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The red, white and blue cover of Gail Collin’s latest book From Corsets to Congress
A determined Dorthea Dix once took four carriages, hiked five miles and rode a log downstream in her quest to find the nation's mentally ill and get them proper treatment. African American Elizabeth Jennings refused to disembark from a horse-drawn trolley car and wait for one reserved for "colored people" -- a century before Rosa Parks would do the same. Schoolteacher Clara Barton had to stop and ring the blood out of her skirts to move between the wounded she attended to on the battlefields of the Civil War.

"These women just knock me out. … No one told them to do these things," said Gail Collins when she came to campus in March to discuss her bestselling book, "America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines" (Perennial, 2004).

Part of the San Francisco Urban Institute's "Great Minds: Leadership and Civic Engagement" lecture series, the event in Jack Adams Hall was a fitting celebration of Women's History Month; Collins is making history herself as the first woman to serve as editor of The New York Times' editorial page.

Collins pointed to strides women have made in recent years as well as their remaining challenges. Women were once encouraged to "stay home and radiate goodness," she said, "but now it's presumed that women will have adventure. That's only in our generation that this happened." And while much focus has been put on the often difficult balance between career and family, Collins said that "the greatest challenge for American women today is making alliances with women in Third World countries" so that they might enjoy the same rights and opportunities.

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified Sept. 3, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications