The Amend Corner

One for the ladies

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Ah, it’s great to see the word April in big letters on the calendar.

It’s not that the first three months of 2019 have been so bad. I’ve just had some difficulty keeping to my routine since the first of the year. Having to spend a couple of days at that resort out on Avenue G due to pneumonia sort of disrupted things, and things were further disturbed by a return to the ER a couple of days later when the doctor thought a pulse rate of 160 was a bit too fast to ensure my continued existence. I would have been worried myself, except that watching the ER staff and my faithful spouse watch the monitor after each of the attempts to rein in my ticker to see if it would do the trick was actually kind of entertaining. Thankfully, after six or seven attempts to slow me down, they found a treatment that brought my pulse down to a healthy level within minutes, which was a relief to everybody, I think.

Anyway, as of this writing, I’m still alive, sporting a leisurely pulse rate, low blood pressure and absolutely no pneumonia. I’m assuming my recent adventures in medical care are over, at least for a while and I’m ready to write again.

March, in case you weren’t paying attention, is officially Women’s History Month. I’m not sure exactly who designates these “official” months, but in this case, I think she — maybe it was a he, but I doubt it — did a good thing. My reading in things historic tells me that the female side of humanity gets a bit short-changed when it comes to having their accomplishments celebrated. Things are better than they used to be, I think, but in the past, unless a woman was married to a famous man, she didn’t get a lot of publicity.

Actually, women have been responsible for some pretty important stuff, some of which they never really got credit for.

Take, for example, Hedy Lamarr, a talented and extremely beautiful actress who was way more than just a pretty face. She had an inventive mind and during World War II, she worked with an equally smart composer to develop a radio guidance system for torpedos that could not be intercepted or jammed by an enemy. The system was not used during the war and, in fact, wasn’t adopted by the Navy for almost 20 years. But today, if you make a call on your cellphone or use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your computer, the principles of Lamarr’s invention make your communications more secure. It was only a few years before her death, in 2000, that she and her partner received an award for their work; just five years ago, they were inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame. In 2017, the documentary “Bombshell” told the story of her work.

The movie industry also provided recognition for Katherine Johnson with the 2016 film “Hidden Figures.” Johnson, an African American who had difficulty being taken seriously by her colleagues at NASA, performed the critical mathematical calculations that resulted in the successful launching of the Space Shuttle. Another African American woman who worked for NASA, Mary Jackson, did work that improved the aerodynamics of aircraft. Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria, who also worked for NASA, helped develop the nickel-hydrogen battery. Such batteries are in use today, powering the International Space Station.

There are other contributions from women that we take for granted today, including some common-place things such as the windshield wipers on your car. A woman named Mary Anderson patented the idea in 1903 — the same year Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first powered flights — but automakers refused to adopt it for two years. They said it was unnecessary, but one wonders if they rejected it because a woman came up with the idea.

Another woman, Stephanie Kwolek, created the material known as Kevlar, which today strengthens construction materials, protects firemen and soldiers, and has hundreds of other uses.

Other women have done valuable research in genetics, medicine, agronomy, astronomy and dozens of other fields, often despite not being taken seriously because of their gender, and there is a lesson in that: There are talented people in every segment of our population who can contribute to the well-being of America. If we are to continue as a strong nation, we need to utilize all of those talents and skills, no matter who has them. Failing to take advantage of the contributions of any segment of our society — whether because of gender, race, religion or ethnicity — will rob us of valuable knowledge and skills that can make our society more stronger, healthier, safer and, ultimately, more prosperous.

That’s why observing events such as Women’s History Month is important, and why we as a people need to unite in opposition to those who would divide us. Our future may depend on it.

Now, it’s time to enjoy April.

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