Maria Montessori – a Visionary Educator by Linda Harris Sittig

shutterstock_244261051I know that I usually choose women who are relatively unknown and that the name of Montessori is always synonymous with child-centered education. But, as I read about the life of Maria Montessori, I found that along with being a strong woman, she was a catalyst—she challenged the established educational norms of her time. Consequently, her actions sent ripples around the world, eventually reaching almost every continent on Earth.

Born in 1870 in a small provincial town in Italy, Maria was blessed to have a family where reading and education were highly prized. When the family moved to Rome, Maria’s mother took her to libraries, museums, and cultural events, and enrolled her in a school known for excellence in education.

By the time Maria was thirteen she was attending a previously all-boys technical school, where she could further her education in the sciences. The goal was for her to become an engineer, highly unusual in Italy at that time. At the technical school, she received lessons in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, accounting, history, and geography, in addition to the sciences. Her records indicated that she was particularly adept in mathematics and science.  Three years later she enrolled in the technical institute Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, adding physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and two foreign languages to her intellectual repertoire.

When she graduated in 1890 with a certificate in physics, she decided she wanted to go on to study medicine. She applied for a spot at the University of Rome’s medical program, but even with a record of stellar grades, she was rejected. Not one to easily quit, she began to take classes at the university that would prepare her for entrance to medical school. Eventually, she was admitted. Being the only female in her class, her professors deemed it inappropriate for her to dissect human cadavers in mixed company. She was relegated to that activity after hours, solo in the lab. When she graduated in 1896, she was among Italy’s first cadre of female physicians.

She focused her early medical practice in psychiatry and then began to take additional classes in pedagogy – the study of education. During this time, she began to question the methods used in Italy to teach children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 1898, she gave birth to her son, Mario Montessori, whose father was a fellow doctor. Maria was given the choice of marrying with the knowledge that she would have to stop working—or continue her life’s work, but remain single. She chose to remain single.

In 1900, she was appointed as the co-director for an institute that trained special education teachers. Maria decided to have the teachers engage in a variety of instructional techniques and then record which ones led the students to further gains. By her own observations, she saw how the children learned from play and investigating nature.

By 1907, she armed herself with the research from her previous jobs and opened a childcare center in a poor inner-city neighborhood. The instruction here would be geared towards those techniques which had proved so successful at the institute. She called the school Casa Dei Bambini, which touted a child-centered environment for learning. Children were encouraged to work with puzzles, help to prepare the meals at the school, and were given various manipulatives to make mathematics a more concrete concept. They were also given ample time to spend outdoors in nature and play. Believing that children learned best by absorbing knowledge from their surroundings, Maria began to design specific learning materials to be used in all of her classrooms.

The school became an immediate success, and by 1910, Montessori schools (as they were now called) had spread throughout Italy.

For the rest of her life, Maria dedicated herself to studying the child-centered approach to learning. She lectured, wrote books, and designed curriculum – all with the young child in mind. Exiled in India during WWII, she took the opportunity to establish a training method for teachers interested in pursuing the Montessori Method.

In 1952, at the age of eighty-one Maria Montessori was sitting in a friend’s garden in Holland. Her life had been full and her efforts had transformed primary education more than she would realize. She closed her eyes and surrounded by the nature she loved, she peacefully passed away.

It is estimated that the number of Montessori schools worldwide is now approximately 20,000.

Thank you to the Broad Branch Children’s House Montessori School of Washington D.C. for allowing me to participate in their visitors’ programs and witness firsthand young children immersed in the joy of learning.

Did you have one particular teacher who stands out in your life? Who was that person!

~ Linda ~

It is with excitement that I announce the unveiling of my brand new website! Please take a moment to visit at www.lindasittig.com and see what new information might interest you:)

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Leila Denmark: A Doctor in the House by Linda Harris Sittig

Leila Daughtry Denmark had the incredible distinction of being the oldest practicing physician in the United States when she closed her office at the age of 103. Yes, you read that correctly. But it is her full story that makes her such a fascinating woman.

Born in 1898 into a large farm family in Bulloch County, eastern Georgia, she grew up surrounded by nature. Living on a farm meant learning about tending plants and taking care of animals. Even at a young age, she was drawn to help the young, sick animals that needed special attention. It would become a passion that fueled her life.

At the age of nineteen she enrolled in Tift College, about twenty miles from Macon, Georgia, and pursued a bachelor’s degree. After college she taught high school science, but never lost her early interest in healing.

After two years of teaching, she applied for enrollment in the Medical College of Georgia. The year was 1924 and she was the only female in a class of fifty-two students.

Once she received her medical degree, she married banker John Denmark whom she had known since childhood. Together they moved to Atlanta and she immediately began her internship in the segregated black wards of Grady Hospital. Within a year she began to concentrate her efforts in pediatrics, caring for young children.

When she became pregnant a few years later, Leila decided to open a practice at home, so that she could still take care of her baby. One room of the Atlanta house became her medical facility, while her young daughter played nearby.

Her office rooms were always simple. There was an outer section where patients signed in on a notepad, and then her examining room—which usually consisted of two chairs, an examination table, a smaller table with an infant scale, a larger adult scale, lamps, and a window. Her tools were a stethoscope, otoscope, blood pressure cuff, and various chemicals to test urine.

From the start, Leila opened her door to anyone who needed her services. She charged a small fee, the same for everyone. Many decades later, she had still not raised that fee beyond $10.00 a visit.  With no receptionist or assistant, Leila Denmark managed the practice flying solo. Patients quickly became loyal clients.

In 1932 the epidemic of whooping cough (pertussis) raged across America, sweeping up innocent babies in its wake. Fearful of it spreading to her patients, Leila began to research the disease in her spare time—hoping to unlock a cure. She partnered herself with the pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, and helped them develop a successful vaccine for the dreaded disease. She would later receive the prestigious Fisher Award for her research.

For the next seventy years she followed her passion of healing babies and passing out medical advice to young mothers.

Throughout her professional life she always had her office in her home: first in Atlanta, next in North Atlanta, and finally in a 19th century farm house she and her husband bought in rural Forsyth County, Georgia. Wherever she practiced, her reputation traveled by word of mouth and mothers of all economic levels sought out her expertise, knowing that their children would be in tender caring hands.

By the time Leila was in her 80s, she was already an anomaly. Most of her friends and colleagues had retired decades ago. But not Leila. She continued her practice until the spring of 2001, when she was 103 years old. Her career had spanned over seven decades and she had entered medicine in the days before immunizations and continued into the technology age of a new millennium.

When asked what she attributed her long life to, she answered; “Eat right, and love what you do.”

Dr. Leila Denmark collated her thoughts about child care and privately published a book, Every Child Should Have a Chance. Over the years, thousands of copies have been sold. Like Leila herself, the book offers no-nonsense advice on how to take care of a child.

Leila Denmark passed away in 2012 at the age of 114. Along the way, she lived the life of a strong woman.

Thank you to Sandy Robinson of Savannah, GA who alerted me to the story of Leila Denmark.

If you have not yet signed up to be a follower of this blog, please join the 600+ readers from 64 countries who have already done that. Simply use the right side bar to sign up. If you already subscribe, then pass the blog along to friends. So far the blog has had 11,145 views.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016, and you can still order my debut novel, Cut From Strong Cloth, on Amazon at www.amzn.com/1940553024.

Linda

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Ann Eliza Young by Linda Harris Sittig

This month I am highlighting a controversial woman who refused to be silenced.

Ann Eliza Young went up against the most powerful man of her times. He was the leader of her church, the undisputed head of the pioneer territory, and a man whose authority was unquestioned. He was also her husband.

Divorce was not an option, as long as she was living under the rules of his household. But after several years of plural marriage, Ann Eliza Young left Brigham Young. He was then seventy-six and the highly respected leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).

With the help of non-Mormon acquaintances, she was able to flee Utah and file for divorce in 1875. Her goal was not only to achieve her own personal freedom, but to travel to Washington D.C. and speak with President Ulysses S. Grant. She wanted to elicit his help in making polygamy illegal in America.

Ann Eliza was Brigham Young’s fifty-second wife—he would go on to have a total of fifty-five. Because of the vague definition of Mormon plural marriage at the time, it did not mean that Brigham necessarily lived with all his wives, some of them could have been married to him in name only.

I am not writing to cast aspersions on the religion into which Ann Eliza was born, but rather to highlight the bravery of a woman disputing the idea that a husband could legally have absolute and total authority over his wife and offspring.

It might help to read this very brief background of the Church of Latter Day Saints, often referred to as Mormon.

In the 1820s a young man in western New York State named Joseph Smith experienced spiritual visions leading him to establish the religion based on the early principles of Christianity. He led his band of initial converts in 1830 to Ohio, and then Missouri, with the purpose of establishing a permanent community. However, from 1831 to 1839 the Mormons met with resistance and persecution for their beliefs. The group moved again and converted a swampland on the banks of the Mississippi River for their new home and christened it, Nauvoo, Illinois. Only a few years later in 1844, Joseph Smith was assassinated by non-Mormons, and the church was thrown into the tumultuous process of establishing a new leader.

The man who would rise to prominence would be forty-three year-old Brigham Young. In 1847 he decided to lead his people west, eventually to the unsettled area called the Utah Territory. Here they would be free to practice their religion. It was also at this time that he began to publicize the positive aspects of plural marriage, or polygamy, that Joseph Smith had endorsed years before.

In a period of a few years, over 60,000 Mormons would move to Utah. Brigham Young incorporated the Latter-day Saints Church as a legal entity, pronounced himself as both the President of the church and the leader of the Utah Territory. Together, this gave him unprecedented power.

Ann Eliza Webb was born to Mormon parents in 1844. Impetuous by nature and with striking good looks, she eloped at the age of nineteen with a Civil War soldier who provided her with two sons but not much of a stable future.

Divorce followed within a few years and Ann Eliza decided to take her two small boys and reunite with her parents, now living in Salt Lake City, Utah. With no viable means of support, her father urged her to accept the proposal of becoming one of Brigham Young’s wives.

She was twenty-four and Brigham Young was sixty-seven.

It is hard to say from our modern viewpoint if Ann Eliza had any idea of what matrimony would be like with a man who had already wed fifty-one times and was currently supporting fifty-six children. All too quickly she must have learned that a marriage involving one man and over fifty women can be fraught with jealousy, bickering, and inevitable favoritism.

At first Ann Eliza lived in Brigham’s large house in Salt Lake City, but then he sent her to manage one of his farms outside the city and only came to visit her on a sporadic basis. Two years later she was brought back to Salt Lake and given a modest house in which to live, but with no financial support beyond basic necessities. In desperation she asked to be allowed to rent out rooms in the house as a way of supporting her two children and her mother, who was living with her at the time.

Who can say for sure what finally forced her to leave. But in 1875 she fled in the middle of the night, bound for the East and freedom. Her two sons were eventually sent to live with relatives.

She was at once excommunicated from church, friends, and family members. Even her mother asked her to reconsider her actions and return to Utah. But there was no turning back.

If Ann Eliza had simply stated that she wanted to live as a free woman, it might have worked. But she went on the speakers’ circuit and publicly accused the Latter-day Saints Church, Brigham Young, and polygamy as being evils that threatened the stability of society.

She wrote and published a book titled, Wife Number Nineteen: the Story of a Life in Bondage. It was met with great success as Americans hungered to read all about Brigham Young and his perceived scandalous polygamy.

Her sensational story accompanied by her impassioned stage delivery and her personal beauty made her a star on the lecture circuit. Her goal, however, to end polygamy was serious. She campaigned relentlessly and in 1882 a bill was passed in Congress which signaled the coming end of polygamy in America.

Brigham Young only lived a few more years after Ann Eliza filed for divorce. To the end, he was engaged in his own campaign to discredit her.

Although she persevered and lived to see the end of polygamy, she became estranged from most of her family, she married and divorced a third time, and eventually died in ambiguity.

Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 15 million in membership and ranks as the fourth largest denomination of Christians in the United States.

Polygamy is still illegal in America.

Thank you, Ann Eliza Young for being a strong woman.

You can also catch me on Twitter @LHsittig or my web page http://www.lindasittig.com or on Amazon at http://www.amzn.com/1940553024.

Thank you for reading about strong women who persevered to make this world a better place. During this holiday time, I wish for peace on Earth.

~Linda~

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My Name is Anonymous by Linda Harris Sittig

This month’s blog is written about twenty very strong women, whose names I do not know. There was a time when their neighbors, or husbands, or perhaps friends could have listed their identity; but no more. They lived in a small mining community in western Allegany County, Maryland in 1894, and this is their story.

Back in the 1890s the economy of western Allegany County was almost completely dependent upon coal. Eleven miles west of Cumberland, Maryland, nestled between the mountains was a sixteen mile long strip of fertile land called the Georges Creek Valley. The Earth harbored so much hidden coal there that numerous companies set up business and bituminous coal was being dug and sent out at a rate of 8,000 hand-dug tons a week. Thousands of men were employed throughout the region as miners.

The immediate and surrounding area was composed of numerous coal mining towns and small mining villages. While the owners of the coal companies grew rich, the miners worked for 50 cents a ton. On a good day a man could dig 4 tons of coal. Out of his $2.00 haul, he would be charged for the rental and sharpening of his tools, and various other ‘deductions’. His resulting pay was often issued in script; small coins imprinted with the name of the coal company and redeemable at the local company store; which was, of course, aligned with the already prosperous mining company.

Accidents were commonplace and often fatal. Pay was meager and only came twice a month. While the miners dug, often in atrocious conditions, it was the miners’ wives who had to scrimp and save to put food on the table. In the toughest of times a pot of cabbage soup might be all there was to feed a family of nine or ten, for several days straight.

In late 1893 the U.S. experienced a devastating economic depression which affected every American business, including the coal industry. The owners of the Georges Creek coal companies reacted to the probable loss of revenue by reducing the miners’ pay to 40 cents per ton dug.

It was a decision that would have unprecedented ramifications.

At this same time, a fledgling union called the United Mine Workers was headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio and was championing for the rights of American miners. The officials of the UMW decided that a nationwide strike could cripple the coal industry and therefore the owners of the companies would be willing to meet in negotiation. The Allegany miners wanted their 50 cent pay re-instated and were petitioning for safer working conditions.

The strike was set for April 21, 1894 with the hope of including every miner from Indiana to eastern Pennsylvania.

However, three small mining communities in western Allegany County had been through this before. Back in 1882 their miners had gone out on strike for six months. In the end nothing changed, except that many people died from either sickness or starvation because of the six months without pay through a brutal time. Those communities of Hoffman Hollow, Ocean, and Eckhart Mines were not willing to join the current strike.

On April 21st, thousands of men went out on strike while the miners of the three Allegany communities continued to work. The UMW needed the solidarity of all the miners in order to make the strike successful. Violence ensued when striking miners rose up against their non-striking counterparts.

Saturday morning, May 12, 1894, started out quiet as the miners of Eckhart were preparing to go to work, unaware that a vigilante mob had formed the night before. The intention of the mob was to march in force, some 300 men strong, down to Eckhart and force the miners to abandon their jobs or be subject to violence that would leave them with broken legs, or worse.

To this day no one knows how the women of Eckhart found out ahead of time about the mob. But at 6:15am they marched alongside their husbands, supposedly in solidarity of the decision not to strike. By 6:30am the men had turned off toward the Number Four mine and the twenty women continued on their way, but soon encountered the mob of surly men coming down the pike to Eckhart, swinging baseball bats and other weapons.

The mob stopped when it met the human chain of twenty women, some with babies on their hips. Heated words were exchanged. One woman called out that they might prevent the men from digging, but then the Eckhart women would go into the mines and dig in their husband’s place.

About twenty minutes later the angry mob dispersed, apparently not willing to attack women.

After the sheriff got wind of what had happened he telegraphed Governor Brown in Annapolis asking for the National Guard to be called out to help him deal with the escalating violence. Troops of soldiers arrived, along with journalists from the Baltimore Sun Newspaper. Everyone wanted to meet the women who had held off the mob.

But no woman in Eckhart would take credit. In fact, no woman in Eckhart would even admit that she had been there. Six weeks later the strike was over.

To this day, none of the twenty women from Eckhart have ever been identified in print.

But if you are curious about the entire story, be patient. My next novel, Last Curtain Call, tells that story, and will hopefully be out in print by summer 2016.

~Linda~

You can sign up on the right side of the blog to become a follower of strong women, and can also catch me on Twitter #@LHsittig, or my website LINDASITTIG.COM, or on Amazon at http://www.amzn.com/1940553024.

 

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Donaldina Cameron by Linda Harris Sittig

During the late 1840s when the California Gold Rush lured thousands of would-be miners to the West, San Francisco was a wild town of narrow alleyways, hilly streets, and an infamous section called Chinatown.

While some men like Levi Strauss made their fortunes providing needed supplies to the miners, others became corrupt–providing the men with women. These ‘women’ were actually young Chinese girls who had been sold into slavery back in China, and then shipped to California.

The average time for a Chinese girl to remain alive as a prostitute in San Francisco was six to eight years; after that they died from various health complications from sexual diseases. Many of the girls were as young as twelve.

By the 1890s a small group of Protestant women had managed to establish a safe mission house in San Francisco. The goal was to provide a haven for freed girls who had been illegally brought into the country for the purpose of permanent servitude or prostitution, but had escaped.

At the same time, far to the south, a young woman named Donaldina Cameron made a decision to leave the comfortable ranch where she lived with her family in southern California and travel to San Francisco. Her intention was to help out at the Protestant mission for a year or so.

At the safe house, she met Margaret Culbertson.

Soon after Donaldina arrived, Margaret Culbertson changed the goal; no longer would the group be content with simply running a safe house, she would conduct slave raids and free as many imprisoned Chinese girls as possible.

Young and impressionable at age twenty-five, Donaldina decided to stay and assist Margaret Culbertson in any way she could. Eighteen months later, Margaret Culbertson died, and Donaldina  became her permanent replacement.

In time Donaldina earned the nickname of ‘Lo Mo’, the Chinese equivalent of ‘The Mother’.  While the Chinese girls whispered the name of Lo Mo with reverence, the furious slave traders of San Francisco called her ‘The White Devil’.

It may be hard for us today to reconcile how the slave trade in San Francisco existed for over seventy years. Since slavery was once legal in China, extremely poor families would often sell off a daughter (or two) in order to gain some money. The sold girls traveled by boat to California, often lying in shipping crates designated as ‘household inventory’. Once inside San Francisco’s Chinatown, they lived under lock and key and were ‘given’ to various clients multiple times a day. Since the girls were virtually penniless and could not speak English, any hope of escape was dismal.

But Donaldina Cameron was a force. Tall for a woman, and with coppery flowing hair in her youth, she possessed a courageous streak that enabled her to carry out many an escape. Sometimes she was aided by the city police who went with her on a raid; often she was alone.

Word would reach the safe house of a particular girl being held in captivity. Since the girls were often kept behind secret panels in mazes of hallways, Donaldina had to work with speed and accuracy. She soon learned the confusing pattern of streets in Chinatown and would station herself at a particular entrance with a buggy nearby and then quickly grab the girl as she was being hustled and literally throw her into the buggy. Then Donaldina jumped into the small carriage, and off they sped.

Once when she discovered a young toddler who had been smuggled into California for the purpose of future slavery, Donaldina simply kidnapped the child when no one was watching. Then she lied to the authorities that she was involved. Knowing that if the baby was deported back to China she would be resold, Donaldina arranged for the little girl to be secretly adopted.

She dodged writs, ignored summons, and hid girls for whom warrants had been issued. More than once she had her life threatened. But she continued, because thousands of Chinese girls entered San Francisco on an annual basis and became prisoners in the crib houses of Chinatown. With Donaldina’s constant campaigning to end the slave trade, and with a new set of politicians coming into power, the slave trade was finally outlawed in San Francisco in the early 1920s.

By that time, Donaldina Cameron had rescued and educated over 3,000 Chinese girls and given them a new life.

When she died in 1968 at the age of 99, she was still called ‘Lo Mo’.

It was her badge of honor.

If you have not yet signed up to become a follower of this blog, please do so on the right sidebar, and  forward this blog to a friend. You catch me on Twitter @LHSittig or my webpage www.lindasittig.com.  My debut novel about one strong woman in particular is available on Amazon at www.amzn.com/1940553024.

As always, thank you for reading about the many extraordinary women who deserve to have their stories told.

~ Linda ~

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Susan Koerner by Linda Harris Sittig

Stopping to read a historical marker, I found that in 1831 Susan Koerner had been born about six miles north of where I live today.

Who was she?

Her father, John Koerner, was a German wagon maker who had ventured to the wilds of Virginia seeking work. Her mother, Catherine Fry came from a large extended family whose farms were nestled outside of the village of Hillsboro, Virginia, in view of the eastern slope of the Short Hill Mountains. Nearby, Milltown Creek furnished the various mills in the area with a fresh supply of running water. After ten years of farming in the lush Loudoun Valley (Loudoun County), her parents decided to relocate to the Midwest. They settled in Union County, Indiana when Susan was one year old.

The family prospered in rural Indiana where her father continued his trade of wagon building and in time owned a farm with numerous buildings sitting on 170 acres. There were five Koerner children, but it was Susan who became the most interested in her father’s occupation of wagon construction. From an early age her curiosity led her to visits in his workshop where she watched him use various tools for woodworking and metalwork.

Susan grew up around the tools, the wood shavings, the pieces of metal. Along the way she became knowledgeable about the mathematical and mechanical concepts involved with wagon building. She also excelled in school, graduating number one in her class.

At a time in history when many girls left school to become married, Susan Koerner was admitted to Hartville College, a United Brethren School for higher education. Here she went on to shine in literature, science, and mathematics and was awarded the distinction of top mathematician.

By 1859 she had married a fellow student named Milton and started a new phase of life as a preacher’s wife. Milton was often involved in church activities and away from home on church business. If the children’s toys broke or some household equipment needed to be fixed, Susan often took it upon herself to remedy the situation; with her own tools.

One winter when the Indiana snows made the hillsides perfect for sledding, she realized her children were devoid of a proper sled, so she made one. I can only assume that she crafted it with precise mathematical proportions.

Five of Susan and Milton’s children survived to adulthood, four boys and a girl. Milton’s successful career with the Church of the Brethren meant that the family moved several times. All together Susan set up house in twelve different locations of Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio. But as busy as she must have been, family stories tell that she took the time to encourage each of her children to be curious about the world around them, and use their imaginations to dabble in projects of interest.

Susan Koerner died at home in Dayton, Ohio, in 1889. She was 58 years old.

Who was she?

She was a homemaker, a preacher’s wife, and a tinkerer of all things mechanical and mathematical.  Susan Koerner was also the mother of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

It is to her credit that Orville Wright wrote: “We were lucky to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement for us to pursue our interests. In a different kind of environment, our curiosity might have been nipped long before it could have borne fruit.”

Remember that the next time you fly.

Thank you to Carolyn Unger for reminding me about Susan Koerner.

If you have not signed up to be a follower of this blog, I encourage you to do so on the right side bar.

You can also catch me on Twitter @LHSittig or my webpage LINDASITTIG.COM. If you are interested in a full length story of one incredible strong woman, check out Cut From Strong Cloth, available in both print and Kindle on http://www.amzn.com/1940553024.

As always, thank you for supporting the idea that every woman deserves to have her story told.    ~ Linda~

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Elisabeth Koenigsberger Bing by Linda Harris Sittig

Take a deep breath, pushing your stomach out as you inhale. Now exhale slowly to the count of six. Welcome to the techniques of Lamaze, natural childbirth, and relaxation.

Although most women would not put childbirth and relaxation together in the same sentence, that is exactly what Elisabeth Koenigsberger believed should happen and she helped to revolutionize how American women experienced childbirth.

Born in 1914 in Berlin to parents of Jewish heritage, she was forced to quit college two weeks into her freshman year when the officials discovered her ethnic background. Her two older brothers were dismissed as well.

Elisabeth then immigrated at the age of 18 by herself to England and began to study physical therapy while working in a hospital with multiple sclerosis patients. Her job was to teach them how to exercise their limbs. At the end of each day she would go to the maternity ward and voluntarily give massages to new mothers. Her experience with these postpartum women led her to develop an interest in obstetrics.

In 1942 after reading British physician Grantly Dick-Read’s book on natural childbirth, she resolved to learn all she could about his ideas. Her goal was to teach women how to take a more active and prepared role in birthing their babies.

This coincided in an era when women in labor were almost always completely sedated and expectant fathers were left alone in the hospital waiting room to pace the floor. Recuperation for new mothers was normally a stay of ten days.

Elisabeth decided to pursue additional formal training in obstetrics, but WWII complicated that dream and prevented Elisabeth from achieving her objective. She remedied the situation with self- education; reading all the newly published research she could find on natural childbirth.

In 1949 Elisabeth moved to Illinois. A chance encounter with a local obstetrician led to a unique professional friendship between the two. It wasn’t long before the doctor invited her to become involved in his practice, teaching women how to exercise and relax in preparation for childbirth.

Two years later while in transit from New York City to a visit in Germany, Elisabeth met Fred Max Bing; they married the following year. Now living in New York City, Elisabeth began offering informal workshops in childbirth preparation.

As her name spread, she found a powerful ally in Dr. Alan Guttmacher, the head of Obstetrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital. He invited her to teach some workshops at the hospital’s newly opened maternity ward.

Around this same time, Dr. Fernand Lamaze was changing France’s perspective on childbirth. Dr. Lamaze advocated childbirth education classes, relaxation and breathing techniques, and continuous emotional support from both the father and a trained nurse. His methods became quite popular as French women using his techniques experienced childbirth with less fears.

With Dr. Guttmacher’s approval, Elisabeth began to incorporate some of Dr. Lamaze’s techniques into her seminars at Mt. Sinai; she found the classes filling up quickly.

Her next step was to ask Mt. Sinai to send her to France so that she could meet with Dr. Lamaze and learn his techniques first hand. The hospital cited a lack of funding and denied her request. In 1958 Elisabeth then turned to Marjorie Karmel, whose book, Thank You Dr. Lamaze, had become a best seller.

Elisabeth and Marjorie met, and became professional colleagues. In 1960 they co-founded the organization now called Lamaze International.

While fame and ego could have gone to her head, Elisabeth K. Bing always gave credit to Dr. Lamaze for his groundbreaking work. She also was quick to admit that natural childbirth is not always possible, and that drugs still had validity in certain deliveries.

The era of the 1960s launched the beginning of the women’s movement, and also helped to solidify Elisabeth’s passion that every woman deserves to be educated as to the choices involved in giving birth. Elisabeth used the term Prepared Childbirth, instead of Natural Childbirth, to emphasize the active participation of the mother.

She died recently at the age of 100, after having taught childbirth classes focused on the Lamaze techniques for over 50 years.

Breathe in deeply; now exhale slowly to the count of eight. Ah…..relaxation is beginning to seep in.

Thank you, Elisabeth K. Bing.

~ Linda~

Since August is my birthday month, please give me the gift of sending this blog on to a friend who may not know about Strong Women in History. Thank you.

You can also catch me on Twitter @lhsittig, my webpage LindaSittig.com, or on Amazon at amzn.com/1940553024.

Thank for sharing my journey, celebrating women whose passions led them to live life fully, and in so doing, benefited the lives of others.

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