winter 2004
table of contents
Letter from the Editor
Articles Online

Election Postmortem
A Center of One's Own
Abortion/Breast Cancer Link?
The Russian Wives Club


From Gadfly to Nobel Peace Prize
DemocraShe in Northern Ireland
Women's Film in Palestine
Networking Corner

Cover Story
Women of the Year
Jersey Girls | Jessica Seigel
Samanta Power | Catherine Orenstein
Betty Dukes | Ellen Hawkes
Saudatu Mahdi | Stephanie Nolen
Kathy Najimy | Ellen Snortland
Maxine Waters | Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Fernandez | Michele Kort

More Features

Women, Democracy and Hope | Kathy Sheridan
The End of Feminism's Third Wave | Lisa Jervis
The Fuck-You 50s | Suzanne Braun Levine
Rocking the Cradle of Jazz | Sherrie Tucker
Cheers and Cringes: The Year in Review
Women Who Made a Difference


Back to the Kitchen
Decoding anti-feminist writer Caitlin Flanagan | Hillary Frey

Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary | Rebecca Brown

It was a Good Year for Dreams | Cortney Davis
the seahorse as transubstantiation
|Quan Barry

Activists, actors, academics, athletes, writers and a great chef

Book Reviews
Patricia Cohen on Marilynne Robinson's Gilead; Jenoyne Adams on Michel Wallace's Dark Designs and Visual Culture; Debra Spark on Cynthia Ozick's Heir to the Glimmering World; Bernadette Murphy on Mary Gordon's Pearl; Valerie Miner on Alice Munro's Runaway

Plus: Winter Must-Read List

We Must Frame the Debate - Now! | Donna Brazile

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FEATURES | winter 2004

Ms. Women of the Year
Heroes for Extraordinary Times

Welcome to our annual celebration of extraordinary women.

As we recognize these heroes, we find ourselves marveling at their courage and their commitment to excellence, to do and be the best for themselves and their communities and families.

This year, another common thread revealed itself: These women displayed uncommon determination to accomplish specific goals that had global consequences.

So what is heroism anyway? In his 1991 book Rescues: The Lives of Heroes, the superb writer Michael Lesy noted that many people committed courageous acts when their own lives were at a low point or even nearly lost altogether. But nearly all of Lesy’s profiled heroes were men. Women’s bravery is different. The late psychotherapist Dr. Miriam Polster, in her book Eve’s Daughters: The Forbidden Heroism of Women, showed how cultural perspectives exclude unique kinds of heroism that women have commonly exercised.

So we turn first to our Jersey Girls, the four widows whose determination to seek the truth led to the creation of the 9/11 Commission.

“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?” asked Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers in 1788. What a different world we occupy today; yet it was these four modern day women, acting as both inquisitors and representatives of the nation, who worked and lobbied and organized to hold our government accountable. We salute them.

Samantha Power, a journalist and scholar, wrote a 600-page book called A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide that was so compelling it couldn’t possibly be dismissed, as its publishers expected it might be. The book took off, and Power has used her mighty voice to bring a moral imperative to foreign policy.

Betty Dukes was the Wal-Mart cashier who just couldn’t take it anymore. Her courage in taking on the retail Goliath had changed millions of lives already.

Saudatu Mahdi, the Nigerian schoolteacher-turned-feminist activist, literally helped save a woman’s life when she organized opposition to a death sentence for a woman who bore a baby out of wedlock.

Far across the world from Nigeria, actor Kathy Najimy helps save lives by making sure that the rich and famous do their part for progressive causes.

Rep. Maxine Waters does more than legislate; she practically commandeered a plane to save the president.

And Lisa Fernandez collected Olympic gold for keeping her eye on the ball.

That’s probably a good metaphor as we salute our Women of the Year, consider the challenges of 2005 and, as always, invite readers to share in the celebration. Never give up and never lose sight of what’s important.

Read more about each of the 2004 Women of the Year >>



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