Three Lawsuits filed today, May 25, 2022.

May 25, 2022: Contact: Honi Goldman, 502-451-4564, email honigoldman@gmail.com via the National Women’s History Alliance: Three lawsuits were filed today in New York, Michigan and Rhode Island to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and firmly establish the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) in the United States Constitution. 

          The plaintiff, The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, filed the lawsuits to affirm that women are fully equal citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and are entitled to full and Equal Protection of all laws. Stanton was a leading women’s rights activist in the 1800s, whose leadership led to women winning the right to vote in 1920. The Trust’s president, Coline Jenkins, is the great, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Jenkins explained that the lawsuits were filed because “only with full Equal Protection of all laws can women’s right to choose be protected.” 

          The lawsuits were filed in response to the recently leaked opinion of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who proposes to overturn Roe v Wade. The lawsuits were filed in states where Attorneys General have expressed their support for Roe, and have stated publicly that the ERA is valid. These lawsuits ask the courts to declare the ERA valid and ensure that all laws are fully compliant with the ERA. 

The lawsuits assert claims under the ERA as the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and state that because three-fourths of the states have ratified the ERA it is now part of the Constitution and must be enforced. Article V of the Constitution states that an amendment becomes valid the moment the last of 3/4ths of the states ratifies it, which was Virginia in January 2020. But federal officials have refused to acknowledge the ERA’s validity because a purported ratification deadline expired before Virginia ratified. The lawsuits assert that the ERA is valid because the deadline is not valid. 

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust’s co-founder, Marsha Weinstein, explained, “these lawsuits have been filed in state court because the American people speak through the states when they ratify an amendment, and the American people have made their voices clear that the ERA is part of our Constitution. Federal officials may not agree, but the states play an equal role alongside the federal government in the Amendment process, and the states have decided in unequivocal terms that the ERA is now valid. We are now asking state courts to affirm this reality, which will guarantee equal treatment for all women in America at all times under all laws, including Roe.”    

          Attorney Mary Mahoney filed the Michigan case. She explained that “many scholars agree the ERA’s purported deadline is not valid, and that the ERA is now our Twenty-Eighth Amendment. All we are asking is that judges in states that have ratified the ERA affirm this vitally important amendment to protect women’s right to choose, equal pay, and equal protection of all laws.” 

Attorney Amy Rice, who filed in Rhode Island, added, “In the year 2022, it is unconscionable that officials in D.C. have taken steps to prevent the ERA from being added to our Constitution, and that they would seek to deny women the basic human right to full equality under the law, especially considering what’s going on with the Supreme Court right now. Women need equality more than ever to ensure that they receive equal treatment by all courts at all times, including the Supreme Court of the United States.” 

          Jenkins explained why her organization was so eager to take action, “Many women are saying we will not go backward, but my great, great, grandmother would be saying, we must move forward – forward to full equality for all women in America. She was fearless in her fight for women’s equality and I hope her legacy inspires all women to be fearless in support of these lawsuits.” 

 News interviews are available: 

Coline Jenkins, 203-249-5885

Marsha Weinstein, 502-819-2537

Deirdre L. Hay (New York)

Mary Mahoney, 248-987-4040 (Michigan)[M1] 

Amy Rice, 877-269-5291 (Rhode Island)

Megan Sheehan, 401-223-4840 (Rhode Island)

Wendy Murphy, 617-422-7410

END

Letter to Francis Austen, Tues. 29 January 1805–A small astronomical instrument.

In another much shorter letter (note actually) to her brother Francis or Frank, Austen writes concerning a keepsake from her father Mr. Austen: “My Mother has found among our dear Father’s little personal property, a small astronomical Instrument which she hopes you will accept for his sake.  It is I believe a Compass & Sun dial, & is in a Black Chagreen Case,  Would You have it sent to you now, & with  what direction?”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Austen notes also a pair of scissors being sent aside for Frank.  She does not detail why Frank of the seafaring brothers was chosen with being the receiver, but closes with sentiment: “We hope these are articles that may be useful to you, but we are sure they will be valuable.–I have not time for more.”

Per the notes: “This little instrument still survives in family ownership, though it has now lost its shagreen case. It was on display in the British Library’s exhibition on Jane Austen, 9 Dec. 1976-29 Feb. 1976.”

All Cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition. Collected and Edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Letter to Francis Austen, Tuesday 22 Jan. 22, 1805–Crossing the mail.

As difficult as it must have been for Jane Austen to write to her brother Francis (Frank) to convey the news about their father’s passing.  Due to letters crossing in the mail she had to sit down and do it all over again: “I wrote to you yesterday, but your letter to Cassandra this morning, by which we learn the probability of your being at this time at Portsmouth, obliges me to write to you again, having unfortunately a communication as necessary as painful to make to you.”

Austen again recounts the passing of their Father, prefacing it again, about the shock of which it must be for him.  Detailing his decline, the short window of improvement, and final passing.

Since the initial letter, certain arrangements have been made giving Austen more specifics to pass on: “The Funeral is to be on Saturday at Walcot Church.–The Serenity of the Corpse is most delightful!–It preserves the sweet, benevolent smile which always distinguished him.–They kindly press my Mother to remove to Steventon as soon as it is all over, but I do not believe she will leave Bath at present.  We must have this house for three months longer, & here we shall probably stay till the end of that time.–” (Austen’s own punctuation.)

Austen does not specific who the “they” is that is pressing for their return to Steventon, I am presuming it is her brother James, who is now the Reverend there and took over the house/rectory when her father Mr. Austen retired, and his wife.

Only is my speculation and that of other Janeites that Austen’s removal from her childhood home and later situation of being with Cassandra and her mother influenced some of the material she used in her novel: Sense and Sensibility.

It is telling though, now with the loss of Mr. Austen, their economic situation is already one in which they cannot waste money and leave a house/rental in Bath which has been already paid for, etc.

All cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth edition, collected and edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Letter to Francis Austen: Monday 21 January 1805.

After a long hiatus I am attempting to return to writing about Jane Austen’s letters. Partly this project fell off because of the Pandemic and also because the theme of this next letter is a tough one or has been for me to tackle.

Here Jane Austen is writing to her brother Francis — more often known as Frank, one of her seafaring brothers in the Royal Navy to tell him the tragic news of their Father’s passing.

The letter is addressed from Green Park Bgs., but per the Notes: “The original address of ‘Dungeness/New Romney’ has been crossed out and ‘Portsmouth’ added, by another hand.”

Austen starts out straight away with the bad news: “I have melancholy news to relate & sincerely feel for your feelings under the shock of it.—I wish I could better prepare You for it.– But having said so much, Your mind will already forestall the sort of virtuous & happy life, in a death as free from suffering as his Children could have wished.” (Austen’s own punctuation and capitalization.)

The letter goes on to rely the details and the time line and apparently there was a last window when Mr. Austen seemed to improve briefly and was able to walk a bit and join them for breakfast but that was minimal and then he descended into his final decline.

Continues to write and convey to her brother that their father did not suffer in his passing: “Being quite insensible of his own state, he was spared all the pain of separation & he went off almost in his Sleep.”

Austen updates Frank on the state of their other parent as well: “My Mother bears the Shock as well as possible; she was quite prepared for it, & feels all the blessing of his being spared a long Illness.”

Austen closes the letter by assuring Frank their Aunt and Uncle have been with them and supportive and James she expects will be joining them soon as he was also informed via an Express — it seems James was nearby and Austen lets him know they are also writing to Godmersham (Edward) & Brompton (Henry) — those brothers at their respective current residences.

All notes and citations to: Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th edition. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye.

Oxford University Press, 2011.

Digression/Essay: Flashback to 1984.

News has been grim lately, the war in Ukraine and the uncertainty of the Covid-19 Pandemic, variants numbers going down, back up and the general fear around that.  Here in the U.S., incidents that are too common with mass shootings and also some individuals being random attacked by those who are mentally ill–in New York City and now here in Boston as well.

Also the school incidents that seem never ending, one 12-year old brought a gun to school and shot another 12-year old, and there have been a number of other incidents including a fight in the cafeteria of Haverhill High School in the closing days of March 2022 — where students did not have guns thankfully (actually it’s unclear a weapon was found on the cafeteria floor), but there was violence and a situation as all of the students apparently got up on chairs to watch, cheer and shout — this is what sent me into a flash back.

This is not the first incident for Haverhill High School, I did a quick online search to refresh/confirm my memory, and they had a violent incident in November 2021.  To note, Haverhill is a former mill town, in northern Massachusetts near Lowell, MA and closer in proximity to our neighboring state of New Hampshire than our state capital of Boston.  Due to the loss of manufacturing from previous centuries it bears many economic scars and is known as one of the Gateway cities in Massachusetts, trying to entice businesses with tax breaks to open offices and facilities there and bring jobs and stability to the region.

Here is the backstory–let me fill you in first.

In 1984, I was in the 8th grade in our junior high school, at the time in our town grades 7-9.  My tween or middle school years of 5th-7th grade were tough, the loss of childhood friends, we kind of outgrew each other but were still tied together, because of our mothers — who are still close to this day, was partly the foundation of my entering middle school without a solid best friend — which made making new friends difficult. During our tight years when I was ages 6-9, they were quite possessive and again our mothers close — so I did not have many other friends/opportunities that naturally developed outside of them, later leaving me open to bullying. Most people already were paired up from different elementary schools in our town (we had three/then one was closed leaving two), and they soon blended and banded together to become smallish groups or cliques

Eighth grade things were turning around a bit for the better.  Our town tracked by math — the highest group the Level One/Honor group were a single track or team and having a learning disability with math,* I did not qualify.  So I was in one of the larger, Level 2 or college prep teams.  Our team/class had the same rotation of teachers for all major subjects: English, Math, Science, Social Studies and History.  We mixed with other students from all the other teams/class levels during electives: Gym, Music, Art, Shop, and Home Economics and we all had a common lunch across the entire 8th grade.

By luck in homeroom, I met a small group of girls who became my friends at the time.  *Rindi I knew since grade school, she was open and friendly and I think we were assigned to sit together at small/table desks or nearby for a short time.  Rindi’s close friend from childhood *Petra had left for a private girl’s school in another town. So Rindi and I grew close over our preteen frustrations with life in general and our mutual love for 80’s music, especially Duran Duran and became frenzied Durannies.  Rindi was also more athletic and outgoing than me, and a good influence on me in that way, and we also befriended *Anita a shy, soft-spoken girl who attended grade school in a different part of town and I dimly knew her possibly from art or another elective in 7th grade/the previous year.

And there was also *Julia — she and I met as kids, as my mother and her grandmother *Charlotte were both artists.  Again I had faint memories of Julia at the large spring art shows for the Art Association held at the local high school at that time. My mother founded the Art Assoc., and Charlotte was an active member for many years, and my mother adored and admired Charlotte as both an artist and friend.  Julia would visit Charlotte as a child, and sometimes would join me and the other kids at the festival in hide in seek or playing out in the courtyard for a bit before she bailed (she was shy) — so we distant remembered each other.  Julia seemed not so happy to be back now, as she had changes in her family where she moved out of state, and she left behind a dear friend in another state.  But her step-dad was here on a special/educational fellowship or sabbatical — so she was stuck as they say.

That was our little rag tag group, Rindi and I pulled Julia and Anita in and again we bonded over silly pre-teen and teenage stuff. Mostly our lives were talking about MTV which none of us had access to at the time to watch Duran Duran music/videos–and going into Boston to buy records, and trendy clothes that we saved up to afford.  We also did group studies and our homework, field trips to the libraries for term papers (pre-internet days), and supported each other best way teenage girls can against bullying or I thought we could during those days.

We also ate lunch together I think/or so I remember.   Our cafeteria was quite large some of the tables were long with attached low stools, others were round tables with regular plastic/metal chairs.  My recollection is we shared our table with another group of girls probably on the low end of the chain of command of cliques and I cannot remember if we asked them to sit there or if it was mutual;  sometimes people just ended up sitting together out of necessity — sort of a daily survival routine.*

The boys had their own bands of friends of cliques and again smaller bands from different elementary schools sort of took up together and there was a sort of structure with one top tier, A-list group of boys who held power over our class.  They were mostly athletes and they stayed in power until our graduation in 1988, although there was a fracturing and a falling out of a couple of members.

*Armand and *Rocco were not in this A-list group.  In my memory from gym classes, Rocco was always a big talker, could do lots of pull ups but that was about it.  Like many I saw him as a show off and a pain.  Rocco he had gone to grade school in a different part of town and was mostly known for spitting gum into girls’ hair — Anita sadly being one of his victims I think, my memory is getting dim on details but she was devastated by it/and the fall out.

Although I remember Rocco as loud and always talking and joking mostly at others expense — this defense mechanism used by both boys and girls — to deflect — using the pick on someone else and they won’t pick on you tactic.*

Remember we used “hyperactive” as a term then and officially, there was no testing for ADD and related issues back then and there really wasn’t much/any screening for these type of disabilities.   Armand was a big kid, I think about 6 foot tall or taller, and on the larger side, and also he went by *John as a nickname, and he too I believe had some issues perhaps learning or developmental disabilities.  The thing though was for Armand/John at the time, he was like a kid trapped in a body that looked like someone’s dad — again making him a target.

If Rocco was a big talker, Armand/John was the opposite — saying very little.  Think I had a shop class with him or gym and I cannot remember him ever saying too much except maybe in gym calling out that he was open for a pass, but that was about it/if anything.

To this day I have no idea if Rocco or Armand/John were ever officially friends or if they were just together in the cafeteria again out of necessity.  Like most of the boys’ in our class Armand/John carried a small gym bag with the logo of our town/sports’ teams.  This again was before kids used backpacks for school books, most of the boys used these sports’ bags as their book bags and the girls used a variety of bags and totes, the most high end being ones from The Gap and Espirit — again big 1980’s fashion.

So that’s the backstory.

One day in the cafeteria Rocco was taking aim at Armand/John — whatever he said I have no idea but the trigger event was not only the words, but what Rocco did.  Apparently, Armand/John had his gym/book bag on the table, and with a sweeping motion of some sort — Rocco knocked the bag off and to the floor.  And that was it.  Armand/John lunged at Rocco and they fell to the floor.

A fight ensued.

Kids around all were calling out  and yes cheered, mostly for John (Armand’s nickname) over Rocco.  Many kids got up on their bench seats/chairs to get a better view.  The cafeteria routinely was equipped with microphones, teachers on duty would call each row of tables and then you were allowed to go up and buy hot lunch, or juice/milk (no soda allowed then), etc.

That day though, that fateful day, there were no microphones in the cafeteria.  They had been removed to the adjacent auditorium/hall for a large PTA meeting and they were not returned.

So even though the teachers were walking among the rows yelling for kids to get down — largely no one could hear them.  Don’t remember getting up on a chair but I may have.  Blind in one eye so I probably didn’t — knowing I would not have been able to see much anyway.  My main memory is just being confused like what the heck is going on.

Then of course there was the aftermath.  Do not recall if either boy was hurt, obviously someone called the office and other teachers came to assist and helped to break it up and dismiss lunch.

To note, this past week on the news I saw a representative from the Haverhill Teachers organization saying that the fight and the violence were troubling, as was the whole situation with the morale with the students around Covid being difficult and upsetting.  I’m paraphrasing but from what I saw/heard, he was more concerned about the kids cheering and acting out than actually angry with their actions.

Our teachers and principal who was quite mild mannered on a regular basis — they were quite angry — furious actually.  We were dressed down by all of our teachers with colorful language, they called us a list of names that let’s just say today (2022) — in the age of social media and phones and clips that can both memorialize and go viral — they would most certainly have been fired for saying what they said to us.

To note, my mother the artist was also an art teacher. She taught briefly in our town (after this incident), and later in a city adjacent to Boston/Cambridge so an urban environment — but what our teachers blasted us with went far, far beyond — my mother’s stern/steel/tone saying: “I am very disappointed in you.” Used effectively on me, her students, and sometimes different canines — with about 100 percent impact.

The next day or perhaps later that same day, we had a large assembly and our principal again, furious with our actions — he told us we were a disgrace for having a food fight.

Have no idea and still have no idea what he was was talking about.

My recollection is that at least where I was no food was thrown.  Kids were standing up on their chairs to get a better look — yes.  Kids were cheering and screaming.  Kids did not hear and/or respond to the cries of teachers sans microphones to get down and knock it off.

My best guess that is after the bag hit the floor and the boys followed — there was a related fracas with the rest of the boys at their table and some food went airborne — many of the tables had bad legs and easy to shift up and down.  Or perhaps some kids nearby did throw some food before they jumped into the fray to cheer — I still have no idea but I did not see any food get thrown a great distance.

Again, being a low-level on the popularity chain, I was toward the back of the large room — and again did not see anyone near me throwing food across the room, and I was there and our principal *Mr. X, he wasn’t, so I respectfully disagree.

This single fight and the reaction of the room had consequences.  And lots of them.

We were to have a “social” a spring dance and dinner to celebrate the end of the 8th grade.  We sold two (2) years of candy bars to pay for it.  It was cancelled.

There was no mark of festivities to celebrate the school year for us, if anything the teachers/at least on my Team kept berating us with colorful insults, well to my memory a few of them did.  They could not cancel our yearbook order (too late) so we got our Junior High year books.

Around that time, our town because of shrinking class numbers, they decided to reconfigure the structure and the Junior High was eliminated and became Middle School 6-8.  We were moved to the high school one/1 year early.  We were actually the first Freshman class ever in our local high school and we went in known as “the bad class.”  The class before us 1987, were happy, I think they sailed in as Sophomores and we the Freshmen with bad class reputation were to face the bulk of the hazing from the upperclassmen.

My memory is the hazing was not so bad, it was a bit for the boys more than the girls and the Sophomores at least stayed out of it.  The faculty welcomed us with stern warnings and a couple of Junior High teachers left the new Middle School for the High School and kept our bad reputation alive.  No teacher would consent to be our class advisor.  Our class president, at the time, *Turner, he valiantly worked hard, and tried the best he could to get us a teacher and he finally got one to consent so we could take a field trip to a local amusement park instead of a social/dance.

All fully paid — remember we sold candy bars for two/2 years and these were the Reagan years of high inflation so that chocolate bar sales money,  made a lot of interest in the bank.  Oh, and that year, our Freshman Year, the class/year behind of 1989 — they had a drug bust with sniffer dogs and everything to search lockers, but they did not have to go through the same indignities that we did.

Now I’m not comparing our event/fight to Haverhill’s perhaps there are underlying issues that they need to address there.  But if we had any — they were not addressed — we were just punished and I felt bad for the kids were out sick and were like what the heck happened when they returned.  As well as kids from the local Catholic school and/or others like *Daisy who moved to our town from other places, and joined us as Freshmen and were collectively puzzled:  “What the heck did you people do?/To get called the Bad Class.”

It wasn’t a good thing that is for sure.  And when we graduated in 1988, *Wesley who was our final Class President noted it in his speech as well.

Were there other incidents yes but not like that.

Rocco I believe at some point it was either Freshman/Sophomore year I think had again a fist fight (after school attended by some not me though) with *Roger, who was a bit of a menacing character, that I did attend grade school with and was also known to be quite a fighter and therefore was voted notorious — and please note I did not handle this section of the year book* — their photo is Roger and his female counterpart *Bree as “most notorious” are pretending to break in/steal a car.

Our hockey team had a few fights and that bad reputation actually followed me to college/university but that is a whole different essay.

We had one boy from our class (1988) take a swing at his girlfriend, an older student, after she had scratched him with her long, fake nail talons — she should not have done that it was wrong.  He should not have hit her though, that was also wrong.  But that was just my opinion, for I did not witness any of it.

There were other ups and downs and stories I will not go into here.  The thing is — we never had a major incident like that again.

Our high school, the building is gone now — it was built in the late 60’s/70’s and the students back then really were hard on it — the first thing they took out was the courtyard fountain — I had a faint memory of it from the Art Festivals, as a kid, etc.  By the time we got there in 1984, the building was run down and deciding it was beyond rehab, they tore it town a few years ago.  The high school temporarily was moved back into the former Middle School my former Junior High for a bit.

Our town built a new building on the former site:  one side is the Middle School and the other side is the High School.  It’s built over the same swamp/marsh former that was drained for the prior building and the nearby golf course which I thought/continue to think is a mistake.

My former Junior High/then Middle School sits empty our town is still figuring out what to do with it.  The town recently updated some infrastructure and before the Pandemic, I went to a public hearing/and walk for permitting for the park behind the school with officials from Mass. Environmental Public Affairs/MEPA. I learned from the consultant the town hired, that there is a large underground conduit for sewers under the former Middle School/Jr. High, so I think it is a bit of a white elephant–not sure a developer will want to build on top of that but we will see.  The proposal got withdraw though as MEPA said it would require separate/permits, etc.

Yesterday, I walked by and saw one of the old cafeteria chairs (so small/short) — one of the same ones outside with lots of buckets — looks like someone trying to clean up some graffiti on our old school.

Seeing that chair there, brought up a lot of memories.

Footnotes

*Dyscalculia–I have never been formally diagnosed but a dear friend and math professor has with my permission–used my issues to help frame her math classes for college students who share many of my same difficulties with math concepts — so I am an official example for educational purposes!

*All names have been changed–these are pseudonyms to protect privacy best as I can–making up names no one I knew of had, etc.

*Many times if I heard name calling/teasing I would take offense for the person not just my friends but other classmates, as I was often in the hot seat myself.  Rindi had strict advice to not do that, by interceding this way, and/or by answering back once engaged, she insisted by doing that,  I was making myself a target, and now in retrospect, I presume also her and the other girls by association. But often I continued to defend others when I saw injustice, and answered back, and then for my efforts I often indeed became the target/myself.

*Later in High School our group grew to include *Belle, Anita’s grade school friend and *Daisy who moved from another town up near the New Hampshire border — also befriended by Anita who introduced her to us. And to note, *Julia had moved away/again back out of state.  We would only have lunch certain days together as high school scheduling was different–and again we would try to claim an end of a table/part of a table, as ours and sometimes I would invite those without a place to sit with us as I knew from experience how painful it was to be on your own, and my friends largely put up with me especially as we grew to fit an entire table our Senior year.

*I wanted art director I got assigned underclassmen, probably the worst section/as no one cares in a Senior yearbook, and neither did I, for I made several errors including a duplicate photo/because we had so few of them.

#end