Sunday, December 22, 2013

If you’re in NYC this holiday season and want to avoid the crushing crowds at the Met and MOMA, I recommend the Armory Show at NY Historical Society.

If you’re in NYC this holiday season and want to avoid the crushing crowds at the Met and MOMA, I recommend the Armory Show at NY Historical Society. My husband, son and I were there on December 18 and it was wonderfully uncrowded.

The exhibit recreates the famous 1913 New York Armory Show which sent shock waves throughout the art world. Not all the works of the original show are on display but the exhibit includes major works by Duchamp, Matisse, Picasso, C├ęzanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh as well as woks by American artists such as John Marin and Stuart Davis. The Europeans are the stars, but some of the American paintings are quite impressive. It made Rick and me want to finally get to the Whitney Museum of American Art which incredibly we’ve never visited. As a result of the Armory Show, I’ve developed an interest in Stuart Davis and would like to see more of his work.
Servant Girls by Stuart Davis

Rick and I promised ourselves that when we retired we’d go up to NYC more often including day trips like the one on December 18, but somehow we are going to NYC about as often as we did during our working years. We really need to remedy this.

It’s mostly my fault—-the older I get the more of a homebody I become. If it weren’t for Rick’s prodding, I’d probably never leave Mt. Airy. But when I do manage to bestir myself I am so glad I did!

We also discovered a very good affordable Mexican restaurant Cafe Frida which is just a couple blocks from the Historical Society.

Now we have to manage to get up to New York for the Vermeer exhibit at the Frick before it closes on Jan. 19. Will we get it together???

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I’m feeling very optimistic about the future of Philadelphia NOW!

Nina Ahmad, new President of Philadelphia NOW

I’m feeling more optimistic about NOW and very optimistic about the future of Philadelphia NOW. We have a diverse new leadership team and one of our active members and past president, Caryn Hunt, is the president-elect for Pennsylvania NOW. From our press release:
Nina Ahmad, Ph.D. to lead the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women

New Slate of Officers Elected to the Philadelphia Chapter of the multi-issue progressive feminist advocacy group

Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW), a key feminist advocacy group in the region has elected its new slate of Officers for the 2014-2016 term. Nina Ahmad, Ph.D., co-owner and Executive Vice President of Government Affairs of JNA Capital, Inc. has been elected as the President of the Chapter. Dr. Ahmad brings a wealth of experience in engaging diverse audiences through community outreach as the Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs of Philadelphia and is involved with a host of other organizations including serving on the Board of Women’s Campaign International, which focuses on women’s equality through building skills that help women become effective agents of change. Dr. Ahmad stated, “As a mother of two daughters I am alarmed at the current regression of women’s rights in our country; hard-fought rights earned with blood, sweat and tears. Our future generations should not have to fight these same battles.” She further stated, “I envision our Chapter being engaged in ensuring the promise of equal opportunity for all women by leveraging our collective assets. To that end, I am committed that our chapter membership will be multigenerational and diverse, and from all walks of life.”

In addition to Dr. Ahmad, the following slate of Officers was voted in for the 2014-2016 term:

Executive Vice President: Natalie Catin, Principal for Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School is a fierce advocate for enhancing educational opportunities for all children and furthering the feminist agenda.

Vice President for Finance: Kathy Black, Health and Safety Director for AFSCME DC47 is also the Philadelphia Chapter President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, will continue to fight for women’s rights.

Vice President for Membership: Sharon Hurley, computer specialist with extensive administrative experience is focused on engaging our membership in feminist issue areas and on creating strong member network.

Secretary: Melody Lam, recent graduate of Temple University with a Bachelors of Science in Biology, is eager to leverage her organizational skills and experience in civic engagement/minority empowerment.

Treasurer: Louise Francis, the Consulting Principal and founder of Francis Analytics and Actuarial Data Mining, Inc. is a long time member of the Chapter, who has been engaged in advocating for feminist issues.

Delegate to the State Board: Karen Bojar, Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Philadelphia, is a longtime feminist activist, past President (2001-2009) of Phila-NOW and looks to strengthen the relationship between Philadelphia NOW and Pennsylvania NOW.

Delegate to the State Board: Sharon Hurley (see above) will liaise with Pennsylvania NOW.

Delegate to the State Board: Sharon Williams Losier, practicing attorney and owner of Losier & Associates, is a civil rights activist engaged in furthering the feminist agenda and will liaise with Pennsylvania NOW .

NOW on all levels –national, state, and local-- has struggled to build a diverse organization and our success or failure will determine whether or not the organization will continue to thrive. The founding generation, now over 65, is part of a demographic cohort which is largely white; feminists under 25 are part of a demographic cohort which is far more racially/ethnically diverse. If NOW is to look like America, it must figure out how to reach this younger, far more diverse group. NOW’s continued existence depends on it.

Nina Ahmad is the first woman of color to head Phila NOW. Given the diversity of the city, it’s surprising it took so long. Nina is not the first woman of color to be a NOW chapter president in Philadelphia. In 1980 Jocelyn Morris founded and served as president of Germantown NOW which was founded to combat both racism and sexism and to build support for the passage of the ERA among women of color.

Despite her incredibly hard work, the chapter was short-lived and folded soon after Morris moved out of Philadelphia. The history of Germantown NOW is documented in chapter 6 of Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982. Morris was ahead of her time and as Chair of NOW’s combating racism committee she is continuing the work she began in 1980.

NOW’s national leaders are well aware of the need to reach the diverse millennial generation, but change at the grassroots level has been slow. Philadelphia NOW is making a real contribution here and the fact that a woman as talented as Nina has decided to devote her time and energy to NOW certainly gives me hope that NOW will survive and thrive.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Discussion of Feminism in Philadelphia with Veteran Feminists Florence Cohen ,Judy Mathe Foley and Sharon Wallis

I have so enjoyed the opportunity to discuss Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982 with many of the wonderful women who were part of the story of second wave feminism in Philadelphia.

Many thanks to Sherrie Cohen for arranging a reading/ discussion of Feminism in Philadelphia at the Watermark retirement community where her mother, NOW member and life-long feminist activist Florence Cohen, currently resides. Florence Cohen, a legend in Philadelphia politics, is one of the veteran feminists featured in Feminism in Philadelphia and this event focused on local feminists’ involvement in electoral politics. From Feminism in Philadelphia:

In the early years, many Philadelphia NOW members were deeply suspicious of direct involvement in electoral politics. In the early and mid-1970’s, Philadelphia NOW dealt with the distrust many members had of political involvement by farming out electoral politics to the Philadelphia Women’s Political Caucus (PWPC) formed in 1971. Philadelphia NOW members were instrumental in the formation of PWPC but wanted to keep NOW itself unsullied by the messy compromises of electoral politics. Distrust of electoral politics was not confined to NOW members but was pervasive among the progressive movements in the late 1960’s and early 1970's.

Yet despite this distrust, electoral politics and social movement politics were closely intertwined in Philadelphia in the 1970’s. African-Americans (many of whom had been involved in the Civil Rights Movement)and feminists (usually under the banner of the Philadelphia Women’s Political Caucus) organized against the Democratic machine, fighting for inclusion and fair representation as elected officials and as Democratic Party ward leaders and committeepersons…

PWPC launched …a political education initiative designed to encourage more women to run for political office, including Party offices such as committeeperson and ward leader. The organizational genius behind the feminist political education effort was Florence Cohen who wore several hats; she was a member both of Philadelphia NOW and of PWPC and a group she led called the New Democratic Coalition.

Florence Cohen organized a series of political education workshops sponsored by PWPC which dealt with the basics of the political structure in preparation for the 1972 primary election. According to Cohen, “We have to get a new type of woman--an independent woman--involved in politics.” In a handout she prepared on the political structure, she defined what she meant by an “independent,” someone motivated by issues rather than by political allegiances and loyalties.

Cohen was well aware of the distaste many feminists had for partisan politics; she challenged the attendees at the December 1971 political workshop to overcome their reluctance to get involved: “Politics is dirty but we MUST have a part of it. The machine will control parties to the extent that there is apathy, to the extent that we are disorganized. We must use our collective strength--women are 52% of the electorate.”…

Florence Cohen, noted that in 1971 only 7 out of 66 Democratic ward leaders were women, but according to Cohen “none whom you’d call independent women.”

When Philadelphia NOW in 1998 and again in 2002 organized a series of workshops to encourage women to run for committeeperson, we thought we were doing something new and different. But unknown to us at the time, Florence Cohen had spearheaded a much more successful effort 3 decades earlier. We are launching this effort again in 2014. and with a dynamic speaker City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, we hope to be more successful than we were in the past.

It was wonderful to have feminists featured in the book at the event, and in addition to Florence, Judy Mathe Foley and Sharon Wallis were in the audience. I was really happy to have finally met Sharon. Jean Ferson, President of Philadelphia NOW and Sharon Wallis, President of Philadelphia Women's Political Caucus in 1971.Judy Mathe Foley arriving in Springfield Illinois for May 1976 ERA rally.

Sharon confirmed that Judy was the organizational genius behind Philadelphia NOW and apparently the Philadelphia Women's Political Caucus as well. I am really happy to have had access to the archival material which demonstrated Judy’s crucial role behind the scenes and to have been able to document this.

There is so much of the history of social changes organizations in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) that has yet to be documented---so many rich dissertation topics awaiting a new generation of young scholars. Let’s hope these histories are written!

Feminism in Philadelphia is available at and from Giovanni's Room at and is further discounted at

Also, for people who like to buy hard copies at book stores, there are some on the shelves at Giovanni’s Room in Center City Philadelphia.