Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Women of Courage

misaligned | Int’l Women’s Day

Claude Monet, Poppy Fields near Argenteuil

I posted this three years ago. Sadly, things haven’t changed for the better. If anything, Covid-19 and four years of growing neglect, abuse, and animosity toward women have made things worse. Not just in the USA, but worldwide. This is for women everywhere, and the men who support and care about them:

in the waiting room
perfectly aligned paintings
greet the misaligned

I’m back at the physical therapy center, sitting in the waiting room. Directly across from me, above a row of chairs, hang two huge paintings. Doubtless chosen for their ability to calm and reassure patients bearing all kinds of physical misalignments. Most patients are women.

The paintings are meticulously hung and feature lovely outdoor scenes. Expansive, bucolic and natural without being overly sentimental. Unobtrusive  gentle colors and bright sunshiny days.

Nothing to rattle our nerves or make us wonder about untold stories or what might happen next. No storms brewing in the background. No signs of aging structures or broken-down bridges. All is serene.

The haiku, written several weeks ago, came to mind this morning as I scrolled through photos celebrating International Women’s Day. If even a few of these photos were hung on walls in our public spaces, what would happen? Here are three that caught my eye.

Bhubaneswar, India – Sand Sculpture by Manas Sahoo

Thane, India – Fashion Show by Acid Attack Survivors

Dhaka, Bangladesh – March in support of Int’l Women’s Day 

Never underestimate the power of women. Especially when we’re in one accord on just one thing we need. Equal status as human beings.

This means equal status in a society that honors each woman and girl as a full human being, regardless of color, country of origin, economic or social class, religion, or marital status. Not a fraction of a human being, but 100 percent human. Welcomed into every room in the house without having to wear masks, special clothes, smiles or makeup on our faces, or anything that signals we are less valued than men or boys.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2018, reposted 8 March 2021
Monet painting found at quadrosetelas.com.br
International Women’s Day photos found at Getty Images

misaligned | Int’l Women’s Day

Claude Monet, Poppy Fields near Argenteuil

in the waiting room
perfectly aligned paintings
greet the misaligned

I’m back at the physical therapy center, sitting in the waiting room. Directly across from me, above a row of chairs, hang two huge paintings. Doubtless chosen for their ability to calm and reassure patients bearing all kinds of physical misalignments. Most are women.

The paintings are meticulously hung and feature lovely outdoor scenes. Expansive, bucolic and natural without being overly sentimental. Unobstrusive  gentle colors and bright sunshiny days.

Nothing to rattle our nerves or make us wonder about untold stories or what might happen next. No storms brewing in the background. No signs of aging structures or broken-down bridges. All is serene.

The haiku, written several weeks ago, came to mind this morning as I scrolled through photos celebrating International Women’s Day. If even a few of these photos were hung on walls in our public spaces, what would happen? Here are three that caught my eye.

Bhubaneswar, India – Sand Sculpture by Manas Sahoo

Thane, India – Fashion Show by Acid Attack Survivors

Dhaka, Bangladesh – March in support of Int’l Women’s Day 

Never underestimate the power of women. Especially when we’re in one accord on just one thing we all know we need. Equal status as human beings.

This means equal status in a society that honors each woman and girl as a full human being, regardless of color, country of origin, economic or social class, religion, or marital status. Not a fraction of a human being, but 100 percent human. Welcomed into every room in the house without having to wear masks, special clothes, smiles or makeup on our faces, or anything that signals we are less valued than men or boys.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2018
Monet painting found at quadrosetelas.com.br
International Women’s Day photos found at Getty Images

Thank you, Anita Hill

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017
Photo found at gq.com

Sister Kenny’s Battle

Polio, Photo, Elizabeth_Kenny_NYWTSElizabeth Kenny (1880-1952)

Few women have battled the medical establishment with such flair and so little respect as Sister Kenny.

Born in New South Wales, Australia, Elizabeth Kenney’s father was from Ireland; her mother was native born. Kenny began educating herself as a nurse while recovering from a broken wrist. Her resources included books on anatomy and a model skeleton from her physician who later became a friend and mentor, Dr. McDonnell.

Kenny didn’t have a nursing degree. Nor did she give herself the title ‘Sister.’ Early on she volunteered at a small maternity hospital. Later, she began visiting patients who needed and requested medical help. She charged nothing, and got around on horseback.

In 1915, during World War I, Kenny enlisted as a staff nurse in the Australian Army Nurse Corps, thanks to a letter from Dr. McDonnell.  In 1917 she was promoted to Sister—the equivalent of first lieutenant or chief nurse.

Though he was skeptical at first, Sister Kenny credits Dr. McDonnell with her controversial approach to treating polio patients. When faced with seemingly hopeless cases he told her, ‘Treat the symptoms!’ So she did, with some initial success. But there was a problem. She got the rejects, the patients doctors couldn’t help.

To be fully effective, Sister Kenny needed access to patients during the early, acute stage of polio as well as throughout convalescence. Conventional methods weren’t working. In fact, they made things worse.

The battle was on, first with Australian doctors. Later with doctors from the USA and other countries. By what right does this woman tell us what we should do? Does she have a medical degree? Is she a ‘proper’ nurse? And doesn’t she know how to treat the medical profession with respect?

Here’s what Sister Kenny was fighting against and for.

Conventional Methods
Strict immobilization, often strapped to plank-like devices
with straps, limbs in splints or metal braces (calipers).
No movement at all until the acute stage has passed.

Polio, Toronto 1937, BradfordFrameHSC-AR1937-800

Polio, Baby, Bradford frame images

Sister Kenny’s Method
Hot, moist compresses to ease painful muscle spasms,
and gentle exercise of paralyzed muscles.
No immobilization!
Polio, Sr. Kenney examining child,7%20Examining%20%20a%20Child

Sister Kenny is on the far side.

Nothing about this battle was easy. Here’s a colorful excerpt from the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 9, 1983).

In 1932 Sister Kenny established a backyard clinic at Townsville to treat long-term poliomyelitis victims and cerebral palsy patients with hot baths, foments, passive movements, the discarding of braces and calipers and the encouragement of active movements. At a government-sponsored demonstration in Brisbane doctors and masseurs ridiculed her. . . .Thus began a long controversy at a time when there was no vaccination for poliomyelitis. The strong-willed Kenny, with an obsessional belief in her theory and methods, was opposed by a conservative medical profession whom she mercilessly slated and who considered her recommendation to discard immobilization to be criminal. Despite almost total opposition, parental and political pressure with some medical backing resulted in action by the Queensland government. . . .In 1934 clinics to treat long-term poliomyelitis cases were established in Townsville and later in Brisbane. The Brisbane clinic immediately attracted interstate and overseas patients. Kenny clinics in other Queensland cities and interstate followed.

In the USA, physicians who supported Sister Kenny were sometimes shunned. Yet slowly and surely, the tide shifted. A 1942 TIME magazine article reported that an “amazing 80-percent recovery rate through her methods ‘forced [the doctors] to recognize her unorthodox work.’”

To be fair, Sister Kenny’s method didn’t lead to recovery. There was no cure. Her method did, however, offer demonstrably better outcomes than conventional methods. Here’s a summary of positive outcomes from a 1943 article in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Patients receiving the Kenny treatment are more comfortable, have better general health and nutrition, are more receptive to muscle training, have a superior morale, require a shorter period of bed rest and hospital care, and seem to have less residual paralysis and deformity than patients treated by older conventional methods. The Kenney treatment is the method of choice for the acute state of infantile paralysis [one form of polio].

Speaking as a citizen of the USA, Thank you Sister Kenny, and Thank You, Australia! Yes, Kenny faced strong opposition in Australia. Yet six doctors in Brisbane signed an endorsement on her behalf, and the Queensland government paid the fare for her first trip to the USA in 1940. If it seems her life reads like a movie script, it is.

Polio, Sr Kenny and Judy Garland,out6

Sister Kenny in Hollywood (1943)
Rosalind Russell (star), Mary McCarthy (writer), Sister Elizabeth Kenny

Sister Kenney is buried next to her mother in the cemetery in Nobby. A small museum there is dedicated to the memory of this daughter of Australia, “a very noble lady.”

Polio, 330px-Headstone_SisterElizabethKennyHeadstone

Headstone in Nobby Cemetery

 * * *

Special thanks to my Australian blogging friend, suchled, for suggesting I write this piece. My mother and my sister Diane (polio survivors) received versions of Sister Kenny’s methods during the acute stage of their illnesses in 1949. The methods didn’t help Diane; they greatly improved my mother’s ability to recover muscle strength.

Resources included articles by Ross Patrick in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, by Miki Fairley at http://www.oandp.com, and an article on Sister Kenny at Wickipedia.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 April 2015
Photo credits: wickipedia.org (Elizabeth Kenny, headstone);
http://www.healthheritageresearch.com (conventional methods);
http://www.mnopedia.org (Sister Kenny’s method);
http://www.oandp.com (Sister Kenny in Hollywood)

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