Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bikes and Bloomers

Yesterday was the 196th birthday of one of the most unheralded women’s rights activists, Amelia Bloomer. Born and raised in Homer, New York, Bloomer received minimal formal education, but became a school teacher. She was was active in the Seneca Falls Convention, the first convention dedicated to women’s rights, in 1848. Bloomer was also editor to one of the first newspapers dedicated to women, The Lily.  In 1950, The Lily declared itself to be “DEVOTED TO THE INTEImageRESTS OF WOMEN” and the “emancipation of Woman from Intemperance, Injustice, Prejudice, and Bigotry.”

Even though her contributions to the women’s rights movement were significant, she may be best known as the promoter of a clothing product that soon bore her name, bloomers. Originating from Turkey, Bloomer promoted the garment as giving women the capability for unrestricted movement and to use a more modern term, a degree of autonomy concerning women’s dress and movement. “Respectable” fashion sense at the time required women to wear whale bone corsets that were so disruptive to the internal organs that medical doctors declared that women who wore them were of no use as cadavers to study the human anatomy as the body internal organs became malformed.

ImageSoon bloomers gained international appeal for the very reasons Bloomer promoted them: they gave women a sense of mobility that was unparalleled at the time in Western Society. Bloomers also became a symbol for the women’s rights movement and consequently received backlash from more conservative members of society, but there was no stopping the interest in the use of bloomers. At the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, bloomers were promoted as the ideal item to wear while riding bikes. While this may seem like a small step toward equality, freedom of movement is one of the milestones of women’s rights and foreshadows other women’s rights markers of true autonomy. The following year, Annie Londonderry wore them on her bicycle trip around the world and wrote about her experiences in the New York World under the title “The New Woman,” declaring that she was a “journalist and ‘a new woman’…if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.” Thus, thanks to Amelia Bloomer and others, bloomers and bikes helped foster reform and the elimination of negative feminine stereotypes around the world.


Marks, Patricia, Bicycles, Bangs, and Bloomers: The New Woman in the Popular Press, University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

Zheutlin, Peter. Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride. Citadel. November 1, 2007.






The Social Work Student Association, in partnership with the IU School of Social Work, is organizing an event to show their support of the community affected by the kidnapping of the Nigerian School Girls. 

We will be organizing on Monday May 19, 2014 at 6:00 pm in Northside Hall Room 204. All are welcome, but be sure to be on time as some professors have given approval to utilize class time for this purpose. 

We will then take a picture with a banner reading “Social Workers Challenge Social Injustice” while holding smaller signs that say “Bring Back Our Girls” (these signs will be issued at the time of the event). The photograph will be shared via the IU School of Social Work Facebook Page. It is our goal to also get a local news and campus news to attend in order to bring community wide awareness to the event and to the involvement of the Social Work Student Association.

Disclaimer: By attending the event you agree to have your picture utilized for media purposes, your name will not be used in the media unless approved.

Please direct any questions to: Dr. John Gallagher ( or Erin Kelly ( 


Traveling by Train in Europe

One of the best ways to travel around in Europe is by train. Every country has one and many countries even have high speed trains, like the ICE in Germany. The train system in Europe goes everywher!. You can travel from major cities to small villages. It offers travelers a cheaper way to get around versus driving because gas in Europe is considerably higher than US prices, which are around $3.80 a gallon. In Europe they price per liter, which when first looking at the cost seems cheap until one does the math. For example, in the UK it costs $2.28 per liter for gasoline which equates to about $8.63 a gallon. Part of the reason why this is the case is because they have fantastic public transportation, so the need for private travel is lessened. Also, many European nations believe strongly in preservation of natural resources, and they tax those resources accordingly.

Germany's ICE trains

Germany’s ICE Trains

Not only is a cheaper way to travel and better for the environment, but it is also a great way to meet new people and it may actually be the best way to see Europe. It is also less stressful to travel this way because you do not have to try to read road signs in an unfamiliar language. And, it’s a great way to save time because you can jump on a train in the evening and in the morning you are in another city!

Two major train comparies are Eurostar, which has trains from London to Paris, and Rail Europe, which has packages around Europe. These companies can also help with hotels, if you need them, and other information about traveling on trains throughout Europe. Remember to stay safe, keep your stuff with you at all times, and sit back and enjoy someone else driving you to your next exciting European destination.


Train travel through Europe

Living in Saudi Arabia

Back in 1992, when I was 9 years old, my family and I moved to Saudi Arabia. This was after the first Gulf War and I did not know anything about the political upheaval or problems going on in the region. I had never traveled outside the United States before, and I did not remember our family trips to Disney or the Grand Canyon. I just knew that it was going to be an adventure! We arrived in Saudi Arabia during the night and I remember being so tired after the long flight from JFK Airport in New York. This is how my adventure began, but it would get better, and more interesting.saudi arabia map

I was supposed to go to the International School with other children from many different places around the world, such as Europe, India, and the US. However, my parents decided that I should be home schooled. At first I did not like it, but being home schooled did offer me more time to go on vacations around the world. I was able to travel the world and learn about new cultures and histories that I did not learn in my textbooks. This was also true about Saudi Arabia.

Living in Saudi Arabia as a girl was interesting. I too had to follow the strict religious and cultural rules for women. We had to adapt from the way we lived in the US to a version of their traditional ways. We did not need to cover ourselves in the abaya, though, which is basically a long robe. In Saudi Arabia women must wear black, which is different than many other Muslim countries, where they can wear colors. They also had to cover their hair, which is a Muslim saudi arabiacustom for women, but married women had to cover their faces as well. I had to make sure that I did not wear anything too short, and my mother could not drive anywhere. They did have buses for us to take into town so we could go shopping. Those buses were not just for the international community, but also for the local women to get around without a husband or male family member.

Living in Saudi Arabia when I was so young, until my teens, gave me a unique perspective about the people that live there. Yes, women cannot drive and they do not have the freedom that women in the US have, but that is their culture. I enjoyed my time there because the food was great and new to me and I found many friends from around the world who have many different backgrounds. I guess the lesson here is, try to incorporate the customs of the country you are living or visiting because it will help in enjoying the country you are in, even if you do not follow all the customs.

Champagne Country by Former EVCAA Guillaume

We spent the last three days of our stay in the company of friends saying good-bye and celebrating life in the inimitable French way – animated conversations around the table with food, wine and cheeses. With friends Hélène and Xavier we walked along the cliffs of the littoral.IMG_3219 Later at Hélène’s apartment, we were joined by her friend, Asti, a delightful fellow. We all sat on her balcony, with the cool evening breeze and the soft glow of the setting sun. Delicious apéro, cold Belgian beer and refreshing Alsatian white wine added to the relaxing ambience. Leaving Provence is not easy. After seven weeks immersed in Provençal culture, we became French in our daily activities, our American identity submerged. Boarding the train in Marseille meant that soon we would be transformed once again into the Americans we really are. With ten days remaining before returning home, we would be making slight detours to Champagne, Paris and Amsterdam. As the fast-moving train (TGV, train à grande vitesse) en route to Paris zoomed through flat expansive terrain, the sloping rocky Provençal countryside in its wake, movie frame images of the last several weeks sped rapidly in my mind. Each frame pulled at the edges of a saddened heart, consoled only by the certitude that we would be returning. But for the moment, we were heading to Champagne country to visit friends we had not seen in thirteen years. It was Easter weekend and each train car was packed with travelers like us, en route to visit family and friends. When we last visited our friends, Jean-Luc and Alexandra, they had one son, Victor. Now two additional children, Justine and Louis, and a cute mixed Spanish terrier, Ficelle, add to the brood.IMG_3268 We were eager to see them all. Alexandra was one of Melanie’s ESL (English as a Second Language students) in California in the eighties; Jean-Luc owns a champagne vineyard in the village of Verzenay. Since our last visit their production and export of champagne have grown. One of the by-products of visiting the Lallement family is that we get to drink extraordinarily high quality champagne (91 rating by Spectator) as an apéro (apéritif) each evening. To those reading this blog, we recommend highly Lallement champagne; distributors are in the New York and San Francisco markets. Being with the Lallements is like being with our own family. Their children are like grandchildren to us. In our few days with them, we taught the kids a new card game, Kings’ Corners, and we all watched a feature movie, La Guerre des boutons, which included Victor in several scenes. We took walks and spent time with them individually, listening and laughing. And oh, we enjoyed the parents as well. Alexandra prepared delicious meals; Jean-Luc was happy to prepare some of his favorite delicacies — escargots prepared with wild mushrooms and cream, a separate serving of black mushrooms called trompettes de la mort, and large sautéed white asparagus which is very popular this time of year. He obviously took great delight in seeing me delve hungrily into each dish. Easter Sunday afternoon, after Mass and a delicious dinner, Justine and Louis took us for a walk in the village and surrounding vineyards. They were actually on their trottinettes, (scooters) and we sauntered along. Verzenay is a small village of about one thousand inhabitants but there are over thirty separate champagne vineyards.IMG_3292 The town, about forty minutes from Reims, dates from the Medieval period in a pastoral setting amidst acres (hectares) of vineyards and yellow Colza(canola) fields. This part of France with expansive, flat open-spaces is a stark contrast to hilly and rocky Provence. But like Provence, its neatly arranged rows of vines strike an unparalleled beauty. After sauntering among the vineyards, the children took us to the cemetery to see the Lallement gravesites dating back several generations. The only shortcoming of this weekend en famille was its short duration. Our bond with the family became stronger. We were honored and privileged listening to the parents speak about parenting. In that respect they are part of that universal parenting club and have concerns in raising children as every parent across the globe shares. My only regret about that weekend is that we didn’t stay longer. And I’m confident that the children feel the same way. I’ve already received an email from my copain, Louis, as he referred to himself, and from Justine. A highlight of our brief visit with the Lallements was an afternoon visit at the Cathedral of Reims. In this Gothic masterpiece the Kings of France were crowned.IMG_3230 Built over three centuries, the cathedral remains incomplete, lacking spires on the towers. We did not have enough time to visit the impressive canonical section adjacent to the cathedral with its extensive sculpture collection nor the city itself. Those activities are already high on the list for our next visit.

On the morning of our departure from Verzenay, we all had breakfast together before heading to Reims. After many hugs and bisous, we boarded the train to Paris to see our Parisian son, Louis, who spent a year with us ten years ago as an AFS (American Field Service) exchange student. We had not seen him since. Now he is a chef in a Paris bistrot, God Save the Kitchen. Although he knew of our visit, it was difficult to reach him. Repeated phone calls proved futile. Fearing that our trip would be in vain, we went to his restaurant only to discover that it was his day off. But we did have a nice lunch there. Finally, after many unanswered phone calls and e-mails, we were able to connect with Louis on the last day of our Parisian stay. He invited us to the restaurant where he works. And what a wonderful three-hour reunion, reminiscing and catching up on his life in the intervening years! When he came to the States, his English and mannerisms were those of an American. Then he wanted to be recognized as American. He spoke impeccably well having learned English since the age of four in a bi-lingual school. An obviously brilliant kid, Louis’ only ambition that year was to skateboard. He had no interest in studying and got into mischief at home and at school. Several years ago, we were astonished to receive a long letter from him apologizing for his behavior. Though older and more mature, Louis still retains his playful charm. When asked by Melanie what he got most out of that year with us, he mentioned gratitude.IMG_3350 He was thankful for all that we had done for him. In his AFS application, he had expressed a strong desire to be in a family with a father. His mother, a writer, was raising two adopted children, he from Brazil, and a daughter from Russia. And now we can look back and appreciate his time with us as well. During his year with us, Louis spoke lovingly of his grandfather who told him that ordre et discipline were the keys to success. Though those were lacking when he attended high school in the States, it is quite obvious that those lessons finally took root. He’s enjoying his success as a chef. “I want to make people happy with the food I prepare,” he chimed. Before saying good-bye, he treated us to one of his specialty dishes, a chili of shredded beef, prepared à la Louis. He’s making a name for himself and gave us a copy of a Parisian pamphlet that featured him on the cover with several of his recipes included. He also makes a jambalaya that he says the Parisians love. Other highlights of Paris included our visit to the Rodin museum and the Musée du Quai Branly where we met Diane Pinderhughes, a Notre Dame professor and fellow congregant at St. Augustine’s who was in town for a few days to attend an academic meeting.IMG_3338 The Rodin museum and its surrounding gardens is a must-see. Majesty and power seemed to emanate from the tall dark bronzes spread over the gardens, each a testimony to the genius of a masterful sculptor. Each bronze with its realistic and graceful stature held secrets for the viewer to unveil.IMG_3326 I could not resist having my picture taken with perhaps the most recognizable Rodin, The Thinker.IMG_3317  Within the museum itself were other sculptures from which we could follow Rodin’s maturation as a sculptor. Even his earliest work showed indications of a great artist. Alongside some of the pieces was a special exhibit of Robert Maplethorpe whose textual and sensual black and white photography was influenced by the same elements in Rodin’s sculpture. Like Rodin, Maplethorpe’s contorted poses of the body mimicked the forms and shapes of the natural environment. But unlike Rodin whose poses also evoke sensuality, Maplethorpe’s sought to shock. At the Branly museum where we met Diane, time allowed for a visit of only three exhibitions, one on Nancy Cunard, one on the American Indians of the Plains, and the third on the cultures on Oceania. The Cunard exhibit was particularly fascinating. Shamefully, I had never heard of Nancy Cunard, and I should have since I’ve studied the art and literature of the Harlem Renaissance. Nancy Cunard was a rebel English heiress who fraternized with the likes of André Breton, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and other literati and artists. She bristled at global and ethnic inequality and inequity and used her wealth and influence to fight these injustices. In 1934, she published a massive tome, Negro, an anthology of art and letters. The exhibit featured her vast collection of bracelets, period jazz music, and Langston Hughes reciting his familiar poem, “I, Too, Sing America.” We had initially decided that we would bypass the Plains Indians exhibit because it was a theme far too familiar to us, but at the last minute we decided that we could pass through it quickly. Oh, how wrong we were! To our surprise, it was a large exhibit, tastefully done, respectful, detailed with a rich and accurate depiction of American Indian life. The exhibit in many ways paid homage to the traditions of the Plains Indians while at the same time exposing the horrors of the forced land abandonment and migration by the American government. Unlike most exhibits of this kind, the narrative was told in reverse, from the traditions and modern cultural arts, and the living conditions of the twenty-first century reservations to the period before the Native Peoples’ encounters with the European invaders. The last exhibit — and I could have spent the entire afternoon there — was an exhibit on the cultures of Oceania. The masks, and the rituals in which they were used, were the most appealing of all the artifacts.IMG_3347  Examining the tools, the wooden boats, modes of dress, ceremonial objects, and the like, gave me a perspective on a world I know so little about. To anyone visiting Paris, a visit to the Musée Branly is on par with a visit to the Louvre or to the Musée d’Orsay. Nearby are the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, where Napoléon is buried. No visit to Paris is complete without a concert of classical music. In France, and throughout Europe, concerts and theatrical events abound. Musical concerts are often held in churches at little or no cost. On the Left Bank, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame, in the Medieval church, St. Julien-le-Pauvre, we heard beautiful renditions of Chopin and Lizst. I remembered walking in that church many years ago as a student and happened upon a rehearsal of organ music.IMG_3332 The deep tones of the organ still resonate in my brain. In Paris, we also met a colleague whom we met a couple of years ago in Brussels where I gave my talk on the literature of the Louisiana gens de couleurs libres. Melanie and I met Jean-Marc for a coffee and then a couple of beers at a well-known nineteenth century café, Le Rostand, near the Sorbonne. Jean-Marc had just spent the day in the library doing research; he is working with several scholars from across the globe on literatures of the Atlantic. Our visit to Paris was too short. To appreciate all of Paris’ artistic and cultural life, its architectural splendor, its gastronomic delights, its night life and the joy of walking through its gardens, would require a lifetime of leisure. Alas, our three days were just a soupçon. Luckily for us, this was not our first visit to Paris, and hopefully, not our last. From Paris, we took the train for Amsterdam to visit Melanie’s high school friend, Beverly and her husband, Jan. Details of that visit to follow in the next blog.

It’s Melanie again in italics. Leaving Provence really changed the nature of our stay in Europe. In the Toulon area we had a home base rooted in a small town outside the city. We took day-trips and came back home. Only once, when we went to the Antibes area, did we stay over night before returning. We didn’t feel like tourists. We felt like long-term residents, albeit non-French ones. Once we left our car in Marseille, we were on the road staying only three or four nights before moving on. Even though we felt that we had not learned everything possible about the Toulon area, we stayed long enough to revisit places that we liked, to go dancing three times, to go to the movies, to shop at the open-air market on Fridays and get to recognize our favorite vendors, to have a “carte de fidélité” (a grocery story frequent shopper card!), to invite friends to dinner, and to explore the smaller, more intimate sights that weren’t at the top of the tourist agenda but which gave us a deeper understanding of the rhythm of everyday life. Alfred got his hair cut, we had a flat tire repaired, we sat in cafés sipping a drink and reading as we watched the ocean and the people walking by, we had long conversations with people about their health care and their politics. We feel so grateful to have had this time to explore one place in depth. Of course, it was also wonderful to visit people whom we haven’t seen for years. My former 19-year-old ESL student, Alexandra, has grown into a lovely mother of three, who manages the family business while her husband works the land and produces champagne.

IMG_3254She speaks 5 languages, so she can handle exporting champagne all over the world. It was so much fun to see her brother in Juan-les-Pins in his restaurant and then bring greetings and photos of that reunion to his sister in Champagne. And visiting with our former exchange student, Louis, in Paris was a great three-hour review of where he had been when we knew him to appreciating the young man he has developed into. What a treat to see his excitement about his culinary creations and his growing confidence and maturity. This short but intense meeting made our quick travel to Paris worth it.

Aung San Suu Kyi

In celebration of South Asian Heritage Month in Canada and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States, I will briefly discuss a hero of mine.

When people think of nonviolent freedom fighters throughout history, their minds rightfully race to people like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma Gandhi. However, a name that is consistently left off this list, which may even deserve to be placed first, is Aung San Suu Kyi. May 6 is the anniversary of President George W. Bush signing legislation conferring the Congressional Gold Medal to Suu Kyi. A small and unimposing woman in a nation that does not praise strong women, Suu Kyi rose up to fight for her people. For two decades, she was a political prisoner in country that brutally oppressed its people, utilized forced labor camps, used rape as a means of control, and forced its citizens into a perpetual state of destitution.

Aung San Suu Kyi was born to a Burmese General Aung San, one of the founders of modern Myanmar, who was assassinated two years after Suu Kyi’s birth. When her mother became the ambassador to India, teenaged Suu Kyi moved with her to India.  After graduation she enrolled at Oxford University in 1964, where she eventually met her future husband, Michael Aris. They were married in 1972. Suu Kyi was considered by many to be a stereotypical housewife and an adoring mother, to the dismay of her numerous feminist-leaning friends, and their first child was born the following year. In 1988, Suu Kyi received a phone call that her mother was in the hospital after suffering a stroke. Without hesitation, she rushed to her ailing mother. That experience was what led her to become a peaceful revolutionary.

While staying at the hospital with her mother, Aung San Suu Kyi met numerous students, monks, and other protesters who were shot during a political demonstration. Suu Kyi knew she needed to fight for her country, but in a nonviolent way — a confrontation of peace. As a child of a political and military hero, she felt that she had the clout to force the military to back down on the violent reprisals against peaceful demonstrations. In front of a reported crowd of 500,000, she delivered her first public address espousing Buddhist values with the principles of Gandhi. Sadly, less than two months after her speech, the military crushed a protest and killed several hundred people. At this time, Suu Kyi realized she would have to sacrifice her life and family for her country.

File:Suu-kyi-gives-speech-in-khawmu.jpgUnlike most political prisoners, Suu Kyi could have left Burma at any time; the military junta would have even helped her leave. This may have been the best possible solution for the military junta, because execution of the daughter of a national hero could cause an uprising that would be hard to suppress. Her family was only allowed to visit her a few times, which was designed to try to get her to leave, but she and her family held strong to their convictions. This proved to be harder as the first decade of her imprisonment came to an end and Michael, her husband, learned he had prostate cancer. Knowing that his wife would never be allowed back into Myanmar, he sought permission to visit her, but was rejected by the military junta even though Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton wrote letters on his behalf. On March 27, 1999, Michael Aris died of complications from prostate cancer and Suu Kyi was never allowed to visit him, illustrating Suu Kyi’s devotion to her nation.

While a political prisoner, Suu Kyi’s political party won eighty-two percent of the parliamentary seats in the 1990 election, but the junta refused to recognize the results. Also while detained, Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the following year she announced that the prize money would be placed in a trust to help establish health and educational services for the Burmese people. Aung San Suu Kyi struggled for her people and felt that a country that is rich in natural resources should spend more than one percent of the national budget on healthcare and education. She also believes that people have the power to change, and to work together for the betterment of the Burmese people. Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize for these reasons as well as her dedication to nonviolent struggle. With good reason, Suu Kyi distrusts the junta, but has shown some optimism as the current leadership is liberalizing the economy. On November 13, 2010, she was freed from her house arrest and received the first visit from her son in over a decade, a symbolic gesture from the junta on November 23. In total, Suu Kyi spent 15 out of 22 years under house arrest without warrant or trial. In 2012, Suu Kyi successfully ran for political office and the leniency of the new government finally allowed her to receive her Nobel Peace Prize.

Within the twentieth century, the fight for democracy has grown larger than any other time in world history. Imperialism has been overturned and is nearing extinction, and racism and prejudice are halting in numerous nations because people are finally starting to realize that people are really the same regardless of ethnicity and race. Oppression needs to be eliminated, and with willpower and resolve, it will slowly become a thing of the past and something that people will not tolerate. Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the numerous heroes of this cause and she should be praised and upheld as a hero of women and of nonviolent resistance.


Beech, Hannah. “The First Lady of Freedom. (Cover Story).” Time 177.1 (2011): 30-35.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” New York Times. May 29, 2012.

Frayn, Rebecca. “The Lady’s Destiny.” Newsweek 159.11 (2012): 40-48.

Gluckman, Ron. “Women of Peace.” Newsweek 158.24 (2011): 12-13.

Hookway, James. “Aung San Suu Kyi Steals the Show,” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2012.