Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 27, 2012

Terry Wooten: WWII and women's rights

Poet bard

---- — Feb. 15th was the 192nd birthday of Susan B. Anthony, the champion of the women's suffrage movement during the 19th century. She was born precocious and learned to read and write at 3. Her father once pulled her out of school because girls weren't allowed to learn long division.

As a young woman, Susan fretted over her looks and feared public speaking. Later she became a powerful orator. She was a feminist long before the Civil War.

On Nov. 18, 1872, Susan was arrested for voting in the presidential election. The judge wouldn't allow her to speak in her own defense. He ordered the jury to declare her guilty, and read a statement he'd written before the trial. She was fined a hundred dollars, which she refused to pay.

Susan B. Anthony died March 13, 1906. Fourteen years later the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote.

Joan of Arc (1412-1431) is another of my favorite women. She dared to be a warrior in the Hundred Years' War. Charges against her were for being too spiritually creative, dressing like a man and sassing her elders (all men, of course). She was burned at the stake.

Like all wars, World War II was one of the great tragedies in world history, but a major side effect was a forward shift in women's rights. I think Susan and Joan would have been proud of Rosie the Riveter.

Throughout history, women have been discriminated against. The gender war, especially in certain parts of the world continues.

March is Women's Herstory Month. To celebrate the leap, here are three women's voices from my Elders Projects.

Audrey Kaiser

One big change that happened

during the war

was girls started wearing pants to school.

Women were working in factories

and doing men's work.

Times were changing.


My one brother was in the Navy,

and sent me a bunch of blue bell-bottoms.

I started wearing them

with white shirts and ties.


There were twelve kids in my graduating class,

eleven girls and one boy.

There had been two boys,

but one boy came to school

dressed in his mother's clothes

in retaliation of how girls were dressing.


He wore her dress,

her hat, bead-necklace

and high-heeled shoes.


He got expelled,

and enlisted in the Army.

Leda Miller

I worked a lot of jobs

and did things on my own.


I worked in a pickle factory

in Alden for two years

in the summer.

Quit my factory job in Traverse City

to stay home a month or so

and do that.


In 1943 I rode a train to Oregon

with my brother and his wife,

and stayed with them for a month

before he went overseas.


We got jobs out there in a restaurant,

and worked in a laundry

folding clothes.


I'd grown kind of independent,

and it was hard adjusting

when Jack first came home.

Things like having to stand back

and let him buy movie tickets

bothered me.


I lost a lot of freedoms

that a married woman didn't have

in the 1940's.

Betty Holzhauer

My maiden name was Betty Klemm,

very German.


During World War II

I worked in a depot

serving donuts and coffee,

watching these guys

coming through from southern Illinois

to Chicago.


Stan never passed up a donut

in his life.

We probably met each other

without realizing it.


He went off to war.

I was home doing volunteer work

and taking care of my son.


My first husband died

of a brain tumor,

and I had a son three months later.


My first boyfriend died

on the Bataan Death March.

My second boyfriend died

in France in the war.


So I lost two boyfriends and a husband.

I was getting desperate,

and had to capture one.


In 1954 I was working as a secretary

at my son's high school.


They were having trouble

with an older teacher.

She couldn't discipline anybody,

so they brought Stanley in.


Not only did he teach,

they put him in the office with me

selling lunch tickets.

His bookkeeping was there.


I locked the door.

Stanley survived the war,

but I captured him.

Our theme song was,

It Had to be You.