Volume 7, No. 7
July/August 2020

In this issue...  
  • The 100th anniversary of the Women's Bureau at Department of Labor
  • Recognizing a Native American Suffragist
  • Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

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The U.S. Women's Bureau Reaches 100:
Reflections on the Bureau's Past Century

by Helen Ramirez-Odell
 
The Women's Bureau became part of the U.S. Department of Labor on June 5, 1920.  Its mission is to develop policies and standards and conduct inquiries to safeguard the interests of working women, to advocate for their equality and economic security for themselves and their families, and to promote quality work environments.   Mary Anderson was the first Director of the Women's Bureau. Appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, she served from 1920 to 1944. The Bureau's early studies were on working conditions for women in industry. Anderson promoted passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act that for the first time set minimum wages and maximum working hours in 1938. In the '40s attention was given to women's employment in war industries and wartime modifications of state labor laws for women.
 
In the late '50s and '60s the Bureau looked at women college graduates. Esther Peterson was the Bureau Director and became the Chair of the first President's Commission on the Status of Women. The Bureau's legislative victory was passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Protective legislation had to be reassessed at that time as women fought to work in a broad range of occupations on an equal footing with men. Also, in the '60s a demonstration childcare center was established for low-income employees in the Department of Labor.
 
Elizabeth Duncan Koontz became the first African American woman to head the Women's Bureau in 1969. The Bureau focused on eliminating discrimination against women and minorities in the workforce and supported passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Koontz was followed by Carmen Rosa Maymi, the first Latina to head it. In 1975 (International Women's Year) Maymi led the Bureau in increasing its international activities.
 
Next, Alexis Herman became the youngest woman to head the Women's Bureau. The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) was passed and the Bureau focused on women in nontraditional jobs and pre-apprenticeship training. In the '80s employer-sponsored childcare initiatives were introduced and the Bureau worked more closely with women on corporate boards to help women move up in the management structure. Also, studies were launched on the needs of women veterans, immigrant women, displaced homemakers and older women.
 
Non-traditional employment for women was a focus in the '90s and the Bureau also addressed the legal requirements of hiring household workers. The Working Women Count! National Survey was conducted throughout the country to see what woman liked and didn't like about their jobs, and the Bureau pressured for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
 
Shinae  Chun became the first Asian-American Director of the Women's Bureau during the 2000-2010 decade. She set up women's leadership forums and promoted careers in science, engineering and technology. The Bureau supported the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. 
 
Sara Manzano-Diaz became the 16th Director of the Bureau in 2010. Emphasis was to empower working women to get higher paying jobs, helping women veterans and promoting equal pay.
 
In 2014 Latifa Lyles became the Director. She promoted research to include the lifetime costs of caregiving and challenges faced by women of color and women with disabilities.
 
Dr. Patricia Greene became the 18th Director in 2017. A priority was access to affordable, high-quality child care and getting national paid leave.
 
President Trump appointed Dr. Laurie Todd-Smith to serve as the 19th Director of the Women's Bureau in 2019. Its current priorities are affordable childcare and paid leave, and commemorating the Women's Bureau Centennial in 2020.


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Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin:
From Valuing Assimilation to 
Celebrating Native Identity and Feminism
1863 - 1952
 
by Jackie Kirley
 
   

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was not the only woman of color who refused to march with a segregated group in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC. There was also Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, a M├ętis, a person of mixed indigenous and Euro-American ancestry (Ojibway/French), and a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation. Although newspapers reported that parade organizers had encouraged Baldwin to organize a float that would portray Indian women as supporting suffrage, Marie Baldwin opted to march with other female lawyers. 
                       
 
These two portraits symbolize Baldwin's story: the first was taken as an assimilated woman; the second she submitted to the Office of Indian Affairs as her official employee file photo-at a time when they encouraged assimilation. 
 
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin was born in Pembina, North Dakota. Her father, J.B. Bottineau, was a lawyer who worked as an advocate for the Ojibwa/Chippewa Nation in Minnesota and North Dakota. While a teenager, she lived in Minneapolis. She attended college in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and after college, returned to Minneapolis to work as her father's clerk. In 1892 when her father moved to Washington, DC to defend the treaty rights of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation, she moved with him. 

Baldwin, who shared her father's concern about defending Chippewa rights, developed an intertribal political consciousness after moving to DC. Initially, she believed that assimilation was the only viable future for Native Americans in the modern world. This suited the power structure in DC and in 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed her to a position of clerk in the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) where she worked as accountant in the Education Division of the Bureau. Many Native Americans sought her out in the Indian Office as a friendly face. Over time she became quite influential at the OIA, becoming a rate and traffic auditor in the transportation division, responsible for overseeing the claims of railroad companies, monitoring federal contracts with transportation companies that delivered goods to schools and agencies, and authorizing hauling contracts with Native teamsters. OIA valued her as a model of an assimilated Native American. However, while she was becoming more influential in OIA, she also becoming less invested in the goal of assimilation
 
Baldwin's values change
Her father's death in 1911 prompted a major change in her political consciousness. Instead of seeing the value of "fitting in," she now extolled the values of Native Americans to white America and she supported feminism, especially suffrage.  
 
Baldwin joined the newly-formed Society of American Indians (SAI), a progressive group and the first national American Indian rights organization run by Native Americans. She became a preeminent spokesperson for SAI. 
 
At age 49 she enrolled in the Washington College of Law, attended classes at night and finished a 3-year law degree in two years, at the top of her class. She was the first woman of color to graduate from Washington College of Law.   Upon graduation, when a reporter asked her if she was a feminist, she laughed and informed the reporter that Native women had virtual suffrage and had the power of recall in their tribes "since time immemorial." It was not the Native people who needed to be educated, she said, but the white man who needed to be educated about Native ways. She recommended that all women study law, especially Native women, because their lands and property were so valuable. As a nationally known Native American, she met with President Wilson in 1914 and encouraged him to support women's right to vote.
 
Ultimately, divisions within SAI pushed Baldwin out, with some members questioning the loyalty of anyone, such as Baldwin, who worked for the Indian service. SAI folded in 1923. Baldwin retired from Federal service in 1932.  
 
 
Addendum 2020-Why Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin would be pleased:  
 
 
 

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Killers of the Flower Moon: 
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
By David Grann, 2017, 352 pp
 
Review by Marsha Katz
 

Killers of the Flower Moon is a true story about murder, family, power, greed and racism. It was an unbelievably horrific episode in U.S. history that nobody would believe if they were reading a novel. But it is a true story that illustrates how racism can make ordinary people commit terrible acts against a minority group. Their belief that the other group is inferior and subhuman creates an atmosphere that enables them to not recognize that they are doing harm to other human beings. Moreover, since racism is usually a group phenomenon, others can feel the same way and encourage each other to engage in bad behavior.  In this way, the belief is perpetuated and spread.
 
The story centers around Mollie Burkhart, an Osage Indian in Oklahoma. On May 24, 1921, she feared that something happened to her sister, Anna, who disappeared three days earlier. Anna was later found murdered in a ravine. Three years prior, another sister died from a "wasting illness".  Mollie believed the wasting illness was actually a slow poisoning. Her last sister, Rita, was killed by a bomb along with her husband. Meanwhile, hundreds of the Osage were dying by a variety of methods. The white community accepted the murders, and and the thefts. The local authorities did not investigate.
 
The murder spree became national news. Previously, the Osage made the news because they were the richest people per capita in the world. When the Osage Indians were forced to give up their lands to the white man, they eventually relocated to lands in Oklahoma. . .." that were broken, rocky, sterile and utterly unfit for civilization." Decades after their exile, the Osage learned that their land had huge oil deposits.  Since they had purchased the land, it was harder for the government to take it away from them. Furthermore, in their agreement, it was stated that the "oil, gas, coal, or other minerals covered by the lands . . . are hereby reserved to the Osage tribe."  
 
Prospectors had to rent leases from the Osage. However, the U.S. government, ruled that many Osage were incompetent to handle their own money, and many, including Mollie's relatives, were required to have a local, white guardian oversee and authorize all of their spending, including day to day necessities. Some of the guardians took advantage of their wards. Some guardians would purchase goods from their own stores at higher prices, or direct purchases to certain stores and take a kickback. One government report estimated that the guardians stole more than $8 million. 
 
However, the mineral rights could not be bought, only inherited. Some people married into the tribe and then caused their spouse's demise. This was the case with Mollie's family.  Mollie's husband would get the headrights only when she and her whole family died.  She was the only one to survive.
 
The book also tells the story of the beginning of the FBI, which was involved in solving 21 of the deaths. Most of them, however, remained unsolved. 
    
This story documents the worst of what society can condone for its own self interest. It serves as a warning about racism and injustice that we still see today.


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Announcements
                          
We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Sammie Dortch, Ed.D, a retired professor from Harold Washington College, who was passionately involved in social justice organizations for many years. She also served on the committee to organize "Recognition Delayed: The Contributions of African American Suffragists and Why Their Stories Matter," and the committee to continue the conversation following that event. An article about her will appear in the next newsletter.

On September 24th, t he League of Women Voters will present a celebration  on Zoom of the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. Mary Bonnett is writing a piece for the event featuring the work of Alice Paul and Fannie Lou Hamer.

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Please contact us through Amy Laiken
312-402-4188