Businesswoman

To be honest, I was having trouble coming up with a post for this week because I am busy, and my computer is on the fritz. I started looking at some of my old posts and stumbled across one from almost eleven years ago that I found interesting.

At that time, the host for my website and blog was Network Solutions. On social media, I complained about something that was wrong with my site and their response was to ask me to write a post for a blog they had, Women Grow Business.

I wrote the post, questioning whether I could find define myself as a businesswoman.  Click here to read the post. (The formatting is from Network Solutions). Reflecting on all the work I did to promote Brewing Battles, I am proud of what I accomplished. Although I do not make any money from this blog, I am also proud of the presence I have built on social media.

Stoudt’s Brewery Closing

There are not that many women in the brewing industry. Carol Stoudt was one of the pioneers, opening Stoudt’s in the 1980’s. This week she has announced that she is retiring and the brewery is closing. You can read more about this here and here. You can also hear an interview with her here.

In 2009, while spending a month in Manhattan, I went to a panel discussion on women in brewing. Carol Stoudt was one of the speakers. I wrote two post about the evening. You can read the  first here.  I am reposting the second one, from September 17, 2009, below.

Women in the Beer Industry: Part Two

The panel discussion on Tuesday was very engaging and went past two hours. Each of the speakers provided details about how they got into the industry. Carol Stoudt was an educator but got interested in beer through her husband who loved good beer. They travelled to Germany. On their return, Carol wondered why they could not have the same quality of beer at their restaurant in Adamstown, PA. She does not feel that being a woman hindered her career in brewing and credits two men, Karl Strauss and Greg Noonan, with helping her.

Carol, along with the other panelists, felt that it was mainly a myth that women do not like beer as much as men and that they liked to drink “fruity” beers more often. She blamed much of this perception on marketing and media. Carol also believes that women brewing beer has long historical roots and that there are now many places in the world where women are returning to this practice. In particular, she mentioned Ethiopia.

Jennifer Schwertman, the bartender, felt it was a matter of educating women about beer and having better bartenders to help with this process. She believes it is a partnership between brewers and the community palate. Jen loves the community around craft brewing as much as she loves the beer.

Sarah Beach is from Belgium and has worked for Duvel Moorgat/Ommegang for four years. She is in sales and said when she goes into a retail establishment for the first time they often asked her if she is old enough to drink beer. I thought it was interesting that she was included on the panel since Ommegang is a craft brewery that a larger company owns.

Susan Greene, from Global Brewers Guild, is involved in sales and marketing and has worked for the company for over six years. Prior to her working in the beer industry, she was involved with restaurants. Susan feels that although New York has numerous excellent restaurants, the establishments often have poor beer lists.  In this area, she feels other cities are better.

A common theme among many of the panelists was that the craft beer scene is more vibrant in other parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Northwest. All are committed to making craft beers a thriving presence in New York City.

Debbie Boening stated that her family company had been involved, along with the Van Munching’s in importing and distributing Heineken in America. When Heineken took back distribution, it left a big gap in  Boening’s portfolio. It was at this point that she started looking at craft beers. In the early 1980s, Jin Koch (Boston Beer) had to make several repeat visits before she would agree to sell Sam Adams.

One of her sales reps was in the audience and told of going to various stores and bars saying, “I have Stoudt’s for you.” The other person would reply, “We have Guinness.” Sales Rep:  “It’s Carol Stoudt.” “You want me to buy a woman’s beer?” However, the distinctiveness of a woman making Stoudt’s did provide entry. Debbie said that, despite having many excellent craft beers in her portfolio, Colt 45 was still her top seller.

None of the panelists really felt that being a woman in the beer industry had made their path more difficult. All felt that the craft beer industry is very welcoming and supportive. The audience was overwhelmingly female so there may be a completely new group of women anxious to enter the industry.

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.

Sisters

On Saturday, I went to see a Shakespeare and Company staged reading of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Kate Hamill wrote the play.  The actors played the story mostly for laughs, presenting the material more broadly than Austen’s version.

One serious moment which was deeply affecting was when Marianne is seriously ill, and Elinor pleads with her to live. “Don’t leave me Marianne”  says Elinor. I felt tears come to my eyes in response to this wonderful portrayal of the deep connection between the two sisters. I have a sister; our relationship is very complicated, but I don’t want to lose her. However, Elinor’s speech comes from the playwright not Jane Austen.

Thinking about this scene led me to reflect on other sisters in literature and movies.  The original Frozen is definitely about sisters. Elsa and Anna are the “heroes” of the movie; their sisterly bond enables them to triumph.

Another movie which is about sisters and is appropriate for the season is White Christmas.  There is even a song, “Sisters” in the movie. It stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the sisters. When I was little this was one of my favorite movies.

It is more difficult to come up with books that feature two sisters with as deep a bond as Marianne and Elinor. Little Women is all about sisters but there are four. Throughout the book, at various times, the sisters have different connections to each other. The relationships are not static.

I want to find good examples of sisters in a few novels for my Jane Austen book club. Starting in February we are reading Northanger Abbey. The rest of the year we will read gothic novels. Thinking ahead, the following year I might do Sense and Sensibility so I would need works that fit with the book’s themes, especially sisters.

Jane Austen’s Birthday

December 16th is Jane Austen’s birthday. She was born in 1775 so this is the 244th celebration of her birth. As you may know, I have been leading the Jane Austen’s Regency World book club at the Jones Library, Amherst, MA since last February.

Tomorrow is the last meeting for this fist year of the club. Since we are meeting in December, I am planning to bring refreshments for a celebration of Jane’s birthday. The menu is going to be ginger cakes and apple cider. The recipe for the cookies is from Jane Austen’s Card Games; 11 Classic Card Games and 3 Supper Menus from the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen by Jo Ann Staples.

For this meeting, we read Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women. Even if you haven’t read the book, all are welcome to attend.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!

 

Stalemate

I was having trouble finding a topic for today’s post. The end of last week was very stressful if not traumatic and I am still getting my bearings. I feel like I have been on a roller coaster for the last twelve days.

From November 8 to November 10, I attended a writing retreat in Northampton, MA. Nerissa Nields runs writing groups and retreats under the rubric, “Writing it up in the Garden.” This retreat was women only; the Kali Retreat. The group was 11 women, including Nerissa.

The retreat was a great experience both for my writing and my psyche. Thinking about a retreat was most enticing; the idea that I would be able to focus on my writing and nothing else was incredibly appealing.

My feelings about the writing part were more mixed. I write non-fiction from an academic background and I thought most of the people would be creative writers. I feared that my work would not resonate with the group.

The retreat exceeded my expectations in both areas. The two and half days were a wonderful escape from real life stress and the group couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive about my work. I was incredibly productive; writing almost ten pages during the retreat. Another great benefit of the retreat was that the motivation it engendered lasted into the following week.

On Thursday I had to go to New York City to attend a legal hearing, concerning a civil matter on Friday. I spent the late afternoon on Thursday prepping with my lawyer for several exhausting hours. Thursday night my husband and I had a lovely dinner with our son, his fiancée and her parents.

Friday was the hearing, which was definitely not a pleasant experience; it did not go my way. Because of privacy concerns I cannot say much more about the proceeding. However, my friends and family know the judge’s decision was wrong. I appreciate their love and support.

 

 

 

The American Wife


As I continue to work on my manuscript about faculty wives, I am always interested in books that appear to be about wives or more broadly women. After reading The New York Times obituary of Elaine Ford, I read her collection of stories, The American Wife.

In the story, “Changeling”, the main character, Sandy, thinks the following: “It’s as if getting married when you’re an undergraduate and then having a baby before your husband’s career is well established, together amount to sheer irresponsibility, which cannot be allowed to go unpunished.”

The story is about a young woman living in Athens with an infant while her husband is off on an archaeological dig. Sandy experiences extreme psychological distress to the extent that she believes the baby is not hers.

The story has autobiographical elements; in 1958, Ford, an undergraduate at Radcliffe married a Harvard student, Gerald Bunker. Together with their infant they pursued lengthy travels while he completed his Ph.D.  By 1964, she had three children but did completed her bachelor’s degree.

The couple continued traveling and having more children. By 1976  they five children and were living in Northern Ireland while Bunker was in medical school. Ford divorced Bunker, returned to the United States and began pursuing a writing career. She published her first novel, The Playhouse, at the age of 41 in 1980.

Ford, writing  about “Changeling”, said it “reflects my experience of living in Athens with a baby while my husband was far away on an archaeological dig. Though I’ve imagined the central plot of the story, the protagonist’s sense of isolation and disorientation certainly expresses my state of mind at the time.”

 

Stop The Bans

Yesterday I attended a  Stop the Bans rally in Northampton. Similar demonstrations  were held all over the country in response to the draconian anti-abortion laws that Alabama and other states have passed. It is very depressing to me that  reproductive rights are so threatened in 2019 when I can remember marching for the right to have an abortion in New York City in  the late 1960’s.  Abortion became legal in New York State in 1970.

Abortion was not legal in Massachusetts until Roe v. Wade in 1973. Massachusetts was also one of the last states to legalize birth control. However, last year, Gov. Baker, a Republican signed  the Nasty Women Act which repealed several old laws regarding abortion and birth control.  Nasty stands for Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women; legislators felt  the bill was necessary in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh ‘s appointment to the Supreme Court.

Several of the speakers at yesterday’s rally spoke about pending legislation in Massachusetts, the Roe Act.  This legislation would remove the requirement of parental consent for  an abortion for people under the age of 18.  The Roe Act also provides health care coverage for abortions for people who don’t have Mass Health.

Current Massachusetts law does not provide abortion coverage after 24 weeks. The Roe Act would extend that time period in cases of fatal fetal anomalies. Other provisions of the bill include ending the currently required 24-hour waiting period, and codifying the principles of reproductive freedom into state law. You can get more information about the Roe Act here.

Women and Computing

In early December the New York Times had an obituary of Evelyn Berezin who apparently “built the first true word processor. The Times has been trying to include more diversity in its obituaries; this one is probably part of that process.

It interests me because both my mother and my aunt were involved with the computing industry from its earliest stages. Coding and computer science are still overwhelmingly male so it was nice to hear about a woman pioneer.

An untended consequence of Berezin’s work was the elimination of most secretarial tasks since ultimately everyone could be their own secretary  with their own computer. I became a feminist at an early age and I vowed not to learn typing because I was not going to be a secretary. To this day, I rue that decision since the inventions of Berezin and others has meant that I have to type to do this blog, write my book and complete a myriad of other modern tasks.

Ancestry

 

 

This is a picture of my grandmother, Ceil with her three siblings and another relative at the graveside of my great-grandmother, Bessie Shapiro. My grandmother is the one with her head against the stone. This picture is so sad since Bessie died in 1914, aged 36, and left four children. The youngest, the little boy in the picture, was five.

For about four years I have been searching for that little boy whom family stories said died around the same time as his mother. Growing up, I was never told his name and none of my remaining relatives knew it either.

I first started by using Ancestry to try to find the family in census data. The Shapiros are in the 1910 Census. One problem was that Ancestry read the little boy’s name as Olive. Of course I knew his name was not Olive since it is a non-Jewish girl’s name. Because Ancestry  coded him as Olive, it made it very difficult to search  for him in other databases on the site.

Although I had the picture of the family at the grave when I began my search I didn’t know where Bessie was buried.   My working hypotheses was that the little boy would be buried where his mother was, especially if he died soon after her.

It turns he didn’t died right after Bessie but lived to be twelve years old. I spent a lot of time looking at the handwriting in the 1910 census and eventually decided the child’s name was Abie.

In the 1920 Census there is a Shapiro family  with my great-grandfather Sam, his second wife, her children and my grandmother’s three siblings including Abie.

By the time I figured this out I had found out that Bessie was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens.  There was an Abe there also but Shapiro was spelt Schapiro. Eventually I found that both Bessie and Abe were buried in the section of the cemetery for the United Mazirer Society which was one of many Jewish burial societies.

After all that I was able to get Abe’s death certificate which listed his mother Bessie and his father Sam. He died of encephalitis with a secondary or contributory cause being respiratory failure. He spent eleven days at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City and died on Feb.21, 1922.

A moth ago, I was able to go to Mount Zion Cemetery and visit both Bessie and Abie.  I was very glad to both name and claim Abe as my relative.