In this Washington Post article, author Michael Cavna tells us about Brandon-Croft’s beginnings, her social commentary through comics, and learning from one of the best and first African American comic strip writers, her father, Brumsic Brandon Jr. He told her three steps described the cartoonist’s job, and she repeats those words, almost as a mantra:
Yesterday was the 112th anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. This tragedy has become synonymous with workplace safety and ongoing regulations to protect workers. There were so many things wrong with the working conditions at Triangle Shirtwaist that it’s hard to believe that at the time none of it was illegal:
Stairwells and exits were locked.
There were no fire alarms to alert anyone to the fire.
There was a single fire escape.
In addition, fire department ladders, when they finally did arrive could only reach the seventh floor.
As a direct result of this fire, many changes, thanks to unions and current OSHA requirements have made things safer, but as we can see in today’s news, deregulation of trains and how chemicals are transported led directly to the Norfolk Southern train derailment and the new Governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, signed into law a roll back of child labor laws, allowing children, ages 14 and 15 to not fill out a form for work, commonly known as working papers. Other child labor laws remain in effect. In the case of Ohio, the governor took advice, not from the professionals but from the CEO of the train company to burn the chemicals in a controlled way. This led to people being evacuated and becoming ill. The CEO chose the most cost-effective option rather than the safest in many people’s opinions. Actions like these will likely lead to environmental disasters and workplace injuries that will affect these children for their lifetimes.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was situated in the Asch Building on the corner of Greene St. and Washington Place in Greenwich Village’s garment district. It resided on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors and employed about 500 workers, mostly immigrants, mostly young Italian and Jewish women and girls who worked fifty-two hours a week including Saturday, earning between $7 and $12 a week.
The fire broke out around closing time. The only warning was someone on the 8th floor calling the 10th to warn of the fire on the 9th floor. The common practice of locking stairwells and exits was in effect and the person who held the stairway key had already escaped. Dozens escaped by going to the roof. A crowd escaped to a single fire escape which buckled from the heat and the weight and collapsed sending about twenty to their deaths on the ground below. 146 people died and 78 were injured.
As for the fire, arson was not suspected despite four previous fires considered suspicious by companies owned by the same two co-owners.
The fire spurred a host of new labor laws including minimum wage and worker protections that included adequate bathroom facilities and a lessening of working hours for women and children. It also saw the burgeoning advancement of unions including the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which had been established in 1900 and only expanded and diversified after the fire.
In Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn is a memorial to the six unidentified victims. They have recently been identified and their names were added to the list of victims known since 1911.
Today the building is the Brown Building and is part of the New York University campus and part of the National Historic Register.
For more information on this tragedy and its aftermath, check out the links below:
I’m including two links. One is the original article I read: How Cornrows Were Used by Slaves [sic] to Escape Slavery in South America, which details the idea that women braided escape maps into their hair as well as messages. The second article is from Snopes that doesn’t discredit this theory despite no tangible evidence. As been told, just because we don’t know if it happened, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. There are many ways that African Americans used to keep themselves safe in order to survive slavery and emancipation from slavery, including communicating with each other and traveling north to freedom. Whether mythology or history, it is important to know all aspects of the African American experience from their arrival on these shores, almost exclusively involuntarily.
An additional thing that I learned in regards to language is that in South America this type of hair braiding was known as “cane rows” as opposed to “corn rows” because the crop there was sugar cane.
St. Patrick’s Day has long been one of my favorite holidays. Long before I met and married my husband with Irish roots, and well before I set foot on the Emerald Isle. I have always been fascinated by the Celts, their people, their land, their culture, especially in relation to ancient and medieval culture. I have also been a questioner. Why? Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that? As a young child being told that I couldn’t write during Rosh Hashanah, I was devastated. But writing isn’t work; it’s writing, I whined to no avail. Becoming Catholic has not broken me of that – is it really a – failing.
And so, I question – why?
Why can’t we eat meat on Friday? Is it because Peter was a fisherman? Will there be a dispensation for today? It is a saint’s feast day after all. I waited for Pope Francis, and then was told that it’s up to the local bishops. I still couldn’t find it, so I texted my godmother and she okayed the corned beef which made my husband happy (as if he wasn’t going to indulge on his holiday).
But I still wondered: Why?
In googling and asking my questions of the internet, I discovered the controversy that is North Dakota. Apparently, they have three dioceses, and two have them have allowed meat today, and one has not. The idea that North Dakota has three dioceses makes little sense to me, but I found no less than twenty-five separate links about St. Patrick’s Day in North Dakota. Amazing.
Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia popped up as did Cardinal Dolan in New York City’s Diocese. I didn’t see Boston, but I came to the logical conclusion that there would be dispensation for Boston Catholics. What holy hell would be raised if even one of those cities banned meat on St. Patrick’s Day? I hope we never find out.
During Pope Nicholas I in 866 CE, Friday abstinence became a universal rule. Fasting also on Fridays was common by the twelfth century. It was expected for everyone, including those as young as twelve with very few exceptions.
It also used to be that you couldn’t eat any animal products on Fridays, not just during Lent, but ALL YEAR. I learned that Fat Tuesday began as a way to use up all of the animal products that you couldn’t eat – butter, cheese, eggs, lard, and of course, meat.
Pope Paul VI changed things in 1966 in his Paenitemini. His object wasn’t to end abstinence and fasting but for Catholics to choose to abstain and fast as part of their own penance practices; let their conscience be their guide.
With Sunday being a weekly Easter, shouldn’t every Friday be a Good Friday? This was asked by the US Bishops in 1966 and I tilt my head wondering the same thing.
Lent is an opportunity to lend mutual support on our spiritual and faith journey. We are in it together and have a shared experience through Christ’s death and resurrection.
So why the exception for St. Patrick’s Day?
I mean, look at this filled soda from Northern Ireland! Resistance is futile. This was a breakfast sandwich shared between my husband and myself (and after twenty-three years of marriage he still had to take it under consideration).
I can imagine that they might have thought they’d lose all the Irish American Catholics if they said no corned beef on Friday of St. Pat’s Day, although this quandary occurs once or twice a decade, so it isn’t exactly a pressing issue.
I would also note that the traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration food in Ireland is different from the traditional food eaten in the US. In Ireland, sausage is usually eaten, and not your teeny-tiny frozen breakfast sausage, but a lovely, large, grilled bit of deliciousness. Bangers and mash. In the US, we serve corned beef and cabbage with mashed potatoes and carrots. Yesterday, I had cabbage with leeks, and it really boosted the flavor.
What are you to do?
It becomes a crisis of conscience.
Well, as I mentioned, dispensations are local, so check with your diocese.
Is it a pass? Not really. You’re expected to abstain from meat on a different day during the week.
Usually, you’re expected to give up meat on a day before the next Friday after St. Patrick’s Day and (or) perform acts of charity and good deeds to atone or call it even with the meat eating.
We’ll be having corned beef, cabbage, mashed potatoes (possibly champ), carrots, and Irish Soda bread with Kerrygold butter.
When I was in college, my friend was in England student teaching. When she invited me to fly over and meet her and travel the United Kingdom, I thought there was no way I could afford it. She told me we’d be staying in hostels.
I had never heard of hostels before. I had to join the association (for an annual membership) and then I could pay a small fee and spend the night in a safe, clean, dormitory. The Youth Hostel Association was for young adults, between the ages of 16 (without a parent) and 25. This is less common now. At the time, they also suggested that before you stay at a foreign hostel you should have a dry-run at a local, American run one. I did not do this, and it worked out fine for me. Of course, I haven’t gone hosteling in a couple of decades, so I can only imagine how much has changed. Part of that was because of my friend, who was the expert in my opinion, having been in England and traveled about quite a bit during her days off from teaching.
We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.
Frances Harper, We Are All Bound Up Together, 1866
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a voice of Black Suffragists. She was born in 1825 in Maryland to free African American parents. Her parents died when she was young, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle. By the age of 21, she had written her first small book of poetry, Forest Leaves and ultimately published 80 poems. More than a decade later she became the first African American woman to have published a short story, The Two Offers. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Women’s clubs.
While working as a teacher in Pennsylvania, a law was passed that free African Americans in the North were no longer allowed into Maryland, her home state. They would be imprisoned and enslaved.
She refused to give up her seat on the trolley, and only got up when she reached her destination as chronicled in The Liberator, page 3 as seen below.
Her famous speech, We Are All Bound Up Together, read in 1866 at the Eleventh Women’s Rights Convention held in New York City, can be read here.
She spoke at the National Woman’s Rights Convention in New York, held in 1866. The organization split over the suffrage of African American women and were opposed to supporting the fifteenth amendment. Harper left the group, and with Frederick Douglass and others supporting the amendment joined together to form the American Woman Suffrage Association. She was often the only Black woman at the women’s conferences. Through her life, she continued her advocacy for intersectionality (see- it’s not a new idea) in suffrage.
She spent the remainder of her life teaching and encouraging equal rights and education for African American women and founded and/or directed several clubs and organizations for African American women, including the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Some of her writings include:
Forest Leaves, poetry, 1845
Bury Me in a Free Land, poetry, 1858
Moses: A Story of the Nile, 1869
Light Beyond the Darkness, 1890
In Memoriam, Wm. McKinley, 1901
Trial and Triumph was one of three novels originally published between 1868-1888 as a serial.
Her first novel, Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted was published in 1892. It was thought sentimental, but it also highlighted several serious social issues at the time, some of which remain today.
As a writer, I am always drawn to the writing lives of the people I choose to profile, and I was pleased to see that Harper was a mentor to other African American writers, including Mary Shadd Cary, Ida B. Wells, Victoria Earle Matthews, and Kate D. Chapman.
My parish priest was my parish priest before my parish was my parish. There were rest stops on the journey my life was on that were not on the brochure. Detours I guess might be the right word. Every time I had my path laid out, circumstances created change and change created opportunities. Not all of those opportunities were fruitful. Surprise children, unplanned moves, family deaths, loss of self and missed chances.
It’s important to recognize the changes within us. Eventually we can no longer hide them and they burst without. Better to be prepared when that happens.
When the calling came to join the Catholic faith, it wasn’t that I wanted to delay my official, sacramental entry, but I didn’t want to come in cold. For myself, I wanted to attend to join the fall group of RCIA* in 2013. I also felt as though I was already Catholic. I wasn’t receiving communion, but in every other way. I had faith, I believed, and I was content in a way.
My massaversary as I like to call it happened on that Holy Week of 2013. In one year, I would be attending my own Easter Vigil. Despite not starting RCIA until the fall months, I was excited for this Holy Week.
At the same time, or near enough, Pope Benedict retired and Jorge Bergoglio was elected to be the next Pope, the 265th successor to St. Peter. Jorge was a bishop in Argentina and a Jesuit. He chose Francis for his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi whose model for caring for the poor he wanted the church to emulate. I don’t know why I was excited to be joining the church when Francis became Pope but being drawn to him also drew me to one of his favorite devotions of Mary, which very quickly became one of my favorite devotions. It is Mary, Untier or Undoer of Knots.
She appealed to me so much and she has stayed with me as this decade has passed.
Unlike Pope Francis, I have not seen the original painting in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, but I have managed to find medals, coins, and prayer cards. I am too intimidated to sketch something for this Mary, but perhaps one day.
Pope Francis’ humility and inclusivity to all is one of the reasons I am so fond of him. He walks the walk, exhibited in one way by his living, not in the Papal Residence but in the Vatican guesthouse.
He influenced the change in US policy towards Cuba and diplomatic relations and he supports the causes of refugees across the world.
He is clearly interested in evangelization, the environment, the poor, and real religious persecution.
He is the first Pope from the Society of Jesus, the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and he is the first Pope outside of Europe since Gregory III of Syria in the 700s. He is the first to choose the name Francis.
He speaks seven languages.
He has a common touch, which I think made me like him more. He is of the people, something as an American I can relate to.
He is quoted as choosing St. Francis of Assisi because “the man gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man, …how I would like a poor church, and for the poor.”
From William Bole’s 2018 article at jesuits.org, he states (and I paraphrase), that it’s not so much about rule following but about discerning what G-d is calling them to do. He purports an ethic of service. This truly speaks to me. I am in constant discernment as to what I’m being called to do. It has given me a new confidence in making decisions when I’m asked to do something and I try to be of service or to offer resources that can be of service to others. It is said that giving feels better than receiving, and when you are the one giving, it is a palpable sensation that remains long after the gift or the day has passed.
Pope Francis is who a leader of the church should be – putting the poor and the earth first and foremost, reminding us of our invitation to be humble and merciful, not only to the people we meet, but to ourselves as well.
Happy 10th Anniversary, Pope Francis. I pray for many more years under your guidance and wisdom.
*RCIA – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is the process of joining in full communion with the Church.
Where to find Jamie and all her wonderful food expertise and recipes.
I “met” Jamie Schler in the midst of the pandemic and through the former guy’s administration and our mutual resistance. She offered recipes from her home in Chinon, France and brought her followers along as she went (post-pandemic) to a family reunion stateside. I downloaded her free e-book, Isolation Baking, which along with Chef Jose Andres’ #RecipesForThePeople kept us creatively cooking while “trapped” in our own homes and kitchens. She makes an amazing assortment of homemade jams that she offers as part of her bed and breakfast at her Hotel Diderot in the beautiful Loire Valley. I’m looking forward one day to actually make her French Onion Soup, which is one of my favorite things to eat, and whose recipe I share below.
Jamie is generous with her time and love of food on social media and now on her Substack. She shares her techniques for making jam, which she does in abundance as well as recipes and insights. The jam is one of the highlights of the hotel’s breakfast and jam-making has been a hotel tradition since it’s early days of the 1960s. Each new owner has introduced new varieties of the jams, bringing the total to over 50 kinds.
The main building of the hotel dates from the 15th century. I can feel the history through the splendid pictures Jamie posts on her social media.
Stagecoach Mary was a mail carrier on a star route between Cascade, Montana to St. Peter’s Mission. She held two four year contracts with the United States Postal Service beginning in 1895, and received her stagecoach that she drove to deliver the mail from her friend, the Mother Superior of an Ursuline Convent, originally in Ohio, but now missioning in Montana.
I should also mention that she was the first African American woman to carry the mail (only the second woman to do so) and in her time she became a Wild West legend.
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?
Mary Fields was born in 1832, most likely in Tennessee, into slavery.
As times change, so does language. Since I’ve been in school and up until recently, we’ve referred to the “slaves” in the South (or elsewhere in the world). This denies the people their humanity. It tells the reader/listener that their only value was as a slave; that they are slaves at the heart of their being. But of course, that’s not true. They are people first. Men, women, and children who were kidnapped and enslaved and their children born into slavery and enslaved. These two links should help with the explanation:
She was freed with other enslaved people after the Civil War. From that time, she worked as a servant and laundrywoman on riverboats up and down the Mississippi River. She worked for the Dunne family until the wife died. John Dunne sent her to live with his sister, a nun and Mother Superior of a convent, where Mary lived and worked. She became very close with Mother Mary Amadeus Dunne and after Mother moved to Montana to mission with the Jesuits, Mary eventually followed her and helped nurse her back to health.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mary Fields wore men’s clothing, drank, smoked cigars, shot guns. She was tough and intimidating, two traits needed to be an independent contractor working alone on the frontier.
At some point, the bishop barred her from the convent after an altercation with a co-worker/colleague involving guns. To be fair, I can’t imagine that it would have been palatable for a man to be answering to a woman, an African-American woman and that may have played into some of the friction between them. Of course, it can be hard for any two headstrong people to work together.
It was then that she contracted with the Postal Service to become a star route carrier. She drove her stagecoach on the route with horses and a mule named Moses.
Star Routes were named such after their motto/mission of Celerity, Certainty, and Security in delivering the mail. They were denoted on paper with three asterisks: * * *, thereby becoming “star” routes. This name was renamed Highway Contract Routes in 1970.
She retired from her role as a mail carrier when she was 71 and lived on in town becoming one of the more popular figures of Cascade. She was praised for her generosity and kindness, especially to children. When she died in 1914 at 82, her funeral was one of the largest ever seen in the town.
She was very popular – schools closed on her birthday. When an ordinance was passed disallowing women from enjoying the saloons, the mayor exempted her. When her house burned down, volunteers rebuilt it.
Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.
Gary Cooper, Montana native, writing for Ebony in 1959