October, 2007

Publisher's Message

Whooping It Up at Vermont Woman!

If you happen to be passing by the Vermont Woman Newspaper office and hear yelps of glee… that would be our staff. You see, there is one heck of a lot going on here this month.

Valerie Plame Wilson Event - October 28

She's the most famous spy in America - but not by choice. Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose covert status was exposed by members of the Bush administration, will be the keynote speaker for our 4th annual lecture series. This will be one of her first public speaking engagements in the country following her appearance on 60 Minutes and the release of her highly anticipated memoir, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. If you have not yet reserved your ticket for this event, I strongly suggest you hop to it!

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Suzanne Gillis

So That Mothers May Raise Their Children: Patti O'Brien's Indefatigable Fight Against Breast Cancer


Dr. Patti O'Brien considers herself "old news," and is not one to seek the limelight. But it can't be avoided: Her story is compelling and her twelve years of breast cancer survivorship encouraging. A decade after her recovery, she continues to earn attention both for her professional work and her unflagging advocacy efforts. Her dedication shepherding others through the places she has been touches people and puts her in the spotlight again and again.

O'Brien received her medical degree from the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine and did her residency in internal medicine at New Haven, Connecticut's Hospital of Saint Raphael. For years, she was a primary care provider at Aesculapius Medical Center in South Burlington, Vermont before she discovered the cancer that changed her life's course. O'Brien was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 at the age of 43.

While the press release placed wages last in their lists of reasons to unionize, increased pay is generally the first thing nurses mention when asked about the pros and cons of being unionized. Regina Helias, an RN from St. Albans, has been a night nurse for 19 years in FAHC's Medical Intensive Care Unit and Coronary Care Unit (MICU-CCU), and she worked for 11 years before that in Tucson, Arizona. For her, the pay increase is "just about the only positive thing about the union."


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Dr. Patti O’Brien

A History of Domestic Violence -
and Those Fighting it on the Front Lines

In 1973, domestic violence didn't even have a name, let alone a legal identity. Sexual assault within a marriage was legal - it was not considered rape if the assailant and the victim were spouses. Temporary restraining orders were only available to victims filing for divorce - leaving parents, unmarried partners, the elderly, and lesbians who were unwilling to press criminal charges without protection. There were no shelters anywhere in Vermont, no hotlines, no task forces, no network.

In little over a decade, however, a small but fervently dedicated cadre of women across Vermont had established a hotline and access to a shelter or safehouse in each of the state's 14 counties. Jeri Martinez recalled that in 1977, when she began working as a secretary for Vermont Legal Aid, a statewide non-profit law firm, "I had never heard the words 'battered' and 'woman' put together before." Martinez, herself a survivor of domestic violence, remained at Vermont Legal Aid for the next 14 years as a paralegal and training director, intimately involved with the organization's pioneering efforts to identify and create legal remedies for the silent social scourge of sexual and domestic violence.


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In Tandem with Ken Burns' The War - A Vermont Farmgirl Who Answered the Call to Service

Sometime around midnight on June 5, 1944, Technical Sergeant Mabel Christiansen was walking across an English field toward her barracks with a group of her fellow female soldiers when she heard the sound of planes overhead. It was not just a few planes but dozens, and "they were coming and coming and coming over our heads." These women knew what it meant: the Allied invasion of Europe was about to begin. As a file clerk at Allied Headquarters in London, the young Vermonter had seen any number of papers about something called "Operation Overlord" but hadn't guessed that this was what the world would come to know as D-Day. "That was the best-kept secret of World War II," says Mabel "Chris" Wright today.

The East Montpelier native is one of two women showcased in an online project by Vermont Public Television as a companion to the new Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, The War. This seven-part series, set for re-broadcast in October, tells the story of World War II from the perspective of men and women from four American towns: Waterbury, Connecticut; Sacramento, California; Mobile, Alabama; and tiny Luverne, Minnesota. Working with the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, over 100 PBS stations across the country are participating in the collection of written and video histories of men and women who served during the war.


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Chris Wright

Marching in Memory of Laura Winterbottom

That bitter night was a world away from the warm, sunny morning of September 8 as Laura's family and friends were joined by nearly 200 other members of the community to march in loving memory of the young Burlington woman. It was the first of what is to be an annual benefit event for the Laura K. Winterbottom Fund (LWF), which was established shortly after Laura's death by her parents, Ned and JoAnn of Bedford, New York, her younger brother Aran, and her older sister Leigh, who lives in Burlington.

"The reason why we picked September [for the event] was because it's Laura's birth month," JoAnn explains. The annual 5K walk/run - "Laura's March: A Walk to End Violence Against Women" - is one of a number of planned events and activities that will, according to JoAnn, assist not only agencies and programs for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence, but also agencies and programs that offer art education to children and advocate for animal welfare. "Our support of organizations like the Women's Rape Crisis Center addresses what happened to Laura while our support of art education and animal welfare programs addresses who Laura was and what she cared about," JoAnn says.


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Laura Kate Winterbottom