Saturday, August 28, 2021

The last of the lilies

Casa Blanca

Fragrance is one of the main reasons I devote so much time and energy to gardening. You can’t buy it; you have to grow it. The florists shops are filled with flowers bred for durability and showy blooms. Fragrance tends to diminish or in many cases disappear altogether.

The queen of the fragrant lilies is Casa Blanca which appears in mid-July and disappears in early August. I've heard some people describe its fragrance as cloying, sugary, like cotton candy. To me, it's a heavenly scent--more like vanilla laced with a whiff of musk.

Then the species lilies with their elongated stamens. They are fragrant but you have to be up close-- unlike Casa Blanca, one of which can perfume a large garden. The first to bloom is the statuesque Black Beauty which can reach over 6 feet tall.

Then the delicate white species lilies:

And finally speciosum rubrum, the last of which is blooming in my garden in late August.

Sadly, I have to wait a year before I will see my lilies again.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Defending democracy in PA begins with the Judiciary





This article appeared in this week's Chestnut Hill Local

Over the 4th of July weekend, I had quite a few discussions with friends and relatives about the state of our democracy. This 4th of July was the first time I seriously considered the possibility that our democratic institutions were in jeopardy. For the first few years of the Trump administration, I thought our institutions were strong enough to withstand Trump’s blatant assault, but by 2020 I began to seriously worry if the guardrails would hold. They did, barely.

Trump may no longer be president, but the threat to our democracy continues. The latest Trump-inspired attempts to undermine the electoral process target election workers with threats of stiff fines and prosecutions. Recruiting poll workers will become increasingly difficult if they face threats not only of bodily harm from right-wing zealots but also of criminal prosecution.

Republican-controlled state legislatures are racing to pass measures making it harder for citizens to vote. In March 2021, the Georgia state legislature passed strict constraints on the use of ballot drop boxes, barred election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications, reduced the time frame to apply for absentee ballots, and imposed identification requirements for voting by mail. Attorney General Merrick Garland intends to sue Georgia, stating: “The rights of all eligible citizens to vote are the central pillars of our democracy. They are the rights from which all other rights ultimately flow.”

Many of these voting rights disputes will be settled in our courts. Unfortunately, Trump’s legacy lives on in his judicial appointments. As the Guardian put it: “Donald Trump’s presidency was capricious and chaotic, but there was one issue on which he focused with laser-like discipline: tilting the judiciary to the right.” According to ballotpedia.org, Trump appointed 234 judges, including 54 appellate judges, more than Barack Obama’s first term total of 172 and George W Bush’s 204.

In the November general election, Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to push back against Trump’s campaign to change the composition of judiciary as we elect one PA Supreme Court justice, one judge of the Superior Court, and two judges of Commonwealth Court.

Before the Republican party became the party of Trump, Republicans committed to democracy were elected in judicial races. Some of these judges, whose primary allegiance was to the Constitution rather than to partisan politics, dismissed Trump supporters’ lawsuits to overturn a fair, democratic election. Increasingly, however, Republican judicial nominees will be chosen by a Trump-controlled Republican party.

The statewide judges elected in November will in all likelihood become involved in the congressional redistricting process. In 2018, the Democratic majority on the PA Supreme Court threw out the state’s 2011 map of redrawn congressional districts contending it was it was gerrymandered to favor Republicans, who, despite losing the popular vote in the 2010 congressional elections held 13 out of 18 seats. The Court drew a new map, which was used in the 2018 elections resulting in a 9-9 division.

New maps will be drawn after the release of census data for the Congressional, state House, and state Senate districts in mid-August 2021. It is widely expected that the state courts will again play a role in the redistricting process and thus it is critically important that voters pay attention to statewide judicial races.

In Philadelphia’s general elections, statewide judicial races with no contested local races on the ballot have historically had very low turnout. In our one-party town, contested local races are decided in the Democratic primary, and many voters have relatively little interest in the outcome of statewide judicial races.

The 2013 race for Judge of the PA Superior Court was a close contest decided by a few percentage points, with only 11.3 % of voters participating in the decision. The media coverage of the race for Superior Court was almost non-existent, and in many neighborhoods around the city it appeared that committeepersons were making little effort to inform voters and get out the vote.

Fortunately party leaders and political activists made a serious effort to educate the voters in the 2015 Supreme Court race, and turnout in Philadelphia rose to 25.62%—still dismal, given the importance of the race, but a significant improvement over the 11.3% turnout in 2013. Turnout in off-year elections has not returned to the rock bottom levels of 2013, and has been slowly inching upward. Nonetheless, turnout for the 2021 May primary was only 21.29% -- certainly nothing to celebrate.

The judiciary is the first line of defense for our democracy. To begin to undo the damage caused by Trump’s assault on our democratic institutions, in November, we must elect judges who are committed to upholding free and fair elections. Our democracy is at stake.

Monday, June 28, 2021

June is the best month for flowers

First come the self-seeding foxgloves pooping up all over my garden in early June.
Then the roses which usually peak in mid June. I haven’t had a great deal of success with roses. After losing many, many rose bushes, I finally settled on David Austin roses as the most reliable, combining something of the fragrance and disease resistance of old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming of hybrid teas. For me the most reliable and most beautiful of all is Don Juan:
Like roses, Clemstis with their thin brittle stems area challenge to grow. I've lost a lot of clems over the years , but I will never give up on these beauties. One of the most reliable and long lasting is Niobe.
Then in late June the Queen of the garden: the regal lilies with their powerful fragrance:
The Asiatic lilies also bloom in late June. Their large glossy flowers make up for their lack of fragrance:
And the most fragrant lilies are yet to come--the orientals of mid July

Friday, June 4, 2021

Allium and Iris --the stars of my late May and early June garden

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Late May and early June is allium and iris time. Bearded iris have always been at the top of my list. The fragrance is intoxicating and compensates for their heart-breakingly brief season of bloom and unfortunate vulnerability to Botrytis Rhizome rot. This year I finally gave my Iris what they crave—full sun and good air circulation thanks to well-spaced planting. One of my great sins as a gardener is a tendency to cram too many plants into my garden beds. I’m finally breaking that bad habit.

Last year allium rose to the top of my list of most loved plants. When I returned home from a week in hell at Chestnut Hill hospital for major surgery, my garden never looked so beautiful. I was so happy to be home in my garden with Rick. It was allium time and I think I’ll always associate allium with that magical day.
After the allium and bearded iris have wrought their magic, it’s time for the Siberians.

They are tough, require little coddling and are very effective in a mass planting. The only downside is they have no fragrance, but then you can't have everything in one plant.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The flowering shrubs of late April and early May.


This is azalea time. My husband Rick told me that a friend of his from France was amazed when he first saw our native azalea with their dense clusters of flowers. Because azaleas are everywhere in the Delaware valley at this time of the year, we may take them for granted. It is amazing that a shrub with such gorgeous, delicate flowers should also be so tough and long-lasting. There are many neglected gardens all over Philadelphia where in the middle of all the weeds we often find a healthy azalea, blooming its heart out.

Azaleas provide the color but the cherry laurel blooming all over my garden provides the powerful musky fragrance.
cherry laurel and pink azalea

Early May is when the tree peonies make their appearance—spectacular flowers that last for only a few days, but despite their heartbreakingly short season of bloom, they are worth a prominent spot in the garden.
Tree Peony

And in early May the late season tulips appear--the most beautifully shaped of all the tulips. My long-lasting Negrita is finally fading but the graceful white Maureen and the cherry-red Yosemite have emerged. For tulips, this has been a very good year!

Friday, May 7, 2021

A Brief History of Philadelphia NOW: The first 50 years


THE EARLY 1970S

Focus on ending discrimination in employment

Philadelphia NOW was officially incorporated as a chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1971 with Mary Lynne Speers, as the chapter’s first president. However, Ernesta Ballard was generally acknowledged to be the founder and the force behind the chapter in the early years. Born in 1920 into a prominent Philadelphia family, Ballard was not the typical founder of a local NOW chapter. Her socialite background and life-long affiliation with the Republican Party notwithstanding, she was a passionate, committed feminist.

One of Philadelphia NOW’s first and most successful actions was challenging the sexist assumptions underlying a local job fair called Operation Native Son, sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Once a year, the Chamber of Commerce provided an opportunity for Pennsylvanians attending college outside the state to be interviewed by prospective employers from the Philadelphia area. The program was blatantly discriminatory against women. Thanks to the efforts of Philadelphia NOW the name was changed to Delaware Valley Career Opportunities.

On both national and local levels, NOW in the late 1960s and early 1970s focused on ending discrimination in employment. Among its many victories, NOW fought to end the practice of dividing classified ads into “Help Wanted for Men” and “Help Wanted for Women.”
Ernesta Ballard, founder of Philadelphia NOW

The consciousness raising movement

As the movement broadened in the early 1970s, it drew women who had never before been involved in political activism. Their primary interest was the impact of feminism on their personal lives, and they were drawn to the consciousness-raising groups cropping up everywhere.

Jean Ferson, a skilled organizational builder, was elected the second president of Philadelphia NOW at a time of tremendous growth in the feminist movement. As the movement broadened in the early 1970s, it drew women who had never before been involved in political activism. Their primary interest was the impact of feminism on their personal lives and they were drawn to the consciousness-raising groups cropping up everywhere. Jean Ferson, a psychologist, was in many ways the ideal person to lead the organization in the early 1970s; unlike some NOW activists, Ferson was very receptive to the rapidly growing consciousness-raising movement.

Although Philadelphia NOW has evolved as a multi-issue feminist organization that recognizes the intersection of gender, race/class and sexuality issues, Philadelphia NOW in the early years was focused almost exclusively on women’s rights. The road to becoming an intersectional feminist organization would be a long and rocky one.
Philadelphia NOW’s second President Jean Ferson and Philadelphia Women’s Political Caucus Founder and first President Sharon Wallis

Philadelphia NOW an early champion of lesbian rights

Despite the homophobia associated with Betty Friedan, many local NOW chapters such as Philadelphia NOW were strong supporters of lesbian rights, with Philadelphia NOW as the first chapter in the country to elect an open lesbian Jan Welch as President in 1973. The lesbian feminist movement was growing both in numbers and visibility. The talent and energy of many lesbian feminists was of critical importance in building NOW and the feminist movement in general; NOW’s embrace of lesbian rights contributed to the growth of the lesbian and gay rights movement.
Philadelphia NOW’s third President Jan Welch

THE MID TO LATE 1970S

The battle to integrate Central High; the battle against discrimination in the Philadelphia police department

In the mid-1970s National NOW made combating sexism in schools a top priority, focusing on advocacy for Women’s Studies Programs in high schools and colleges and for expansion of athletic opportunities for girls. NOW chapters across the country took up the crusade; the Philadelphia Chapter was especially active, no doubt because of the many educators among its activist core. The Philadelphia chapter devoted considerable energy to the nine-year battle to integrate Central High.

A major priority for NOW in the middle 1970s was the struggle to desegregate what were for women “non-traditional jobs”—well paid blue collar jobs traditionally held by men. Philadelphia NOW provided strong, sustained support for NOW member Penelope Brace’s battle against discrimination in the Philadelphia Police Department.
Philadelphia’s first female police detective Penelope Brace receiving the City of Sisterly Love Award from Philadelphia NOW on February 15, 1979.

NOW built an organizational structure for the long haul, with national, state, and local affiliates, enabling the group to achieve an impressive number of victories in the early and mid-1970s. NOW’s organizational structure included a mechanism for managing conflict, which enabled it to survive the battles of the mid-1970s, bruised and battered but still standing.

Managing conflict

Throughout 1975, the national organization was roiled by major disagreements about the direction of NOW, culminating in the bitterly fought election at the national NOW convention in Philadelphia in October 1975.

Although what we now call intersectional feminism is often thought to be a movement which began in the 1990s, the concept was central to what was known as the 1975 Majority Caucus led by then national NOW president Karen DeCrow. At the national conference held in Philadelphia in 1975, DeCrow pledged that NOW would use its resources to fight against racism in America, and affirmed: “This is not a white organization.” DeCrow’s determination to “move out of the mainstream and into the revolution” reflected the extent to which the Women’s Liberation Movement and the social justice movements of the 1970s were having an impact on NOW.

Karen DeCrow elected president of NOW at the national conference held in Philadelphia in 1975.

The following year, deep divisions were to emerge in the Philadelphia chapter as well. In many ways the conflicts were the inevitable by-product of NOW’s success—its dramatic growth and increasing ideological diversity. The presence of the Socialist Workers Party was a source of conflict within NOW, both on the national and local level. NOW members focused on what they considered the disruptive tactics of the SWP but not on the ideological challenges. Socialist feminists who entered NOW in the mid-1970s challenged the idea that feminist beliefs trumped over-all political ideology and questioned whether gender equality could be achieved under capitalism.

THE EARLY 1980s

The struggle for gender justice and racial justice

Although by the late 1970s combating racism had become part of national NOW’s core mission, it was not among the priorities of most local NOW chapters. Local chapters expanded through the social networks of the members, and as the members acknowledged, those networks were largely white and middle class. Philadelphia NOW like many chapters at that time, did not see the struggle for racial justice as a feminist issue.

In 1980 Jocelyn Morris formed new chapter in Northwest Philadelphia, Germantown NOW, to focus on the connections between sexism and racism. NOW’s leaders developed an effective safety valve for dealing with potential conflict, allowing members whose priorities differed from those of their local chapter to easily form a new chapter, thus defusing tension while keeping everyone within the big tent of NOW. The core Philadelphia chapter remained focused on the ERA; Philadelphia NOW members who were interested in addressing racial issues either became involved in Pennsylvania NOW or joined Germantown NOW. Although some leaders on the state and national level were championing the cause of racial justice, there were not enough grassroots members who shared this commitment to sustain Germantown NOW which folded soon after Morris moved out of the Philadelphia area.
Jocelyn Morris, founder and first president of Germantown NOW, placing flowers on the grave of lucretia Mott on November 11, 1980, the 100th anniversary of Mott’s death.

The battle for the ERA

Through the mid-1970s the feminist movement achieved victory after victory. The momentum began to stall in the late 1970s, and on June 30, 1982 the feminist movement experienced a major defeat, all the more painful because a decade earlier an easy victory had been expected.

Lillian Ciarrochi,elected president of Philadelphia NOW in 1979, and Doris Pechkurow, elected in 1980, led the Philadelphia chapter in the final years of the struggle. The fight for the ERA convinced many NOW members that they must elect feminists to legislative bodies. The ERA campaign itself became a training ground in the basics of the political process, and in the aftermath of the defeat of the ERA, NOW chapters were building teams of politically savvy members capable of launching a run for political office or providing critical support for feminist candidates.
Lillian Ciarrochi, Philadelphia NOW President, 1979-1980

The mid 1980s through the 1990s

The heady social movement phase of second wave feminism had come to an end, but organized feminism, particularly the feminist service organizations, in some cases grew stronger than ever. NOW had won many victories, although the major prize the ERA eluded them. However, the movement’s glaring weakness—its lack of racial inclusiveness—was not seriously addressed and remains a source of tension.

In the mid 1980s and through the 1990s, the locus of feminist activity shifted to Pennsylvania NOW. This was partially because the struggle for abortion rights was waged primarily on the state level and because of the energy and commitment of Pennsylvania NOW state president Barbara DiTullio. In the late 1990s, DiTullio focused on racial justice issues and organized a Women of Color and Allies Conference held in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia chapter under the leadership of Kathy Miller was involved in planning for and publicizing the conference.

The early 21st century 2001-2009

In 2001 Kathy Miller became president of Pennsylvania NOW and in Philadelphia a diverse new leadership team was elected and served through 2009. The officers during this period were Karen Bojar who served as president Louise Francis who served as treasurer for 8 years. Others who served as officers during this period were: Francesca Alvarado, Cindy Bass, Kathy Black, Tammy Gavitt, Caryn Hunt, Dee Johnson, Doris Pridgen, Vicki Redmond, Marlene Santoyo, and Rosa Woods. For the first time in the history of the chapter half of the officers were women of color. These officers strengthened Philadelphia NOW’s connections with a range of progressive organizations, including the Coalition of Labor Union and the Coalition of Women100 Black Women.

The organization grew with the incorporation of the Philadelphia NOW Education Fund, incorporated as a 501c3 in 2005. PNEF was eligible to receive charitable contributions and foundation grants and sponsored several educational efforts including the very well attended 2006 Women of Color and Allies Conference chaired by Cindy Bass and a Town Hall on Reparations co-sponsored with the Coalition of Labor Union women in 2007. PNEF also sponsored a series of educational workshops encouraging women to become involved in grassroots politics, in particular by running for committeeperson in 2002, again in 2010 and in 2014.

In 2003 Philadelphia NOW established a political action committee which allowed it to endorse candidates and to raise funds to support its endorsed candidates. In addition to the chapter officers who served ex-officio, Gloria Gilman, Sharon Losier and Helen Seitz also served on the political action committee.

Philadelphia NOW’s political involvement also included lobbying campaigns such as the campaign to end the shackling of pregnant prisoners spearheaded by Dee Johnson, who represented Philadelphia NOW on the Anti-Shackling committee of the Working Group to Enhance Services for Incarcerated Women, sponsored by PA Prison society.
Philadelphia NOW President Karen Bojar, Lauren Townsend, award recipient Councilperson Maria Quinones Sanchez, Philadelphia NOW Vice-Presidents Cindy Bass, Rosa Woodxs, and Kathy Black at the 2006 Philadelphia NOW awards ceremony

2010-2020

In 2010 Caryn Hunt became president of Philadelphia NOW. She focused on women’s health issues and fought for improved services for pregnant women, including birthing centers in Philadelphia, a concern she advanced on the state level when she became president of PANOW in 2012.

Terri Falbo became president of Philadelphia NOW in 2012. A union organizer and active member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, she worked with CLUW president Kathy Black to strengthen ties between NOW and CLUW as both organizations worked to bring Earned Sick Time to Philadelphia Workers.

Nina Ahmad became president of Philadelphia NOW in 2013, the first woman of color and first Asian-American to become president of Philadelphia NOW. She reached out to women of color and especially to the immigrant community Her successful effort to expose blatant sexism in the District Attorney’s office dramatically increased the profile of Philadelphia NOW. She resigned in 2016 to become Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement in the Kenney administration.
Samantha Pierson, Pennsylvania NOW President, 2018-2020; Nina Ahmad, Philadelphia NOW President 2013-2016; Krishna Rami Philadelphia NOW President 2017-2019 at the launch of Nina Ahmad’s campaign for Auditor General, December 11, 2019. Photo Credit, Naroen Chinn.

From 2016 through 2019, Natalie Catin St. Louis, Krishna Rami, and Jenne Ayers served as presidents of Philadelphia NOW. Increasingly young women with demanding jobs and family responsibilities are finding that the chapter model with its high demands on the president is difficult to sustain.

In 2019, Vanessa Fields a recently retired African-American woman with extensive experience in women’s organizations and in the labor movement, was elected as chapter president. Fields organized a widely viewed and highly regarded virtual Town Hall on reparations for slavery held in December 2020.

Vanessa Fields currently serves as Chair of the Philadelphia Commission for Women and has co-developed several program jointly with the Commission for Women.

Vanessa Fields, current president of Philadelphia NOW

NOW’s history has been a long struggle to define what counts as a feminist issue. In the early 1970s NOW defined lesbian rights as a feminist issue; although many NOW chapters were receptive, a minority of members did not see this as a core issue. However, by the late 1970s the vast majority of NOW members were strong supporters of lesbian rights. The struggle to include racial justice as a core feminist issue has taken much longer to resolve and given the recent controversy over racism in NOW there is clearly more work to be done.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

My mid spring flowering trees and shrubs--so beautiful, so fleeting

crabapple

My mid season flowering trees and shrubs are beginning to fade, but in their brief moment of bloom, they were glorious. Last fall my crab apples had some horrible fungus. I was considering chopping them down, but fortunately the tree service I rely on told me to wait and see what would happen in the spring. This spring there was no sign of fungus on the crabapples and they were more beautiful than ever. Thank you arborist Norman Still!
redbud
My most beautiful flowering tree is my beloved redbud. And next year I will have two redbuds. We had to remove a huge tree which was dying and becoming dangerous. There was considerable collateral damage and a huge price tag but the good news is that it opened up a space for planting. The new redbud—a purple leaved variety—will arrive next week.

My all time favorite is my lilac tree. It may be a scraggly nondescript tree and its blossoms last a heartbreakingly short time but the fragrance is spectacular.
lilac

Second only to the lilac in fragrance is the carlesi viburnum and like the lilac, here today and gone tomorrow.
carlesi viburnum

This has been a great year for flowering shrubs and to my surprise for tulips. In the past few years the critters who live in my garden have devoured all my tulips. This year they left some for me.
Negrita tulips and Thalia daffodils

Thursday, April 15, 2021

My early spring daffodils are fading, but the parade of flowering shrubs has begun


My early spring daffodils are fading, but the great joy of the garden is the succession of bloom--some flowers fade and others emerge.

Pieris , with its lily of the valley like flowers, is usually one of the first flowering shrubs to bloom. The flowers may be small, but they are fragrant and long lasting.
Next comes Cornell Pink, a deciduous rhododendron. The flowers are very showy but rarely last more than 5 or 6 days. Unfortunately, you can't get everything in one plant.
Quince has delicate and very beautiful flowers, but the plant is virtually indestructible. It is impossible to kill a quince.
Quince Contorta
Quince is especially beautiful paired with Forsythia which is the queen of my early spring garden.
PJM rhododendron is another tough early spring beauty with gorgeous magenta flowers which unfortunately, like so many early spring blooms, are here today and gone tomorrow.
These early flowering shrubs will soon fade but will be replaced by mid-spring shrubs and trees. It’s the greatest show on earth!

Friday, April 2, 2021

It never really feels like Spring until the Daffodils bloom!

Right now it is peak daffodil time in my garden. It’s too cold to sit out and enjoy the show, but I take a break from my spring cleaning every hour or so and walk around the garden. It’s also peak hellebore time.

Hellebores are amazing flowers. They comeback year after year—-each year bigger and more beautiful. They power through ice and snow and sometimes are in bloom for two months or more. The flowers don’t get hideously ugly when they’ve finished blooming like daffodils often do. Hellebore flowers just quietly fade away.

Then there are the so-called minor bulbs; they may be minor in size but when planted in mass, they sure have a major impact. Right now little blue scilla and chionodoxa are popping up everywhere in my garden.
blue scilla

The hyacinths with their specatacular fragarance are beginning. The most beautiful hyacinth of all, Miss Saigon:

I am so looking forward to next week's warm-up so I can get to the spring clean-up I truly enjoy--the one desperately needed in my garden.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Celebrating Women’s Grassroots Community Activism

From left to right:; Dr. Sheila Waters; Linda Waters Richardson; Nica Waters; Cynthia Waters-Tines; Lesley Fuller.

Feminist activists and historians have long advocated for recognition of women’s unpaid labor. Wages for Housework, an international movement founded in 1974, demanded that women’s domestic labor be recognized and compensated. Feminist economists argued for including women’s unpaid labor in the home in a nation’s GDP, thus ensuring women’s domestic labor would no longer be economically invisible.

Economist Nina Banks takes the concept a step further, arguing that the unpaid community activism performed by women in marginalized communities has economic value. Regarding Black Women, Dr. Banks told a New York Times reporter: “ Not only are we doing paid work for our communities and unpaid work in our households… We are also doing a third layer of community work — we’re exhausted. Recognizing this collective activism as work reveals the extra burden Black and brown women are under.”

Although Banks’ focus is on Black women, her analysis applies to women from a broad range of communities who spend countless hours on home and school organizations; who work as block captains organizing neighborhood cleanups; as community activists demanding that elected officials address issues such as environmental hazards and gun violence; and as committeepeople and poll workers, providing their neighbors with the information they need to participate in the political process.

Banks’ insistence on the economic value of this community work may make some community activists uncomfortable—reinforcing the notion that the worth of one’s work depends on its monetary value. However, calling attention to the economic value of community work helps make this work visible and may encourage more community activists to document their work. There are so many untold stories and so much work to be done documenting the rich history of women’s community activism.

In the course of doing research for my upcoming book, Feminist Organizing across the Generations, I became aware of just how much of this work has not been documented. When interviewing Mt. Airy resident Cynthia Waters-Tines about her work as a social justice in the 1970s, I asked her if she had kept any records of Triple Jeopardy, a group she and her sister Linda Richardson founded. Waters-Tines said that they were so busy, “We just weren’t thinking that much about documenting our work.”

Founded in the early 1970s, Triple Jeopardy was a small collective of five women determined to address issues impacting women of color. Waters-Tines described one of the group’s main accomplishments as “our influence on other women’s organizations that lacked much of a perspective on racial justice issues. We were the original intersectional group.” Triple Jeopardy counseled women on patients’ rights and pregnancy options and advocated for those who had been denied social services. Waters-Tines recalled that Triple Jeopardy helped reinstate benefits for one of its members who had been unfairly denied assistance under the Aid for Dependent Children Program (AFDC) after an argument with her caseworker, who considered her “too snippy.”

Waters-Tines recalled that in June of 1974 this woman had a baby at St. Joseph’s Hospital and after her pregnancy experienced a great deal of pain as a consequence of a pelvic infection that had gone undetected. Waters-Tines reported the woman “was told by a nun that she should shut her mouth. How dare she demand any help, she was on welfare and had no right to expect anything.” Furthermore, she was told that if she did not behave they were going to discharge her. They discharged her early; she challenged them and was readmitted to the hospital.

In response to this treatment, Triple Jeopardy set up a picket line at St. Joseph’s Hospital and distributed leaflets about the hospital’s discrimination against poor people. Waters-Tines reported that the civil disobedience squad came and arrested her, her daughter’s father, and Reggie Schell of the Black Panther Party. As a consequence of the demonstration, St. Joseph’s Hospital was pressured into forming one of the first community boards, which had an impact on hospital policy. Triple Jeopardy was proud of this achievement and of their role helping women navigate the welfare system.

Cynthia Waters-Tines stressed that throughout its relatively brief existence, Triple Jeopardy worked closely with the Pennsylvania Welfare Rights Organization (WRO), led by State Senator Roxanne Jones. When I went through about 20 boxes of the NOW Archives, I was surprised that there was no mention of WRO. This was no surprise to Waters Tines: “In that era we (Black and white feminists organizations) were in separate worlds. We had to make some of these feminist organizations aware of the issue of forced sterilization, which did not affect their members. We had to make these organizations aware of an intersectional approach and a global perspective.”

After a few years, the core group of Triple Jeopardy got full-time jobs, and the group disbanded. Waters-Tines noted that other organizations were beginning to acknowledge their issues: “We influenced organizations like Choice to start bringing in more women of color. In that sense we felt that we did our job. We went to conferences and advised people about what things they should be considering if they wanted to provide services in their communities. There were small gains; we weren’t around long enough to have had a major impact.” However, although difficult to quantify, Triple Jeopardy had an impact. After the group folded, Waters-Tines brought her social justice perspective to her work at Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center where she served as Executive Director Executive from 1990 to 1998.

Waters-Tines came from a family of well-known and highly regarded social justice activists; both she and her sister Linda Richardson made a major contribution to Philadelphia’s racial justice movement and to the local women’s health movement. Sadly, Linda Richardson died on November 2 2020. The sisters’ work with Triple Jeopardy in the 1970s is a compelling example of the unpaid community activism that Nina Banks demonstrated has economic value that must be recognized.