Get the Girl to Check it: Getting everyone to the table of life


International Women’s Day was held this past week on Wednesday.

According to the website International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

The day before International Women’s Day my family and I happened to be at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

The planetarium was founded in 1930 by a local Chicago business man by the name of Max Adler.

In reviewing its website, I came across this little nugget:

“Maude Bennot served as Director from 1937 to 1945, possibly the first woman to lead a major science museum.”

I decided to do an internet search on Maude to learn more about here.

In doing so I learned that Maude was replaced under some questionable circumstances according to a number of publications.

In any number of stories about her dismissal I found a couple of points interesting.

  • She was, as reported in one story, to be “…replaced by a man…”
  • When becoming the first female director of a major science museum she took over from a male colleague but “Succeeded to his duties but not his title.”

I couldn’t find much more out about Maude in my short research efforts to learn about the first woman to lead a major science museum but I was struck by the story in a week when women and their role in our global life was the focus of the week.

I grew up in a family of strong women.  Three older sisters who have never been shy about their sense of place in the world in which they live.

Each of them has accomplished great things in the world in which they live.  They have had careers, raised children, given back to their community and had their voices heard in many ways throughout their lives.

My 84 and ¾ year old mother raised 9 children in large part on her own.

Anyone who knows her and has known her would never confuse her with a shrinking violet.  She has never been one to shy away from making a difference in the world.

In an era in which women were expected to defer to their husbands my Mom managed to never give up her independence and sense of identity even when it became difficult and at times physically and emotionally a danger to herself.

My son and my daughter are raised as equals in our home.

They are taught by both my wife and I that they are equal in their home, in the world around them and equal in the rights each of them have been given by God and the country in which they live.

Which is not to say that my children are equal in every way.

My son is a better runner.  My daughter hates to run.

My daughter is a better student and is intent on having good grades.  My son gets by with as little effort as he can muster.

Both of my children have opinions on the world around them.  They don’t always agree with one another’s opinions but when the two of them talk about serious issues I find it remarkable that great weight is given by each other on what the other has to say.

It gives me great pride that my son would never permit anyone to give short shrift to his sister on matters of importance “just because she is a girl.”

Nor would he permit anyone else to do so to the young women he knows.

He has been raised by strong women.  From his mother to his two grandmothers to his aunts and his mother’s own strong women cousins.

He lives in a house with a strong young woman as his sister.

In walking through the Adler Planetarium, I was struck by the three placards in the NASA section of the museum.

One has a quote from Miriam Harris, sharing a story about her mother, Miriam Mann.

The other two are reflections by Katherine Johnson.

Jackson is one of the women featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” which tells the story of “… brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

Mann is one of the many women who remain in the “shadows” of others who got the credit for the success of the NASA launch while she and others did much of the hard and necessary work to make it happen at all.

I found one placard to be the best of all during our tour of the Adler.

The title reads: “Get the Girl to Check it.”

And the rest reads:

“In 1962, NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate the trajectory and orbit for John Glenn’s first orbital flight.  Not trusting the new technology entirely, Glenn personally requested that (Katherine) Johnson check the numbers.  “John Glenn said, “Tell her. If she comes up with the same answer they have, then the computer’s right.”

We live in a day and time when we feel, all too often, that we need to make judgements on what is or isn’t of value in our society and our world.

There has to be some day or action or movement created to call out a perceived societal ill or unfairness or inequity.  To the point, I fear, that we will not only run out of days but society will run out of attention span and patience to listen to much of any of it after a while.

Those hoping to learn whether I agree with the intentions of International Women’s Day or not will be disappointed to know that I don’t have an opinion on the matter.

Or, for that matter, on the day.

As the father of a daughter, however, and the father of a son, I do have an opinion on what I want both of their worlds to look like after I am gone.

I do hope for a day in which there is no longer the need to recognize days as a way to reflect on what it is we have done or continue to do to hold human beings back from being the human beings that God intended us all to be.

God didn’t create any single one of us to be less than or greater than the other.

Upon our creation, the evolution of our life inside the womb didn’t come with an identifying marker that determined our worth based upon any physical, emotional or intellectual feature we possessed in the world outside of the womb.

All that happens the minute we take our first breath.  When those of us outside the womb for a while choose to decide how the next ones who arrive after us should be treated and valued and respected – or not.

My hope for my daughter – and my son – and their world is one where we celebrate every day for every single person simply because they are worth celebrating as a fellow human being.

I know it is naïve and simple and probably unrealistic.

But, I think people said the same thing back in the day when Maude Bennot became the first woman to lead a major science museum.

As well as the day that Katherine Johnson was told, when asked if she could attend a meeting, that “Well, the girls don’t usually go.”

And she responded,

“Is there a law.?”

Nope.  There wasn’t and she started attending the meetings.

So, as long as there isn’t a law, I intend to continue to be naïve and simple and probably unrealistic and believe that there will come a day when everyone gets to go to the meeting.



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