Friday, March 5, 2010

Female Firsts

This is Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland. She has held the position for ten years. She is serving her second term in office.

Above her is Moomimama. Some people say President Halonen resembles Moomimama because of the pocket book Moomimama carries throughout her adventures. (I identify with Moomimama. She is the sensible one while Moomipapa is off on a wild scheme).

Conan O'Brien thinks he resembles President Halonen and you can see from this news clip that she accepted this attention with good grace. Watch the entire clip...President Halonen appears at the end as well.

The Wikipedia biography of Tarja Halonen lists her many accomplishments and her career before becoming president, but I doubt that any politician, female or male, with her resume could win national office in the USA.

From my Wikipedia research (I know that it's slim to none, but there you have it) I have learned that President Halonen went to university originally in art history and then switched to law. After graduating from law school she was the first woman to work as a lawyer for the Central Organization of Trade Unions. She also served as the chairman of Seksuaalinen Tasavertaisuus RY, the main LGBT rights organization in Finland.

Can you imagine Hilary Clinton's campaign if that were her resume rather than her more traditional law firm background?

Voting in the New Hampshire primary for the Democratic candidate presented a difficult choice: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? I waited until I was behind the striped curtain in St. Peter's Church to make my decision and my decision was strongly influenced by the fact that I am pre-Title 9.

There is a very real divide between women who are pre-Title 9 and those fortunate enough to be post - Title 9. And it is not just about sports. Title 9 brought about a significant long-lasting change in how women are viewed in the US and how women view themselves. Title 9 was actually enacted in 1972 but it took the enactment of regulations and the creation of the Department of Education before Title 9 was enforced in a way that benefited female students.

Title 9 reads: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..

I graduated from high school in 1980, the year that the DOE came into being so I consider myself pre-Title 9.

Politicians like Tarja Halonen and Hillary Clinton are role models for students today, but I have learned of some other role models in Finland. To celebrate Halonen's ten years in office I will direct you to this on-line exhibition of the National Library of Finland: Women of Learning.

You can read about Rosina Heikel, the first woman doctor in Finland (1842-1929)

or Alma Söderhjelm, the first Finnish woman to teach at a university. Her doctoral dissertation on the press during the French Revolution was republished in 1971.

I was up last night exploring the accomplishments of these women, but up early this morning (like Muumimama) to get the pulla dough rising.

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