Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Event Recap: Half the Sky, Turning Oppression Into Opportunity

The key to success lies in empowering women and unleashing their potential. What are communities doing to support females from an early age? 

Deborah Ullman: YWCA of the Hartford Region
  • Early learning is critical: this gets boys and girls off to a good start
  • Programs for teens to provide them with options: financial literacy, empowerment, self-esteem.
  • The vision and the dream: What can you be? 
  • Taking teens to college campuses and the theater gives them exposure and a vision
  • Many people work against the system too: Women are told to work, but this doesn't always allow time for education
  • We should be measuring by poverty, but instead we need to talk about how we can all be financially secure. How can we move ourselves forward and invest in the future?
  • Women are graduating college at a higher rate. 57% of college graduates are women.
  • Out of high school, 74% of women go onto college, only 62% of men do the same. But the wage gap between men and women is still 77%.
  • Negative relationships can put girls on the wrong path, healthy relationships are so important
JoAnna Zachery: Girl Scouts of Connecticut
  • She grew up in England, with her father in the Air Force and move to the United States as a pre-teen
  • She was picked on for her color and her accent
  • Girl Scouts impacted her life 
  • The Pathways Program provides girls who are raised by moms, living in poverty, a different opportunity. They cannot always be in a traditional troop.
  • Girls Rule is an anti-bullying campaign run by Girl Scouts. 
  • Girl Scouts provides encouragement for girls to be more than they believed they could ever be.
  • It is important to develop practical skills such as eating healthy and protecting their bodies
  • Starting young, like kindergarten, with storytelling and providing girls with the knowledge that they too have a voice. 
Do you work with girls that are incarcerated?
  • No, but the juvenile justice system is doing a lot of advocacy. 
  • The YWCA has a number of women who have been incarcerated. The organization teaches them how to dress professionally, interview, and get a job, even with a record. 
  • There are a lot of cases with prostitution and drugs in Connecticut. A recent article in Vanity Fair shows that these issues are in our state too. 
  • Girl Scouts partners with the Village, a human services non-profit, in Hartford
How do you help women define what a beneficial relationship is?
  • Chrysalis Center: a shelter where the ratio of case manager to person is one to one, focus is on relationship building. 
  • Dealing with relationships with men is important
  • There is a social pattern where girls are growing up with certain behaviors. The level of respect for women and how we are viewed in media has changed. We have regressed.
  • There is a lot of respectful, on-going dialogue needed. 
  • Over-sexualization of girls is more of an issue now. Sexual relationships are being played up more. 
  • Issues with desirability and intimacy
How do you redefine what a woman's idea of intimacy is? 
  • Relationships are very important and everyone needs to realize this. 
  • Programs in Girl Scouts like "Mommy and Me" or the "Daddy and Daughter series", focus on communication. This breaks down certain barriers and encourages dialogue between daughters and parents. Girls can tell their mother something they typically talked about with girl friends
Are the Girl Scouts looking for troop leaders?
  • Yes! Right now there are volunteers from corporations and colleges, students in child development college programs, moms and dads.
What extent does history play in the image of women?
  • Girls today take a lot for granted. 
  • They are used to being able to play sports and see women in professional roles. They forget that women had to fight hard for the things they take for granted. 
How do we make girls aware of the history of women?
  • It is our job to remind and education. We plant the seeds and deliver the message
  • If Stowe could do what she did with all of the restrictions, imagine what you can do!
  • Check out the program Success Unlimited
  • Change in our culture has been increasing self-esteem, progress, and empowerment. Some have achieved this triumphantly, but many are left behind.
  • Ongoing education is needed on both racial and gender inequities
What programs are offered on racial and gender inequities?
  • Start empowering children from a young age
  • Teach financial literacy to children
  • Research opportunities for children to join organizaitons
  • Healthy relationships are critical
  • Families should build a safe, open dialogue
  • Volunteer to be a Girl Scout leader
  • Help change media/over-sexualized image of women for girls
  • Educate girls about the past

Monday, May 23, 2011

Featured Guest Bios: Half the Sky, Turning Oppression Into Opportunity

The key to progress lies in empowering women and unleashing their potential.  What are communities doing to support females from an early age?

Deborah Ullman, YWCA of the Hartford Region
Ms. Ullman is chief executive officer of the YWCA Hartford Region, a position that she has held for 6 years.  She is involved on several boards and committees in the Hartford area and with the YWCA regionally and nationally.  She served as President of Northeast Regional Council for three years, on the Finance Committee and as a peer reviewer.  Since joining the YWCA Hartford Region, she has succeeded in bringing a mission focus to the organization and stabilizing its financial position.  Her work and community involvement demonstrate her passionate belief that every woman and girl deserves the opportunity to own their future, whatever they may want that to be.  She was recently recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Total Woman Conference.

JoAnna Zachery, Girl Scouts of Connecticut
Ms. Zachery is Director of Membership Services for Girl Scouts of Connecticut, the largest organization in the state serving girls.  Girl Scouts of Connecticut is Connecticut's recognized girl empowerment organization - providing over 65,000 girls and adults with opportunities and experiences that develop their potential and empower them with self-confidence and leadership skills to improve their lives and the world around them.  JoAnna is the Director for the greater Hartford area. She has maintained community partnerships and collaborations as well as designed, developed, implemented and evaluated membership growth with a diversity plan through the management and recruitment of girls and young women.

May 26, 2011
Reception at 5pm.  Conversation from 5:30 - 7pm.
Additional information at www.harrietbeecherstowe.org

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Event Recap: Why So Cheap? Is There More to This Story?

How does American consumerism affect people around the world? How are vulnerable workers protected? 

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Neil Patrick: Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
  • The Wage and Hour division has been around since 1938 and worked on issues such as the minimum wage and other labor laws.
  • Under current Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, there has been an increased commitment to vulnerable workers who do not have the resources to protect themselves.
  • When information about labor violations is received by the Department of Labor, Investigations take place in order to protect workers.
  • Labor trafficking is when vulnerable workers are used and abused, contrary to the law (pay/not paid, forced to live in a situation they cannot leave, give up documentation).
  • The Department of Labor work hand in hand with other agencies who may do a criminal investigation.
  • When these situations are discovered, not only are there wage and hour violations, but safety violations as well. We think of the triangle shirt waist fire which just had its 100th anniversary.
  • Wage and hour complaints used to be the norm, but now there is more focus on vulnerable workers.
  • Problems that are seen include: Poor housing standards, poor wages, lack insurance on vehicles used.
  • There is a lot of agriculture in CT, but there is also a pretty good relationship between agricultural growers and the Department of Labor. This part of the country there is a better relationship with the government and the growers. Areas on the West Coast, such as California don’t see that relationship.
  • ILAB: International Labor Affairs- travels to other countries to discuss labor issues.

John McCarthy: Representing the CT Department of Labor
  • When trafficking first came up in CT it was focused on sex trafficking, ultimately got into labor trafficking and forced labor.
  • States can’t handle immigration issues that may arise; they focus on the labor violations.
  • When you find a constriction of movement, there is an investigation is needed. Situations such as a house with many people in it, who don’t speak English; with one guy in charge, who is the only one allowed to move from the place. This is a major sign that exploitation is occurring.
  • Key to labor enforcement is true and accurate records. Sometimes the Department has to reconstruct those records due to a number of issues, such as misclassification of workers. Doesn’t make a difference of your status-if you worked, you get paid.
  • Misclassification task force looks at areas where employers are not paying taxes, unemployment.
  • Unfortunately there are always people trying to exploit others. It happens right here.
  • Some do come forward and complaints can be anonymous. The reality is that some employers will try to find out who made the complaint.
  • Penalties for employers who commit labor violations could include back pay for employees who have been fired for coming forward.
  • There are so many agencies that can be involved in an investigation, including the Department of Public Health and OSHA.


When you find a problem what services do you provide to the employer?
  • Investigators conduct fact finding (as a result of a complaint or highly targeted industry).
  • A final closing conference is held, usually with the owner. Investigator informs them what they need to do to come into compliance. Once there is compliance assurance other aspects are addressed.
  • A lot of education and outreach is provide by the Department of Labor.

What happens to undocumented workers who are not paid fairly?
  • The Department is committed to enforcing the law evenly.
  • Laws include: that workers are paid at least work minimum wage and time and a half required for over 40 hours. It doesn’t matter if they are undocumented.
  • The Department of Labor has developed relationships with advocacy groups who can provide further services for these workers.
  • “Under the table” cases take a lot of digging and reconstruction of hours work.

Many undocumented or trafficked workers will not come forward because of fear. How does that impact your investigations?
  • There are many different aspects of fear involved. In North Carolina, a company told employees to attend a safety and health seminar, but when they arrived Immigration was there.
  • Employers may report employees to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) if they come forward about exploitation.
  • There are cases where the employer can threaten the families of the employee as well, which discourages the workers from coming forward.
  • A lot of situations that involve trafficking are not in plain sight.

Is there any protection for those who come forward?
  • U-Visas can provide immigrants who are victims of certain crimes with temporary legal status and work eligibility for up to 4 years if they testify against the employer.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act provides protection. Employer could fire the employee, but Department of Labor will investigate. If a violation is documented it is forwarded to attorneys to pursue action and retaliation.
  • Back wages may be available, but it all takes time. Community agencies and advocacy groups do offer a lot of help.

In a case where workers are locked inside a place and no one can come forward, is there a routine check?
  • Surveillance is done.
  • Sometimes people somehow escape these situations and find a friendly ear. Then their situation is reported
  • What about the cases where people don’t come forward? How do you get to the rest?
  • It is largely complaint driven
  • Sometimes a legislator will go into a business and see something suspicious, like someone looking too young to work, and this leads to investigations.
  • If there is a chain store/restaurant that is being investigated, it may cause the corporate offices to further investigate other locations.
  • CT has a reputation of being “on top” of labor and wage issues. They are out there pursuing laws.
  • Restaurants, agriculture, health care industry (i.e. nursing homes), and construction are target industries.
  • Some restaurants have reputations for long hours, many in one living space, and little pay. Most of these cases also include a language barrier. Many departments are required to get involved in these cases.

How do you know who to go to?
  • For most things you go to the State, but you can also go to the Federal Department; they work together.
  • There is a phone number to call and speak with a real person: 860-240-4160

What is the youngest age with child labor? How young have you found people?

In this country we have found as young as eight years old in agriculture. Working in the fields. This is not on the family farm; this is working as a laborer.

There is a concentration of wealth in a few. How are consumers supposed to make conscious decisions about purchasing non-trafficked goods if they themselves live on minimum wage?
  • CT has a minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. That is not necessarily a “living wage”.
  • There are some states that have a minimum wage that is less than the Federal minimum wage, but the Federal wage overrides that.
  • Living wage has been dealt with many times in CT.
  • Middle class is getting smaller.
  • It’s difficult to tax the rich more; because people say “then they’ll leave the state”.
  • Employers shouldn’t be the only ones who benefit from the fruits of their workers.
  • A lot of education and work with community organizations is done to make sure people know their rights. 

  • Industries with high level of forced labor: Agriculture, construction, restaurants, health care
  • Advocate for vacation pay to be classified as “wages” rather than benefits
  • Report questionable labor situations to state or Federal authorities
  • Speak Up!!
  • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage
  • Call US Dept of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at: 860-240-4160 if you have a question or concern. (a real person will answer)
  • The Stowe Center should host Salons on the Prosperity Gap and Unionized Labor.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Featured Guest Bios: Why So Cheap? There's More To This Story

What everyday items are made by slave labor? How does American consumerism affect people around the world? Chocolate and coffee are connected to the world's worst offenses in slave labor? Where does consumer responsibility start and end?

Danelle Ragoonanan-Storph, Project Rescue
Ragoonanan-Storph has been affiliated with the International Institute of Connecticut since July 2009.  She is the Director of Project Rescue, the anti-human trafficking program designed to raise awareness about the issue of trafficking in persons and serve victims of human trafficking.  She has over seven years experience in the field of human rights. She has worked Liberian, Sierra Leonean, Togolese and other refugees in West African, and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East. While in New York City, she resettled refugees and helped asylum-seekers, along with other immigrants, to apply for immigration benefits. At present, Ms. Ragoonanan-Storph co-chairs the Connecticut Coalition Against Trafficking and serves on the federal Smuggling and Trafficking of Persons Investigative Task Force.

Neil Patrick, US Department of Labor
Patrick started as a Wage & Hour Investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor is 1978. He worked in both the Hartford District Office and the New Haven Area Office.  In 2001, Neil was promoted to the position of Assistant District Director in the Hartford District Office and he became the District Director in August 2010, overseeing the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Through the years, Neil has served on a multitude of details and special assignments: he served as Facilitator at Basic 1 training in Jacksonville and at Basic 1 training in San Antonio; he has conducted training throughout the Region and in the National Office; he served on the Investigator Competency Revalidation Project; he has participated as a member of the Regional Accountability Review Team. Neil has always taken an active role in conducting outreach events for the Hartford DO.

May 12, 2011
Reception at 5pm. Conversation from 5:30 - 7pm.
Additional information at www.harrietbeecherstowe.org

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Girl Power is Family Power

How does education impact the lives of women and girls? When a girl gets an education it helps her, her family and her community. What happens when education is denied to women? What role does poverty play? What are the inequities in education and why is equal access important?

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Susan Lennon: President of the Women’s College Coalition

  • The best way to describe the work of the Women’s College Coalition is that they are changing the conversation about women’s colleges. It is not the absence of men that defines women’s colleges, it is the work they are doing with women and girls.
  • The ways girls are left behind is difficult to measure. These ways are imbedded in our culture, whether it’s social, economic, technological, or environmental.
  • We have to think like oceans--meaning, we need to look at all dimensions of our lives and the lives of women and girls.
  • Engaging in research will provide a deeper understanding of education for women and girls and answer question like, how are women and girls denied an equitable education?
  • Many families have different objectives for daughters than they do for sons. How do we broaden those horizons? We can look at their technology and HOW/WHY they use it.
  • A forthcoming movie entitled: In the Game, focuses on the impact Title IX (a federal law to build up women’s athletic programs) had in urban schools. The results of their studies showed that girls who play sports in under-privileged schools have greater chances for graduating on time, less chance of pregnancy, and less chance of obesity.
  • We have to understand that the adolescent brain is not as developed as we sometimes expect it to be. They can’t necessarily do what we expect them to do. Research shows us how to reach them and how to broaden opportunities.

Patricia Salner: Community Programs Director for Achieve Hartford!
  • The focus of Achieve Hartford! is to be a catalyst for education reform in the city. Traditionally, parents receive their child’s report card, but have minimal role in development of their children’s education. Achieve Hartford! works to change the role that parents play by encouraging more involvement.
  • Achieve Hartford! still has a long way to go for a majority of students to reach their potential. When looking at the relationship between parents and schools there is evidence of language barriers, parents who had an education experience that is negative, and parents who are intimidated by schools. Their goal is to break these barriers and make space for everyone to feel they have access to an equal education.
  • Pat is also a part of the Women’s Educational Leadership Fund, which promotes projects and internships focused on women’s leadership. Undergrads, graduates, and professors are all involved. They strive to open up fields that have been closed to women in the past such as science, engineering and math

Lourdes Fonseca: Community Programs Coordinator and Parent Organizer for Achieve Hartford!

  • Choice is one of the most important pieces of education reform, but it’s not easy to understand or navigate. Achieve Hartford! Has hired 9 women, Hartford mothers of all ages (none have a college degree yet, some have not finished high school yet), to help Hartford parents with school choices. They are giving back and changing their own lives in the process. These women embrace parents, simplify process and break down the barriers. They have doubled the number of choice applications from last year.
  • This program provides all of the tools parents, grandparents, and guardians need to provide the best education for their child.
  • Some parents are afraid of sending their children to Hartford schools, but after doing the research these parents have changed their minds and enjoyed their child’s education along with them.
  • A lot of the conversations about education are at daycare centers, churches, laundry mats. Learning happens everywhere. So we go to where the learning happens.
Group discussion:

How does Women’s Colleges do hands on work?
  • By partnering with organizations like Girls Inc and Girl Scouts to do research and programs for girls like math camps, athletic camps, science samplers.

Science and math are commonly talked about now for girls. What about typical women’s occupations like nurses and subjects like writing and poetry?
  • There has been a swing to technology because for so long women felt intimidated in these fields. Humanities should go hand in hand.
  • There is a need to elevate professions of teaching and nursing. Teachers are a critical role in elevating and empowering students.

What do the school systems do to provide support for parents and girls?
  • Family Resource Centers: but not all schools have them. Some have a Family Resource Aid.
  • Some school have “parent rooms”.
  • Independent orgs run a lot of the programs.
  • Budget issues cut them out more and more.
  • Before and afterschool programs, health clinics.
  • Many schools have PTOs and Parent Orgs that pick up the role that a paid employee would have.
  • Parent Leadership Training Institute: Provides training to bring parents into leadership roles. Run by Commission of Children statewide. How we can be more educated and be more active.

Where do you find the families in need?
  • Work closely with the school system central office.
  • People within the schools know about Achieve Hartford!
  • Visits are made to early-learning centers.
  • Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Families
How do you answer questions like, why do we need women’s colleges? And, what do women’s colleges do that co-eds don’t?
  • This is part of the research agenda. How present are women in the curriculum?
  • Princeton University study about leadership of girls showed that men run for high visibility positions (student government) and women do not. Women wanted to participate in programs that made more of an impact. Programs are still run through the male lens. Roles in students government need to be more compelling for women.
  • The Princeton report also states that girls and women feel obligated to act in a certain socially acceptable ways such as “poised, witty and smart—but not so witty or smart as to be threatening to men”. This was called “effortless perfection”. More needs to be done to crack these “obligations”.

How do you deal with issues of work/life balance when educating girls?
  • Girls and women navigate themselves towards family.
  • Studies have shown that girls are already thinking about the family life balance by 5th grade. Corresponding study with boys showed no similar feeling.
  • Until the structure of work changes women will not participate in certain seats at the.
  • In Europe, maternity leave is much longer. Women in US go back to work after 6 weeks. Women have tostrategize more than men when you are going to have a child based on time off. It typically falls on females to be tactical and strategic.
  • There are women who don’t have the choices and it boils down to the status of children. If we value children then we value families. We need an evolution of society.

What is the biggest challenge for both Achieve Hartford! and women’s colleges?
  • Communicating and getting the word out there that there are resources and advocates in the community.
  • More women can gain the skill sets to further empower girls.
  • Identifying and bringing awareness to these issues.
  • You can’t talk about girl power until you talk about women power. Fastest growing student population in the country is adult women, not the traditional.
  • Encourage girls as early as you can and build their self esteem and the importance of education in their lives. Plant the seed as soon as you can.