Showing posts with label gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gender. Show all posts

Friday, June 4, 2021

Ida, Nellie and Ida: Trailblazing Women Journalists in the Victorian Age

I thought I would take a break from the coronavirus pandemic and politics to take a look at the history of the craft we call journalism.  The late 1800s were a period of yellow journalism led by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst where sensational headlines were what sold newspapers.  There were trailblazing male and female journalists who worked on hard news stories that mattered to people's lives.


Ida B. Wells (profiled in the above video) was born into slavery in 1862.  She never forgot her background and she wrote extensively on the horrors of lynching and discrimination in post reconstruction south.  She died in 1931.  There is now the Ida B. Wells society to support investigative African American Journalism.  She also received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2020.

Nellie Bly (a.k.a. Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) was another female trailblazer who was born near Pittsburgh.  She went undercover in a mental institution to expose the abuse that women received there.  She then went on an journey to simulate Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days.  She managed to complete the journey in 72 days and had many great stories to tell.  She died in 1922 only 2 years after women got the right to vote.

The last trailblazer in this post is Ida Tarbell who wrote the seminal book (The History of Standard Oil) that brought down John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly.  Like Nellie Bly, she was from the Western Pennsylvania.  Unlike Wells and Bly, she was born before the Civil War and lived until 1944.  The journalist and whistleblower Wendell Potter has created a news organization named after Tarbell.

I don't know if Ida, Nellie and Ida ever met.  They must have known about each other.  It  would make for an interesting play with the three of them discussing their work and comparing notes and the struggles they faced.  There were other significant male journalists at this time such as Upton Sinclair.  Did he have advantages that the other three ladies didn't?

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Protests and Pandemics: Lessons from History

Watching the developments of the past week were surprising even to me. Were the up swelling of protests over the death of George Floyd and the corona virus pandemic totally unrelated?  Is Trump's generally incompetent leadership a factor?  The mostly peaceful demonstrations have been occurring just as the turbulent restriction from the pandemic are being lifted.  Do people just have more time now to pay attention to the news surrounding Floyd's death?  History may provide some clues.

The late 1910s were a largely forgotten turbulent time in our nation's history.  We had just entered World War I, the battle over women's right to vote was reaching a critical stage, the brutal race riots in Tulsa, OK were happening just as the Ku Klux Klan was becoming a national force, and of course the Spanish Flu epidemic was rampaging globally,  None of these things occurred in a vacuum.  

The Spanish Flu may not have originated in Spain but it was the first country to report on it as the news was censored in the neighboring countries fighting in World War I.  It unknown where the pandemic started but it was first observed in Europe just as U.S. soldiers arrived there in 1918.  Returning soldiers brought it back home with them and it spread quickly.  Worldwide it killed approximately 50 million and in the U.S. the death toll was around 675,000.

While this was going on the suffragettes led by Alice Paul were getting close to the Seneca Falls convention of 1848's goal of achieving votes for women.  Woodrow Wilson eventually was convinced to support the amendment along with the proposed 18th amendment to usher in prohibition.  The suffragettes hoped that prohibiting drinking would curb domestic violence against women. 

Maurice Decaul: Commentary on "Close Ranks" and "Returning Soldiers" by W.E.B. Du Bois from The Gilder Lehrman Institute on Vimeo.

African American's fought in World War I hoping that it would improve their standing in society, it did not.  They came home to the same racism that they had experiences before.  W.E.B. DuBois had supported Wilson but was disappointed when they returned home.  Two years later things exploded when lynchings occurred and the KKK began a resurgence.  Things came to a boiling point when a race riot occurred in 1919 in Chicago and the  deadliest race massacre in U.S. history in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.  In Johnstown, PA, another racial incident occurred in the Rosedale section when African American and Mexicans were driven out of the city in response to the shooting of police officers.

In addition to these other issues the government was involved in the Palmer raids which were conducted against suspected communists who had just come to power in Russia.  This was a precursor to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's.  The socialist Presidential candidate Eugene Debs and Alice Paul were briefly imprisoned as a result.

These problems were exacerbated by small economic depression which followed the war.  In response to all of this, Warren G. Harding ran for president where he promised a "return to normalcy" from the turbulence of the last years of Wilson's Presidency.  He won in a landslide with the votes of women who could vote for the first time.  The roaring 20's and the corruption and hypocrisy of prohibition followed.

History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme sometimes.  Many of the same forces at work then are at work now.  Mostly peaceful protests occurred in response to the death of George Floyd as in the video above.  Joe Biden may be successful running as a normalcy president but will he be able to address all of these forces in a way that Trump is unwilling to?

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Make Your Voice Heard for Gender Equality and Science on March 8 and April 22

I have no data to work on this week for the blog.  I have two new articles posted on Data Driven Journalism on odds ratios and on confidence intervals for your statistical reading pleasure.  I did have some commentary on these strange times in which we are living.

I hadn't heard of Milo Yiannopolus before I saw this article on Breitbart calling for a limit in the number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields because they can't handle the pressure.  These views should have been discredited decades ago but apparently they still linger.  Yiannopolus cites the opinions of of a few Nobel prize winners who said that women are too delicate to complete advanced degrees in STEM fields.  As someone who has pursued in advanced degrees in science and technology, women are well represented in the biological, medical, and biostatistical fields.  Some of them handled the pressure of pursuing a doctoral degree better than I did.  According to the national science foundation, 60% of all master's degrees in science given out in 2011 were to women.  Women make up 46% of all graduates in science fields.  You can look up other numbers on women in STEM fields here.

I was tempted to say that Yiannopolus' ancient Hellenic ancestors would be very disappointed in him but then I remembered that his ancestors, for all their achievements in math, science, the arts, and democracy, were sexist snobs.  Women were not permitted to attend the quadrennial games at Mount Olympus.  When the Athenians colonized territories in southern Italy they were asked about democracy for them.  Their reply was "for us there is democracy."  They would have had no problem with his comments about 13 year old boys and older men that got him fired from Breitbart and disinvited as the keynote speaker at the CPAC conference.  He would've found a following on the Athenian Acropolis.

In these times where the rights of transgender rights are under attack, where almost half of the US public does not believe in climate change caused by humans or in evolution, where millions of Americans wrongly believe that vaccines cause autism and where some even do not believe that the earth is a sphere.  It's time to speak up for those who do believe in these things and to reach out to those who aren't sure.  Two events are coming up where you can do just that.  

On March 8 there will be a rally and march for equal rights for transgender and other LGBT groups in Johnstown, PA at 4:45pm in Central Park.  March 8 also happens to be International Women's Day with many other events throughout the world.  The City Council in Johnstown will be considering adding transgender women to the non discrimination ordinance.  

Earth day will be on April 22.  To commemorate this, there will be a March for Science in Washington, DC and other cities throughout the US. It's about time we spoke up for the field to make it less ivory tower.  Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopolus, Jenny McCarthy, and their ilk are symptoms of a much larger disease.  

It's time to start counteracting it not with angry protests but with educating the public about what science is.  I'm personally a fan of another one of Yiannopolus' Hellenic ancestors, Socrates (sexist and snooty though he may have been).  He traveled around the Acropolis in Athens by asking a lot of unpleasant questions that needed to be asked.  By working within the frame work of what people know he was able to get people to think.  Eventually, he did endure the scorn of his fellow Yiannopolus' and was forced to choose either expulsion or drinking hemlock but he is most remembered and admired for sticking up for his beliefs.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Trends in the Uninsured are Flat by Race and Gender for Pennsylvania

The Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) for Pennsylvania can be broken down by gender at the state and county level and by ethnicity at the state level only.
For race the trends can be seen in the table below. The trends for the three groups were similar with Hispanics having rates more than double that of whites with African Americans being in between.
State Uninsured % by Race
All Races-PA10.611.712.112.011.7
African American15.
The breakdown by gender for the state and Allegheny County (as an example) are presented below. The rates were lower for Allegheny County than the state as a whole. The rates form men were consistently higher than for women in both PA and Allegheny County. The trends for men and women were different with male rates increasing in 2009 and then leveling off. For women the rate increased steadily from 2008-2010 and then leveled off. The numbers for 2013 should be out later this year to give an idea of the impact of full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
State and Allegheny Co. % Uninsured by Gender

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Medal Counts Still Reflect National Power (or the Need for it)

1912 Native American Gold Medalist Jim Thorpe
Since the old days of the realities of the Olympic Games haven't always lived up to the ideals which founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin articulated "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."  Native American Jim Thorpe (pictured at the right) was stripped of his gold medals after he was accused of playing professional sports.  At the time it may have been within the rules to take them away but they were reinstated 30 years after he died.

Owens in Berlin
In 1936 Hitler hoped to turn the Berlin games into a showcase for German supremacy.  Much has been made of Jesse Owens winning four gold medals thus embarrassing Hitler but Germany did win the most gold and overall medals after the United States had that distinction in the previous four games after WWI. Hitler really wanted revenge after the great war not just on the battlefield.

Similarly the mostly drugged communist East Germans did win the most overall medals with the Soviet Union taking the most gold in the 1980 winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.  Americans prefer to remember the Miracle on Ice USA hockey team and Eric Heiden's five speed skating gold medals from that year.

The other postwar games were struggles between the USA and the Soviet Union with boycotts in the 1980 and 1984 summer games.   After the cold war the US seemed dominant in the summer medal count but the other countries were catching up (the US for the first time even managed to place first in the medal count in the 2010 winter games in Vancouver with Canada taking the most gold).  The 1968 Mexico City games have been immortalized by John Carlos and Tommie Smith's protest against racism though the US won the most overall and gold medals that year.

This years games and the 2008 games in Beijing indicate the growing power of China.  They were ahead of the US in the number of gold medals four years ago and are ahead of the US and now are about equal in the number of gold and overall medals this year so far.  The US prefers to remember Michael Phelps and maybe Usain Bolt from 2008.  What will we remember from this years games?  It's too early to tell so far. Missy Franklin may (or may not) fill that role with women playing a more prominent role.  Brazil hopes to join the ranks of more powerful nations by hosting the games in 2016.

We always look to the past for a golden age which never really existed.  This post cannot possibly cover all possible great Olympic moments.  The struggle we see on TV may be what we prefer to remember but there are many other struggles which are far less graceful which we rarely see.  In 1994, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan let us see behind the curtain like Toto did in the Wizard of OZ.


Gabby Douglas has emerged as the up and coming star of the London games.  Here is a discussion of women's emerging role at the games.

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