Monday, December 31, 2012

A Dedication--A Woman's Worth


After the insanity of Christmas, I have taken a few days to catch up on my reading.

I picked up a magazine that is published by Chapman University where
 my oldest son is finishing his junior year.  There was one article in 
particular that caught my attention.  It was titled

 "For two Afghan champions of women's rights,
 the transition to life at Chapman is nothing compared with
 the challenge of transforming a culture."

The essence of the article was about these two women being selected
to attend Chapman Law School.  The article stated,

 They were picked for the program that brought them to Chapman by the U.S. State Department's Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, which promotes the development of the next generation of Afghan legal scholars and judges.  It is very selective, said Professor Ron Steiner, director of graduate programs for the School of Law.  There are just 10 lawyers being sponsored this year, and only four of them are women.

As both Shamsi and Munira started working with U.N. and government agencies to try to protect the rights of women, they saw every day that constitutional protections can be paper thin in the face of misguided beliefs and violent realities. 

One case they recall involved three girls whose parents had died.  Tribal elders ruled that the three would essentially pass as inheritance to their uncle, and one of them was being forced to marry a cousin.  Thanks to a little education, the ruling was reversed.

Another case Munira recounted was even more shocking.  A 15-year-old had sought a divorce from her husband, and the case revealed some unpleasant family truths.  Feeling that the family had been shamed, the husband tracked down his wife and shaved  her head while his brother injured her leg.  Then their mother took her revenge by cutting off the girl's nose.

After what Munira called "serious follow-up work," the three were arrested, tried and convicted, so the case qualifies as progress in Afghanistan, where previously such acts often went unpunished.  The rigorous case concluded, she went to visit the mother in her prison cell.

"I sat with her, very close," Munira related.  "She was a simple women, from a small village.  I asked her, "Sister, why did you do this to your daughter-in-law"  She was quiet, then she said, "I did this because it says in Islam that if a wife is not accepting of a husband, you should shave her head and cut off her nose."

"I told her, 'This is not Islam.'  She was just going by others had told her.

After finishing the article I sat reflecting on how amazing these young law students are.  I sat there wondering what my own contributions to life have been.  I wondered what they would be going forward.

Recently, at a dinner party, I sat listening to the seemingly innocuous conversation.  I'm sure my date and the other couple had no way of knowing the impact they were having on me as they sat their speaking of personal accomplishments and God given talents.

I thought...I can't sing, I can't dance or paint an extraordinary picture.  I don't have the mind of a lawyer.  I really, really don't have the mind for numbers and spelling has always been a challenge.  I suppose my greatest accomplishment has been raising two wonderful sons.  But, I digress...

The other story that is weighing on my heart is of the 23-year-old med student from New Delhi.  Here was a young woman at the threshold of her life, studying medicine, about to be married, when life was so tragically torn away from her.  It is to this young women that I dedicate this blog post.

Again, my thoughts turn to "what can I do?"  My influence is so meager.  I think about the great accomplishments of women.  I think about all the wonderful women in Blog Land.  They talk about the simple things in life that enrich us on a daily basis.  They share recipes.  They share pictures of beautiful rooms.  They share their dreams and hopes as well as their fears and disappointments.  I am so grateful to them for having the tenacity to persevere and blog on. 

I decided that I could at least post a blog about the accomplishments of great women.  I may not be one of great significant accomplishment.  I may not have the fortitude to graduate medical school or law school, but I can write about them here.  I can express a heart felt gratitude to all the women in history who have gone before and forged a better life.

I can Google.  I Googled "great women of 2012."  The results weren't what I was after--then, an idea.  My idea was even relevant to my blog.  I decided to Google Julia Morgan.  She is the female architect who designed Hearst Castle. 

Her story is remarkable!!

As the first woman architect licensed in California, she designed over 700 buildings in California.  Throughout her long career, she designed many buildings for institutions serving women and girls.

She was the first woman to study at the Beaux-Arts school in Paris.  She was initially denied entrance because they did not accept women.

Upon her return from Paris, Morgan took employment with San Francisco architect John Galen Howard, who was supervising the University of California Master Plan.  Morgan worked on several buildings on the Berkeley campus, providing the decorative elements for the Hearst Mining Building.  Howard told a colleague that Morgan was "an excellent draftsman whom I have to pay almost nothing, as it is a women."

Morgan's most famous patron was the newspaper magnate and antiquities collector William Randolph Hearst, who had been introduced to Morgan by his mother Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the chief patron of the University of California at Berkeley.  Morgan worked with Hearst for many years and ultimately designed over 700 buildings in California.

I am in awe of Julia Morgan's accomplishments.  What follows is a very brief pictorial biography of one great woman's contribution to the world of design.

 Julia Morgan

 Julia Morgan's Hearst Castle


There you have it, a brief and probably disjointed expression of my feelings.  It is my humble way of honoring the young women in India who lost her life before she was able to forge her own legacy.  May her memory live on as a testament to the need for humanity to evolve to a higher level of thinking. 

 May her life and death not be in vain.

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