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Florida Power & Light


Chart celebrates women's successes

By Margo Harakas
Staff Writer
Posted October 1 2003



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Don't expect to find J. Lo, Madonna or Nicole Kidman on this poster. Instead you'll find Dorothea Dix, Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony and dozens of other women whose names are even less familiar.

Their names, accomplishments, and, in most cases, faces decorate a 40-by-28-inch laminated wall chart that celebrates women who have shaped American daily life during the past 423 years.

A total of 155 women are featured, the earliest being Lady Deborah Moody, born in England in 1586, and ending with Capt. Linda Bray, born in 1960.

"We started out with over 1,300 names," says Christopher Seepe, CEO and co-founder of Synchronopedia Corp. The Toronto-based company first produced wall chart that depicted a 3,000-year timeline of "firsts" in science and technology.

For 3-1/2 months, Seepe and his partner [Gordon Goodyear] spent 10 hours a day, seven days a week scouring books and Web sites for women to include on their Synchronopedia of Women Who Shaped American History. (Synchronopedia is a word coined by Seepe, a blend of synchronous, chronological and encyclopedia.)

Narrowing the field of chart potentials was no easy task.

"We looked at the kind of impact that the women presented in terms of their influence on daily life," says Seepe, explaining the criteria used.

From the start, says Seepe, actresses and public figures were ruled out. "They're here today and gone tomorrow."

Well, not totally ruled out. Some notable TV and Hollywood types are in Seepe's star cluster, among them, Marilyn Monroe, Hedy Lamarr, Carol Burnett, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Connie Chung, Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball. Both Pickford and Ball are included for their business acumen. Pickford was one of the founding members of United Artists, and Ball was the first in the TV industry to trade pay cuts for program ownership and syndication royalties. "At that time," says Seepe, "no one thought about the value of syndication."

Burnett made the cut for her unique style of comedy, which, says Seepe, "reflected American values and the American way of life. She's still in syndication worldwide 25 years later."

The honorees represent a wide range of professions or endeavors, from sports, education, science and technology to women's rights and home life.

The English-born Moody, earliest born on the chart but the second listed, was the first woman to receive an American colonial land grant from the Dutch. A widow, she founded Gravesend, a part of Brooklyn. "Gravesend," says Seepe, "was the only permanent settlement in early colonial America planned and directed by a woman."

Topping the chart is another Englishwoman, Anne Hutchison, born in 1591. She and her husband moved to Boston in 1634. Outspoken, particularly on religious principles and civil liberties, she found herself and her family banished three years later to Rhode Island. After her husband's death, she and the family settled in New York, where she was killed in an Indian raid in 1642.

Two of Seepe's favorite entries are Stephanie Louise Kwolek and Virnett Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell.

While working for Dupont, Kwolek developed the first liquid crystal polymer, a discovery that led to Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests.

Mitchell, an extraordinary athlete, would find herself defeated by her own phenomenal talent. At 17, she was signed as a pitcher on a male team, the Chattanooga Lookouts, the second woman ever to play in the minor leagues.

As the story goes, on April 2, 1931, in an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, Mitchell stunned spectators as she struck out both Babe Ruth (with five pitches) and Lou Gehrig (with three). She walked the third batter and was pulled from the game. Within days, the baseball commissioner voided her contract, and women were barred from baseball until 1992.

Ultimately, any such listing is subjective. Had there been more space, many other names undoubtedly would have been added.

"It was the bottom 20 percent that was the most difficult to decide upon," says Seepe.

An even greater challenge, says Seepe, "was encapsulating the remarkable life achievements of these women in 300 characters or less."

In bar charts and borders, the relevant historical eras are noted as well as prominent events in American history. It's a way of showing what was going on during the time the women lived.

Seepe doesn't claim to have crafted a comprehensive work. "The chart was meant more to be inspiration to young children. It's about women who did extraordinary things, not necessarily extraordinary individuals," he notes.

If his chart inspires even a small portion of his audience to check out a book or go to the Internet to find out more about the women highlighted, he'll be happy.

And because women have been so neglected in the history books, Seepe says, "I'd love women to give this chart to their husbands and say, `See.' That's all they need to say. Nothing else." Imagining the scene makes him break out in laughter.

The Synchronopedia of Women Who Shaped American History, available beginning Oct. 15, may be ordered online at www.synchronopedia.com, by calling 905-738-0896 or by writing Synchronopedia Corp., Marketing Dept, 6 Riviera Drive, Concord, Ontario, Canada, L4K2J1. Price is $29.95, plus $4.50 for shipping and handling.



Margo Harakas can be reached at mharakas@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4728.


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