Sisters lost this week, RIP

Four inspiring women have left us in the space of the past week.

Diana Wynne Jones, acclaimed British fantasy author, lost her life on Saturday at 76.

Ms. Jones’s work is critically acclaimed. Several of her novels have been nominated or shortlisted for awards, including the Carnegie Medal, Mythopoeic Fantasy, British Fantasy Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book, and World Fantasy Award.

Jean Jennings Bartik, one of the ENIAC technicians, died on Wednesday at 86.

Bartik graduated from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in 1945 as the school’s one math major. She recalled living on her parents’ farm, refusing the teaching jobs her father suggested and avoiding all talk of marrying a farmer and having babies. Instead, she took a train to Philadelphia to work for the military.

There, she learned ballistics calculations and was quickly hired to work on the ENIAC, created during the war by University of Pennsylvania scientists John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert Jr.

Bartik and her colleagues debugged the computer, which weighed 30 tons, contained about 18,000 vacuum tubes and completed the same work the women “computers” did but in a fraction of the time.

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run on the national ticket of a major (US political) party, passed away on Saturday at 75*.

64 years after women won the right to vote, a woman had removed the “men only” sign from the White House door.

It would be another 24 years before another woman from a major party was nominated for vice president — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican running mate of Senator John McCain, in 2008.

Elizabeth Taylor, actress and advocate for gay rights, took her final curtain call on Wednesday at 79, outliving the author of her obituary and turning up to her own funeral 15 minutes late, by request.

“I did not become an activist to win awards,” she said in accepting a GLAAD award in 2000. “I became an activist to try to protect people. I could not sit silently by just doing nothing. I started my activism in the 80s when a new disease emerged that was quickly and inexplicably killing people.”

“Worse than the virus there was the terrible discrimination and prejudice left in its wake. Suddenly gay people stopped being human beings and started becoming the enemy. I knew that somebody had to do something.”

“All my life I’ve spent a lot of time with gay men – Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Dean, Rock Hudson,” she added. “I never thought about who they slept with. They were just the people I loved.”

“I could never understand why they couldn’t be afforded the same rights and protections as all of the rest of us. There is no gay agenda. It’s a human agenda.”

Rest in peace, and thank you.

* See Shakesville for additional commentary on Ferraro’s passing.

One thought on “Sisters lost this week, RIP

  1. Carla Schroder

    Rest in peace, you were all wonderful and the world is better because of what you did.

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