Quote of the Day
“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” – author unknown
Quote of the Day
“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” – author unknown
Mae West, American Actress and Business Woman
“Why don’t you come up sometime and see me. Come on up, I’ll tell your fortune .” – Line from the 1933 movie”You Done Him Wrong” with Cary Grant.
Mae West, sex symbol of the movie screen in the 1930’s, was an extremely savvy business woman who single-handedly saved Paramount Pictures and was the second highest paid person in the United States in 1934!
Born Mary Jane West in Brooklyn, New York on August 17th, 1893 to Matilda and John West. Mae was the oldest of three children. Her father was an amateur boxer and underground street fighter. Her mother Matilda was a German immigrant that dreamed of being an actress herself but her family had disapproved. Matilda appeared to have projected her dreams of stardom onto little Mae, her favorite child, and Mae ate it up.
Mae showed an early ability to imitate and entertain. At the tender age of 3, she was already mimicking those around her to the delight of her parents. She performed her first act at a church social and by age 7 her mother had enrolled her in dance classes. She was soon performing at burlesque shows and by age 14 she was performing in vaudeville. While there, she took on the a more assertive attitude in character that stuck with her for life.
After a short marriage to a fellow performer at the age of 17 in 1911, Mae made her way to the stage. There she seems to have honed her future character as she danced suggestively and learned the art of the double entendre. She even began writing her own lines and later her own plays using a pen name.
“Virtue has its own reward but no sale at the box office.”
Mae penned the play “Sex” but before it could go onstage, she was arrested on a morals charge for the blatant sexuality in the play. However, the arrest simply made “Sex” a hit due to all the publicity. Mae wrote several more plays containing adult content, enhancing her career and refining the sultry character she had created for herself.
“It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.”
By the mid 1930’s Mae had been noticed by Hollywood and she made her debut in pictures with “Night After Night”. She was 38 years old and in control. By the year 1935, Mae West was the second highest paid person in the entire United States, beat only by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is said that when Mae signed on to Paramount Pictures, she demanded a salary of $251,000 because Adolph Zuckor, the head of Paramount Pictures, was making $250,000! She wanted more money and she got it. It was the highest salary ever paid by the studio. Mae was no pushover. The public loved her and she knew it. She demanded what she was worth. Mae went on to make movies for Paramount Pictures for another 6 years.
“Those that are easily shocked, should be shocked more often.”
Mae was a unique character. Along with her risqué lines, her Brooklyn accent was a part of her character as well as her sultry walk. Mae had a unique walk that may be at least partially attributed to the platform shoes she wore to make herself appear taller. At just 5 feet tall, this petite woman was a firecracker.
Mae was a brilliant business woman. She knew what the audiences wanted of her characters and she played right to it. Her characters, whether on screen or on the stage, were unabashedly sexual. The double entendres in her lines were shock-inducing at the time. She made no apologies.
“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
Mae was shrewd about her own career but she was also a talented scout. She introduced the world to the talents of Mr. Cary Grant. As the story goes, Mae spotted Grant walking on the sidewalk at the studio and asked Adolph Zuckor who he was. He told her Grant was a bit player whose contract was set to expire. Mae insisted that Grant be her leading man in the movie “She Done Him Wrong” and that was that. The world took notice of Cary Grant, all thanks to Mae. Grant was always quick to point out that he made eight movies before playing opposite Mae West, but in reality it was only after he was on the big screen opposite Mae West that he became a star.
Mae was also a supporter of the “outsiders” in early 20th century society. In one of her early plays, called “The Drag”, she brought the topic of homosexuality to the forefront without apology. She was also an early supporter of gay rights and the women’s liberation movement. Mae was very supportive of the Black community as well. Mae credited, Bert Williams, an African-American entertainer, with being one of her earliest influences. And once she got to Hollywood, she didn’t change. In her movie “Belle of the Nineties” she insisted on working only with Duke Ellington and his orchestra and in another movie African-American actors were given roles that had warm relationships with Mae’s character and not just the role of servant as so many other movies did. Mae was clearly a woman ahead of her time.
“We are intellectual opposites…I’m intellectual and you’re opposite.”
The censorship of the era hit Mae’s career in pictures hard. The creation of the Hay’s Act, more properly known as the Motion Picture Production Code, severely limited what Mae could and couldn’t say in pictures. The code became strictly enforced after 1934 and censors had a field day with Mae’s lines. Her risqué dialogue was no longer allowed and after the dismal box office receipts of her movie “The Heat’s On”, Mae moved away from doing pictures and back to the stage. She brought her show, with all its sex appeal, to the night clubs and she was a hit once again.
With all of this celebrity came money and Mae was no dummy when it came to a dime. She invested her hard-earned money in real estate and made millions. At the time of her death in 1980, her personal property alone was worth $1 million. That doesn’t sound like a lot by today’s standards but when you realize that Mae was born in 1893 and made her millions during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, it’s astounding.
Mary Jane West, or as we know her Mae West, was a woman living in a man’s world but she didn’t let that stop her. At a time when women were limited in the work they could get and the money they could make, Mae made millions. She unabashedly flaunted her sexuality and shocked people with her words. She knew what she was worth and demanded to be compensated. She played the game and played it well. Mae died on November 22, 1980 at the age of 87 after suffering from pneumonia. She is buried in Brooklyn, New York where it all began. Mae is a legend in Hollywood and her influence can be seen even now. One look at Christina Aguilaera with platinum blond hair speaks volumes! Best of all, Mae was a superb businesswoman that made no apologies in demanding what she was worth. What a lady!
Quote of the Day
“It’s a man’s world. I happen to know how to play their game.”
– Mae West, American actress
Reuben Paul is in the 6th grade. He enjoys such things as martial arts, gymnastics, and giving presentations to tech companies to demonstrate how easy cyber hacking really is. What? Yes, you read that right. This young man calls himself a cyber ninja. He is a tech genius who can hack his “smart” Teddy Bear Bob along with your Fitbit! Oh and by the way, in his spare time, he goes to grade school and he runs his own non-profit company called CyberShaolin. Wow!
Reuben initially learned the basics of hacking from his father, Mano, who himself works in cyber-security. Reuben took this initial knowledge and went on to learn more on his own. This brilliant and caring young man even took advanced material and synthesized it down into easy-to-understand information so everyone can understand how this is done in order to keep themselves and their loved-ones safe. Reuben says that he gives presentations and works on cyber-security because kids use internet-connected toys to communicate with their friends and he wants to make sure everyone stays safe. His demonstrations show how someone with malicious intent can exploit these weaknesses and gain access to our homes and children.
Reuben gives presentations to tech companies and government entities to show how easy it is to hack into electronic devices that use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. At some of these demonstrations, Rueben hacks into Bob the Bear onstage, then uses Bob to record the speaker’s questions and audience reactions before playing back what he has just recorded to the astonishment of the crowd. And, he does all this within a matter of minutes. According to Reuben, “Cars, lights, refrigerators, everything like this that is connected in our homes, could be used and weaponized to spy on us, even harm us.” Reuben explained in one interview how easy it would be to shut off a patient’s pacemaker at a doctor’s office! That’s scary stuff. And, you know if a 12 year old can do it, so can someone without innocent intent.
In one startling example at a presentation for the military, while Reuben is onstage hacking into Bob the Bear and looking at his computer screen, he says, “Wow, I see someone’s Fitbit…looks like someone’s device like an Apple watch…” Shortly thereafter, Ruben says to the audience, “If you’re trying to turn off your Bluetooth devices, it’s too late.” Nervous laughter is audible in the room after that remark and the speaker has a shocked look on her face.
This amazing young man named Reuben, shows why we need to support education for all our children. They deserve it. And, if we want to survive and thrive in this advanced technological world, we need them. They are our future.
See the video below for a demonstration of what this amazing child can do! Go Reuben!
The first person of Hispanic decent and the third woman to sit as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court.
“I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.”
On August 8, 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor became the first person of Hispanic decent and the third woman to become a Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Her beginnings were humble, but she was taught the importance of an education from an early age. Justice Sotomayor went on to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton and later earned a J.D. from Yale Law School. This was just the start of the mark she would make on history.
On June 25, 1954 in the Bronx in New York City, Juan and Celina Baez Sotomayor became the proud parents of a baby girl named Sonia. Sonia was born to a working class family of Puerto Rican decent. Celina had a career as a nurse and Juan worked as a tool-and-die worker. A short time after Sonia’s younger sibling was born, Juan passed away in 1963 when Sonia was only 9 years old.
Justice Sotomayor tells the story that at the age of 10, she watched an episode of the legal drama television show Perry Mason. She discovered that prosecutors prosecute those that do wrong by the law but prosecutors can also dismiss charges for those that are not guilty of committing a crime. She explained in an interview that because of that, she decided she wanted to be an attorney and worked hard in her education to do just that.
“Until we get equity in education, we won’t have an equal society.”
Celina worked hard to support her family after her husband’s death and she stressed to both her children the importance of a good education. Sonia took her mother’s words to heart and worked hard to progress in her education. With self-discipline and hard work, Sonia graduated valedictorian from high school in 1972. From there she earned a scholarship to Princeton where she then graduated summa cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. She then went to Yale School of Law where she was co-chair of the Latin American and Native American Students Association. She also worked for the Yale Law Journal as the editor. Sonia Sotomayor proudly graduated from Yale with a Juris Doctor in Law in 1979.
Her career in law began with her work as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She worked in the trial unit prosecuting crimes from petty offenses to homicides. She held the position from 1979 through 1984 when she went on to become an associate and later a partner at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt in New York City from 1984 through 1992.
Her amazing work as a dedicated attorney earned her a nomination from George H.W. Bush to the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York . She held this position from 1992 through 1998. During her time in this position she became known as the Judge who saved Major League Baseball with her decision in Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee, Inc., which ended the strike.
Then in 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. She was awarded the position and worked as an Appeals Court Judge from 1998 until 2009. She is remembered by the legal community for her carefully worded opinions and her fearlessness in confronting others appearing before her while she served on the bench.
The apex of her legal career occurred in May of 2009, when President Barack Obama nominated her for the position of Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Congress approved her nomination and on August 8th of 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was sworn into office. On that day she became the very first person of Hispanic decent to sit as a Justice on the bench for the United States Supreme Court.
“I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences.”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor once said, “The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever.” She has used that tenacity as a career attorney and as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court to accomplish her goals and to serve the people by upholding the law and the Constitution of the United States of America.
“It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”
Mimics are not uncommon in either the human or natural world. Many animals can imitate the noises made by other animals and many people make a living out of imitating the voices of other people. However, to use your voice to sing a song that’s a duet between two of the most famous vocalists in the world is an incredible talent not many people possess. But, Marcelito Pomoy is just such a person.
Marcelito Pomoy is a young man that was born in the Philippines. He has a very gifted voice with the ability of being able to sing in both soprano and tenor. Singing in both vocal ranges is not unique but Marcelito is able to not only sing in both vocal ranges but he is able to switch instantly from one to the other. This unique talent was on display when Marcelito won the second season of the television show Pilipinas Got Talent by singing the song The Prayer, a duet originally by multiple Grammy Award winning Canadian singer Celine Dion and world renowned tenor, Italian singer, Andrea Bocelli.
The beauty of this young man’s voice is stunning. His talent was on full display once again as Marcelito was able to repeat his amazing winning performance from Pilipinas Got Talent on Wish 107.5, an FM radio station in the Philippines. See for yourself:
Not only does Marcelito have a beautiful voice but also notice that he is not only singing in two separate vocal ranges but he is switching from English to Italian and neither language appears to be his native tongue! Amazing!
Compare his voice to the original duet:
Note. I earn no profit from writing this article. I wrote this article because I am stunned by this young man’s ability and wish only to share his unique talent with readers. See Marcelito Pomoy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/marcelitopomoy08/ for more information and videos of his amazing performances.
Nickname: America’s Sweetheart
“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down , but the staying down.”
Mary Pickford was, at one time, the most powerful woman in Hollywood. During the silent film era, she was the highest paid woman in the world. She used her ambition and business sense to become as powerful as the men around her in a time when women were not even given a seat at the table. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 giving all women the right to vote, and by that time, Mary Pickford had already become the first woman to earn $1 million in Hollywood and she was a co-founder of the film studio United Artists making her one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 8, 1892. She was five years old when she first performed in the theatre. She was just fifteen years old when she reluctantly agreed to act in silent films at the urging of her mother to help provide for the family after her father passed away. At the time, movies were seen as vulgar and only the lowliest of actors would sink so low as to perform on-screen. The director and producer D.W. Griffith who would become a large player in her future as an internationally renowned movie star, told her that film was in its infancy and she would help bring it up to the level of theatre acting. Mary stated in interviews that she was put off by Griffith upon their first meeting however his faith in her abilities were unwavering.
He convinced her to trust him and she began to work in film. However, Mary was never afraid to voice her opinion and would outright refuse to act in ways that she felt were unnatural or ridiculous. Director George Cukor later stated that Mary was the mother of method acting and pioneered a more natural form of pantomime that later became commonplace in Hollywood films.
Even at this early time in her career, Mary was wise in business. She estimated that she had only a short time to appear in films before her career was over. She went to Griffith and stated that she would no longer work for the $5.oo a day she was receiving which was a standard wage for actors of the day. Griffith relented and asked if she would stay on if he would pay her $10.00 per day. She agreed. Because of her business sense and unbending will, she doubled her income in one day!
“Make them laugh, make them cry, and hack to laughter. What do people go to the theatre for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that.”
Mary started her career in New York City but by 1911 she had moved out to Hollywood, California. In 1914, Mary starred in the movie Tess of the Storm Country for the Famous Players studio and Mary Pickford, the Star, was born. With such fame came more power and she was given the right to choose her own scripts, director, and so on. During this period of time, her income also increased exponentially as she was given $10,000 per week against 50% of the profit. She was also writing and selling scripts which further increased her income.
Mary continued to make movies during this time and in 1917 she made Poor Little Rich Girl with director Adolph Zukor for Paramount Studios. In it she played a ten-year old girl even though she was actually twenty-one years old at the time. The movie was a huge success and afterwards Mary demanded more freedom to pick and choose her projects and with whom she would work. She was granted her demands as she was the number one Hollywood star at the time. She was also the highest paid woman in the world. She was the first Hollywood actress to have earned a staggering $1 million dollars. This at a time when the average school teacher in the United States was making $10.00 per day!
“I believe you always have to have a goal no matter what it is.”
United Artists, co-founded by Mary and her friends Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin, was announced in 1919. Each partner bought into the new company at $100,000 each with equal say for all the partners, including Mary. At that time, producers in Hollywood were complaining that actors had too much power so producers were coming together to control salaries for everyone involved in filmmaking, including actors and writers. Upon learning about the newly formed United Artists, it is said that the President of Metro Pictures stated “The lunatics have taken charge of the asylum!” But United Artists was well on its way to becoming one of the longest lasting and most successful film studios in Hollywood. United Artists, or UA as it is now known, is still producing films to this day, however it was bought out by another studio in the early 1980’s.
In reference to being released from Adoph Zukor of Paramount Studios Mary stated, “Freedom, it’s a heady wine, having once tasted it, its impossible to go back and to work for someone under restriction.”
Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were in a romantic relationship for several years and were finally married on March 28, 1920 after their divorces from their respective spouses. Seen as Hollywood’s first royal couple, they lived at Pickfair, which was a hunting lodge in the remote areas of Beverly Hills that the couple remodeled and made their own. Hollywood’s elite as well as actual royalty from around the world visited Mary and Douglas at Pickfair. Even the physics genius Albert Einstein made it to a dinner there. According to Mary, Einstein attempted to explain the physics of other dimensions to her by using the eating utensils at the table. She later commented rather humorously in an interview that Einstein did his best to explain it to her but in the end, she still didn’t understand.
Mary may not have understood the physics of dimensions but she understood well how movies were made. She was never afraid to take control when she needed to. In one movie she starred in, the director of the film was well-known for overindulging in alcohol and would show up late on set if he showed up at all. In the absence of the director, Mary actually took over the directing duties to keep the movie on schedule and get it made. She did most of her own stunts in the movie and was nearly thrown from a horse that was spooked when it lost its shoe during one riding scene. She took it all in stride however and the movie was a hit with audiences upon its release.
In 1927, Mary made her last silent film called My Best Girl. Her leading man in the movie was Buddy Rogers who would later become her third husband after her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks. That same year, she was one of thirty-six actors that co-founded the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and she later won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in her first talking motion picture called Coquette.
In reference to her charitable work Mary stated, “The world has been wonderful to me, people have been wonderful to me, it’s the least I can do to try to pay back, any way I can”
In 1933 Mary Pickford made her very last film, called Secrets. In 1934 she retired from acting but continued on for the Board of United Artists and in 1937 she became the first woman vice-president for the film studio. That same year she went on to marry Buddy Rogers with whom she would adopt two children. She was never able to have children of her own due to an illness and surgery from her early adulthood.
Even after retirement, Mary was not done working on behalf of the Hollywood community she loved so much. In 1941, she convinced several others in Hollywood to help her build the Motion Picture Country Home for aging individuals employed in the film industry. It was created for those that could not afford to pay for nursing home care on their own. Mary’s business savvy mind seems to have always been balanced by her caring heart.
The grand life of Mary Pickford came to an end on May 29, 1979 in Santa Monica, California. She was 87. Just a few short years before her death, the Academy of Motion Pictures awarded Mary with her second Oscar for the Life Time Achievement award. Her words of gratitude were befitting of her personality as a sweet, head-strong, willful, and loving woman. Her eyes moist with tears, she said in a small but clear voice, “I’ll cherish this always.” This was a fitting end for an incredibly artistic and intelligent business savvy woman who helped create Hollywood and make it what it is today.
Do animals have emotions? If you are an animal lover as I am, your answer is likely a resounding, “Yes!”. If you aren’t an animal lover or if you’ve never been around animals, your answer may be “no”. So which is it?
Animal species, as well as animal family groups, and even individual animals have special signals they use to communicate. A dog will growl when it’s scared or angry and wolves will howl to communicate with other wolves, but what about a gorilla that can use sign language to tell you she’s lonely? Does she have thoughts and feelings like a human?
I have been rescuing animals for more than thirty years. I have worked with hundreds of abandoned, abused, and neglected animals. These animals have ways of letting me know what they have been through without words. But, do these animals have emotions?
One of my rescue dogs did not particularly like men. However, when a male friend of mine dropped by for emotional support after a particularly difficult romantic breakup, my dog sat next to my friend, leaned against his leg, and allowed my friend to stroke his fur. My dog even laid his head on my friend’s leg as my friend cried. My dog stayed by his side during our entire conversation. What would explain my dog’s behavior? Was my dog feeling my friend’s pain or was my dog simply vying for attention?
Another of my rescue dogs came from an abusive situation. He was being physically abused by his owner. I did what I could and talked the owner into giving me the dog. A few months later, I saw the owner while I was outside with the dog. The owner picked the dog up from the ground without asking. The dog immediately froze. The dog turned its head away from his previous owner and looked directly at me. I asked the owner to set the dog down. As soon as the dog’s feet were resting on the ground, it went away and hid. This behavior was very telling of previous treatment but was the dog looking at me as a signal to intervene? Was his fear an emotion or an instinct?
I have also worked with abused children. Years ago, I was hired by a non-profit to work with the State in conducting supervised visitations between abused children and their parents. During that time, I worked with a young child that was not yet a year old and she didn’t speak. She had been physically abused by her mother who was diagnosed as bipolar. When I would bring the child into the play room to be with her mother, the child would wrap her arms and legs around me and she wouldn’t let go. I would have to entice her to interact with her mother through the use of toys. During one particularly tense visit, her mother was feeding her while the child sat in a walker. The mother suddenly sat back in her chair, crossed her arms, and looked away. The young child immediately became very still. She looked at the floor and made no sound. At that moment, it was clear that the child was afraid. But was the child’s action in this situation simply the instinct of self- preservation or was it something more? Was the child relaying thoughts and emotion as an animal might in this situation?
Neither the children nor the animals I worked with in these situations had the words to express their emotions, yet both could express these feelings through behaviors. We accept that children are sentient beings that simply cannot yet express their thoughts and feelings in words. Can we also accept that animals are sentient beings that express thoughts and feelings without words?
Can animals feel love?
Can animals feel sorrow?
Can animals feel joy?
Are animals sentient beings with thoughts and emotions like humans or are humans simply projecting their own emotions onto the behaviors of animals? Science does not yet have the technology to reveal the answer. For right now, you’ll simply have to decide for yourself!
Quotes of the Day
“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.“
– Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
-A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh
“I am in favor on animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.“
-Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Marie Van Brittan Brown
Inventor of the Home Security System and the Closed-Circuit Television
Marie was a very private person in life. As I could find no direct quotes from Marie herself, I chose a quote from a brilliant scientist that epitomizes the life of this amazing woman.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this must be attained.” – Marie Curie, scientist and Nobel Laureate
Marie Van Brittan Brown was born on October 22, 1922. She was a nurse from Queens, New York. She invented the forerunner to the modern home security system and the first closed-circuit television. In the 1960’s, Marie was working the unconventional hours that nurses often do, coming home late at night after a long shift. She was often home alone as her husband, Albert Brown, an electronics technician, also worked unconventional hours. Marie was nervous being home alone as she and her husband lived in a rough neighborhood where police protection was unreliable at best. She was especially concerned about her safety while answering the door as she didn’t know who would be standing on the other side. Due to their home’s location, fear and nervousness in her own home was a part of Marie’s life.
Instead of wallowing in anxiety and fear, Marie chose to take matters into her own hands. She designed a security system in which a camera was mounted in a small box on the front door. Through a unique system of peepholes and camera movements, the camera picked up the image of the person at the front door and fed it via a radio controlled wireless system to a television monitor in the bedroom. Other features included a microphone to allow the home’s occupant to converse with the visitor at the door, an alarm system to allow the homeowner to alert a neighbor or police if there was a problem, and a remote lock to allow the occupant of the home to lock or unlock the front door at the push of a button.
Marie and her husband applied for a patent on the design in 1966. The patent was approved on December 2, 1969. The new invention was called “Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance.” It is the precursor to the modern home security system which millions of people utilize today in order to keep themselves and their property safe.
Marie lived in Queens until her death on February 2, 1999 at the age of 76. She used her intelligence and skills to craft a system of security in her home to keep her family safe. Marie’s legacy continues as she also influenced a second generation to follow in her footsteps. Her daughter Norma Brown, also a nurse, became an inventor in her own right patenting as many as ten inventions including an anti-rape device patented in June 1998.
Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF
“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II…”
Audrey Hepburn, an actress most known for her roles in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)and My Fair Lady (1964), was also incredibly dedicated to her work with children through UNICEF, The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. In fact, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush himself honored Audrey for her dedication to UNICEF by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest award a civilian can receive in the United States.
On May 4, 1929, Audrey Kathleen Rushton was born in Brussels, Belgium to a Dutch Baroness mother (Ella Van Heemstra) and an English banker father (Joseph Hepburn-Rushton). Her mother had a prior marriage which provided Audrey with two older half-brothers. Ella divorced Joseph when Audrey was just six year old. Ella moved with her children to England where they would live until the war. In September 1939, World War II broke out in Europe when Audrey was just ten years old. Ella moved her family to the Netherlands because the country remained neutral and she thought they would be safe, however, the Netherlands were invaded by Nazis only one year later. Audrey’s brothers were taken away and forced into the German Army. It is said that during this time, Ella changed Audrey’s name to Edda for fear that Audrey’s English sounding name may cause trouble with the Nazi’s. The Nazi occupation would continue for the next five years.
During the war, Audrey took ballet lessons and about a year before the war ended she had learned enough to perform. In her screen test for her role in the movie Roman Holiday, Audrey explains how she “gave performances to collect money for the underground which always needed money.” When she was asked what the Germans thought of this, she smiled coyly and said, “They didn’t know about it.” In a documentary about her life, it was said that she assisted the underground (the resistance to Nazis) by passing notes back and forth because children could move around more freely than adults. Obviously, by her own words and actions, Audrey was always a fearless fighter for a cause she believed in.
Shortly before the war ended in September 1945, Audrey and her mother were caught in the crossfire of the Battle of Arnhem. The Battle of Arnhem was an air and land offensive that was the single greatest Allied disaster of the war. The small town of Arnhem was completely destroyed along with the home in which Audrey and her mother lived. Amazingly, Audrey and her mother were among the lucky ones to escape the battle relatively uninjured. However, food which had been scarce was now impossible to find and according to an interview with Audrey’s life partner, actor Robert Wolders, Audrey and her mother were forced to eat tulip bulbs and cooked grass to stave off starvation. Audrey suffered from malnutrition at this time and she would suffer the after-effects of it for the rest of her life. The United Nations Relief Fund, the forerunner to UNICEF, was there to provide much needed food and medical supplies to Audrey and her family when the war ended soon after.
After the war, Audrey continued to study ballet and acting in London and Amsterdam. Audrey stood out on film and, after only a few small roles, she was on her way to becoming a star. Only eight short years after the war had ended, Audrey won her first academy award for her role in the film Roman Holiday.
After a lengthy and successful film career, Audrey decided to retire in the 1980’s. In 1988, she began a new chapter in her life; she became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. In her time with UNICEF, Audrey traveled around the globe to Ethiopia, Turkey, South and Central America, Mexico, Sudan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and Somalia. In total, she made over 50 trips to other countries on behalf of UNICEF.
“I have a long-lasting gratitude and trust for what UNICEF does.”
Despite Audrey’s past reluctance to interact with the press, when she was not traveling as an ambassador, she was speaking out on behalf of UNICEF to raise awareness and promote their work. Among other things, she gave innumerable interviews and speeches, helped with many fundraisers and benefits, and even testified before the United States Congress twice.
“I have been given the privilege of speaking for children who cannot speak for themselves, and my task is an easy one, because children have no political enemies. To save a child is a blessing, to save a million is a God-given opportunity.”
Shortly after her return from Somalia on one of her many trips for UNICEF, Audrey suffered severe stomach pain. Thinking she had contracted a virus from her trip, she saw her doctor only to be told she had advanced stage cancer and she had only three months to live. The brave, beautiful, talented, and compassionate Audrey Hepburn lost her battle with cancer at her home in Switzerland in January 1993 at the age of 63. In 2002, a statute called “The Spirit of Audrey” was unveiled at the UNICEF headquarters in New York City. It was dedicated to her posthumously in recognition of her work with children through UNICEF. As her friend Harry Belafonte said, “She was touched by and deeply moved by the role UNICEF played in her own life. It wasn’t just benevolent, it was a passion to her.” Audrey Hepburn will be forever known as the elegant beauty on screen but remember her as well as a dedicated savior of children.
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
– Audrey Hepburn
Wangari Muta Maathai
2004 Nobel Laureate, Founder of the Green Belt Movement, environmentalist and activist for social change
“It is the people who must make their leaders change so we must stand up for what we believe in.”
Wangari Muta Maathai was born April 1, 1940 in the small rural town of Nyeri, Kenya. During her long life, she was a tireless activist for social change and environmental responsibility. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 “for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace”. She was internationally recognized as the first black woman and the first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She passed away on September 25, 2011 at the age of 71 after a lifetime of hard earned achievements, including many firsts for women, that created lasting change in the world.
Her future of promoting positive change in the world may have gotten its foothold in 1960, after she was awarded a scholarship which allowed her to attend college in the United States. She obtained a Bachelors Degree in Biological Science from Mount. St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas in 1964 and then a Masters Degree in Biological Science from the University of Pittsburg in 1966. She returned to Kenya where she attended the University of Nairobi and obtained her PhD in Biology in 1971 to become the first woman from East and Central Africa to obtain a doctorate degree. Then, from 1976 through 1977, she was hired as an associate professor at the University of Nairobi becoming the first female professor from her home country of Kenya.
Professor Maathai choice to major in biological science likely stemmed from her close relationship with nature as a child. In her book, Unbowed: A Memoir, she discusses happy childhood memories of growing up playing under a large fig tree and trying to scoop up in her hands the lovely frog eggs she mistook for beads in the stream near her home. The later destruction of that fig tree which caused the stream she played in to dry up and her beloved frogs to disappear may have been one of the flames that ignited her passion to promote the deep connection she saw between the environment and human survival and social stability. She stated in an interview that “children of the concrete jungle” in the cities know only to buy food from grocery stores. They don’t know to respect nature as the actual source of the food they eat. “Children of the soil” like herself who are “part and parcel of nature” know where their food comes from and they learn respect for the environment. She went on to state that without clean air, water, and soil, humans cannot survive.
“The generation that facilitates or is responsible for the environmental degradation is not the one that pays the price.”
In 1977, in an effort to protect the environment and to promote social change, Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement. At the time, she was working with the National Council of Women of Kenya to address the needs of rural Kenyan women. Through her outreach to the local people, she was made aware of the economic devastation that was occurring due to mass deforestation by industry. Without trees, the water sources were drying up and firewood became a scarce commodity. This was especially hard on local women who relied on the environment for food, water, and firewood to support their families. The Green Belt Movement helped local women, who in turn encouraged others, to grow and plant trees in order to restore the environment and economic stability to the area. The Green Belt Movement also provided the women with a small amount of money for their work which aided in providing more economic independence for the women who participated. According to The Green Belt Movement website, it is “an environmental organization that promotes conservation of the environment through planting trees which improves the economic power and viability of communities.” To date, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 35 million trees.
During this time, Professor Maathai and others came to realize that what was causing these hardships for the people and the environment “were deeper issues of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and a loss of the traditional values” that had for generations allowed the people to live in harmony with each other and their environment. Professor Maathai was not shy about voicing her opinion and when she participated in a protest in opposition to the government, she was severely beaten and injured. According to Biography.com she would later state, “Nobody would have bothered me if all I did was to encourage women to plant trees, but I started seeing the linkages between the problems that we were dealing with and the root causes of environmental degradation. And one of those root causes was misgovernance.” Accordingly, the Green Belt Movement later created an educational program, called Community Empowerment and Education seminars, which promotes democracy by encouraging people to question why their voices are not being heard in relation to political, economic, and environmental circumstances.
“Everyone of us everyday of our lives either conduct ourselves in a way that promotes peace or in a way that invites conflict.”
Professor Maathai was very vocal for the rest of her life about her passions for the environment and democracy. She went on to hold many important roles through which she could raise awareness and contribute to change. In Kenya, after Moi’s political party lost control in 2002, Professor Maathai became a member of Kenya’s Parliament. From 2002 through 2007 she held such important positions in Parliament as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources and the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem. In 2009, the United Nations Secretary General named Professor Maathai a United Nations Messenger of Peace which served as yet another platform for her to voice her position on the environment and climate change.
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai was passionate about the environment and social justice right up to the end when ovarian cancer took her life in 2011. After her death, memorial ceremonies were held in Kenya, New York, San Francisco, and London to honor this beautiful unstoppable woman whose intelligence, courage, empathy, and persistence helped create lasting change on the issues of environmental responsibility and social justice. But perhaps more importantly, she helped change attitudes toward women and their potential to contribute to lasting change that will make this world a better place for us all.
Excerpt from the next article:
Women That Helped Change The World, The Series: Audrey Hepburn, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF
Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF
“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II…”
Audrey Hepburn is most known for her acting, with such notable movies as My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s on her resumé. But, this accomplished actress was at one time a child who experienced the devastation of World War II first hand. She grew up to work with the very organization that came to her aid as a child after WWII, The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). She worked as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF to aid children just like herself. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George H.W. Bush for her work with UNICEF. Then, in 2002, a statue of Ms. Hepburn called “The Spirit of Audrey” was unveiled at the UNICEF headquarters in New York City. It was dedicated to her posthumously in recognition of her work with children through UNICEF.