Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Women's History Inclusion Still Has a Long Way to Go

I write about women in history because I learned little of women's accomplishments as I was growing up. Their history was so absent from my history lessons and books that it never occured to me that there were many women in history who made contributions. Minorities also feel this way. There is a void of historical experience education for women and minorities. I write these articles to try and combat this lack of education and to introduce women to themselves and their past.

I erroneously assumed that girls growing up now didn't grow up with this void. In an era where women executives ran massive companies like eBay and hold positions like Secretary of State, I expected that newly written historical accounts would integrate women rather than rely on sharing their history in their own separate sphere. It seems we still have a ways to go.

Recently I enjoyed a wonderful mini-series developed by the BBC entitled The Impressionists (2006). The year of production is the key, it was released just two years ago. The rendition of the Impressionistic Movement of the late 1800's and the artists who paved the way, include artists Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, and Bazille.

The storyline is rich, the characters funny, and the settings interesting but now I feel there is a void. While the movie focused on a fraternal atmosphere between the artists, no mention (that I recall) was made of Mary Cassat, an American born but French Impressionist who was very close to Degas and was invited to participate in their rebellious Salon of the Refused (Salon de Refuses). This public art exhibit was a pivotal break from the tightly held annual exhibit known as the Salon de Paris hosted each year by The Academie, because it allowed young artists with a new vision for art to exhibit their work outside of the traditionally defined Salon de Paris.

Some biographers think there was a very close relationship between Cassat and Degas* and I think this information merits at least a mention of Cassat in the film The Impressionists. I was even more surprised to learn the film was produced by a woman. Naturally the editing process requires that only essential material be included in a story to maintain the pace but Mary Cassat was a key figure in the French Impressionist movement and I would have liked to see her acknowledged in this film. In the interest of including women as contributors rather than simply subjects of history, I wish Cassat's relationship with Degas was included in this film.

Watch a trailer ad for The Impressionists on YouTube.

*Mary Cassat Biography

Allison Frederick believes that Role Modeling is one of the most effective ways to launch a program, improve a product, and personally achieve a higher level of success and goals.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Health Care Plan

This subject is aberrant for this blog; however, this blog is about women's issues and health care in America is certainly a woman's (and man's) issue.

Universal health care would bankrupt the American economy and lead to poorer health. Few people value free things. I believe that Americans would take even less responsibility for their health choices if they had unlimited access to free health care.

My health plan is as follows:

Free Health Clinics
All hospitals should have an adjunct free clinic open to anyone and everyone. This facility should share administrative facilities with emergency rooms but otherwise be independent.

To attract talented practitioners to the free clinics, doctors and employees should have their education costs written off over the course of time they work in the clinic, say 20% per year. Additionally the clinics should have ideal work conditions including access to current technologies, sufficient staff to avoid overtime and work sharing schedules to attract and retain top talent.

Any funds the government would spend to create universal health coverage would be spent on these clinics. As a result, emergency room hospitals can go back to what they are good at, dealing in urgent care and they can make a profit doing so. Additionally hundreds of thousands of people without health insurance would have easy, immediate access to quality health care.

Health & Life Insurance
Insurance companies should implement prohibitive premiums for smokers and people diagnosed as obese. These two lifestyle conditions are preventable and can only be governed on an individual level. Each person must take responsibility for their own heath choices and how this influences their health and therefore the amount of health care they need.

Life insurance policy holders should pay lower premiums if they document that they utilize preventative medicine such as nutritional supplements, chiropractic and acupuncture for overall health, psychotherapy management for stress relief, etc.

There should be more financial incentives in the form of tax breaks for Health Savings Accounts (HSA's). Many members in government have been trying to encourage Americans to take advantage of this great program but it still is relatively unknown.

Affordable Access to Nutritional Food
Organic food and small local farms should receive subsidies that directly translate into lower food costs at the grocery store so that more Americans can afford nutritionally dense food. Highly processed food companies and companies that genetically modify food (and in my opinion, undermine the integrity of our food source) should be more regulated by the government and the chemicals used in foods should undergo more rigorous evaluation through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Additionally, organic labeling and food labeling standards should become stronger not weaker. Americans have a right to trust food labeling and not be subject to word-play and food size proportion manipulation. Otherwise, why bother having food labeling.

Affordable high quality food is the key to the health of America. The sooner we recognize and value affordable high quality food, the sooner we will avert our health crisis.

In Conclusion
Implementing these ideas would cost money but I believe it would cost considerably less money than universal health care and less than ignoring our situation. Additionally, this program encourages each individual to take an interest in their own health and the costs associated with maintaining health. It gives Americans the opportunity to have access to quality care and quality food at an affordable price. It also gives hospitals and insurance companies the freedom to act in a way that leads to more profits which means more jobs and safer investment opportunities for those who want to invest in these companies. It also refocuses the government on regulating in areas they are good at such as consumer safety (strict, reliable food labeling governance) and funding public works projects (the free clinics) and keeps them out of industries they do not know about – administering health care.

Any person in a position of power to implement these ideas is more than welcome to take them as their own.

This health plan may seem radical and it may not be enough but I think it is an excellent start. I also feel that it is far less radical than what I hear the presidential candidates alluding to and it is more in line with American values. This plan encourages protection for those less fortunate; it encourages personal responsibility and opportunity, integrity, and honesty. These are the American values that have carried us through for all these years. I would hate to see them set aside.

I am now stepping off my soap box.

About the author: Allison Frederick is a writer and online marketing educator for other creative women. offers free Web 2.0 resources. She is also the author of an upcoming novel, A Portrait of Josephine, an academic-lite thriller. Find out how to receive a free copy of the novel by visiting

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Accomplished Women Have Fears Too: What Do They Do About It?

Book review: On Becoming Fearless: Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington, founder of

Many of us have had our fill of traditional self help books. Sure they are helpful but after a while they all seem the same. Arianna's book, Fearless, sounds like a self help book but it breaks the mold. This book is calming and invigorating at the same time. She fills the pages with examples of women pushing through their fears whether they are fictional characters, historical heroes, or modern day leaders. She flawlessly blends anecdotal stories that struck to the core of my psyche.

So why pick up a book on fearlessness? One reason fear holds us back is our failure to recognize we have fear. Fear implies weakness. No one wants to be perceived as weak so we distract ourselves by exploring our psychology, read self improvement books, and make ourselves better in every way except one. We ignore the elephant in the room – fear.

Arianna writes: "To live in fear is the worst form of insult to our true selves. By having such a low regard for who we are – for our instincts and abilities and worth – we build a cage around ourselves. To prevent others from shutting us down, we do it for them. Trapped by our own fears, we then pretend that we're incapable of having what we want, forever waiting for others to give us permission to start living. Pretty soon, we start to believe this is the only way."*

The statement "we build a cage around ourselves" stuck me deeply because I've been feeling the constriction of my own cage as the years roll on. Many women like to nest. We like to live and operate in a certain type of environment that reflects our personality, interests, and accomplishments. We create the same environment in our own minds but here we also include our fears about whether we are good enough, concerns that we behaved foolishly, doubts as to whether we'll achieve those dreams and goals we've always had. We include all these concerns, using them as beams to construct a cage around ourselves. This cage serves as a protection, a little home to keep us from becoming disappointed or hurt.

But lately I've found that for myself, the less I express myself, the fewer risks I take, the stronger my cage becomes. I thought this was a good thing at first. I relished in the fortress I was building, but the cage didn't expand outwards because I wasn't expanding outwards. Instead, the beams became thicker as they grew inward. I am finding myself constricted by my own cage.

The metaphor of a woman in a cage has been used before. Poet and writer Maya Angelou wrote "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" many years ago where she explored a different perception of freedom, one that transcends. But I find that in speaking with other women, more often than not, they are in cages of their own design – not society's. How comfortable is your cage? Is it getting tight in there? As the personal development coach Tony Robbins asks: What purpose does your cage serve? What benefits does your cage offer? For me, the answer is that I am ready to fly to coop.

So how can one start to push past secret fears? I found one exercise Arianna suggested fun. This exercise is especially good for someone who feels as if life is passing them by and they are not "getting" to do the things they want.

Make a list of everything you ever thought you wanted to do. Include things like travel the world on the QE2, write a Broadway play, learn belly dancing, speak another language, open a school for disadvantage children, become a millionaire. Whatever it is, no matter when you dreamed of doing it, write it down.

Now, look at your list. What items on your list no longer appeal to you? If they are no longer important, cross them off. I always wanted to learn Russian. I always expected that I would speak Russian. I was motivated to learn Russian because one, it sounds kind of cool, and two I love Russian literature. But I've never been to Russia, have no immediate plans to do so. I do not know any Russian speaking people. I do not plan to negotiate a business deal with a Russian company. Also, when I took an introductory Russian class, I barely studied for the class. It sounds to me like I simply have a romantic notion of learning Russian. If I could learn by plugging a wire into myself and downloading the language like they do in the movie Matrix, then I absolutely would learn Russian. But if I have to go through the motions and learn it myself, well, I don't expect I'll ever get around to it. I decided to cross it off my list of what I want to do.

Why is it important to cross things off? Because when we want to feel bad about ourselves or our lives we turn to that long list of things we want to do and lament that we haven't made a dent in it. I, for example, discount all the wonderful things I've accomplished and have and say, "Well, I haven't even learned Russian yet." Feeling bad about what we haven't done in life is a great way to distract ourselves from what we truly value and what is truly important in our lives. If you see an item on your list that truly doesn’t seem important anymore, that no longer resonates with who you are as a woman, then cross it off.

Arianna says, "When we start to let go of things that we’re not passionate about, we're free to initiate new projects and pursue new passions. This is one of the best ways to become truly fearless about aging."

A word of caution. I performed this exercise and started crossing off old dreams and goals left and right. A few days later I looked at my scribbly list again. I saw that I crossed out dreams that are actually still very important to me but they are dreams that I have considerable doubt about whether I can achieve them. This exercise isn't about what seems feasible based on your current circumstances and resources. It is about examining who you really are and want you really want. It takes considerable courage and honesty to do this exercise. Think of it this way. You are cleaning out your closet and getting rid of shoes, jewelry, and clothes that you know you will never wear again because they no longer reflect your personality or lifestyle. The bonus is that you make more room in your closet for more shoes and for more goals.

I could continue writing all the valuable nuggets Arianna shared in her book but the best thing is to pick up a copy for yourself. Although I heard the name Arianna Huffington before, I didn’t know who she was or what she had accomplished in her life. That just goes to show how much time I dwell under my nineteenth century rock. From what others have told me about her, she clearly speaks her mind and has learned to move forward in spite of any fears she may have or had.

She leaves us with an excellent question. "But are we really any safer because of all the fear? Have we gained anything by it? More important, what have we lost?"

Arianna Huffington truly wrote the book I long to write. She beautifully integrated many women's stories and experiences in an intimate way. This isn't a traditional self-help book. It is much more than a plunge into psychology. It is an encounter with women who feel fear and who still accomplish great things.

Arianna Huffington is a politically active writer and media mogul. Her books include political commentary and biographies of Picasso and Maria Callas. In 2003, she ran for governor in the widely publicized Gray Davis recall election in California. She now operates the online media outlet,

Allison Frederick believes that Role Modeling is one of the most effective ways to launch a program, improve a product, and personally achieve a higher level of success and goals.

*p. 7, Becoming Fearless: Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington
**p. 144, Ibid.
***p178, Ibid.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

To Be or Not to Be a Mother, That is the Question

(portrait of Laura Bassi, Italian professor)

I am entering the sunset phase of my reproductive years and for the first time, I hear the clock ticking.

Should I succumb to the age old call of passing down my genes? Are my genes good enough to pass down? Or should I select a child who is already here, adopt someone who is lost its mother? Would I be a good mom or would I drive my child into years of therapy?

Do most women question whether they should go ahead and turn their bodies and their lives over to another human being? How are they so willing to relinquish control over to their creation? Aren't they afraid it will turn on them as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein or Gertrude Bell's Iraq did?

I have many hesitations to willingly giving birth to a child and I suspect I am not alone in my ambivalence. I've read the countless tales of talented women artists who never produced another painting after they had children. Granted, many of these women lived in an era when child raising and housekeeping consumed one's entire day and energy. Today more women seem to balance creativity and childrearing. I suspect the secret of their success lies with a support network.

I am impressed by the number of "working mom" and mom entrepreneur chat room and websites that exist. It seems that half of the women websites and women blogs are a resource for working mothers. This gives me hope. One organization I've used to help me understand internet marketing is led by Alice Seba, called Internet Working Moms. This is one of many great resources for women who are creating innovative careers that allow them to balance the needs of family with the needs as a financial provider.

Each time my mother asks for grandchildren, I remind her that I am busy trying to get my writing career off the ground and to make money in business. I tell her my female heroes didn't have children, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Edith Wharton, Jane Addams, Gertrude Bell, and Eva Hesse. I remember how much Sylvia Plath struggled to balance family and work, and how she lost that struggle.

But then my mother reminds me of other women I admire who managed to pull it off. Jessie Fremont (1824-1902), an abolitionist, writer, and political campaigner had a couple of children.
Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) who is credited as the first American feminist had six children.

I was most surprised to learn of the first female physics professor at the University of Bologna in Italy. Laura Bassi (1711-1778) was described as "a figure of the greatest importance in the intellectually flourishing Bologna of the eighteenth century" * The University of Bologna was one of the premier universities in Europe. Bologna itself was a hotbed for female progress, housing several famous female painters after the Italian Renaissance.

Bassi had at least eight children with her husband Giuseppe Veratti. Her husband also taught at the university but his position was ranked lower than hers. Bassi negotiated an arrangement with the university that not only allowed her to lead lectures from her home but to also receive higher pay. She was a champion of Newtonian physics and is credited with bringing Isaac Newton's physics to Italy.* She is definitely a role model for mothers who also have an established professional career.

The study of these women still hasn't led me to a decision, so I guess I'll continue to listen to that clock tick as I wrestle in my ambivalence.

Looking for more?

Laura Bassi biography page

Internet Working Moms

Allison Frederick believes that Role Modeling is one of the most effective ways to launch a program, improve a product, and personally achieve a higher level of success and goals.