Hong Kong (CNN)Singapore’s teens can add another feather to their caps.
Hong Kong (CNN)Singapore’s teens can add another feather to their caps.
Edith Windsor, the Manhattan resident whose love affair formed the basis for the 2013 Supreme Court decision establishing federal rights for same-sex married couples, has died. She was 88.
She died on Tuesday in Manhattan, the New York Times reported, citing her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, whom she married in 2016.
United States v. Windsor, the court case that struck down part of a law denying federal benefits for same-sex spouses, stemmed from Windsor’s four-decade relationship with Thea Spyer and the $363,000 in estate taxes Windsor owed at Spyer’s death.
The tax bill was due because, though married in Toronto in 2007, Windsor and Spyer were not considered spouses under U.S. law, so Windsor couldn’t inherit their New York apartment and summer cottage tax-free. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, defined marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.”
As Windsor noted, she wouldn’t have owed the estate taxes “if I had been married to a man named Theo” rather than a woman named Thea.
Represented by New York-based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and by the American Civil Liberties Union, Windsor filed suit in 2010. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled 2-1 in her favor. The Supreme Court took up the case, and she was on hand to listen to oral arguments in March 2013.
On June 26, 2013, by a vote of 5-4, the high court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act for putting “same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage,” as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. That decision was followed two years later by the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry nationwide.
Windsor, known as Edie, celebrated her win with her lawyers at a press conference at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York, where her lead lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told reporters:
“It is important to recognize that today’s court victory never would have happened without the tenacity and courage of a five-foot-tall, 100-pound lady by the name of Edie Windsor.”
She said Windsor “is now a hero to millions of Americans because she personifies the meaning of fundamentally American concepts like courage, devotion, citizenship, equality and justice.”
Windsor told the assembled reporters that the case marked “the beginning of the end of stigma, of lying about who we are. It’s a different level of dignity than we’ve had.”
Edith Schlain was born on June 20, 1929, in Philadelphia, the youngest of three children of Russian-born Jews, James and Celia Schlain. Her father lost his candy and ice cream store, then his house, in the Great Depression, she said, according to a 2012 article in the New York Times.
After graduating in 1950 from Temple University in Philadelphia, she married Saul Windsor, a friend of her brother. She said she knew the relationship was not right for her within a year, and they divorced.
She moved to New York City, “to let myself be gay,” she recalled in an interview with the New York Times. She also began graduate studies in mathematics, receiving a master’s degree from New York University in 1957.
She began a 16-year career at Armonk, New York-based International Business Machines Corp. in systems architecture and operations. On a company fellowship, she spent two semesters studying applied mathematics at Harvard University. In 1968, she was promoted to senior systems programmer, the highest technical position at IBM.
In 1963, at a lesbian-friendly restaurant in Greenwich Village called Portofino, Windsor met Spyer, a clinical psychologist, and they “danced together all night,” she recalled. Their attraction was rekindled two years later at a party in the Hamptons on Long island. In 1967 they became engaged, with Spyer giving Windsor a diamond pin.
Spyer was diagnosed in 1977 with multiple sclerosis and had to use a cane, then crutches, then a wheelchair, as her paralysis worsened.
With Spyer’s health continuing to deteriorate, the two women traveled to Toronto with friends in May 2007 to marry under Canada’s more-permissive laws. Justice Harvey Brownstone of the North Toronto Family Court officiated at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, according to their wedding announcement in the Times.
They shared their wedding day and their story with filmmakers for a documentary, “Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement” (2009).
Spyer died on Feb. 5, 2009, less than two years after the wedding. Windsor said she almost died as well, suffering total heart stoppage while hospitalized for stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome.”
In 2016 she was married again, this time to Kasen-Windsor, a vice president at Wells Fargo Advisors.
It really does make a difference when the chair of the Federal Reserve is a woman. On Friday, Janet Yellen gave a detailed, 18-page speech at her alma mater, Brown University, making clear just how important the topic of women and work is to her. Without taking anything away from her predecessors at the Fed, it’s hard to imagine Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, or Paul Volcker giving such a talk.
In the text of the speech posted on the Fed’s website, Yellen reached back to 1891, the first year women were admitted to what was then called the Women’s College of Brown, to trace the history of women at work in America. Woven through her speech is the story of Elizabeth Stafford Hirschfelder of the Class of 1923, an aunt of Yellen’s husband, George Akerlof (himself a Nobel Prize-winning economist and by all accounts, a supportive spouse).
Betty Stafford, as Yellen called her, “grew up in Providence, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Brown in mathematics, and then rather adventurously headed west, teaching at two universities in Texas in the 1920s before completing her Ph.D. and then teaching at the University of Wisconsin.”
But Stafford's gender seems to have held her back, Yellen recounted. “After earning her Ph.D. at Wisconsin, Betty married a fellow student and over the next decade coauthored five important papers with him and a well-regarded reference work. But, while her husband progressed from instructor to professor at Wisconsin, Betty worked as an instructor on an ad hoc basis. During World War II, while he worked for the government in Washington and New York, Betty stayed in Madison, teaching math to servicemen. When he took a job teaching in California after the war, they divorced, and it was only then that she was a given a position as assistant professor.”
Stafford appeared for a third time later in the speech, by which time it was clear that things didn’t work out for her the way they should have: “After the war, and then single, my relative Betty Stafford remained an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin despite an enviable body of research. She married another Wisconsin professor, an eminent chemist, and collaborated with him on his research. But, in 1954, she gave up her assistant professorship, she said, to be able to accompany her husband on his frequent international travels. Betty later moved with her husband to California, and after his death, she endowed a graduate fellowship in the sciences and a prize in theoretical chemistry. Although Betty’s accomplishments were considerable, against the backdrop of increasing opportunity for women over her lifetime, I believe that Betty Stafford Hirschfelder was denied opportunities and greater success simply because she was a woman.”
Yellen’s speech is titled “So We All Can Succeed: 125 Years of Women’s Participation in the Economy.” Yellen explained that the title was inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating for girls’ and women’s education. Malala said, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”
Yellen’s story begins at the end of the 19th century, when most women were deprived of a good education. Only 54 percent of those aged 5 to 19 were even in school in 1890, she said. The largely young and uneducated women who worked outside the home “mostly toiled as piece workers in factories or as domestic workers, jobs that were dirty and often unsafe.”
Women who sought higher education a century ago could be met with outright hostility. Said Yellen: “Ruth Pederson, a member of the Class of 1919, said some professors didn’t want to teach women and prohibited women from taking their classes. Margery Leonard [Class of 1929] remembered one Boston University professor who urged her to drop out of law school. When she refused, this professor punished her by forcing her to recite the details of rape and seduction cases before her jeering, stomping classmates.”
By the 1930s more women were working, but they tended to drop out as soon as they got married. The labor force participation rate was almost 50 percent for single women in 1930 but only 12 percent for married women. Women’s participation continued to rise as they became more educated and there were more clean, safe jobs—such as clerical work—that were considered suitable for them. In the 1970s, access to birth control made it easier for women to plan their children around school and work. There were new legal protections against sexual harassment. By the early 1990s, 74 percent of women from 25 to 54 were in the labor force, vs. 93 percent of men of the same age.
Lately, unfortunately, progress has stalled. The participation rate of women in the labor force peaked in the 1990s and has actually fallen since. Women working full-time still earn 17 percent less per week, on average, than men working full-time. Some of that is due to differences in the jobs they do and their credentials, but Yellen said that “even when we compare men and women in the same or similar occupations who appear nearly identical in background and experience, a gap of about 10 percent typically remains.” Women are also under-represented in the highest echelons of business. In her own field, she noted, “women constitute only about one-third of Ph.D. recipients, a number that has barely budged in two decades.”
Personal bias is obviously one factor, but the one that Yellen focuses on is the structure of society itself—particularly the fact that women “continue to bear the lion’s share of domestic and child-rearing responsibilities.” This isn’t breaking news to women in the workplace, nor is it something that the head of the world’s most powerful central bank typically spends a lot of time on.
Yellen concluded with some mainstream suggestions: “For instance, improving access to affordable and good quality childcare would appear to fit the bill, as it has been shown to support full-time employment.” And, “Recently, there also seems to be some momentum for providing families with paid leave at the time of childbirth.”
Yellen herself broke the glass ceiling as the first woman to head the century-old Fed. Her speech seems to be an effort to help other women break through.
is a new program by Science and Technology Australia that aims to smash the stereotypical portrait of people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).The plan is to identify 30 superstar women currently in STEM, and work with them to create role models for young women and girls, and thus move towards equal representation in the media of men and women in STEM.
As the new ambassador and a mentor for Superstars of STEM, my role is to encourage broad participation, which we hope will elevate the visibility of women STEM professionals in public life.
There are already some programs that support female scientists and technologists in a bid to break down systemic obstacles. These include the program. Others aim to inspire women to study STEM subjects, such as or to help young women build their techno-confidence, such as and .
Rather than simply attempting to shoehorn women into the public eye, this new program will work with 30 women in STEM to equip them with the skills, confidence and opportunities to become role models. This approach will build on the work being done to address systemic issues facing female scientists and technologists.
Have our young, modern-day
passed up on science as a subject in favour of more conventional choices?
A recent found that most girls became interested in STEM at around the age of 11, but their interest began to wane at 15. This is an important age, as girls are starting to make decisions that will set the trajectory of their academic life.
The lack of role models in STEM was identified as the key factor that influenced the girls in the study, as well as a lack of practical experience with STEM subjects at school. On Twitter, scientists are male. When women scientists are mentioned in the media, they often tend to be rather than their achievements.
In Australia, more than half of all undergraduates and half of PhD students are female. Almost 60% of . But women comprise of top-level science and technology researchers, professors and professionals.
I thought that was enough for me, until as a 16-year-old I met Britains first astronaut, , at . At that moment I suddenly realised that every one of my role models in the fields of astronomy and space science had been male.
Meeting this real-life STEM superstar had a transformational influence on me. It even spurred me on to apply for the European Astronaut Program in 2009.
As someone who is passionate about astrophysics and science education I have inadvertently become a . But the continued lack of diverse role models in STEM makes me wonder how many missed opportunities and how much unrealised potential continues to be lost. Have our young, modern-day , , and passed up on science as a subject in favour of more conventional choices?
In its first year, Superstars of STEM is placing 30 women in the public eye, by equipping them with advanced communication skills. This will include media training, meetings with decision-makers, and opportunities to showcase their work.
Participants will also be supported to speak with girls directly at local high schools and public events, along with establishing a public profile online.
There are too few transformational and brilliant women in the public eye. Every success in science and technology in Australia is built on the work and contributions of people across the genders. For the sake of our girls, we need to celebrate these outstanding scientists and their work.
The measure of the success of Superstars of STEM will be whether young Australian women can turn on the television, read a newspaper or engage with social media and see women experts presenting STEM as an exciting and viable career. I cant wait to witness the opportunities this change will bring.
This article was co-authored with Kylie Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Science and Technology Australia.
This article originally published at The Conversation here
(CNN)Here’s a look at the life of the world renowned theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astronomer and mathematician, Stephen Hawking.