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We've come a long way, baby--Celebrating Women's History Month

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February 28th, 2009

Do you know who was a famous teenage Holocaust diarist? A slave who became a conductor on the underground railroad? How about the face on the U.S. gold dollar coin? If you answered Anne Frank, Harriet Tubman, and Sacagawea, than you are on your way to knowing important pieces of women s history. The entire month of March is set aside to honor the history, accomplishments, and contributions of all American women past and present.

Looking back

For the history buffs who are keeping track, it s been more than 30 years since the first public celebration of women s history began in Sonoma County, Calif., with a week set aside to recognize the significance of women in history. Then in 1987, Congress expanded the weeklong celebration to a month. Now, every March, our nation celebrates the many contributions women have made to our society, excelling as leaders in all walks of life including business, law, politics, family life, education, community service, science, medicine, sports, and the arts. Women s History Month not only celebrates the accomplishments of women, but also the obstacles females had to overcome through the years. Early history books rarely mentioned women, as women were considered inferior to men. They were unable to vote until 1920, and even speaking in public was frowned upon.

One ad said it all

Finally, with the women s movement of the 1960s, women made significant headway and were recognized as valuable and independent citizens. One example that stands out in Elaine Krause s mind is the ads introduced by Morris Tobacco Company. The slogan, "You ve Come a Long Way Baby" and photographs staged black-and-white shots picturing the miserable state of women prior to the women s movement were juxtaposed against other photos of happier, modern women demonstrated their emancipation from male dominance. While cigarette ads are not celebrated today, "I remember those ads vividly," says Krause, who lives at Cedar Crest, in Pompton Plains. "It was an exciting time to be a woman."

Independent woman

As a world traveler who stood up for her beliefs, Krause was a poster child for the women s movement. She packed her bags for her first trip in the mid 1930s. She traveled to Belgium to meet her grandmother and numerous family members. Then in 1936, she attended the Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, where her cousin, Al, had been chosen from the Princeton swim team to represent the United States in the backstroke competition. "I ll never forget the day when Hitler entered the crowded stadium with much pomp and ceremony," she says. "Everybody roared and stood up, and I remained seated. My aunt, conscious of the military ushers with their Nazi armbands nearby, nudged me to stand, and I told her that I ll stand for the American flag when Al wins his medal," she says. A few days later, her wish was granted when her cousin won a silver medal in the backstroke competition. After college graduation, Krause joined four sorority sisters to drive 15,000 miles around the United States in two months a warm-up for the travel she would eventually experience with her Navy pilot/flight instructor husband, Bob, who she met at a ski club. "We shared the same sport of skiing and enjoyed Europe over the years Germany, Austria, France, Italy, England, Switzerland, and Ireland," she says. "Our most fascinating ocean voyages took us to the South China Sea, South America, and the Mediterranean. We ve been blessed." As a mother of two sons and grandmother to four, Krause says living at Cedar Crest makes it easy to travel. "I just turn the key and tell the front desk," she says. Krause also takes advantage of the local trips offered by the Cedar Crest transportation department and urges would-be travelers to "do it now while you are able! Have travel dreams so that those travel dreams come true!"

Woman of opportunity

Like Krause, Jane Finton is also an avid traveler; she worked as a reservation agent for Eastern Airlines for more than a decade. "Women today have so many more opportunities and as many responsibilities to go with it," says Finton, who lives at Seabrook, in Tinton Falls. "I ve put my feet in 38 countries and spent time in 36 of them. "When you look back in history, women have been travelers for many years." Finton says her job not only allowed her to travel the world but also gave her the opportunity to talk to journalists Charles Kuralt and Barbara Walters, football star Joe Namath, and actor Brian Dennehy. "I was just in the right place at the right time," she says about landing the job she enjoyed for so many years. While she loved her job, today she pursues hobbies she never had time to while traveling and working. She volunteers in Seabrook s television station as a camera operator, runs the TV movie rental room, and works in a local thrift shop that benefits the Visiting Nurse Association. "I m having a great time and enjoying my life with no major regrets," she says. "My motto is to live, love, and laugh, and what a great place to be able to do it!"

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