Black business owners are leading a revolution in a Virginia market haunted by its ties to the slave trade

A group of people in masks wearing headphones outside at night
UnlockingRVA’s silent party.

  • Richmond was the second-largest slave-trading hub in the United States.
  • Black business owners are reclaiming the city’s 17th Street Market with events and commerce.
  • “Our whole role is to restore the energy” while “honoring the past,” a yoga therapist and CEO said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Richmond is the root of oppression.” That’s one of the ways Ashley J. Williams described the city she’s called home for 10 years.

She said she was speaking of the Virginia capital as a whole, as well as specifically the neighborhood of Shockoe Bottom and the 17th Street Market.

The 17th Street Market has been a site of commerce since the 1700s. Depending on whom you ask, that commerce included enslaved Africans, with the 17th Street Market being the site of an auction block. (Others say it was close to an auction block.) A few minutes away at Lumpkin’s Jail, or Devil’s Half Acre, enslaved people were jailed and tortured before being sold.

Richmond, with a prime location on the James River, was the second-largest slave-trading hub in the United States and the largest on the East Coast.

Today, less than a five-minute walk from the open-air 17th Street Market, you’ll see a few markers for the Slave Trail, but these are easy to miss if you’re not keen on the history.

But for Williams, a yoga therapist and the CEO of BareSOUL, who’s been with the studio since 2015, “there’s energy that’s very present.”

Ashley J. Williams
Ashley J. Williams, the CEO of BareSOUL.

“Our whole role is to restore the energy there and reenvision what it looks like to bring more life and vibrant energy while acknowledging and honoring the past,” she said.

The wellness space, especially yoga, can feel extremely white, she added. BareSOUL employs a dozen Black instructors, and each 17th Street practice begins with a brief history of the space that was once a source of pain.

“The 17th Street Market was a place where Black families were split up. It’s where the Black life was devalued. So the practice of yoga is a practice of connection. And it’s a practice of liberation of our minds,” Williams said.

A group of people on yoga mats in the street
BareSOUL yoga on 17th Street.

Williams isn’t the only small-business owner bringing new life to the space. After being approached by Richmond Parks and Recreation to host an outdoor, COVID-19-friendly event in August, Faith Wilkerson, UnlockingRVA‘s owner and founder, who’s run the event-planning company for five years, lined the concrete and cobblestone walkways with partyers donning neon-lit headphones playing old-school and current tunes.

“Every single moment I step foot on that market, it’s done with authority and purpose because it’s what the ancestors would want us to do. Black Americans have this special gift of turning tragedy and pain into triumph and longevity. You see so much joy in our guests’ faces as they dance the night away, and it makes the moment even more special,” Wilkerson said.

Faith Wilkerson
Faith Wilkerson, the founder of UnlockingRVA.

Participants in yoga or the silent disco usually work up an appetite, so Williams and Wilkerson do their parts to support and promote food vendors, especially Black-owned ones, in the area.

But the women acknowledged initial hiccups in businesses not exactly embracing their audiences, which tend to be predominantly Black.

Williams even recalled one business owner calling the police on a homeless yoga participant. Both women chalked it up to establishments adapting to new faces, new spaces, and a COVID-19 world.

Adrienne Cole Johnson and Melody Short, the cofounders of the Richmond Night Market, also experienced the same blowback from some owners in the area when they brought their nighttime affair to 17th Street two years ago. They said that quickly blew over once they introduced themselves.

The Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market.

Johnson and Short described the work they and the Night Market do as reprogramming and reclaiming the space. The market operates on the second Saturday of each month in the summer to early fall.

Though they’re open to all vendors, Short acknowledged that the market naturally attracts a majority of Black businesses.

“I think people feel safe. It’s different when you’ve got Black women leading the charge because we welcome everybody – versus sometimes when it’s led by other groups. Black people, sometimes, we don’t feel welcome,” Short said. Being heavily invested in the businesses and the people behind the businesses is what she said keeps vendors returning year after year.

A kid selling food outside
A chef at the Richmond Night Market.

For their first in-person event since the pandemic, the market hosted about 20 vendors selling everything from art to handmade goods and food.

“We’re often, as Black people, putting our money in other communities,” Short said. The market allows them to flip the script, she added.

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GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn enjoys making US history references but keeps getting the facts wrong

madison cawthorn
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., on May 14, 2021.

  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn misquoted one of the Founding Fathers during a Thursday speech.
  • “It was Thomas Jefferson that said: ‘Facts are stubborn things,” Cawthorn said. Those are actually John Adams’ words.
  • This wasn’t Cawthorn’s first time misremembering US history.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn tried to emphasize the importance of facts on the House floor – only to get his own facts wrong.

During a speech attacking President Joe Biden’s economic policies on Thursday evening, the North Carolina Republican ended up misquoting one of the Founding Fathers.

“It was Thomas Jefferson that said: ‘Facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,'” Cawthorn said. “Let’s cast our eyes over the facts, shall we.”

Many Twitter users were quick to call out the flub, pointing out that former President John Adams had actually made the statement. Adams uttered the infamous phrase during his defense of British soldiers in the Boston Massacre of 1770 that preceded the Revolutionary War.

This isn’t the first time Cawthorn, a self-described patriot, has spoken inaccurately. The vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump rose to GOP prominence last August after he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention. But during those remarks, he mistakenly said that James Madison, at 25 years old, signed the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Father was indeed 25 years old in 1776, but he did not sign the document and is actually known for his contributions to the Constitution.

Cawthorn attempted to correct the record, tweeting later: “About the Madison mistake: I ad libbed that line and meant to say James Madison was 25 when the Declaration was signed. Arguably my favorite founder.”

In the lead-up to the error, Cawthorn, who is 25 years old, said those who underestimate young people “don’t know American history.”

“If you don’t think young people can change the world, then you just don’t know American history,” Cawthorn said, pointing out the achievements of presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Madison, while they were in their early 20s.

A few months later while attending orientation for House freshmen, Cawthorn made another blunder, erroneously telling the outlet Jewish Insider that Congress had voted to decide the Emancipation Proclamation.

“I’m a lover of history, so it’s incredible to be in a place where we had the vote to decide to have the Emancipation Proclamation,” he said. Lincoln issued the presidential proclamation in 1863 – there was no such vote in Congress.

Beyond factual mistakes, Cawthorn has also amplified conspiracy theories and spread disinformation since being elected to Congress, joining a faction of far-right pro-Trump lawmakers, including fellow GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

He previously elevated a conspiracy theory that the January 6 Capitol riot was strategically planned by Democrats and leftist groups, though the claim has no factual backing, according to the FBI.

On the day of the insurrection, he called into a conservative radio show, saying: “You can call them ‘antifa,’ you can call them people paid by the Democratic machine, but … to make this look like it was a violent outrage when really the battle is being fought by people like myself and other great patriots who were standing up against the establishment,” per reporting from The Washington Post.

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One man’s 21-year protest to take down a Confederate monument – and force his Texas town to face its racist legacy

A man displays an image of himself protesting at the foot of a Confederate monument.
Willie Hudspeth in the spot where the monument once stood, with a picture from from one of his many protests.

  • Willie Hudspeth protested the Confederate monument in his Texas town, almost every Sunday, for 21 years.
  • In June 2020 – one month after the killing of George Floyd – the monument finally came down.
  • Hudspeth’s vigils inspired a reckoning about Denton’s past, including the forced relocation of the once-thriving Black community known as Quakertown.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Historic Square in Denton, Texas, is a sprawling lawn dotted with old oak trees. On weekends, it’s a destination for families and students from Denton’s two major universities. The historic County Courthouse is in the center, surrounded by a commercial strip with a few hip coffee shops, a pizza joint where indie bands play late into the night, an old-fashioned ice cream shop, and a bookstore.

For over a century – until last June 25 – there was also a Confederate monument: A 20-foot statue of a uniformed soldier over the words, “Our Confederate Soldiers.” And for the last two decades, nearly every week on Sunday afternoon, from 4 to 7pm, a Black resident of Denton named Willie Hudspeth would set up a lawn chair, some signs, and sit in protest.

The standoff finally came to an end one year ago, exactly one month after the killing of George Floyd, when under the cover of dark, county officials quietly dismantled the monument.

Hudspeth – a retired middle school teacher, Vietnam veteran, and leader of the local NAACP – was already 54 years-old when he started his protests; by the time he watched it come down, he was 75 and bent with age. On the infamous night, Hudspeth was there, hauled out of bed at 4 in the morning by allies who heard the commotion. Cell phone video caught Hudspeth’s shocked reaction, as buzzsaws could be heard cutting through concrete. “Thank god it actually happened,” he said in an interview the next day. But the secrecy around the removal was bittersweet. “For 21-years, I have been going down there, talking about removing the statue, and it’s just like these commissioners to do what they did.”

Today, there’s no trace of the monument on the Square. Denton has changed in other ways, too.

Hudspeth’s weekly protests were a catalyst for an investigation into Denton’s past – the legacy of Klavern No. 136, Denton’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan; the razing of the Black middle class district known as Quakertown; the dates that Black men were lynched in Denton County. At the end of 2020, Denton even elected its first Black mayor – a Republican who is also Hudspeth’s son.

“He read them for filth”

For Hudspeth, the whole thing started in 1999 with a seemingly innocuous proposal to turn on a pair of water fountains that were affixed to each leg of the monument’s arch. The consensus among county leaders, all of whom were white, was that the fountains had never been operable – that pipes would have to be put down for the fountains to work.

Denton’s Black residents remembered it differently; the fountains had definitely worked, and they were “white only.”

The fountains presented a mystery, and solving it required knowing the statue’s origin story. Around the turn of the 20th century when the South was emerging from Reconstruction to enter a new world order where Black people were now free, a few groups formed to remind everybody of how things used to be, and in their view, were supposed to be. One was the KKK, whose members sang in white churches on Sunday mornings and terrorized Black neighborhoods at night. White women who wanted to do their part could join the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC).

And do their part they did-all across the South, as Jim Crow ramped up in the late 1800s and “The Birth of a Nation” hit theatres in 1915, the UDC and other similar groups fundraised to erect over 700 Confederate monuments in places of public prominence. A large majority were erected between 1900 and 1920, and tended to have a cookie-cutter look, reflecting the swift establishment under the perception of lost ground from the white South. Many of the statues feature a sculpted concrete image of a soldier atop arches or mounts emblazoned with “Our Confederate Soldiers” and a plaque honoring the sons conscripted into the War of Northern Aggression. The Denton Confederate monument went up toward the end of this era, in 1918, but with one distinction-the fountains on either side of the arch.

As the debate in 1999 turned increasingly contentious, a local historian dug up old newspaper clippings that showed the fountains in use. (Years later, in 2018, the county commissioned a ground test and confirmed that the fountains had indeed been operable.) But increasingly, it was a conversation that few wanted to have, and shutting it down meant tabling the water fountain discussion altogether. “Because,” Hudspeth says of the town, “it would show they were racist.” As Hudspeth saw it, Denton needed to deal with its past and, for that to happen, the fountains had to be turned on. “Turn them on,” became his battle cry. even before the fate of the monument was on the table. “Turn them on and let everyone drink.”

County leaders held firm. “I know for a fact that the memorial has never had an operable fountain,” Mary Horn, the chair of the Denton County Commissioner’s Court, which oversaw the monument, and who would spar with Hudspeth over the monument until her retirement in 2018, said at the time. “There is NO water line from the building to the memorial and never has been.”

The words "Willie Hudspeth Demolition and Trash Haul Off" are painted on the side of a green truck.
Willie Hudspeth is seen driving his truck through Denton.

Hudspeth started attending nearly every Commissioner’s Court meeting to talk about the monument. He showed up at City Council meetings. Katina Stone-Butler, a local artist, remembers stumbling upon Hudspeth on the local access TV channel in the nineties. “Just giving everybody the business,” she laughs. “He read them for filth.”

The Commissioner’s Court referred Hudspeth to the Denton County Historical Commission, which then referred him to the Texas Historical Commission, which then referred him back to the Commissioner’s Court. “They had me going in circles,” Hudspeth says. “Rabbit chases to wear me down.”

Finally, Hudspeth had had enough. If county leaders weren’t willing to engage with him, he would take the conversation to the Square. “[That] Willie was angry,” Hudspeth says, looking back. “He was angry at everybody and everything. My name was chaos. I wanted to create chaos wherever I could-and I mean everywhere.”

He was working then as a junk hauler but he had Sundays off. And so, on one Sunday in 1999, he held his first protest at the foot of the Confederate monument.

Quakertown

To the Black community in Denton, the city’s selective memory was nothing new. The forced relocation of Quakertown proved it.

In the decades after the Civil War. Quakertown was a thriving Black merchant district near the center of town. Denton was Denton-but Quakertown was theirs. There were Black doctors and lawyers and Black-owned shops.

But then, white Denton decided that Quakertown was in the way. The College of Industrial Arts, a school for white women, had been built on the edge of Quakertown, just beyond the Square. The town claimed the students needed more space for the ladies to walk safely from school. Plans had also been drawn up for a new Denton Civic Park – exactly where Quakertown then stood. As a historical marker set down in the park in 2013 puts it, “the civic-minded interests of Denton’s white residents threatened the future of Quakertown.”

A historical marker at Denton Civic Park explains that the park was formerly the site of Quakertown.
A historical marker at Denton Civic Park, the former site of Quakertown.

In 1921, three years after the Confederate monument went up in Denton, the town voted to relocate the whole of Quakertown to Solomon Hill, a swampy cow pasture on the other side of the railroad tracks in southeast Denton, thus giving the white ladies their walking path to school. More than 60 families lost their homes and many residents left Denton altogether. It was the same year as the Tulsa Race Massacre, 270 miles north, when the city’s “Black Wall Street” was burned and 300 people were killed.

What happened to Quakertown sealed in a wound that has not healed to this day. Some of the old Quakertown homes still sit on cinder blocks from the hasty relocation. There was never an apology from Denton’s white leadership, much less compensation offered to those who had lost their community and livelihoods.

“I think it broke their spirit, really,” says Linnie M. McAdams, who is 83 and served as Denton’s first Black councilwoman. In the 1980s, she pushed to revitalize southeast Denton, where the grandchildren of the original Quakertown residents still live to this day, but she says that getting people involved in local politics was like pulling teeth.

Once McAdams, who had come to Denton as an adult, learned the history of Quakertown, things started making sense. “I didn’t understand the devastation of that move,” she says. “And what it did to those people to be moved out of their homes over to a god forsaken area with no city services. And the city was in no hurry to do anything about it.”

Katina Stone-Butler, an artist who also moved to Denton as an adult, described a similar experience. “Black people don’t really go on the Square,” Stone-Butler says. “There’s a spiritual barrier there because of the racist history of this county.”

A home sits atop cinderblocks. A placard in front says it is an original Quakertown home that will be moved to a museum.
An original Quakertown house that was moved in the forced relocation and will now be part of a museum display in Denton.

With two major universities in town, a world-class School of Jazz, and progressive leadership on the city council, Denton enjoys a reputation as a blue dot amid the conservative Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

But to Stone-Butler, who is Black and co-hosts the podcast, Black History for White People, it’s the same old racism, just in a hipster outfit. “Coffee house, skinny jean racism,” she says.

A long, solitary protest

That first Sunday of Hudspeth’s protest, he set up a sign that read “God loves us all” – with a smiley face for the “o” in God – and sat down in a lawn chair at the base of the monument. And for years after that, rain or shine, he stuck with it. Often, he would strike up conversations with people about the history of the statue.

As the years passed, Hudspeth’s goals shifted – a fact that his detractors would seize on. At first, he wanted the fountains turned on, along with a plaque that would explain their history of Jim Crow segregation. Later, he said the monument should be moved to a museum.

Train tracks, with a colorful mural to the side.
Train tracks divide southeast Denton from the rest of the city.

If there was going to be a Confederate monument on public property, Hudspeth figured he would be its living presence, there to offer context and perspective. If the monument paid tribute to Confederate soldiers, as Horn and its defenders claimed, Hudspeth’s protests inspired a deep look at the past.

At times, students rallied behind him, though their efforts tended to come and go with the graduation cycles. In 2008, after students circulated a petition calling for the monument’s removal, the Denton County Historical Commission announced a plan for a Quakertown House Museum dedicated to Denton’s Black history.

In walking tours, blog posts and podcasts, the excavation of Denton’s racist past had started. Students found old newspaper clippings that revealed a KKK parade through Denton in 1921, more Klan activity alongside the raising of Quakertown, and Klan ties to city leadership. When Hudspeth discovered unmarked graves at the overgrown and unkempt St. John’s Cemetery, a plaque was ordered and work began to identify the dead and piece together their stories. Denton County lynchings were catalogued.

“Willie is a heat-seeking missile man of action,” says Shaun Treat, a local activist and historian. “He doesn’t quit.”

As Hudspeth continued his protest, the tension in Denton rose.

In 2015, after the words “This is Racist” were spray-painted on top of the monument, a white man confronted Hudspeth on the Square with a loaded AK-47, shouting “Counterprotest!”

A man holds a sign that says "Move the Statue" as he stands in front of a courthouse.
Willie Hudspeth holds one of his old signs at the site where the Confederate monument once stood.

The area had been thick with families and onlookers. When police arrived, the man forfeited his ammunition but was allowed to leave the scene with his rifle. He claimed that he was there “to make a point” and was never charged. Security in the Square ramped up after that.

Pressure was also building from outside.

The 2017 “United the Right” rally in Charlottesville brought things to a head. “That was a big one,” Hudspeth says. “We [Black Lives Matter] joined together, and chaos was on again.”

In 2019, Texas finally agreed to remove from its statehouse a plaque stating that the Civil War “was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.” Texas still observes Confederate History Month every April and, according to the Texas Observer, while the state had removed more Confederate symbols than any other, as of 2019, 68 remained.

Denton announced a new Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee, which included Hudspeth in its 15 members. When the committee voted 12-3 to keep the monument in place, but add a plaque decrying slavery and video kiosks dedicated to Black history in Denton, Hudspeth was one of the dissenting votes.

However, it was only a recommendation and the Commissioner’s Court, now led by Judge Andy Eads, needed to approve it. Eads ordered ground-penetrating tests that finally confirmed the fountains had been linked to pipes.

But then came COVID. And then, the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Confederate statues were coming down across the south. In Denton, police shot and killed Darius Tarver, a young Black man in mental crisis. There were also renewed questions about the mysterious death of Lermont Stowers Jones two years earlier on Denton’s Old Alton Bridge, a rumored site of past lynchings.

Suddenly, it wasn’t just Willie Hudspeth protesting at the Confederate monument.

On June 9, 2020, the Commissioner’s Court approved an emergency request to the Texas Historical Commission to relocate the monument to protect it from “desecration.” When Denton woke up on the morning of June 25, the Confederate soldier was gone.

A man stands in front of a shed surrounded by signs like "Move the Statue"
Willie Hudspeth keeps the signs from his years of protesting in a shed at his home.

Hudspeth spends his Sundays at home with his wife of 52 years, who is happy to see him simmer down for once. But he still attends county meetings, as he says, to keep its leaders in check. And he shares his views with his son, Gerard Hudspeth, who was elected as Denton’s first Black Mayor in December 2020 and has largely stayed out of Denton’s debates about race.

“My dad and I still argue politics and sometimes it gets hot,” Mayor Hudspeth says. “I am what I am because of his modeling on how to serve and be active in your community.”

“He surprises me,” Hudspeth says of his son. “We still fight. But we laugh, too.”

Hudspeth chuckles and shakes his head. “He’s doing a good job.”

What comes next is up to the Texas Historical Commission, which in April approved plans to move the monument to Denton’s Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum. McAdams, the retired councilwoman, is pushing for a memorial honoring victims of lynchings in Denton County to be installed there, too.

“That statue is a tribute to the people who have mistreated me all my life,” she says. “It gives comfort and a sense of right to those people who are bigoted and filled with hate… a symbol of the good ol’ days when they had control and you didn’t have all these n*****s walking around everywhere. That’s what it says to them.”

As Stone-Butler, the Denton artist, sees it: “It’s not enough to move a monument that has been the physical gatekeeper of racism and systemic oppression. It needs to crumble to the ground.”

“If Denton wants to put up a monument,” Stone-Butler says. “They can put up a monument of Willie Hudspeth.”

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Historic photo marks the first time 2 women flanked the US president at a speech to Congress

pelosi biden harris
President Joe Biden arrives to address a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on.

  • President Joe Biden made his first presidential address to a joint session of Congress.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris, sitting behind him at the rostrum, made history.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden made his first presidential address to a joint session of Congress, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris, sitting behind him at the rostrum, made history.

The occasion marked the first time that the Speaker of the House and president of the Senate were both women – and the first time that a US president was flanked by two women presiding in those positions during a presidential address.

During the speech, Biden is expected to speak about the progress his administration has made tackling the coronavirus pandemic within his first 100 days. Biden is also set to push the American Families Plan, his administration’s $1.8 trillion legislative package aiming to invest in education, infrastructure, child care, and various labor policies like paid family leave.

Biden is also expected to lay out his vision for economic recovery related to the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked about the moment, Harris said it felt, “normal.”

“Madam Speaker and Madam Vice President,” Biden said as he took to the stage. “No sitting US president has ever said those words. It’s about time!” Biden said.

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One Egyptian company is keeping the 5,000-year-old art of papyrus-making alive – here’s what it’s like inside

  • We visited an Egyptian business that’s one of the last places in the world to make papyrus paper.
  • Ancient Egyptians invented papyrus paper around 5,000 years ago, but the art is almost completely lost today.
  • One village is keeping the ancient tradition alive, though the pandemic is hurting business.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds

cave paintings
Prototype of painting of the facsimile of the Chauvet cave, which contains some of the earliest known cave paintings Arc, in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

  • Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe starved themselves of oxygen to make art, researchers say.
  • An Israeli study found that cavemen purposefully did this to help them interact with the cosmos.
  • The study explains why so many ancient paintings are deep inside cave systems.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

Read more: These 3 student influencers are earnings thousands of dollars on YouTube by posting videos about exam tips and study hacks

“It appears that Upper Paleolithic people barely used the interior of deep caves for daily, domestic activities. Such activities were mostly performed at open-air sites, rock shelters, or cave entrances,” the study says, according to CNN.

“While depictions were not created solely in the deep and dark parts of the caves, images at such locations are a very impressive aspect of cave depictions and are thus the focus of this study,” it adds.

According to Ran Barkai, the co-author of the study, the cavemen used fire to light up the caves, which would simultaneously also reduce oxygen levels. Painting in these conditions was done deliberately and as a means of connecting to the cosmos, the researcher says.

“It was used to get connected with things,” Barkai told CNN, adding that cave painters often thought of the rock face as a portal connecting their world with the underworld, which was associated with prosperity and growth. The researcher also suggested that cave paintings could have been used as part of a kind of initiation rite.

The fascinating cave paintings, which date from around 40,000 to 14,000 years ago, depict animals such as mammoths, bison, and ibex.

“It was not the decoration that rendered the caves significant but the opposite: The significance of the chosen caves was the reason for their decoration,” the study reads, according to CNN.

The study focused on decorated caves in Europe, mostly in Spain and France. It was published last week in the scientific journal “Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture.”

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Amtrak Joe: A brief look at President Biden’s long history of supporting America’s railroad

Vice President Joe Biden Amtrak Logo 2009.JPG
President Joe Biden at an event announcing funding for Amtrak as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

  • President Joe Biden’s long political history included years of advocating for Amtrak funding.
  • Biden earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe” as he commuted between Delaware and Washington for decades.
  • The nickname hit mainstream media in 2008, starting with CNN.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When President Ronald Reagan in 1981 moved to trim $884 million from a budget used by Amtrak, Senator Joe Biden was the only member of the Senate Budget Committee to vote against Reagan’s plan.

“You can’t come back next year or the next year and change it,” Biden said, according to a report from United Press International. “Those railroads will have gone.”

Now, four decades later, Biden’s in the seat once held by Reagan. And he’s announced a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which would include $80 billion for Amtrak. The money would go toward expanding and fixing the country’s crumbling railway infrastructure, which he’s fought in favor of for his whole career in Washington.

It’s often said that Biden’s nickname is “Amtrak Joe,” although it’s difficult to pinpoint when that nickname started to solidify.

In the late 2000s, as Biden joined Barack Obama on the presidential ticket, the nickname started popping up regularly on CNN. The first record that Insider could find of a prominent news outlet using “Amtrak Joe” was from August 2008, when CNN’s Soledad O’Brien called him by the nickname on air.

“Coming up next, more on the Washington insider who is also a proud Delaware outsider. They called him the Amtrak Joe Biden. God, I have seen him on Amtrak a lot,” O’Brien said as she threw to a commercial, according to a transcript.

The following month, The New York times published a blog post using the nickname.

We’ve combed newspaper archives dating back to Biden’s early days as a senator, pulling some of his long-ago quotes about Amtrak. Here’s a brief history of Biden’s interactions with Amtrak.

In October 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act to create Amtrak, which was then called the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, according to Amtrak’s official history.

Three years later, Biden entered office.

2011 02 08T120000Z_1641923879_GM1E7281QJQ01_RTRMADP_3_BIDEN.JPG
Biden wearing aviators on a train.

During his decades in the Senate, Biden commuted home to Delaware each day via Amtrak to be home with his sons at night. CNN estimated he took about 8,000 round trips on the same route.

Throughout the 1980s, Biden’s name popped up in budget stories about Amtrak. He often butted heads with Reagan about railroad spending. In May 1985, for example, Reagan had proposed slashing Amtrak’s budget. Biden at the time said the cuts were “a creeping regionalism,” according to The Providence Journal.

“I’m really beginning to wonder if we’re seven regions or one country,” he said. “Why should we help? I’ll tell you why we should help: We’re Americans. A simple reason.”

In 1987, when Biden launched his bid for the Democratic nomination for president, he chose a Delaware train station as his backdrop, according to UPI.

Amtrak Acela Announcement.JPG
This artist’s 1999 rendering of the Acela.

Amtrak announced in the late 1990s that it was developing a high-speed rail for the north-east, called the Acela. Biden said it was “the single most important transportation need in America,” according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“That would be hundreds of thousands of tons of pollution,” Biden said, according to the report. “Amtrak is important not only because it helps our quality of life. It literally impacts our health.”

A few years later, after Obama won the presidential election, the first and second families travelled together via the railway to the inauguration.

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The Obamas and Bidens on their way to Washington for Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

As vice president, Biden was often sent to blue-collar states to campaign for Obama’s reelection, using the political skills he’s honed riding the train for all those years, as The Daily Beast reported in 2012.

“This is, after all, a guy famous for making friends with anyone and everyone – fellow travelers, train conductors, red caps – he crossed paths with on his old Amtrak commute from Delaware,” the magazine said.

Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign was also interwoven with Amtrak. During 2020, he travelled by train to several states, making whistle-stop speeches as he went.

Biden Speaking in front of Amtrak Train Ohio 2020.JPG
Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Ohio in 2020.

He’d planned to take a train to Washington, as he’d done with Obama 12 years earlier but cancelled the trip amid security concerns, after rioters mobbed the Capitol.

In a statement, Biden’s team said: “In the week since the attack on Congress by a mob that included domestic terrorists and violent extremists, the nation has continued to learn more about the threat to our democracy and about the potential for additional violence in the coming days, both in the National Capital Region and in cities across the country. This is a challenge that the President-elect and his team take incredibly seriously.”

When Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held their first trans-Atlantic phone call, some of their conversation reportedly focused on a mutual love of train travel.

More recently, a few days after announcing the infrastructure deal, he said. “Imagine a world where you and your family can travel coast to coast without a single tank of gas, or in a high-speed train, close to as fast as you can go across the country in a plane.”

Amtrak Connect US Map 2021 March
Amtrak Connects US, the railway’s vision for train travel in the US in 2035.

Amtrak published a map of an expanded US rail network based on Biden’s funding proposal. Materials prepped for the announcement said the plan would bolster transportation options for diverse populations throughout the country.

The new routes include cities that haven’t before been connected to the national rail service, including western outposts like Las Vegas and Phoenix.

It would also break ground on routes throughout the southern US, including ones to Nashville, Tennessee; Montgomery, Alabama; and Macon, Georgia. Materials prepped for the announcement said the plan would bolster transportation options for diverse populations throughout the country.

“Millions of people, including large populations of people of color, do not have access to a reliable, fast, sustainable, and affordable passenger rail option. This is neither fair nor equitable,” the railway said.

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Discovery Plus is the perfect streaming service for fans of nonfiction shows, but its interface needs some work

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Discovery Plus Review wide
  • Discovery Plus offers all your favorite Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, and HGTV shows.
  • The service costs $5 a month with ads, or $7 a month without commercials.
  • The interface has flaws, but the low price makes it a great option for fans of Discovery’s networks.

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Discovery Plus is one of the latest services to throw its hat into the streaming wars.

The platform launched in the US on January 4 and is the streaming home for programs from Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, HGTV, and Food Network. It also features dozens of new Discovery Plus Originals and handy 24/7 streaming channels for popular shows.

Discovery Plus plans are priced at $5 a month with ads or $7 a month for commercial-free streaming. Select Verizon customers can even get a full year for free.

I signed up for the ad-supported plan and tried the service for about a week to see how it performs. While browsing through the Discovery Plus library, it’s been exciting to circle back to classic shows and discover brand-new series, but the interface could still use some work.

Price, plans, and deals

Discovery Plus costs $5 a month for ad-supported viewing, or $7 a month for commercial-free streaming. Each plan comes with a free seven-day trial.

Verizon is also giving select customers up to 12 months of Discovery Plus for free. The promotion is for the ad-free plan and is available to new Fios customers, new 5G internet customers, and all unlimited phone plan customers.

Free Trial for Verizon Unlimited Customers (small)

Unlike some other services, Discovery Plus only offers monthly plans, so there’s no discount if you pay for a full year up front. The service does offer gift cards, however, for 12 months ($83.75) or six months ($41.75) of its ad-free plan.

Content library

Discovery Plus Review titles

Discovery Plus understands its lane, offering a big library of shows designed to cater to fans of reality TV, nature programs, cooking, true crime, and education. People who like scripted dramas and comedies, however, will have to look elsewhere. Discovery Plus is purely a service for fans of Discovery networks, and in that sense, its catalog offers a lot of value.

With classic titles pulled from all of Discovery’s brands and networks, the service is jam-packed with blasts from the past, including “Dirty Jobs,” “The Crocodile Hunter,” “Mythbusters,” and “Unwrapped.” There are also dozens of new Discovery Plus Originals, like “Cocktails and Tall Tales,” “Luda Can’t Cook,” and “Monster Garage.”

The original shows, in particular, have creative concepts – like rapper Ludacris learning how to cook different dishes. As a whole, the entire lineup features a solid selection of quality shows centered around the home, food, and history.

By our count, we found 91 programs listed as “Discovery Plus Originals” either with full episodes or trailers indicating they are coming soon. Not every original program was under the Discovery Plus Originals category, however, as we found at least 12 under the platform’s tab for the upcoming Magnolia Network (rebrand of DIY Network).

Interface

Discovery Plus Review show page

The Discovery Plus interface works well enough but it doesn’t have any standout characteristics and it can feel bulky and hard to navigate. It’s particularly confusing to find the platform’s 24/7 streaming channels, as they aren’t on the sidebar or top menu like you’d expect.

The platform’s sidebar contains the basics for exploring the catalog, including a tab for browsing shows, a tab for saved programs (“My List”), and a search bar. The “Browse” tab allows you to find content by its original channel and also by category such as “True Crime” and “Lifestyle.”

To get to the 24/7 channels, you need to scroll down a bit on the “For You” page. This is also where you’ll find rows for the platform’s themed collections. The 24/7 channels are a terrific inclusion for binge-watchers as they let you stream non-stop episodes of “House Hunters,” “Property Brothers,” and “90 Day Fiancé” – I just wish they were easier to find.

One of the redeeming features of the Discovery Plus interface is its helpful recommendation feature. When visiting a show’s main page there are up to 20 additional series recommendations to explore, making it easy to jump into similar programs you might like.

I was hopeful that the platform’s “My List” would easily compile all my favorite content in one place, but it turns out that this feature doesn’t let you save individual episodes. In addition to a limited “Recently Watched” section – which is only accessible on the “For You” page – there isn’t a place to queue up specific episodes I want to watch over the span of a few hours. This makes the experience difficult as I have to go back and sort through shows to find episodes.

Format support

Discovery Plus does include some 4K titles for subscribers who have the necessary gear, but it’s not easy to find these programs as there’s no specific 4K category in the main menu.

The platform requires you to search “Ultra HD” to find this content. After you do this, an “Ultra HD” tab will appear in the results. Once you click on a 4K title, a “UHD” icon will appear on its page to let you know that it plays in 4K. That said, the icon may not appear on certain devices.

While most of the UHD content is limited to a few nature programs – such as “Planet Earth II” and BBC’s “Dynasties” – I was surprised to find programs like “NASA Mars Landing,” “Misfit Garage” and “American Titans” in 4K quality. On the downside, unlike Netflix and other popular 4K services, Discovery Plus does not support HDR.

Devices and features

Discovery Plus is compatible with most media players and smart TV platforms, with the exception of PlayStation devices.

While Discovery Plus is relatively new and will likely roll out new features throughout 2021, there are already obvious faults that I hope it fixes.

One of these is the lack of offline downloads, making Discovery Plus the only major streaming service that doesn’t provide this feature.

Aside from that drawback, Discovery Plus is mostly on par with other platforms thanks to its 4K content and support for up to four simultaneous streams (just like Disney Plus). Its starting plan is also one of the cheapest streaming options there is, at just $5 a month. That’s comparable to Apple TV Plus and Peacock Premium.

Should you subscribe to Discovery Plus?

Discovery Plus’ low price makes it a solid option for big fans of reality TV, cooking shows, nature docs, and other nonfiction programs. It’s also an affordable choice if you’re looking for a secondary service to supplement your primary streaming platform, whether that be Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney Plus, or Hulu.

Personally, I’d tack an ad-supported Discovery Plus plan onto a Disney Plus bundle. With this combo, you’ll get scripted shows and movies from Hulu and Disney Plus, sports from ESPN+, and nonfiction programs from Discovery for a total of $19 a month.

Discovery Plus, even with ads, is worth it for fans of its cable channels. The exclusive programs, in addition to its extensive on-demand library, can lead to hours of entertainment, even if there are hiccups with the interface.

The bottom line

discovery plus

Discovery Plus is still new, which gives it time to sort out its flaws, especially its limited “My List” feature and lack of downloads. These flaws make the catalog of shows and documentaries difficult to explore to the fullest extent.

But beyond these faults, Discovery Plus knows what its networks do best: offer entertaining and informative content about our homes, lives, history, and natural world.

Fans of scripted TV dramas and comedies will have to look elsewhere, but shows like “Guy’s Grocery Games,” “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” and “Ghost Adventures: Cecil Hotel” are binge-worthy adventures for anyone bored with fictional dramas.

For full details on how we evaluate streaming services, check out our review methodology here.

Pros: Diverse content for fans of nonfiction TV, great for binge-watching, very affordable, tons of original programs

Cons: User interface is bulky, no ability to queue and save specific episodes, no offline watching, no HDR support

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Vintage photos show how the role of women in the workforce has evolved in the last 100 years

woman computer 1970
A woman works at an early model desktop computer made by Servus, circa the 1970s.

  • During the early 20th century, women’s employment was affected by war and advancements in tech.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, women were able to expand their horizons and career opportunities. 
  • Vintage photos from the past 100 years show how their roles have changed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Working women have come a long way in the last 100 years. 

In the 1920s, women entered the workforce in astonishing numbers as a result of the industrial revolution. 

Then, as men were sent off to war, more women got involved in the wartime effort in factories and other professions previously dominated by men.

Women’s equality movements throughout the 1960s and 1970s gave even more opportunities to working women, and in recent years, more women were in the US workforce than men. However, the coronavirus pandemic has caused the women’s labor force participation rate to hit a 33-year low.

Here are 28 vintage photos that show how the role of women in the workforce has evolved in the last 100 years.

In the wake of the industrial revolution, more women than ever began to leave the household and go out to work.

women working 1920
Women postal workers at a sorting office, circa 1920.

Women held jobs as postal clerks, sorting letters and packages. While it wasn’t uncommon for women to work in post offices, very few women actually delivered mail. According to USPS, in 1920, only 5% of the nation’s 943 village carriers were women. 

As village delivery was gradually phased out in favor of city delivery, a majority of the remaining women village carriers either resigned from their positions or were transferred to clerk positions.

Many women also began working in factories.

women working 1920
Operating room of Ladies Rayon Undergarment Factory, 1920.

In 1920, women made up about 20% of the labor force, and many of them were involved in the manufacturing of apparel, food, and tobacco products.

Women of color, on the other hand, were largely employed in agriculture and domestic service work for much of the early 20th century.

During World War I, women held occupations in domestic and personal service, clerical occupations, and factory work.

woman secretary typist 1921
Woman working in an office, USA, circa 1921.

Many women learned to type in order to secure higher-paying jobs in an office as a secretary or a typist in a clerical office, rather than having to work in a factory. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, working conditions, wages, and hours in clerical work were seen as the best at the time.

Clerical work attracted young, literate, mostly white women who would work as typists until they were married, only to be replaced by another young unmarried woman.

After the Women’s Bureau was established in the US Department of Labor on June 5, 1920, women had even more opportunities in the labor force.

actress gertrude olmstead 1920
Gertrude Olmstead from the MGM Studios checks the costume design with the dress being made by the costumer.

As the popularity of silent films began to rise, women also found work creating movies for the silver screen.

In 1923, “Business Woman” published a list of 29 different jobs that women held in the film industry, apart from actresses. Job positions included that of a typist, secretary to the stars and executive secretary, costume designer, seamstress, telephone operator, hairdresser, script girl, film retoucher, title writer, publicity writer, musician, film editor, director, and producer, among others.

Women also held jobs as blacksmiths and worked on vehicles.

female blacksmith 1920
A female blacksmith at work in her workshop, circa 1920.

However, most occupations were seen solely as a precursor to marriage. Among married white women of both native and immigrant backgrounds, only around 10% held jobs. It was more common for married women of color to hold jobs, however, out of pure financial necessity. 

Unemployed women during the Great Depression could join “SheSheShe” camps.

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Several women attend a work camp at Bear Mountain for unemployed, homeless, and single women during the Great Depression.

Inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which only allowed men to join in exchange for free room and board, Eleanor Roosevelt started “SheSheShe” camps as a way for women to gain employment in environmental conservation as well.

Many families during the Great Depression were able to achieve middle-class status by adding another working member to the household – in many cases, a woman.

women world war ii
Women sewing clothes to be sold during the Great Depression, North Platte, Nebraska, November 1937.

Many women during the Great Depression found work as secretaries, teachers, telephone operators, and nurses. Women also made an income by sewing clothes in Works Progress Administration (WPA) sewing rooms, which manufactured men’s trousers, boys’ coveralls, baby clothes, dresses, and diapers. 

During World War II, women assisted in manufacturing wartime necessities like gas masks. By 1945, one in every four married women worked in jobs outside the home.

women world war ii
Women working in a gas mask factory, 1940.

According to Forbes, between 1940 and 1945, female participation in the US workforce increased from 27% to nearly 37%. 

Before the war, women were in traditionally “female” fields such as nursing and teaching. By 1943, women made up 65% of the US aircraft industry’s workforce.

woman world war ii
Woman working on a Vengeance dive bomber, using a hand drill.

After Pearl Harbor, many women entered the armed forces at astonishing rates. In 1943, more than 310,000 women worked in the US aircraft industry, making up 65% of the industry’s total workforce. Before the war began, women made up just 1% of the industry.

In 1935, women made 25% less than men for government jobs. In 1942, even though the War Labor Board required these women to be paid the same as men, the war ended before they could receive equal pay.

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A nurse lighting the pipe of US pilot Harold Ingley, lying on a field hospital bed in Italy, September 1, 1944.

In 1935, a law titled the National Recovery Act required women who held jobs within the government to receive 25% less pay than men in the same jobs, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. During wartime in 1942, the War Labor Board ruled that women would be paid the same as male workers who were now away at war.

However, the war ended before the rule could be implemented. With no laws to protect female workers from pay inequality, female workers in the 1940s earned around 60% of what their male counterparts made.

Women were largely seen as “supplemental” workers in the 1950s, meaning their income was secondary to their husband’s.

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A waitress serving men breakfast in the 1950s.

Even though there were technically more women in the workforce in 1952 than during the war, women were not taken seriously in regards to their careers.

Women returned to stereotypically “feminine” jobs – in some cases, jobs were advertised as for women only.

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A businessman and a secretary in the 1950s.

Many women were forced to give up the jobs they had worked in during wartime to male soldiers returning home. The most popular jobs for women during the 1950s were secretaries, bank tellers or clerical workers, sales clerks, private household workers, and teachers, according to The Week.

Female secretaries in the 1950s gained a reputation for being young and attractive. In fact, a 1959 quiz from a secretarial training program in Waco, Texas, asking women if they have what it takes to be a secretary includes “smiling readily and naturally” and being “usually cheerful” among its requirements. 

The 1950s marked the beginning of the “jet age,” and many young women found work as flight attendants, then called “stewardesses.”

flight attendant 1950s
Regular Delta C&S Stewardess Mary Lee Shultz, of Memphis, adjusts a colleague’s cap as they both prepare for flight in the operations room, 1956.

Flight attendants during the 195os became symbols of the golden age of flying — when traveling by air was seen as the height of sophistication and glamour. However, with this “glamorous” career also came a host of sexist protocols.

According to Conde Nast Traveler, women were not allowed to work as flight attendants after they reached the ages of 32 to 35, while male flight attendants could work well into their 60s. In 1957, Trans World Airlines dropped its no-marriage rule for female flight attendants. However, many airlines continued to only hire non-married female flight attendants.

While many women joined the workforce, they were nevertheless expected to fulfill their duties at home, in what would be coined “the second shift.”

50s housewife homowner buying a house
An American housewife in 1960 demonstrates the cleaning power of Vel detergent for a TV advert.

After women returned home from their secretarial or office jobs, they had another job to do — caring for the children, doing the housekeeping, and, of course, putting a hot dinner in front of their husband. 

This became known as the “second shift.” If women didn’t hold office or other jobs during the day, they were relegated to being “housewives.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, women found creative ways to make their own incomes from their homes.

tupperware party
Tupperware party scene, 1960.

Many suburban women began selling Tupperware out of their own homes in what became known as “Tupperware parties.” 

“Tupperware … took those moms out of the kitchen where they were ‘supposed to be’ and let them enter the workforce, and let them have something outside the home,” Lorna Boyd, whose mother Sylvia was an at-home Tupperware seller in the 1960s, told the Smithsonian Institution.

Women were also making history in their careers.

barbara walters
American broadcast journalist Barbara Walters eats a sandwich as she works at her desk in New York in 1966.

In the 1960s, Barbara Walters was a broadcast journalist working in New York City. In 1976, she would become the first woman to anchor a nightly newscast. Many other women were also joining the journalism field as coverage of the Vietnam War became increasingly widespread.

While technology-based and other computer programming jobs may now be dominated by men, the same jobs were considered “women’s work” in the 1960s.

women computers 1960
Women weave hair-like wires and tiny metallic cores into memory at the Ampex computer products division circa 1960.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “computer girls” became a term for “savvy young women” pursuing careers in computer programming. Computer programming was seen as “easy work” similar to typing or filing, so many women ended up building the field that would come to be known as software development. 

Women soon made up a majority of the trained workforce in the computing industry.

woman working 1960s
A woman working on a Honeywell tape drive computer, circa 1969.

However, the work was seen as “unskilled.”

“Women were seen as an easy, tractable labor force for jobs that were critical and yet simultaneously devalued,” technology historian Marie Hicks said in her book “Programmed Inequality,” according to The Guardian

In the 1960s, multiple pieces of legislation were passed to protect women in the workplace from discrimination.

equal pay 1960s
An equal pay for women demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, 1969.

Title VII was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protecting workers from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

In 1963, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed in order to protect men and women who perform “substantially equal work in the same establishment” from sex-based wage discrimination.

These measures were especially beneficial to women of color. Up until the 1970s, women of color could be openly discriminated against in the hiring process and were often relegated to providing domestic service work to white families

During the 1970s, computing work gained more prestige as the industry realized how valuable computers would become.

woman computer 1970
A woman works at an early model desktop computer made by Servus, circa the 1970s.

It meant women were no longer welcome in many computer programming offices. 

“They weren’t going to put women workers – seen as low-level drones – in charge of computers,” Hicks explains.

According to The Guardian, female computer workers, or “computer girls,” were gradually phased out and replaced with men, who received higher salaries and more prestigious job titles.

By the 1970s, many women were still fighting for better workplace conditions, equal pay, and more job opportunities.

businesswoman
A businesswoman in the 1970s.

From 1972 to 1985, the number of women working “professional” jobs increased from 44% to 49%. The number of women working “management” jobs nearly doubled, rising from 20% to 36%. 

However, in 1970, women still did not earn “equal” wages to men. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women earned 59.4% of what men earned.

In the 1970s, education became more important than ever for securing a well-paying job.

nurses doctors
Nurses and doctors at Pelham Bay General Hospital examine a patient’s X-ray in 1975.

After measures were passed that prevented universities and institutions from discriminating against students on the basis of sex, more women were admitted into medical school than in past generations.

Other strides were made for women in the late 1970s. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This meant that women could start building families without fearing how it would affect their careers.

Women in the workforce in the 1980s continued to make strides, but there was still a ways to go.

female stockbroker
Marilyn Neckes, a former TV producer who changed careers to a stockbroker, in 1984.

According to The Atlantic, in 1985, half of all college graduates were women. However, only 41% of women between the ages of 25 and 44 held full-time year-round jobs.

Even in the mid-1980s, women themselves saw their own careers as inferior to their husbands’. According to The Atlantic, which cited a 1985 Roper survey, only 10% of women said that a husband should turn down a “very good job” in another city “so the wife can continue her job.”

However, women of the 1980s made history in their fields. Dr. Mae Jemison was among 15 new astronauts named by NASA and became the first black female shuttle flyer.

Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison is among 15 new astronauts in 1987 named by NASA and the first black female shuttle flyer.

In 1984, at the Democratic National Convention held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman nominated as vice president by a major political party.

Women were encouraged to “do it all” — meaning, hold a successful job as well as maintain a happy and healthy marriage and raise children.

 

The New York Times has referred to the 1990s as the “best era for working women.”

cdc employee 1995
CDC employee working at a computer in 1995.

Computers became more and more prevalent, reducing the need for secretaries, bank tellers, and retail workers. Women overwhelmingly began to be employed in offices and earned higher salaries.

According to Time, women were also postponing marriage and children until later in life.

nasdaq women 90s
Two businesswomen view the latest stock prices on the Nasdaq Wall in 1997.

For most earlier decades, women would be married between the ages of 20 and 22. In 1990, the age jumped to 24, and by 1997, the average age for women to get married was 25.

In 1995, nearly half of all women surveyed reported earning half or more of their total family income. 

In recent years, women held more jobs than men in the US workforce.

1990s woman office
Woman working in an office building in the 1990s.

At the start of 2020, there are now 109,000 more women working than men, and women in the US made up 50.4% of the labor force. 

Sectors that traditionally hire women, like healthcare and education, were growing, and other industries previously dominated by men were also hiring more women than ever before.

According to Forbes, 13.8% of mining and logging jobs were currently held by women, and more women were employed in manufacturing and transportation than in years past as well.

The coronavirus pandemic caused the women’s labor force participation rate to hit a 33-year low in January 2021.

coronavirus pandemic mural
A mural urging people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to CNBC, more than 2.3 million women in the US have left the labor force since February 2020, compared to about 1.8 million men who have registered as unemployed. This places the women’s labor force participation rate at 57%, the lowest rate since 1988, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

However, the actual number of women who are currently unemployed may be much higher due to those who may have left the labor force but are not actively looking for work. Instead, many women may be staying home due to mass closures of schools and daycare facilities. 

The data is undeniably dire, despite more jobs being added to the workforce in recent months. In January 2021, 275,000 women left the labor force, accounting for 80% of all unemployed workers over the age of 20 that month.

The situation is even worse for women of color, Insider’s Juliana Kaplan previously reported. According to the NWLC, 8.5% of Black women age 20 and over were unemployed in January 2021, compared to 8.4% in December 2020 and 4.9% in February 2020.

Adversely, the unemployment rate for white men age 20 and over was 5.5% in January 2021, compared to 5.8% in December 2020 and 2.7% in February 2020. 

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San Francisco’s school renaming debacle is a timely mix of confused priorities and bad ‘facts’

Lincoln High school San Francisco
A pedestrian walks by a sign outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California.

  • San Francisco’s school board used inaccurate history to rename schools that haven’t even been open in a year.
  • Paul Revere was deemed irredeemably problematic based on a misreading of a History.com post.
  • Meanwhile, there’s still no date to reopen schools. 
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

San Francisco’s public schools were among the first in the US to shut down at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020. 

They’re still closed. And the outrage over the endless foot-dragging on re-opening is well-deserved, especially considering what the city’s school board has spent precious time on rather than laser-focusing on reopening.

Children – especially those in low-income households – continue to suffer mental anguish, the loss of irreplaceable months of youth and social discovery, and a permanent stunting of their education as long as in-person schooling remains unavailable.

And yet for some reason, San Francisco’s Board of Education recently devoted a disproportionate amount of time and energy on an effort to review every single public school in the district with the goal of swiftly renaming any building bearing the name of a person who contributed to the abuse or subjugation of women, minorities, queer people, and the environment.

There’s still no set date to reopen San Francisco’s schools. 

Misplaced priorities and moving goalposts 

In an extraordinary move, City attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the San Francisco Unified School District earlier this month, with the support of liberal Mayor London Breed, in an attempt to re-open schools. 

But the same excuses offered by the school board and teachers unions for why schools can’t reopen remain unchanged:

“Teachers’ lives would be at grave risk” is a common argument – even though the CDC has repeatedly stated that schools are among the lowest-risk public places for spreading COVID.

“Schools need revamped ventilation systems” is another – even though the CDC has recommended reopening schools with basic social distancing and ventilation measures (like a fan and an open window) as soon as possible.  

“Teachers need to be vaccinated” is yet another – even though teachers are among the prioritized professions for vaccination in California already

And while California is slowly ramping up its vaccine roll out, the school district and unions could use their resources to help teachers and school employees coordinate COVID vaccination appointments. Thus far, there has been no demonstrable urgency in taking such initiatives. 

But no one can argue the school board hasn’t treated the effort to rename schools with the utmost urgency. 

Originally conceived in 2018 in the wake of the Neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, the school re-naming project was kicked into high gear this past summer following the police killing of George Floyd and protests against racism and police brutality.

A schools renaming committee was convened and as can be seen in public video of its deliberations, adherence to historical facts was a secondary concern, and the scope of its own mission seemed to change on the whims of a few of its members. 

Committee members were expected to come to the meeting having already conducted their research, and yet during the meeting members are seen Google-searching for impeachable evidence of reputation-destroying racism or contributions to colonialism. 

And even with such flimsy source material, members sometimes misread the information before them, as demonstrated when a committee member said Paul Revere participated in a conquest of Native American land.

Not only did that not happen, it isn’t even asserted in the History.com “10 Things You May Not Know About Paul Revere” post cited as evidence to justify removing Revere’s name.

Other names deemed worthy of removal included Abraham Lincoln, because despite signing the Emancipation Proclamation his policies were “detrimental” to Native Americans, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her support of an urban renewal project that displaced members of a Filipino community while she served as the city’s mayor. 

One committee member noted that former Mayor George Moscone also supported neighborhood-disrupting urban renewal projects, but the school named for the martyred Moscone (who in 1978 was assassinated along with the legendary gay rights activist and city supervisor Harvey Milk) was spared by the committee. 

The mythical city of “El Dorado” – in which a king sprinkled subjects in gold dust – was deemed removable because the Gold Rush led to the death of Native Americans and, as one committee member put it, “I don’t think the concept of greed and lust for gold is a concept we want our children to be given.” 

Another committee member pushed back, arguing that not only is El Dorado not real, it’s not a person, and therefore out of the scope of the group’s stated guidelines. His point of view was rejected out of hand. 

There were several more egregious mistakes, but the San Francisco school board voted 6 to 1 to accept the committee’s recommendations and to begin the process of swiftly renaming 44 schools – including those named for Revere, Lincoln, and Feinstein.

The response was tough but fair. 

A historical embarrassment

An exasperated Mayor Breed said the school board should “bring the same urgency and focus on getting our kids back in the classroom” and only when that’s accomplished should we “have that longer conversation about the future of school names.”

The liberal-leaning San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board lamented that the board “largely quit the education business and rebranded themselves as amateur historians.”

And in an interview with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, school board president Gabriela Lopez appeared to defend the committee’s decision to not consult historians who could have easily helped the committee avoid its embarrassing mistakes. Lopez said she didn’t want “get into a process where we then discredit the work that this group has done.”

Following widespread outcry over both the historical misstatements and misprioritization of the issue  – particularly from liberals and Democrats who felt the whole thing made them look like “parodies of ourselves” – the school board this week halted the school renaming process until after schools are reopened

Historians, previously deemed inessential to the process of re-examining historical figures, will be invited into future discussions. 

There is still no anticipated date for San Francisco public schools to reopen, despite private schools and public schools in neighboring counties being opened for months. 

We need schools, and we need facts

It’s tempting to view the San Francisco school renaming debacle through a one-way culture war lens: with woke lefties beclowning themselves and a liberal city’s government unable to provide a basic public function. But that’s reductive. 

If the San Francisco community believes school renaming should be a priority for the district, the board should by all means push forward on those efforts. But it’s tragically comical to focus on renaming schools that have been closed for a year and for the foreseeable future. 

It is a story of misplaced priorities, but it is also indicative of a greater societal problem – which is the conscious choice by many to adopt a Manichean point of view that defines everyone as simply good or simply evil, with facts deemed secondary nuisances.

That’s why the San Francisco debacle matters. Because for citizens of this country to be able to share a reality-based existence, partisans on both sides need to accept that facts matter, political narratives be damned.

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