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Martha's Story

WICHITA, Kan. - In between the rush of grading finals and the chaos of the holidays, my Aunt Martha passed away. She was 91 and lived her entire life in Wapello County, Iowa. I told Martha's Story briefly before a subcommittee of the Kansas Legislature many years ago when legislators were debating yet again more restrictions to burden women in their right to seek a legal abortion. The legislators were unmoved by Martha's Story.

I did not know Martha's story until I was about to graduate from high school. What I always believed was that Martha never found anyone to marry. When my grandfather died, the farm was sold and with my grandmother, moved to the city. She spent her life cleaning the big Antebellum looking houses on the north side of town in Ottumwa, Iowa where the wealthy residents lived. At the end of the day she would take the bus back to the south side of town and go home to a tiny house she shared with her widowed mother. As an 'Old Maid', Martha naturally had a duty to care for her mother. It seemed a good arrangement for a woman who at least would have some companionship instead of living alone. At least, that is how I viewed her life as a young adult and knowing nothing of her history.

Of course, I did not want to duplicate Martha's life. I felt sorry for her. She worked hard and there was an undercurrent that Martha was in a kind of limbo status in the family. She constantly had to ask others for assistance like a child since she had very little resources but many duties. As her niece, I clearly understood she did not command a great deal of respect due to her spinsterhood status, or so I thought.

Here They Come

COLBY, Kan. - What is the real Republican administration's agenda? I just received the following information in an email message from the KDP. If you are not on their mailing list, this message should alert you to get on it.

BREAKING: The Resurrection of Phill Kline

TOPEKA, KS - Kansans received an unwelcome Christmas Eve gift last Friday. Secretary of State Elect Kris Kobach announced the hiring of his top lieutenant on the day before a long holiday weekend, effectively burying it. It's news worth hiding. Kobach chose Eric Rucker, the long-time top lieutenant to disgraced former Attorney General Phill Kline. In fact, Mr. Rucker is still being investigated for his involvement in the invasion of thousands of Kansans' medical privacy.

It gets worse. Today, Governor Elect Sam Brownback announced his chief counsel would be another top Phill Kline lieutenant, Caleb Stegall. This is nothing short of the resurrection of Phill Kline. Phill Kline was thrown from office just four years ago because he violated the medical privacy of Kansans in pursuit of his own extreme political agenda. Phill Kline is the poster child of an entire political era defined by Republicans using state government to further divisive social issues.

That era is back. Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach have taught Kansans a tough lesson. The "new" Republican Party is the same as the old Republican Party. They are more interested in furthering extreme political agendas and fighting for special interests then in rebuilding our state's economy, providing world-class schools for our children and creating jobs for everyday Kansans.

people-voting.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - Kansas NOW is an organizational member of the Kansas Voter Coalition. This coalition is comprised of progressive organizations within the state that have joined forces to defeat the proposed Voter ID Law being pursued by Secretary of State-Elect Kris Kobach.

Mr. Kobach is an anti-immigration zealot, who wrote the infamous Arizona immigration law. A recent Washington Times headline coined him as "An Anti-illegals Activist." Why the voters of Kansas chose to elect an "activist" to an apolitical post such as Secretary of State is beyond me, but I digress.

Voter ID might seem like a matter that would blink dimly on Kansas feminist radar, but I am quickly learning just how important this issue is for the women of the state.

Uneasy Burials on McDowell Creek

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Learning history is like reading a detective story--pretty soon you can't put it down. But history offers no final chapter where everything is explained. With history, the surprises just keep coming.

For example, I learned about one contentious burial here in my own community at the end of the nineteenth century that at first seemed a simple case of racism. In 1869, the Estes family migrated from North Carolina to McDowell Creek, where they helped to found the Briggs community.

They brought an African-American household servant and her daughter with them. The daughter grew up, married a soldier from the fort, and moved to New York, but the mother -- Delilah Estes, or "Lila," as she was known -- stayed with the family until her death in the 1890s. Joe Estes wanted Lila buried in the Briggs Cemetery, but the township board refused.

A fellow North Carolinian named Maxwell Ramsour -- who had provided the land for the cemetery in the first place -- contacted Joe and offered to bury Delilah on his own land. Ramsour's property adjoined the cemetery, and he dug a grave just outside the cemetery fence. That's where Delilah Estes was laid to rest. This solution did not soothe Joe's anger, however, and he immediately changed his own burial plans. "If Briggs Cemetery is too good for a Christian woman like Lila, then it's too good for me," he is reputed to have said. Indeed, when his own time came, he was buried in Fairview Cemetery, not Briggs Cemetery.

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Human Rights: November 2010. The next archive is Human Rights: January 2011.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Human Rights: December 2010 section.

The previous archive is Human Rights: November 2010. The next archive is Human Rights: January 2011.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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