, and for artists and academics.
Many people admire her efforts and prominent achievements in the male-dominated field. Many people might not be familiar of her name in the field of forensic science. However, her life's legacy is remembered and her pioneer work, The Nutshell Studies, greatly contributed to the field.
Women, Culture, and History
The Shriver Report: The Changing Role of Women in the U.S. History
by Yoon Joung Lee
For the first time in our nation’s history, one-half of the U.S. workforce consists of women. This change has affected many parts of American life. Considering all of the implications, questions like the following arise: How does the changing role of women affect American culture?
In the study, “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” the Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver respond to these questions by examining this significant social transformation.
“The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” is a 454-page study that includes a comprehensive national poll of the changing face and attitudes of the American men and women, and 24 essays from economists, sociologists and other academic experts examining this seismic workforce shift and how this transformation will influence our society in areas like media, government, business, and education.
According to the report, in 2008, 50% of employees in the U.S. work force are women and the women in 63.3% of the American households are either the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners for the first time. Compared to a report conducted in 1967 showing that one third of American workforces were women, the recent percentage of women in the U.S. workplace shows a dramatic surge.
The report notes that this social transformation is not just about change in the American woman’s story, but it signifies a change for men, women, and their families as well as women’s day to day responsibilities with spouses, family members, bosses, colleagues, and employees. Four-fifths of American families do not limit their lifestyles to the traditional family paradigm- men works outside the home and women are stay-at-home housewives.
Rather, many women are leading their families as primary income earners. The report found that the Great Recession, which began in December 2007, was the springboard of this phenomenal transformation. Many housewives started to work outside the home to support their families, as 3 out of 4 workers to lose their job were male.
The findings of The Shriver Report include:
Men, Women, Family and Work in a Seismic Transformation
The Shriver Report emphasizes that what we may have considered as “womens' issues” are no longer only womens’ fare, but are “family issues.” While Ms. Shriver was meeting and talking to men and women around kitchen tables and at The Women’s Conference across the nation, she was able to understand how stressed today’s Americans feel, especially when they are grappling with financial insecurity. Society still believes that childcare and eldercare are womens’ responsibilities even though the responsibilities of women at workplaces have increased. What makes the situation more difficult is that while most workplaces have ignored or chosen to not respond to this transformation, many women are afraid to ask for work schedules with more flexibility to allow them to meet the demands of their domestic lives. The situation has had the effect of forcing many women to start their own businesses. Today, women make up 35% of all self-employed people in the nation and this percentage has doubled since 1979.
How does it change the views of the society regarding the value of womens' contributions?
Another interesting finding according to the study is that the battle of the sexes is over. This battle has been replaced by negotiations. Men and women both agree on a need of negotiations about their domestic responsibilities, childcare, eldercare, work and family. Men also agree with women that our society must pay attention to what today’s American family needs in this period of transformation and respond to those needs with adequate policies and laws. The future of our country may be greatly dependent on women who have achieved high level status and power and made significant changes in every part of our lives, including business, education and home. Therefore, womens’ problems are Americans’ problems that men and women must solve together.
Maria Shriver, the main author of this report, is an award-winning journalist. She has won a Peabody Award and two Emmy Awards. She is also the First Lady of California who married to actor and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a niece of former President John F. Kennedy. Her study was modeled on the study called “American Women” in 1963 undertaken almost 50 years ago during the administration of John F. Kennedy and later led by Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Shriver Report is available at http://www.awomansnation.com.
Women, Culture, and History
Women, Culture, and History shares dialogue on books and articles about the changing influence of women in various cultures throughout history. We will also be posting independently researched biographical information on various women who've paved the way in making the world a different and hopefully better place. We begin with a review by Yoon Joung Lee on The Shriver Report.