November, 2010

Hell on Wheels: The Sassy, Rough
& Tumble World of Roller Derby!

“I knew roller derby was going to be the perfect sport for me,” grins 37-year old mother of two Tara “Queen Defeat-Yah” Pfeiffer-Norrell of Burlington. “Fast, fishnets, skirts… and badass.”

Start with one part punk attitude. Add three parts feminist empowerment (post Riot Grrrls, post third wave, and just generally post). Sprinkle with a dash of physical danger. And top with stockings (preferably fishnets) and hot pants. That’s one recipe for the current roller derby revival that’s been spreading slowly but stealthily across the U.S. over the last 10 years.

The sport is quintessentially American – equal parts entertainment, rough-and-tumble physicality, and hard-core competition. It arrived in Vermont in 2007 with the formation of the Green Mountain Derby Dames (GMDD), but is inching its way south and east across the state. While GMDD remains the only team in the state affiliated with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), they’ve recently been joined by at least two other crews this year: the Burlington Bombers and the Barre-Montpelier Twin City Riot.

“I got sucked into it by word of mouth,” says Twin City Riot’s “Elle’s Bells” (who, with her Twin City Riot teammates, requested to be interviewed “in character”). “I stayed because it’s very competitive. And you get to hit – which I didn’t get to do when I was a kid, and I really wanted to.”


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People Roller Skating

Vermont Woman Publisher Sue Gillis Inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame


It is with great pleasure and quite a bit of pride that I announce to readers that Vermont Woman publisher Suzanne Gillis was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame on October 21. This honor was bestowed on Sue at the Fall Awards Luncheon of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) amidst a gathering of her industry peers from the region.

It is a noteworthy accomplishment in itself. But what’s more, Sue is, in fact, the only woman from Vermont to have been inducted through the organization’s history, and only the twelfth woman out of 80 inductees thus far.

Sue has been the founding publisher of four newspapers throughout her career: Vermont Woman Newspaper 1985; Vermont Times 1990; Provincetown (MA) Banner 1995; and the second incarnation of Vermont Woman Newspaper 2003.


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Margaret Michniewicz

Wearing Your Heart Outside Your Body: Foster Care in Vermont


Kim Coe, a 15-year foster parent and president of the Vermont Foster and Adoptive Families Association, knows something of the challenges of being a foster parent.

“On the one hand, you love this child and are working to have them be a part of your family. But on the other hand, you are also working with the birth parents to help reunite their family,” explains Coe, who is also the Residential Director at Lund Family Center in Burlington.

Additionally, she says, “The children who come through the foster care system have already suffered trauma, so you’re dealing with the after-effects of trauma. Then there are all the expectations of the court and the system. And you’re doing it as a volunteer; there is a reimbursement, but it doesn’t begin to cover the expenses involved.

“It restores my faith in humanity each year that people hear all this [at training sessions] and still want to do it,” Coe declares. “Foster care is an agreement to wear your heart on the outside of your body.”

As a state, Vermont remains dedicated to providing a safe environment for children going through tough circumstances. “We’ve been very fortunate,” says Cindy Walcott, Deputy Commissioner of the Family Services Division at the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF). Although Governor Jim Douglas had recommended a three percent reduction in funding for foster-parent reimbursement last year, she says, “The Legislature said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ I think that’s part of the wonderful commitment we have of Vermonters caring for Vermonters.”

The Foster Care Process

At any given time in Vermont, there are about 1400 children in DCF custody, about half of whom are in foster care placement.


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Foster Parents with Kids

Making the Economy Our Own


The most important thing women need to know….

Do your eyes cross when you read about the economy? If so, this article is for you – the first of a series to engage women in Vermont’s economic thought and action.

I’ve been reporting on the subject of women and the economy for over 30 years, and am familiar with the field’s intimidating language, complex and uninviting. Yet if we women ignore the question – “What exactly is “the economy?” – we do so at our own hazard. Finding answers may be difficult, but I’ve discovered one troubling and consistent truth. However the economy gets defined, women do not own it.

This is where I’m supposed to say women have made big inroads the past 50 years. We have. Fifty years ago, women began entering professional fields – including economics – in numbers large enough to begin to make a difference. Vermont’s Stephanie Seguino, a professor of economics at the University of Vermont (UVM) and an associate dean, is a great example. She examines racial and gender disparities in the context of macroeconomics, meaning the financial underpinnings of nations, such as central banking and trade theory.


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Distribution of U.S. Wealth, 2004 Graph

Joan Baez – Singing in a New Era on Election Night


Perhaps Joan Baez sprinkled pixie dust over Vermont on her flight into Burlington on November 2 – Election Day – helping to ensure that we could still be proud of our “Dream Team” congressional delegation with the re-election of both U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch. And… for pushing Democrat Peter Shumlin over the top to win the governor’s seat! Is it something about Vermont or was it something about Joan? Whatever the answer, Vermonters continue to amaze the rest of America by voting with compassion for the poor, for fairness toward those who are perceived to be different from ourselves, and for the health of our planet… just like everything Joan has stood for and sung about for a long time.

In the coming year Joan is celebrating her 70th birthday, and 50 years of touring. The only noticeable change is that her voice has lowered an octave; otherwise, she holds her own with her distinctive, lilting voice at a powerful mid-range. In all these years, Joan has transcended her music, all over the world, as a defender of political freedom and peaceful co-existence for all.


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Sue Gillis

Denise Foote –
A New Era of School Lunch Lady


How about a lemon-rosemary orzo salad for lunch? Spaghetti with a homemade marinara sauce that’s chock-full of garden vegetables? A 38-item salad bar? Israeli couscous with pesto, chicken, and fresh Swiss chard? Crunchy curried chick peas?

While it wouldn’t be surprising to find these items in a downtown restaurant, it is extraordinary that they’re usual fare at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes, a school serving some of Burlington’s most economically challenged populations.

The creative, nutritious menu can be traced to 36-year-old Denise Foote, a foodservice worker at the school since November 2009. Foote brings a passion for good food to her work – and not just because four of her six children attend the Academy. “I just wouldn’t want to feed other people’s children in an impersonal way,” she confided over snacks at a cafe down the street from the school’s temporary home one recent afternoon.

But don’t call her, as one friend did, a “lunchroom revolutionary.” “I’m uncomfortable with that, because it implies that what I’m doing is singular, and it’s just not. I was just at a conference with lunch ladies from all over Vermont who are incredibly devoted to their salad bars and providing fresh food for their students.”

She smiles a bit mischievously and adds, “That said, I’m totally willing to have fights with my boss about what we serve. I dislike and have passionate feelings about how terrible commodity beef is, for instance. Standards for this thing that we serve to children are lower than the lowest grade sold in the grocery store.”


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Denise Foote

Zooming Along in Her Speedy Roadster,
Nancy Drew Turns 70


For the past 70 years, legions of girls have been entertained, inspired, and influenced by a fictional character named Nancy Drew—the “girl detective” who is best known for her outspoken, independent, and confident personality in the book series, The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Much to the dismay of the fictional fiends and villains whose nefarious actions are key to the series’ plots, she is one heck of a sleuth regarding all things mysterious. With trusted girlfriends Bess Marvin and George Fayne always game for adventure, this titian-blonde haired amateur “snoop” not only solved the mysteries, but cleverly managed her way out of many hair-raising situations involving her trusty roadster (The Secret of the Old Clock), secret panels and tunnels (The Hidden Staircase), ghostly apparitions (The Clue of the Broken Locket), and scores more.

It was at the beginning of the Great Depression that Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (supplier of book series to publishers – The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins for example), presented this mystery series, geared to girls, to the publishing company Grosset & Dunlap. In 1930, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were published with Carolyn Keene as the author. They were an instant success.


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