Sportswomen – How Alice Marble Led the Way for Althea Gibson

Sports isn’t my strong suit. But it’s only appropriate that women who have led the way in the sports world should be highlighted within my Women’s History Month posts. So I asked my friend Beverly Wettenstein, who often writes and speaks on this topic, to guest post this article, originally published on Huffington Post.

Althea Gibson’s induction into the US Open Court of Champions, on the 50th anniversary of her historic title victory, was inspiring. The Opening Night Tribute, to celebrate living African-American women who have also broken barriers in sports, entertainment, politics and the arts, was impressive. Venus and Serena Williams paid fitting tribute to Gibson by winning their opening night matches. Serena Williams became the first African-American woman since Gibson to win the US Open in 1999. The next year, Venus Williams was the first African-American woman since Gibson to win Wimbledon.

However, Alice Marble’s significant role, as the leading public proponent and catalyst for Althea Gibson to break the color barrier in U.S. tennis, should not be overlooked. Women’s contributions are often not properly credited in history and sports books and media coverage. Researching my Women in History and Making History Today — 365-Days-A-Year Database and A WOMAN’S BOOK OF DAYS, I’ve confirmed that less than ten percent of the references in new history textbooks are about women. “Anonymous” may be a woman.

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Know Your History–Create the Future of Your Choice


“If women want any rights more than they got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” –-Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883, former slave, abolitionist

During the last 50 years, thanks to feminism and other civil rights movements, reliable birth control, and an economy that requires more brain than brawn, women have broken many barriers that historically prevented us from partaking as equals at life’s table. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing trajectory. All of my Women’s History Month posts come from a place of profound appreciation for the shoulders I stand on. Women like Sojourner Truth who had so much courage, clarity of vision, and leadership savvy.

I found feminism when I was a desperate housewife in Odessa, Texas in the 1960′s. After volunteering for civil rights organizations, I had the epiphany that women should have civil rights too. I “discovered” the new Ms Magazine. Then, I joined the National Organization for Women a few years after its 1966 founding, as an at-large member. Soon, I’d find the half-dozen other at-large members in West Texas’ expanse. It was a heady time of firsts for women; still, few of us could have predicted either the stunning advances or the discouraging setbacks ahead.

Fast forward to Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking presidential campaign that didn’t take women into the presidency, but came close enough that no one will ever again ask whether women are smart enough or tough enough to do the job. Today even right-wing Republicans realize putting a woman on the ticket symbolizes electrifying change. Women earn 60% of college degrees, reproductive technologies have changed the power balance in personal relationships and we’re closer to parity in earnings than any time in history.

To be sure, women still don’t have full equality in any sphere of political or economic endeavor. Women hold just 17% of seats in Congress–the 2010 elections resulted in the first decline in over a decade–and under 25% of state legislative offices; 3% of top clout positions in mainstream media corporations and 15% of corporate board positions. We’re still waging a battle for reproductive rights, both at the state and federal levels. And despite gender equity laws, women earn 3/4ths of what men do while shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for child rearing.

Still, the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the doors in numbers and with intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all. Probing history, there seems to be a recurrent approach-avoidance pattern.

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What Do Academy Awards Have to Do With Women’s History Month?

No, I’m not talking about Melissa Leo’s use of that other-than-feminism “f-bomb” last night. I want to compare two of this year’s Oscar winners and how they illustrate the way women’s history is told—or not.

I’m thrilled that “The King’s Speech” won best picture. I loved this beautifully rendered piece of history. And Colin Firth’s best actor Oscar was supremely deserved for his brilliant and touching portrayal of the shy man with a stutter, the man who not be king had he had his druthers.

But when the historical fluke of his brother’s abdication from the throne propelled him onto the British throne on the eve of world War II, King George VI rose not only to fulfill the ceremonial monarchy, but more importantly, to become a great moral leader in a time of crisis.

He realized that a leader’s first task is to define the terms and then deliver the message effectively. He feared his speech impediment would prevent him doing so. We follow him through the excruciating process of learning to control his stutter in order to fulfill the obligation his office required.

This man, for all his challenges was clearly the protagonist of his story. And his story was one of leadership, courage, and triumph over adversity.

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Dueling Reviews of No Excuses: Which Do You Think Has It Right?

Within hours of one another, two Google alerts bearing reviews of No Excuses hit my inbox. One reviewer lauded it, and the other skewered it.

“That’s what makes horse races,” I shrugged, recalling my father’s way of telling me differences of opinion are to be expected.

Then I reread both articles. And I realized that their diametrically different worldviews of women’s relationship with power reflect precisely the historic crossroads moment that had inspired me to write the book in the first place.

I was excited when asked to be interviewed for the Feminist Review, now known as Elevate Difference, by lawyer and global crusader to eliminate violence against women. Dianne Post and I originally met decades ago, because of our respective Arizona residency and involvement in women’s social justice issues. I recalled her as a bit of a contrarian but a passionate advocate for women. I was delighted to reconnect with her–so much so that after we spoke, I invited her to address my Arizona State University class on “Women, Power, and Leadership.”

During the interview, Post challenged my thesis that while some external structural barriers remain, women in the U. S. are at a moment in history where doors are open and it’s up to us to walk ourselves through them; that to embrace our power to do so, we must—and are able to–consciously overcome the remaining barriers, many of which are culturally learned, internalized ones.

So I wasn’t surprised when her acknowledged bias turned up in the review—understandably, seeing women as victims is an occupational hazard. And it’s a perspective that was accurate during the heady days of second wave feminist revolution, in which we both participated. Forty years ago, there were so many unjust laws to change and policy barriers to break.

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Danica Davidson Explains How Writing Chose Her

We’ve talked about the power of our stories. Danica Davidson. shares her writing aspirations here. She’s gutsy to “wear the shirt” [link to a wts post] of her writing aspirations, and I’ll bet that’s why you’ll likely see her books on the shelf soon.

Danica is a professional freelance writer who is now actively seeking to publish a YA novel. She has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and featured on the Guide to Literary Agents about her novel-writing. She has also adapted Japanese books into English. Please check out her website www.danicadavidson.com or follow her on Twitter @DanicaDavidson.

I’ve been telling stories as far back as I can remember. Even as a young child, I knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was in first grade I was habitually writing picture-books (which I also illustrated) and in second grade I made my first attempt to write a novel. By the time I was in middle school, I was writing novels regularly. This just came naturally to me, and I couldn’t imagine a life without writing. From the beginning I’ve wanted to share my stories, so I’ve never been one to write and hide my creations. I’ve had a drive to share them and to be a professional writer.
Even at age eleven I would go to writers’ meetings carrying my writing and trying to show them to adults. Not many of the adults took me seriously because of my age, but I could tell a few were impressed. Nothing came of it professionally, though. I began bringing my novels into school and sharing them with friends, who then passed them on to more readers. These readers also passed them on and soon I had a school fanbase, which was a flattering, honoring and wonderful thing. Around this time the Los Angeles Times covered me as an up-and-coming author.

I thought it would all come together for me then, but it didn’t. There was a family tragedy and my life changed. I had to work three part-time jobs while studying on my own to get my high school diploma. I worked at a feed store, I worked at a daycare, and I did reporting for the local newspaper. The newspaper reporting was somewhere along the lines of what I wanted to do, but the other two jobs were because they were what I could get and I needed the money. I was very much aware that many of my friends were goofing off and partying through their senior year as I struggled through low-paying jobs to make an income. I was in a very different world from most people my age, though I’ve also come to learn that too many other teenagers have to face the same reality. We don’t always get a chance to enjoy our childhoods.

I wrote when I had time, but so often it had to get pushed aside for more immediate needs. I began sending articles to magazines in hopes I could build up a résumé there and this would help me get my novels published.

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No Excuses in Cleveland (but Gloria Will Be There)

“Women Empowering Women” Series of Dialogue

When: Friday March 18, 2011 from 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM EDT

Add to my calendar

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Leadership Development Power Tool Breakout Sessions

No Excuses is now a workshop too!

I had the pleasure of keynoting the Leadership and Business Development Workshop sponsored by Valley Leadership and the ASU Alumni Association in Scottsdale, February 9, 2011.

After the keynote, I moderated a panel of local leaders, Luz Sarmina, Carol Poore, and Jessica Pacheco for the enthusiastic, sold-out audience that packed the room. Then participants broke into smaller groups where they talked the nitty gritty–specific and practical ways to apply the 9 Ways power tools in their own work and lives–and received peer coaching. It made my heart sing that two women announced their intent to run for office, while many others talked about how the power tools would help them expand their businesses or careers within their organizations, write books, or start nonprofits.

This post’s comments below are facilitator notes from a breakout session.

I was very excited to apply No Excuses ideas in a workshop format and thank the conference committee, Rebecca Kennell, Jan Miller, and Tammy Bosse, for organizing an amazing, inspiring event.

If you’d like to create a No Excuses workshop for your professional or community group, contact me here. I am fired up to share the 9 Ways power tools with you!

PS. Here’s what people said about the workshop: “It was truly inspiring to see that all the answers were really in the room. By you opening the dialogue and spurring the conversation important topics came forward and great resources were given to them. I heard from both facilitators and participants that during the breakout session they were able to see their challenges more clearly and a road forward.”

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In AZ? Get All 9 Ways at Once at Valley Leadership/ASU Event!

I’m excited to turn No Excuses into a whole workshop that will inspire and give participants a power tune up. Chock full of practical tips and tools for leaders, “Unlock Your Unlimited Potential” on Thursday, February 9, at ASU Sky Song is sponsored by Valley Leadership and the ASU Alumni Association, and cosponsored by a whole raft of community leader businesses and nonprofit organizations. Check out the full program below and sign up to attend here:

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5 Tips to Carpe the Chaos and Thrive


NAFE, the National Association of Female Executives asked me to write a “Five Tips” article for their latest newsletter.

I chose to write about 5 tips for using chaos as opportunity, or as I’ve put it in No Excuses power tool #5: Carpe the Chaos. I recently spoke on this topic to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Women’s Roundtable and the International Museum of Women. In my experience as a leader, it’s a useful concept that got me through tough times when many people thought there was no way to succeed.

There IS always a way, and it really helps to see the opportunity when others see only negativity in change and chaos! Here’s the post:

Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power has stood near the top of Amazon’s leadership booklist since it was published last October. A teen mom who became CEO of the world’s largest reproductive health provider and advocacy organization, Gloria learned leadership on the job. Now she’s a sought-after speaker, author, and consultant. Here are her tips on how to turn chaos into opportunity:

1. Think positive. Be like Monty Python: Always look at the bright side of life. You might as well. Chaos is inevitable because change is inevitable. And whoever is most comfortable with the ambiguity change creates is most likely to thrive, not just survive.

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MLK Inspires Our Power-To

Inspiration is balm for the soul and a powerful kick in the resolve to take action.

Last year, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on his birthday, I posted this call to share his quotes that have most inspired you. I hope you’ll go read them, for I know you’ll be inspired to use your “power to” to take action.

Upon rereading the quotes, I was struck by what King said about power: “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” In words far more eloquent than mine, King tells us to define power on our terms. To reject the oppressive power-over model; to use the power to, in order to do good.

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