National Catholic Sisters Week 2018

Possibly I was too wrapped up in Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to remember that March also heralds the special recognition of some of the strongest women of all.  I have just realized that this week, March 8-14, is also National Catholic Sisters Week

In the interest of sharing that time-sensitive message without delay I am taking the liberty of quoting the website description of this major initiative:

Created to honor women religious, it is a series of events that instruct, enlighten and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women. It’s our chance to recognize all they have done for us. It’s also our hope that as more young women learn about women religious, more will choose to follow their example. 

 National Catholic Sisters Week, a branch of National Catholic Sisters Project headquartered at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisc., is headquartered at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., and is held in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

For a not-quite-recent update on today’s women religious this 2011 article in the National Catholic Reporter offers a brief history of the contributions of women religious to the history and values of this nation.

I am also taking the liberty of noting some past Poking Around posts that give a sense of the unique missions and roles of women religious in this region:

These posts are a minimal sampling of the myriad articles and books that reflect the leadership of individual women and communities of women religious in Minnesota.  In the interests of piquing the interest of readers, I presume to note just a smattering of the stories that record the work of strong committed women who have shaped the state’s health, education, political, social movements and intellectual life.

Minnesota Women’s Press has published several articles about women religious; following are links to just a couple:

A quick skim of MNOpedia disclosed these articles about women religious – there are, and will be, more but these offer a taste of the research that has been and needs to be undertaken, recorded and shared:

On my personal bookshelf I found these books that record the work of the women religious in Minnesota.  The shelf is tilted to the contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet because the CSJ’s were my teachers throughout high school and college:

  • They came to teach; The story of Sisters who taught in parochial schools and their contribution to elementary education in Minnesota. Annabelle Raiche, CSJ and Ann Marie Biermaier, OSB. Published by North Star Press, St Cloud in 1994.
  • Eyes Open on a world: The challenge of change. A collaboration by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province. Published in 2001 by North Star Press, St. Cloud.
  • On Good Ground, The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. by Sister Helen Angela Hurley. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1951.

By any measure this is a sadly incomplete listing.  My last-minute effort is to share the message that we are now celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week.  Much more important, this post is intended to spark and encourage scholars’ interest in learning and share more stories.  The archives of the religious communities and academic institutions (of which there are many!) are robust, meticulously preserved, and open to serious students of the history of these too-often under-recognized powerful women of faith and vision.

I am interested in and will post other publications – please share ideas, suggestions, stories and publications that fill in the gaps in the role that women of strength and wisdom have played of Minnesota’s and the nation’s history.

National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14 2018



Not just another day: March 8 is International Women’s Day 2018

A highlight of Women’s History Month is a pause to celebrate International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8.  In light of what’s happening on the political front, the media are doing a good job of reminding us of the vision and contributions of American women.   Sponsored by the United Nations IWD honors women’s achievements across nations, race and accomplishments; it is a day to collaborate on commemoration of the ongoing – perpetual? – movement for women’s rights across geographic and political lines.

The first observance of Women’s Day was held on February 28, 1909 in New York City.   Not long thereafter, the 1910 International Women’s Conference proposed that March 8 be celebrated as International Woman’s Day.  The day is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2018 is both timely and thought-provoking for Minnesotans.  “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.  While the theme honors rural and urban activists, the time is now for each of us to be attuned to what’s happening in our own state.  In fact, the theme relates directly to the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s concern with the rights and activism of rural women “who make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development.”  (See previous posts re. elimination and/or suppression of data about things we don’t want to acknowledge…)

One IWD tradition is a call for supporters to wear red.  The gesture reminds colleagues, friends and family of the “A Day without a woman” movement.

It goes without saying that we need more than one day to honor women’s rights, women’s role in the political life of this nation and the world, women’s vote and the power of women to restore order in this nation.  March 8, 2018 is not just another day – it’s a day to pause, focus, learn, celebrate, think and share thoughts about women’s accomplishments.  More important it is the challenge to think in terms of specific steps to engage women in the all-encompassing struggle to cope with the reality of what’s happening to the world we share.

To start the mental juices flowing take time to check out this initiative to record, preserve and share the stories of women’s lives, vision and contributions:

There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”Malala Yousafzai


Putting a face on truth-seeking

I personally think honestly disclosing rather than hiding one’s subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism. But no journalism – from the most stylistically ‘objective’ to the most brazenly opinionated – has any real value unless it is grounded in facts, evidence, and verifiable data, Glenn Greenwald

In recent months I have spent far too much time viewing and listening to the saga unraveling in this, the Trumpian era.  One thing that has been of particular interest to me is the way in which we as viewers/listeners have come to “put a face” on those who dare to share their knowledge and, even more, their opinions.  In many cases, respected print journalists have emerged from behind the by-line to face the camera and/or microphone.

Whether it’s Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, Phil Rucker or Joy Reid, we now understand the news, in part, through the personality of the presenter.  Though this fact marks a change abhorrent to some who value journalistic objectivity above all, it is a fact of journalistic life.  To be honest, I appreciate putting a face on the skilled – and opinionated – journalists whose information and opinion I can assess  for myself.

My ultimate goal is to learn the truth.   This de-mystification of the process prompts me to ponder how these journalists locate, evaluate, and shape the information they share.  As I view or listen I match the presentation with the process;  I envision the roles of those who manage or at a minimum influence the information chain.  As the investigative journalist reports on her findings, my mind is asking how do you know that?  What resources did you use?  Who determined those resources?  Who organized it?  Who archived that information?  Who asked the questions?  How were the statistics collected?  What’s missing?  How do you know what you know?  I tend to put a face on each of the players on whom the journalist depends.

Mine is a subjective analysis of the information chain itself.  And still it’s time to put a face on what is an invisible, complex, implicit but undeniable – and ultimately very human – process.

Those who would mess with the information chain know the links all too well.  They are at the ready to hinder the flow, shape the issues, determine the players, and otherwise weaponize information.  Similarly, those who would squelch the truth are adept at determining that data are not collected, much less published, that voices are ignored, that stories are overlooked or skewed, that money talks – and is heard.

Which is why the time has come to “put a face” on the process of information collection, interpretation, organization, preservation, distribution – all those “backroom” sorts of things that ensure that essential information moves through the information chain efficiently and effectively.  This will require more collaboration among the professionals who are the links in the chain; it will also require greater attribution.  Above all, this demands educating information consumers about the characteristics and function of the links in the information chain.

We the people, the decisions-makers in this democracy, depend on solid, verifiable information – truths – so that we are individually and collectively equipped to make good decisions in our own lives and in the life of the democracy.

Important as journalists are, their work depends on a powerful and dependable information chain that is forged by an unsung team of professionals, each responsible for a link, all responsible for the whole.  The work depends on intellectual and financial commitment.

It’s time for the professions to speak out, to demand respect – and financial support.  And it’s time for concerned citizens to understand the critical links in the information chain.  We need to put a face on the critical role and skilled work of those who gather, organize, preserve and otherwise make information accessible to journalists and other information presenters whose research, voices and visages convey that information to the public.

Fact checking after the fact is putting a band aid on misinformation.

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Places to go, things to do in March

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.” Attributed to Plato, (428 BC – 348 BC).

At times it seems that the designation of special months is at best redundant, sometimes trying to cram a millennium of history into a 30-day span.  And yet, it’s good to focus, and so we highlight a couple of monumental issues that claim March as their month to shine.

  • Women’s History is of relatively recent origin. First identified in 1982 as Women’s History Week the recognition gathered momentum and time until 1995 when the topic of women’s history flowered as an entire month.  The Law Library of Congress has actually collected the laws, proclamations and resolutions related to the saga of Women’s History Month.  The National Archives offers an informative – and fun – starting point to understanding the history:    Check out the Women’s History Month website sponsored by the National Women’s History Project here:   Other sites are sponsored by the National Park Service, the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities, all of which offer myriad programs and resources that serve as starting points for local groups that need a spark to light a fire under their Women’s History Month plans.

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The calendar of Women’s History Month activities is prodigious – just a couple of highlights give a flavor:

  • The East Side Freedom Library and the Minnesota Historical Society are working together on a special program set for Saturday, March 24, 1:00 PM at ESFL. Objectivity: ’68 to today: Women’s activism: Dolores Huerta.  The program includes a play written by the MNHS Teen Action Group and the examination of historical objects from the MNHS collection.  Focus is on Dolores Huerta, an unsung figure in the fight for equality.  Also featured is an examination of  the intersections between the women’s movement and race, communities in Minnesota and the national context, labor rights and civil rights.
  • Also at ESFL, “Let’s Talk about Hmong Women: Leadership Thursday, March 15, 6:30 pm.  This is the first in a four-part series of conversations led by members of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.  Future conversations are set for June 1 (Patriarchy), September 13 (Motherhood), and November 8 (spirituality)
  • At the U of M Walter Library, March 30 – “Make or Break: Women in Technology Rich Spaces” 9:30 AM-11:00AM.  Women from across the U of M campus discuss the topic.  Speakers include Charlene Ellingson, Samantha Thi Porter, Robin Schwartzman and Simone Vuong.  Registration required.

Also at the University of Minnesota:

Lots happening at the State Capitol in days to come, including these events:

Aging with Dignity and Respect: It’s a social justice issue.    Tuesday, March 20, 1:00 PM, East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 Second Street NE, Mpls.  Free and Open.  Sponsored by Vital Aging Network.  Register 651 917 4652.

World Storytelling Day (  is an annual celebration of the theme “If I can hear our story, it’s harder for me to hate you.”  The theme explored this year by local advocates is “Wise Fools: Wisdom on the folly of war.”  Storytelling Day 2018 will be celebrated locally on Tuesday, March 20 at the Landmark Center in downtown St Paul ( Six storytellers will share stories reflecting the theme.  The event is free and open.  Learn more about the event and prime mover Larry Johnson here: (

“Working—The Musical” reflects “the hopes dreams and heartbreak of the American working class expressed in the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda, James Taylor and others.  The show runs March 16-18 at The O’Shaughnessy on the campus of St. Catherine University.

Opening March 14 at the American Craft Council  – Ani Kasten, artist, ceramist and sculptor.  Details here:

The National Book Critics Circle has announced finalists for 2017 awards:

Plans are well underway for the 37th annual Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival (  Focus this year will be on Chinese cinema with films from China to be presented throughout the Festival.

Upcoming on Talk of the Stacks sponsored by Friends of the Hennepin County Library:  Alex Sager on Tuesday, April 24 and Tracy Smith on May 16.

“To Be Honest” is the theme of a series of programs sponsored  by The Loft, March through May. (

Poet Billy Collins hosts a unique resource designed to create a love of poetry with young people.  Poetry 180 offers a poem a day for high school students – the 180 refers to the fact that the project is for school days only.

Some fun links:

Sunshine Week March 11-17, 2018

See also: Women’s history month reads:


Sunshine Week March 11-17, 2018

As we emerge from the snowbanks and the Winter of Our Extreme Discontent, it is encouraging to know that Sunshine Week is at hand.   (  This year we honor and applaud with unparalleled appreciation the role of a free press as the bulwark of this democracy.

Each year the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCCOGI)  takes a lead in Minnesota’s recognition of Sunshine Week.    One important aspect of MNCOGI’s celebration of Sunshine Week is selection of the recipient of the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award.

MNCOGI has announced that the John R. Finnegan Award 2018 will honor Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres.  Serres is recognized for his investigative series Left to Suffer, an in-depth study and report on the painful stories of elder abuse victims and their families.   Serres’ publication in the Star Tribune reflects the journalist’s exhaustive review of audit reports, state records and other public information resources.  The series has led to readers’ awareness of the crisis and to bold action on the part of advocacy groups and the Governor.

The Coalition has also announced that attorney Paul Hannah will be honored with the Finnegan Freedom of Information Career Achievement Award.

Both awards will be presented at the annual Freedom of Information Day recognition set for Friday, March 16, 1:00 p.m. at Minneapolis Central Library Pohlad Auditorium.

What I’m thinking about more and more these days is simply the importance of transparency, and Jefferson’s saying that he’d rather have a free press without a government than a government without a free press .~ Esther Dyson





Shrove/Fat Tuesday – Not just for pancakes anymore

Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at EasterBenjamin Franklin

The challenge to focus – to decide if we, as individuals and as a culture, are celebrating Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day…is an existential question troubling good people around the globe.

My choice is to focus on neither, i.e. to learn more about Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday.  It’s less controversial and because Fat Tuesday precedes either Valentine’s day OR Ash Wednesday.…

It’s also an overlooked opportunity to celebrate the gustatory elegance of pancakes – not to mention the glories of Mardi Gras.

About Shrove Tuesday – It’s got to do with having been “shriven” of one’s sins, a good thing to do before Lent starts the next day (Ash Wednesday).  Knowing that Lent means forty days of fasting this is not simply an occasion to bulk up a bit. As a matter of fact, the tradition comes from the truth that people had to rid their larders of eggs, milk and other fattening ingredients – off the diet for Lent but key ingredients of pancakes!  And therein lies the story of “Fat Tuesday” – not so much a day to celebrate obesity as a day to rid the pantry of fats.  Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday – it’s the day to ready the cupboards/frig/diet for Lent.

Also, a day to celebrate!  Mardi Gras tops the charts!  Mardi Gras in Rio is not a day but a grand celebration of traditions, music, dance and, best of all, The Parade!

On the outside chance you won’t make it to this year’s Mardi Gras, plan to join family and friends for a pancake feast to honor and learn more about the global meaning of the day.  Mardi Gras is a grand celebration of traditions that encompass biblical, liturgical, ethnic, even local chauvinism and the human affinity for pancakes – possibly fueled by the 40 days of Fast that follow…

Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day – each has its own tradition that enriches this mid-winter week with meaning.  Have a pancake to celebrate our shared heritage!

*my favorite Lenten quote….

Life after football – Time to read, view, listen, plan for Spring!

By the time you read this post you will have recovered from the Super Bowl and gone back to shoveling, politics and thinking about life, the universe and everything.   Consider these possibilities:

Has all the political foment – or maybe it was going to see The Post – inspired you to go back to the Good Old Days of Watergate?   Now online at the Library of Congress are the Senate Watergate hearings.  The American Archive of Public Broadcasting recently published an online exhibit at LC. Gavel-to-Gavel: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television (

While you’re surfing the treasures of the Library of Congress, click on some of LC’s digital trove of resources including, definitely not limited to, these:

Or relax and enjoy this video discussion of Hannah and Sugar, the children’s book written and illustrated by Kate Berube, recently named recipient of the 2017 Ridgway Award.   Lisa Von Drasek, Curator of the U of M Library’s Kerlan Collection, shares the book and background on the Ridgway Award, the annual honor presented to an author or illustrator in recognition of an outstanding debut in the world of children’s picture book.

Weather permitting you may want to venture out –  bundle up and explore these possibilities:

  • The new season for Talk of the Stacks which begins on February 27 when Alicia Eler, Stephanie Glaros and Stephanie Curtis will explore “identity as it relates to digital media.” See the season schedule and details here: (   Friends of Minneapolis will also hold their Annual Meeting on Tuesday, February 20, 5:30 PM at the Central Library.
  • Or check out these forthcoming Club Book author talks;
    • Omar El Akkad – Tuesday, February 13, 7 PM at Saint Anthony Park Library in St Paul
    • Peter Geye – Monday, February 26, 7 PM at Rum River Library in Anoka
    • William Kent Krueger – Thursday, March 1, 6:30 at Chanhassen Public Library

Click here for information on sponsorship and full season schedule.  Note that Club Book presentations are podcast so you can listen at your leisure.

Sign of the times:

If the long winter has depleted your “to be read” pile, check out this listing of the National Book Critics Circle finalists for books published during 2017.

Resistance, Resilience, Renewal — a gathering of poetry and song celebrating the enduring legacy and inspiration of Meridel LeSueur.  The special event, set for 6:30 p.m. on February 22, is hosted by the East Side Freedom Side Freedom Library and the St Paul Almanac.  It’s at 630 PM on February 22.  The program begins with presentations and performances of Meridel’s work as well as original work by established and emerging artists.  More at 

Take time to mark your calendar for these special events:
  • World Storytelling Day is set for March 20, 2018. Theme of the local event is “Wise Fools – Wisdom on the Folly of War.  Again this year the local event will be at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.  Details to follow.
  • The Spring 2018 Westminster Town Hall Forum schedule is out.  All presentations are at Westminster Presbyterian Church on the Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  Dates and speakers are: March 22 – Noon, Journalist and editor Suzy Hansen, “An American Abroad” –  April 10, Noon, Pediatrician and children’s health advocate Nadine Burke Harris “Children Adversity and Health. – May 1, Noon, Steve Schmidt, Founder of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware, “A candid look at today’s headlines.” – May 22, 7:00 PM, Richard Stengel, Former managing editor of Time. “Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life.”  Come early for the music that precedes the Forum; stay for the public reception that follows. All talks are broadcast on Minnesota public radio:  Questions: contact 612 332 3421.   

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.  John Boswell