Women’s History Month: Profiles of Prominent Female Trailblazers Throughout History

For Women’s History Month this March, the Demon Press wants to highlight some of the female trailblazers who helped advocate for women getting the rights that they deserve. The women on this list broke barriers and helped push forward the cause of not just women’s rights, but also the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. Though many of these women may have faced setbacks or even been barred from pursuing their passions because of their gender, they continued to push through, and helped to move us closer to a world where future women and girls could have a life in which their gender did not stop them from pursuing their dreams.

1. Ida B. Wells: Journalist and Civil Rights Advocate

In 1892, journalist Ida B. Wells published an exposé pamphlet in which she shed light on the issue of lynching, specifically regarding white mob violence against African Americans. Though this action infuriated many in her town and caused her to be ridiculed by many white suffragettes, who ignored racial issues similar to the ones Wells advocated for, it was and still is an important document. She also helped to found the National Association of Colored Women’s Club. Though she faced many injustices because of her race and her gender, Ida B. Wells is a pivotal figure in the fight for civil rights in America.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady and Human Rights Champion

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most prominent figures in women’s history and was an advocate for women’s rights and civil rights. During her time as First Lady, Roosevelt revolutionized the work expected of a First Lady and promoted various social issues. She traveled across the globe and penned an almost-daily column called My Day, which she continued to write until 1962. After her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, died in 1945, she went on to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, and even helped to write the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Upon the request of President John F. Kennedy, she chaired the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, a position she held from 1960 up until her death in 1963.

3. Coretta Scott King: Author and Activist

Though she is probably best-known by most for her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King was a leading figure in her own right in many social justice movements, specifically the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. She also founded the King Center, which aims to keep the legacy of her late husband alive. Aside from her work as a civil rights champion, she was also a skilled musician, and she would often incorporate this skill into her advocacy. She authored 3 books in her lifetime and has received over 60 honorary doctorate degrees.

4. Bella Abzug: Congresswoman and Feminist Advocate

Bella Abzug, nicknamed ‘Battling Bella’ for her tenacious spirit, was a politician, anti war activist, and champion of the women’s liberation movement. She helped to found the Women Strike for Peace organization and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Abzug is often associated with her hats, which she wore at most, if not all, public appearances. The origins of this habit, according to Abzug herself, are that, “When I was a young lawyer, I would go to people’s offices and they would always say: ‘Sit here. We’ll wait for the lawyer.’ Working women wore hats. It was the only way they would take you seriously. After a while, I started liking them. When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of it. So I was watching. Did they want me to wear it or not? They didn’t want me to wear it, so I did.”

5. Gloria Steinem: Journalist and Feminist Leader

Gloria Steinem is one of the most prominent and iconic leaders of the 2nd wave of feminism. Before she was on the forefront of the 1960s/70s feminist movement, Steinem was a journalist—one of her most notable works being an exposé on working conditions for Playboy bunnies. She founded notable feminist magazine Ms. in 1972 and has written multiple books.

6. Marsha P. Johnson: LGBTQ+ Rights Activist

Marsha P. Johnson was one of the most prominent and influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights during the 20th century. Johnson was transgender and also performed as a drag queen. She first came to be known in the public eye in 1969, when she was a key figure in the Stonewall riots, which is considered by many to be the moment that sparked the fight for equal rights for members of the LGBT community. She, along with fellow advocate Sylvia Rivera, helped to found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which aimed to help transgender youth, specifically surrounding the issue of homelessness. During the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Johnson was an advocate, attending protests and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) meetings.

7. Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice

Sonia Sotomayor became the third woman and first Hispanic and Latina person to become a justice on the United States Supreme Court in 2009. After being raised by a single mother in a housing project in the Bronx, she went on to receive her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her juris doctorate from Yale Law School. Sotomayor worked as a prosecutor when, in 1997, she was nominated by then-President Bill Clinton to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In January of 2021, she swore in Kamala D. Harris, the first woman and person of color to hold the office of Vice President.

8. Geraldine Ferraro: Vice Presidential Candidate

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated for national office by a major political party when she was nominated to run for Vice President along with Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale. Though she and her running mate lost their bid for the White House, she still remains an important figure in women’s history. About her loss in the 1984 election, she has stated that, “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving, and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket, and She was not available!” Before her stint as Vice-Presidential nominee, Ferraro worked as a criminal prosecutor and then a U.S. Representative from New York’s 9th Congressional District.

— Blake Ciresa

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Pandemic Perspectives: How the Vaccine Works

A lot has changed about how we view the COVID-19 virus since last March, and with so much misinformation spreading everywhere, it can be difficult to stay up to date on the pandemic. To try to get a better understanding of the science behind COVID-19, I sat down with biodefense consultant Jenny Withoff.

Interviewee Biography: Jenny Withoff is a biodefense biosecurity consultant, where she works on infectious disease control. She previously worked as a veterinarian, after receiving her doctorate in Veterinary Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Due to her background working with animals, it is no surprise that she also is an animal lover: she owns two German Shepherds, three cats, and several chickens. Additionally, she works as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where she teaches a course called ‘One Health: Animals, People and the Environment—Interactions and Implications for Global Health Security.’ Aside from her career as a scientist/veterinarian/professor, she enjoys traveling and solving puzzles. She also happens to be my aunt!

• Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do?

JW: So I work in biodefense, which means we are trying to prepare countries and governments and private entities for anything that can happen related to the field of biology. So it could be a natural disease outbreak or something intentional. Basically, we are just trying to prepare
everyone for potential infectious disease outbreaks.

• There’s been a lot of talk about the new variants that are spreading – what risk do they pose? How do they differ from the original variant?

JW: Some variants differ significantly from the original virus, and others differ by just one amino acid chain. If you look at the structure of the virus, it’s a really, really tiny component—just one amino acid change makes a variant. Bacteria viruses are good at changing—their goal is to keep themselves alive, so they change a lot. Some viruses change more than others, and Coronavirus isn’t one that changes the most. Influenza would actually be the one that changes more than any of the rest of them, but as far as being a risk going forward, so far it looks like the vaccines are very capable of handling the variants we’re seeing come out.

• Was the United States well prepared to combat this virus before it spread?

JW: I think we could have been way better prepared—the whole world could’ve been better prepared. So I don’t think it was just a U.S. problem. We’ve been talking about coronaviruses in particular for probably a good 20 years, and the problems it causes. Because we have seen them emerge in the past, with things like SARS-1, we knew that coronaviruses were going to be a problem. The issue is that it’s hard to convince people to spend money on things that really haven’t affected the global economy in the past. I think that overall we could’ve done a better job, but I think that everyone across the board could have, as well.

• Can you summarize how the vaccine works?

JW: The COVID-19 vaccine is different from normal ones we are used to. To make it a little bit easier to digest, we’ve just taken a little snippet of the way the virus is structured, and basically, we found that this is very effective in creating an immune response. With the older vaccines, it was a little bit of a longer process to develop, because we actually had to grow the viruses, and produce them in other ways, which is a very long and labor-intensive process. The fact that we can take just a little snippet of the genetic material, the mRNA in particular, is pretty amazing. The immune response that we’ve created with this particular process mirrors all of the older processes, it has just taken a shorter amount of time to do.

• I know that you recently just got the vaccine – what was that experience like for you? Did you feel any side effects?

JW: I am fully vaccinated—I had my second dose of the vaccine in January, which means my immune system is ready to face the virus! I would have to say that, compared to vaccines I’ve had in the past, the response really wasn’t any different. I had maybe a bit more arm soreness than with other vaccines, but beyond that, I really had no reaction. Some people have felt a little flu-like: they felt a little more tired and feverish after their second dose of the vaccine in particular, but it’s only lasted a day or two, and everyone has been feeling okay after taking normal anti-inflammatories to alleviate symptoms.

• What do you think is the most likely timeline for everything going back to “normal,” at least somewhat?

JW: I feel that by the end of the summer we should be in a really good position to have events and just a general sense of normalcy. We’ll likely be able to go to school, be around others—we should have enough people vaccinated and have herd immunity by that point, so we can feel a
little more comfortable with going in public. I don’t know if mask mandates will go away before or after that, but we should at least have enough people that are immune to the virus that it will be okay for us to go out again, and feel comfortable that we’re protected in doing so.

• How much do you think the vaccine will help stop the spread of the virus? Around how many people will need to get vaccinated for the United States to reach herd immunity?

JW: I think we’re probably looking at 80-85% of the population that needs to be vaccinated or have a previous infection. This statistic is high compared to other viruses because of how contagious this virus is. That’s a lot of people, but we do have a lot of people who have been previously infected. The vaccine rollout is going a little bit slower than we would have hoped—there are supply chain issues and the weather has not been helpful at all.

• Hypothetically, if enough people don’t get the vaccine, what would the effects of that be?

JW: It will definitely take longer for things to get better if that happens. I do think we’re definitely going to be dealing with coronaviruses for a while. I think we might be headed down the path where we need to vaccinate on a yearly basis, much like influenza—everyone gets the flu shot every year because it mutates so often. I think that, for at least the next couple of years, we’ll need to keep up booster shots for the coronavirus.

— Blake Ciresa

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The Year of Widespread Uncertainty

Similar to the horrible 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, Americans can vividly picture their whereabouts on March 13th, 2020. It was truly a turning point for the country as a whole. Besides the pandemic itself, the 13th portended widespread political and financial uncertainty. School children were sent home without supplies, and employees were excused from coming in to work. The streets of every major city in America were desolate. Masks were reserved only for healthcare professionals, and everyone chanted, “stop the spread.” Little did we know that a year later, “real life” would still not ba reality.

I remember sitting in my eighth-grade language arts class with my Teacher, Mrs. MacNamara. Everyone was so excited for an extended spring break. That same day, one kid, in particular, came into class wearing a cosplay gas mask; everyone laughed. If that happened today, people would be offended.

As we approach the anniversary of March 13th, the significance of the artificial environment we’ve created to keep the public safe will resonate. A whole year of our lives has been depleted of normal social events and human interaction. Although teachers are working hard to engage students, virtual school is dull and it’s hard to focus. At times, it feels like my eyeballs are falling out of my head from staring at a computer screen constantly.

Binge-eating comfort food is more commonly accepted than ever before. People have labeled this unhealthy habit the “COVID-15″ weight gain. This is a direct connection to the “freshman fifteen,” which is a result of overeating your first year in college. Mental health has also taken a turn for the worst. Children and adults feel trapped indoors and unvalued. Extensions of these lockdowns are infringing on the hope of normal life. But we can and will continue to strive forward. The anniversary of March 13th is a reminder of what we had and what we have endured as a society. I start each day in a positive headspace and make the best of what I have.

Yet, we need more, and hopefully we can begin to move towards “normal” soon.

— Paige Smagala

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Demon Press Review: Persepolis

Admittedly, I read Persepolis for an English project.

I’ve never been the type to seek out non-fiction, and Persepolis simply happened to be the first book to catch my eye as I hunted for something that fit the non-fiction criteria.

I was lucky to find this book, since, in the end, it was joyful to read. And, honestly, my enjoyment was not hampered in the least by the extensive analysis that came with my project. In fact, I believe Persepolis is a book that welcomes analysis. There is more to its narrative and simple art style than may meet the eye, though I think anyone can enjoy reading it at a more surface-level as well.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a graphic novel focusing on a younger version of its author, Marjane Satrapi, as she describes and illustrates the events of her life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. While it is very informative, it also has the elements of any good story.

Above all, it was able to hold my attention through the presentation of its characters. Marjane is not just a vehicle through which we learn about the history around her; she is her own integral part of the narrative, which I think makes this book very special. We learn as much about Marjane, her interest in music, her rebellious nature, and her family as we do about the revolution. Where other history books may portray the Islamic Revolution through statistics and timelines, Persepolis allows us to experience not only a larger picture of the revolution but also a very personal aspect of it. We see the revolution directly affect Marjane and her family, and we start to feel a connection to these events. The countless people who died in Iranian prisons during the Islamic Revolution are no longer just nameless statistics, because we know (minor spoiler warning) that Marjane’s beloved uncle was among them.

Through her expressive art and detailed descriptions, Marjane Satrapi is able to make herself and her family feel shockingly human, giving them an element of relatability that endears them to the reader. In turn, the historical events happening around them don’t seem so distant—they seem very real and far more impactful. Some of the most tragic or heartwarming moments of the story are still vivid in my mind now, despite having finished the book over a month ago.

Since it is a graphic novel, I think the quality of the art is also worth mentioning. It grew on me the more I read. The simple cartooniness of the characters and stylized backgrounds gave the art a certain childish whimsey, while the limited black and white colors were appropriate for the bleaker moments of the story. The panels were very neat, each illustration fitting into its own rectangular box. This seemed a little boring compared to the more creative layouts of the comics I am used to, but it allowed long captions to explain the pictures without the pages looking too busy. Overall, I think the art of Persepolis was unique and suited the memoir very well.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in history or comics. It was an informative and memorable read, and, though there are two books, they are individually pretty short, so you wouldn’t be making a big commitment in picking one up. Definitely check it out if you have a chance. Or, if you aren’t into graphic novels, you can always just watch the animated movie, which (and I don’t say this lightly) is a near-perfect adaptation of the books.

Thank you for reading the first of many book reviews I will write for Demon Press!

— Quinn Hammon

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What Exactly is Poetry?

Poem; noun: “A piece of writing that partakes of the nature of both speech and song that is nearly always rhythmical, usually metaphorical, and often exhibits such formal elements as meter, rhyme, and stanzaic structure.” This is the standard definition of poetry found in the Oxford Dictionary. Yet, like most art, poetry does not always abide by expectations. Like many poets, I struggle to define what exactly poetry is. Is it when words become an ocean, waves of emotion crashing onto the reader? Or perhaps poetry is simply a bowl of letters squished together to form a jumble of words. However you define poetry, I think most can agree that it is a beautiful form of art. The first poem dates back to the third millennium B.C.E. in ancient Mesopotamia,author unknown. It was called The Epic of Gilgamesh. Many Kennett students are familiar with this tale, but for those of you who have not yet read it, the story follows a Sumerian king named Gilgamesh as he slays monsters with his best friend Enkidu while also searching for immortality. You start to notice that the Epic of Gilgamesh does not follow the standard form of poetry, with all the text on one side, rhyme and rhyme being present. The tale is considered to be an epic poem. Poetry does not need to have rhythm or be very long. In fact, Muhammad Ali’s poem is considered to be one of the shortest poems written, consisting of only two words: “Me We.” It just goes to show that there are many forms of poetry. If you would like to know more, check out this article on poetic form. In the end, poetry is simply a form of art and can be interpreted however you see fit.

What to learn more about Gilgamesh? Check out this video: The Epic of Gilgamesh: Crash Course World Mythology

Here are some videos to help you write amazing poems:

The poet who painted with his words

The pleasure of poetic pattern

Become a slam poet in five steps

What makes a poem…a poem?

— Maya Ross

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What Can We Learn From the Texas Disaster?

Texas is still a disaster at the moment, and it has been since February. The cause? A few inches of snow. For much of the country, that would be a regular winter day. For one of the farthest south states in the country, it’s a major problem.

Almost all of Texas lost power, which in turn led to other issues. Water pipes froze and then burst. The heat went out too. Much of the Lone Star State did not have landline phone service. “How could this happen?” demanded many. Well, it turns out that there were a few confounding factors in this major power outage. The largest? Texas’ electrical grid. In case you were unaware, there are three main power grids within the United States. The East has one, the West has one, and Texas has its own separate power grid. These three grids are all connected to each other via various interconnection stations. Many wondered why Texas would choose to largely isolate itself electrically from the rest of the nation. Turns out, the motives were less than good. In the 1930s ,when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Power Act to give authority over the grid to the Federal Government, Texas found a loophole. If the grid did not cross state lines, they would be able to maintain their own independent authority over the grid and the laws surrounding it.

When it comes to more modern implications, this choice means a few things. For one, it means that Texas power companies were not required to winterize their facilities like much of the rest of the nation. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue for such a warm state. But when this freak storm hit, Texans paid the price. On top of that, the Texas grid is managed by a private contracting company known as ERCOT. They had even less authority than the state over safety and emergency preparedness requirements at individual power plants.

Many government officials and radio personalities like to blame one specific policy for the power failure. It’s called the Green New Deal, and it is an ultra-progressive push being led by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The plan aims to aggressively subsidize the building of green energy and begin government projects paying laborers to work on the building on wind turbines, power dams, and other green energy solutions. Of course, this is not actually a policy that is currently in place. Along with that, Texas only gets about 25% of its power from green energy plants (Source: ERCOT in collaboration with Statistia.) More likely than not, it is a dig by Republican lawmakers to undermine an already-controversial policy proposal.

It’s clear that the best way to move forward from the Texas power outages is to require the winterization of power plants all across the nation, and maybe even integrate the state’s private grid with the surrounding national grids. With Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) coming back from his vacation to Cancun, we can hope that he will use his political influence to help Texas winterize and prepare its grid for the next major storm. Until then, the state will be a sitting duck, just waiting until the next blizzard comes along and has the same impact, killing more Texans in the process.

Read more about the impact of the Texas snowstorm with this article from Vienna Gurev.

— Martin Heintzelman

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World News Report: 2/25/21

Both Africa and the United States faced major events over the past week. The country watched as former President Donald J. Trump was tried for a second time for impeachment. The Senate voted on whether Trump was guilty of starting the government insurrection that occurred on January 6th of this year. The final vote passed to acquit the former president. This means that he was found to be not guilty.

Africa was highlighted this week due to a combination of an Ebola outbreak and a push for Covid vaccines. China plans to give covid vaccines to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will be one of the first countries to receive vaccines from China

For more information, check out the world news segment.

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Black History Month: “Pay it No Mind”

Marsha P. Johnson

It was a quiet night at the Stonewall Inn. So quiet something was bound to happen. A few days before, police had raided the bar, arresting LGBTQ+ people and confiscating illegal liquor. Once again, on June 27, 1969, police began to target and use excessive force against employees, drag queens and anyone who didn’t fit the status quo. But many people were tired of this unjust treatment, and so they raised their voices. One of those voices belonged to Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was born Malcolm Michaels, Jr., in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on August 24, 1945, to a Christian family. It is said that she would often switch between the two names until finally settling on Marsha P. Johnson. She quickly left her home town after high school, as both her parents and town discouraged being queer. But life would not get any better. Johnson faced poverty, homelessness, and became a prostitute to make ends meet in New York City. She soon found solace in drag and became a renowned figure, helping struggling and homeless LGBTQ+ teens. Johnson was also a successful drag queen with the NYC drag theatre company known as Hot Peaches. “I was no one… until I became a drag queen… that’s what made me in the world,” Johnson said in a 1992 interview. She was known for her straightforwardness, along with her extravagant hats and elegant jewelry. The “P” in her name stood for “pay it no mind,” a phrase she would often say those who felt the need to pry about her gender. At age 24, at the Stonewall Inn, Johnson was one of the first people to fight back against the police. But the movement soon shifted towards white cisgender men and women, leaving transgender and people of color out of the picture. In spite of this, Johnson and her friend Sylvia Rivera founded the Street Transvestite* Action Revolutionaries, or STAR. It provided a safe place for homeless youth across the country and would continue its work until the 1970s. Tragically, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers on July 6, 1992. She was 46. It was deemed a suicide by the police, but everyone knew that she wasn’t suicidal. Her case was reopened in 2017. People can learn more about her and this investigation in The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson on Netflix. In the end, the progress of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community wouldn’t have been possible without her.

— Maya Ross

*Transvestite is what Marsha called herself, as the word transgender had not yet been coined

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Black History Month: The Writer of the Civil Rights Movement

James Baldwin

Meet the civil rights writer that moved a nation through his essays and plays, who broke the norm as he discussed topics such as same sex relationships and interracial marriage. His name was James Baldwin. Born in Harlem, New York, on August 2, 1924, Baldwin’s passion for writing began at an early age, as well as his association with the church due to his stepfather. After finishing high school, he worked many jobs to support his family while also writing his novel. However, in 1948, he made the choice to move to Paris. Five years later, his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, a loose biography, was published. It explored themes of representation while also having a hopeful tone for the future. His essay Notes of a Native Son came out in 1955. Once again, Baldwin dove into themes of race, class, and culture. In 1978, he published Just Above My Head, which explored same-sex relationships. He believed that sexuality isn’t as set in stone as the U.S. claimed it was, but is instead more fluid. His other works include interracial marriage. His play The Amen Corner would be on Broadway in the mid 1960s, and his 1963 novel The Fire Next Time was an assortment of essays. Its main goal was to educate white Americans by putting them in a Black person’s perspective. Emmett Till’s murder was adapted by Baldwin in Blues for Mister Charlie, which played on Broadway in 1964. Nothing Personal was published as a tribute to Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader. The assassinations of activists Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X impacted his writing, as his work became more urgent. No Names in the Street (1972) was the beginning of this change. While Baldwin wasn’t a traditional activist, he was considered one of the Civil Rights movement’s leaders. He also worked with Alec Haley during this time to write the screenplay for a film adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He also shared his experiences as a college professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at Hampshire College. Baldwin died on December 1, 1987, in his home at St. Paul de Vence, France. He described himself as a “witness to truth.”

Learn more about James Baldwin with this great video.

— Maya Ross

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Black History Month Profile: Amanda Gorman

At 22, Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet ever in the United States. She joins a small group of poets who have been recruited to help mark a presidential inauguration. In a year that’s beginning with a major milestone, with her appearance at the inauguration, Gorman is set to reach a much larger audience with her work. The poems Gorman writes focus on issues such as oppression, feminism, race, and marginalism.

In September, Gorman will release her debut poetry collection, also titled “The Hill We Climb,” which is aimed at teenage and adult readers and will include the inaugural poem.

As part of KTV’s Black History Month spotlight, here is a video profile of Gorman and the work she has done by Cade Verrico.

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