Women Who Launch is filled with inspiring true stories of women activists, artists, and entrepreneurs who launched some of the most famous companies, brands, and organizations today and changed the world. It is at once a collection of biographies and a testament of female empowerment.
Juliette Gordon Low showed what’s good for the goose is good for the gander when she created the Girl Scouts of America. Sarah Josepha Hale—authoress of Mary Had a Little Lamb—convinced Lincoln to launch a national day of thanks, while Anna Jarvis persuaded President Wilson to initiate a day in tribute of mothers. Estée Lauder revolutionized the cosmetics industry. The tradition of these Mothers of Invention continued when, compliments of knitter Krista Suh, the heads of millions were adorned with pink pussy-cat ears in the largest women’s march in history. These women who launched prove—in the words of Rosie the Riveter—“We can do it!”
In Women Who Launch, readers will find:
- The stories behind renowned companies, brands, and organizations and the diverse women who launched them.
- Empowering quotes from strong women and those who refused to be kept down.
- Motivation to all women who want to succeed in their careers, launch companies, and change the world.
“These soaring stories will inspire you to live your dreams!” —Becca Anderson, author of The Book of Awesome Women
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Seen the Glory (1861)
Songs have oftentimes encapsulated the spirit of protest and become synonymous with a movement. In 1772, former slave trader turned abolitionist John Newton penned "Amazing Grace," an ode against slavery. In 1969, during his "bed-in," John Lennon composed "Give Peace a Chance" against the Vietnam War. In 1972, Helen Reddy, the voice from Down Under, became the roar of Women's Liberation. Another paean was born during a clash between the Blue and the Gray.
Nineteenth-century women — like children — were expected to be seen and not heard, unless the latter was in praise of their husbands. Julia Ward was born in 1819 into early New York power and privilege; her silver spoon came from her father Samuel, one of the country's first bankers. Julia and her five siblings lived in a succession of opulent Manhattan mansions on Bond Street; what transformed these into prisons were her religious father's restrictions on his daughters. Julia's burning aspiration was to be a great literary light and to "write the novel or the play of the age." Another outlet was singing, in which she excelled, and which led to her nickname, "The Diva." That moniker could also have come from her constant thirst for attention. This petite, Titian-haired beauty enjoyed rides around the city in her lemon-yellow carriage, dreaming of a prince to come to her rescue.
During an 1841 visit to Boston, Julia was smitten by Samuel Gridley Howe, a man eighteen years her senior. He was a celebrity in literary and philanthropic circles, and he had spent years in Greece in support of that country's struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. He returned home with Lord Byron's helmet as a relic of the poet, a feat that fired Julia's romantic imagination. For his service, the King of Greece bestowed on him the title of Chevalier of the Order of St. Savior — which gave rise to his nickname, Chev. As a Harvard-educated doctor, he obtained a position as the head of the new Perkins School for the Blind, an institution he made famous through his accomplishments with a deaf and blind student, Laura Bridgman.
Samuel was also interested in the twenty-two-year-old Julia — she and her sisters were known as the Three Graces of Bond Street. He wrote his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about how his lady was "gushing over with tenderness & love." He felt he had found in her a helpmeet — a woman who would be happy as the wife of a busy man, not to mention the mother of many hoped-for children. When Samuel asked for her hand, Julia declared, "The Chevalier's way will be a very charming way, and is, henceforth, to be mine." Because of Ward's immense wealth from her father's will, her brother Sam and uncle John required Samuel to sign an "antenuptial agreement," wherein the bride's inheritance would remain under the control of her male relatives. This legality was included because they viewed Chev as a "confounded bit of Boston granite." Longfellow likewise harbored reservations about his friend's fiancée, saying that she was "a damsel of force and beauty ... carrying almost too many guns for any man who does not want to be firing salutes all the time." Julia, in an uncharacteristic move for the era, retained her maiden name, and became Julia Ward Howe.
The couple moved in rarified circles alongside the Lowells, the Cabots, Louisa May Alcott (who could not abide Julia), Horace Mann, the Brownings, and Henry James. Ward Howe met Charles Dickens on his trip to America, and decades later had Oscar Wilde as a houseguest. Although the dashing doctor and the beautiful poetess presented a pretty picture of marital bliss, cracks soon appeared in the union of Chev and the Diva. Julia craved autonomy, while Samuel assumed her father's role as domestic dictator. A red alert sounded when Samuel told his young wife he wanted her kept in a chrysalis, declaring that if she ever emerged and grew wings, "I shall unmercifully cut them off, to keep you prisoner in my arms." Julia wrote her sisters, "The Dr. calls me child." Another problem might have been that Samuel was hiding in a Victorian closet, secretly in love with Charles Sumner, the best man at his wedding. Two hours after he returned from his honeymoon, Howe wrote Charles, "Julia often says Sumner ought to have been a woman & you to have married her." Tensions were exacerbated on their sixteenth-month wedding anniversary to Europe. Samuel was "London's lion" because of his halcyon Grecian past, burnished by his Perkins School accomplishment. Literary lights such as Thomas Carlyle invited the Howes to lunch, where Samuel served as the sun around which the host and guests orbited. The Diva was not impressed; she was not content to bask in spousal glory.
Despite the doctor's questionable sexual orientation and Julia's growing disdain, she became pregnant soon after tying the knot. Samuel wrote of the news to Charles, "Only a year ago, Julia was a New York belle. Now she is a wife who lives only for her husband & a mother who would melt her very beauty, were it needed, to give a drop of nourishment to her child." That is not how Mrs. Ward Howe saw it. She wrote her sister Louisa, "In giving life to others, do we lose our own vitality, and sink into dimness, nothingness, and living death?" What wore at the fabric of her soul was the worry that she did not care for her sons and daughters to the acceptable degree. "I am alas one of those exceptional women who do not love their children," she wrote, and then crossed out "do not love" with the words "cannot relate to."
Another source of resentment was Samuel did not permit Julia the comfort of ether during her six deliveries. His rationale: women needed discipline. He stated, "The pains of childbirth are meant by a beneficent creator to be the means of leading them back to lives of temperance, exercise, and reason." In 1847, Howe confided to her sister that her life had become unspeakable and unbearable: "You cannot know the history, the inner history of the last four years." Secretly, she began writing a novel, The Hermaphrodite. She never sought publication, knowing full well that her husband, as well as antebellum America, would not approve. However, in 1854 she anonymously published a volume of poetry, Passion-Flowers, without her husband's consent. In thinly veiled prose, it revealed marital misery. Nathaniel Hawthorne declared that Julia "ought to have been soundly whipt for publishing them." Samuel raged that the poems "border on the erotic," and the couple engaged in a period of estrangement. Finally, Samuel demanded that his wife resume sexual relations, or he would initiate divorce. Faced with the prospect of losing her children, Julia acquiesced. She confessed, "I made the greatest sacrifice I can ever be called upon to make."
In 1861 the couple was in Washington, where Julia met the President and observed "the sad expression of Mr. Lincoln's deep blue eyes." It was four months since the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, and from her room at the Willard Hotel, she spied an advertisement for a business that embalmed and forwarded the bodies of the dead. That evening, the words to a song drifted into her mind. Fearful she would forget the lines by the morning, she wrote down the verse that compared the sacrifices of the Northern soldiers to the crucifixion of Christ: "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free."
Samuel, no doubt, rolled his eyes at his wife's latest literary endeavor — The Battle Hymn of the Republic — which she sent to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, receiving a remuneration of five dollars for its publication in February 1862. The ethereal poem became one of the world's most beloved hymns and showered upon her the recognition she had always sought.
Sadly, this success did not heal the fabric of their marriage. Julia commented, "I have been married twenty-two years today, and in the course of this time I have never known my husband to approve of any act of mine which I myself valued ... everything has been contemptible or contraband in his eyes." But he had not succeeded in silencing her spirit. In 1876, the day after her husband's funeral, Julia wrote, "Began my new life today." She had been married for thirty-three years and would live another thirty-four, during which she struggled alongside Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony for women's rights.
Howe's hymn was destined to become an intrinsic fabric of the world's tapestry. In 1939, at his wife's suggestion, Steinbeck used one of its lines for the title The Grapes of Wrath. In 1965, it was the opening hymn at the funeral of Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last public address, delivered the night before his assassination, ended with the line, "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." In 1968, as the twenty-one-car funeral bearing the body of Robert F. Kennedy crept through Baltimore, thousands of people lining the tracks sang the century-old lyrics, "Glory, glory hallelujah ..." Its haunting memory was also heard at the Washington National Cathedral after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Less reverently, in 2016 George W. Bush swayed to its accompaniment at the memorial for five slain Dallas police officers.
A week before Julia's passing in 1910 at age ninety, Smith College conferred upon her an honorary degree, with a chorus of two thousand white-clad girls singing her hymn at the ceremony. Although she had engaged in a three-decade-long civil war with her husband, she was vindicated through literary immortality; despite everything, her eyes had "seen the glory."CHAPTER 2
Success Was Sure to Go (1863)
Hamlet railed, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" and in this vein, female Victorians struggled against the slings and arrows of misogyny: they could not vote, serve on jury duty, or attend university. Their corseted bodies mirrored the shackles society placed on their minds. Despite these restrictions, one lady launched not just one, but two beloved pieces of Americana. Although her contributions differed in nature, they shared the commonality of involving animals — one a lamb, the other a turkey.
This mother of invention, Sarah Josepha, was born in 1788 on a farm in Newport, New Hampshire, to Revolutionary War hero Captain John Gordon and Martha Buell. Contrary to the mores of her era, her parents believed in education for girls, and her elder brother Horatio, a graduate of Dartmouth, served as her tutor. At age eighteen, she took on the nontraditional role of a teacher at a private school, and in her spare time, she penned poetry. Sarah married lawyer and Freemason David Hale in 1813; when she was pregnant with their fifth child, her husband died from pneumonia. The widow, as Queen Victoria did after the passing of Albert, never wore any color but black.
As his will left her only slightly wealthier than Old Mother Hubbard, Sarah turned to writing and, with the support of David's Masonic lodge, published a collection of poems followed by an 1827 novel, Northwood; or, Life North and South. This book made her the country's first female author, as well as the first to write about the evils of slavery. Its premise was that slaves should be relocated to Liberia rather than toil as American beasts of burden.
The novel attracted the attention of the Reverend John Blake, who made Hale the country's first female editor when he hired her for his Boston publication, The Lady's Magazine; after this became Godey's Lady's Book — the Good Housekeeping of its day — she settled in Philadelphia. The periodical, renowned as much for its dress patterns as for its uplifting articles, was referred to as the Victorian Bible of the Parlor. Hale became the last word on fashion and manners in one hundred and fifty thousand homes, and she remained at its helm until age ninety, a year before her death. Sarah wielded her pen not only to tell women what to wear, but also to shape public sentiment. Its 1830 edition included Sarah's poem, "Mary's Lamb," which would later become the beloved nursery rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Legend has it that the poem was inspired by Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, whose pet lamb followed her to school — a prank suggested by her brother. Devoutly religious, Hale intended it as a religious allegory for children: Mary as the mother of God, the lamb as Jesus, "with a fleece as white as snow" that symbolized the purity of Christianity. In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, and the world's first recording was the scientist reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Sarah was the Martha Stewart of the pre-Civil War era, filling her hugely popular magazine with advice on how to build a dream cottage, cook a seven-course dinner, and decorate the perfect spring hat. Under her leadership, Godey's Lady's Book popularized white wedding dresses and Christmas trees, trends often credited to Queen Victoria. She also published the works of well-known authors such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 2012, an anonymous bidder purchased a letter from Edgar Allan Poe to Ms. Hale for $164,000; in it, the mystery writer declined to write an article for her magazine because, after a recent bout of illness, he was too caught up in other literary obligations.
Sarah was a cheerleader of many causes, and women's education was a priority for her. She deplored the widespread illiteracy among her sex, and in her role as editor she was instrumental in supporting Matthew Vassar's successful venture to found his eponymous women's college. Sarah also helped solicit the thirty thousand dollars (equivalent to eight hundred thousand dollars today) needed for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, and she also worked to obtain property ownership rights for wives. Despite her strides toward the goal of female emancipation, she still subscribed to the cult of "true womanhood" which entailed that the highest calling for her sex was to maintain a Christian nursery, one ruled by the Lamb.
Hale already had a formidable roll call of accomplishments, but her greatest one was yet to come. After Christmas, the busiest travel day of the year is Thanksgiving. The good china makes an appearance, and it is acceptable to watch football all day and to eat oneself into a turkey coma — the reason many don the unofficial festive garb of pants with elastic waists. The turkey consolidated its position of honor at the center of the table thanks to the late nineteenth-century marketing efforts of the poultry industry. Had it not been for this campaign, a different animal would be receiving the President's annual Thanksgiving pardon. Most assume we have the Pilgrims to thank for the turkey, but like for most things, there is a backstory. More than those who alighted from the Mayflower, it was Sarah Josepha Hale who gave America Thanksgiving. Until she came along, the only national holiday was Independence Day, which exclusively featured men parading down the street, creating large explosions and consuming massive quantities of liquor. Women were relegated to the role of spectator, waving handkerchiefs or serving as décor on the occasional float. In Northwood, Hale included an entire chapter about a traditional New England Thanksgiving celebration, and as the north/south conflict deepened, she became ever more committed to this holiday's cause. She believed that regional observances should be national, and as such would help bind the fractured country. In an 1859 editorial, she wrote, "Everything that contributes to bind us in one vast empire together, to quicken the sympathy that makes us feel from the icy north to the sunny south that we are one family, each a member of a great and free nation, not merely the unit of a remote locality, is worthy of being cherished."
Although Thanksgiving had been observed since 1621 when William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Plantation, called for a day of prayer and thanksgiving, it had evolved as a haphazard tradition. Thanksgiving occurred on different days in various states — mostly in autumn — while some parts of the country ignored it in the spirit that it violated the separation of church and state. These ad hoc celebrations were primarily invoked in response to specific events. They were religious in nature, intended to ask God's help in coping with hardships, or to offer a day of prayer for times of prosperity. In 1863, Lincoln designated four Thanksgiving days, including one to celebrate Gettysburg and Vicksburg, while Jefferson Davis proclaimed Thanksgivings after each of the two Confederate victories at Manassas.
In vain, Sarah had petitioned Presidents Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan to set aside a uniform day, but for thirty-six years her pleas fell on deaf ears. She hit pay dirt when her letter reached Abraham Lincoln. She wrote, "Sir, permit me as editress of 'Lady's Book,' to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and — as I trust — even to the President of the Republic of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed union festival." She added that the latter should occur on the last Thursday of November, because that was when George Washington had declared the first observance in 1789.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Women Who Launch"
Copyright © 2018 Marlene Wagman-Geller.
Excerpted by permission of Mango Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue Ladies Who Lunched,
Chapter # 1 Seen the Glory (1861),
Chapter # 2 Success Was Sure to Go (1863),
Chapter # 3 Five Stone Lions (1883),
Chapter # 4 You Can't Beat (1903),
Chapter # 5 Chutzpah (1903),
Chapter # 6 Do Not Pass Go (1904),
Chapter # 7 Now Abideth Faith, Hope, and Love (1912),
Chapter # 8 The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1914),
Chapter # 9 I Did Invent It (1914),
Chapter # 10 A Stone Angel (1916),
Chapter # 11 We Can Do It! (1943),
Chapter # 12 Tiara-Wearing Queen (1946),
Chapter # 13 The Puzzle (1951),
Chapter # 14 Mother Confessors (1955 – 1956),
Chapter # 15 America's Sweetheart (1959),
Chapter # 16 La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1962),
Chapter # 17 A Joyful Noise (1963),
Chapter # 18 Where Rosemary Goes (1968),
Chapter # 19 Roe v. Roe (1973),
Chapter # 20 The Queen of Green (1976),
Chapter # 21 What Becomes a Legend Most? (1980),
Chapter # 22 The Mantra (1983),
Chapter # 23 The Beast (1985),
Chapter # 24 The Woman in Pink (1992),
Chapter # 25 The Golden One (1995),
Chapter # 26 Wanna Have Fun (1997),
Chapter # 27 One Butt at a Time (2000),
Chapter # 28 Huff and Puff (2005),
Chapter # 29 Back Seat Betty (2006),
Chapter # 30 #MeToo (2007),
Chapter # 31 Our Gallup Poll (2009),
Chapter # 32 That's All That I Remember (2013),
Chapter # 33 The Seven of Us Can't Do (2013),
Chapter # 34 Monsters Ink (2014),
Chapter # 35 Mr. Darcy (2014),
Chapter # 36 Hats Off (2017),
Chapter # 37 Resistance to Tyranny (2016),
Epilogue She Was Right,
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
"These soaring stories will inspire you to live your dreams!"
• Becca Anderson, author of The Book of Awesome Women
"Find motivation in your career and life with the amazing history of women entrepreneurship, activism, and leadership." -Stylish Southern Mama