The Other Half

Audrey Jennings, Staff members

Women’s suffrage was a period in the mid 1800s – early 1900s, when women protested against sexist things in society like voting rights. Women’s suffrage has since been overcome, but during these times, women like Hedy Lamarr and Nellie Bly persevered through these times by making a big stamp on history.Women have always been around, doing amazing things, but a lot of their accomplishments go unrecognized.

Millions of people use Bluetooth every day, but have you ever wondered how it came to be? Hedy Lamarr started out as an actor in 1930, but was truly a genius and didn’t exactly fit on stage. Lamarr had dated a man who really helped bring out her scientific genius in her by bringing her to his airplane factories and showed her how airplanes were built. Later on in life, she met a man named George Antheil in 1940. Antheil shared her knowledge, and they began messing around with ideas to combat axis powers, or more known as the countries of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

“Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state.” Antheil said.

They came up with an amazing communication system that helped guide torpedoes to the desired target. Lamarr and Antheil were awarded the U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 in August of 1942. The Navy declined to use their system, so she supported the war by selling war bonds. The patent ended up expiring before she ever made any money off of it, but later in her life, The Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded them with a Pioneer award in 1997. Hedy Lamarr was also the first lady to receive the Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. Even though she passed away in 2000, she was added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for constructing frequency hopping technology. Because of this, she was named “The Mother of Wi-fi”.

Joyce Chen was a Chinese-American chef who first introduced Chinese food to America. She was born in Beijing, China in 1917, but moved to America during the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949. Because she lived near universities like Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she often met students who missed their culture’s food. As she got older and began to have a family, she continued to cook Chinese food for her children. Once they went off to college, she often cooked food to be served at college events. Her food quickly became popular which inspired her to open her own restaurant called “Joyce Chen Restaurant” in 1958. Chen wanted to keep her food healthy, so she left out ingredients like red dye, which was very unhealthy. She served it buffet-style to let her customers sample all foods. Chen also liked to keep her menu in a few translations to make sure her customers that spoke a different language could order without having a translator.

Her restaurant boomed and she began to teach cooking classes along with it. Once she opened her second restaurant, “The Joyce Chen Small Eating Place” in 1967, she was granted her own cooking show which was aired worldwide on PBS. After that, she released her own line of cooking utensils. She also released her own cookbook and bottled Chinese sauces and oils.

Nellie Bly, originally known as Elizabeth Jane Cochran, was a famous writer and wrote in muckraking, a style of investigative journalism, in the 1880s. One day, Nellie was reading an article that was complaining about women being in the workforce and was unnerved by it. She decided to take matters into her own hands and start writing her own stories. She began working as a columnist which boosted her remarkability.

Once she became a famous writer, she attempted to find a new job in New York City, but found it hard considering her gender in a male-dominated field. Bly not only snagged a job working in “New York World” but was also assigned to investigate a very infamous mental hospital, Blackwell’s Island. She made the smart decision to fake mental illness to get access to the facility. To be able to convince them of her illness, she practiced and practiced faking it at home.

“So I flew to the mirror and examined my face. I remembered all I had read of the doings of crazy people, how first of all they have staring eyes, and so I opened mine as wide as possible and stared unblinkingly at my own reflection.” Bly wrote in her article.

After long nights of practicing, she made her way to a temporary home. She only had to push her way through one night before she was taken into custody for examination. After a long process of questioning, examining, and being pronounced “positively demented”, she was sent off to her final destination. Blackwell’s Island.

“For five days we were compelled to sit in the room all day. I never put in such a long time. Every patient was stiff and sore and tired. We would get in little groups on benches and torture our stomachs by conjuring up thoughts of what we would eat first when we got out,”Bly wrote.

After ten long days in the asylum, New York World lawyers arranged for her to get out.

Her series, Ten Days in the Madhouse, quickly became popular and made her an even more notable author. After this, she continued to expose other corrupt parts of New York. In the end, she managed to accomplish many things including developing a practice called investigative journalism, which is still used today.

Deborah Rushing is the Student resource officer at Shawnee Mission West. She has been impacting student lives on a daily since January, but before that, she had worked in the special education department for around 10 years. She recently switched from special education to being a campus officer at the SMSD police department because she felt that she had achieved everything in that field.

“And I feel like it’s important that we’re lifelong learners,” Rushings said.

When the opportunity came up for the job, she pursued it. Her family has always been working in the service of others, which inspired her to become an officer. 

She had to go through some intense training at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center for about 6 weeks to become a certified police officer. Surprisingly enough, there were 30 males in the training program and only three females. Rushings is, as of now, the only female certified officer in her department.

“Because, you know, we can, of course, do anything the guys can do as far as enforcing the law. But I think we also bring a component. Women are just, I think, intrinsically more intuitive.” Rushing stated.

She uses herself as an example, being the type to display a lot of emotion, and women in general have a little bit more of a connection. This goes for her children too. She has two, one being a girl who she’s taught to persevere and to not let things stand in the way of something that she’s passionate about. This goes for all women out there, “Lead your life in a way that’s passionate, not pleasing.” She says to use your voice, and to make yourself heard. Bringing your opinion to the table does not make you bossy, it makes you a boss. There’s a difference, she says.

As for the challenges she faces, she is smaller in stature than the other males in her department which might cause people to treat her with less respect, or disrespect her authority. She also says that she can’t let her emotions get the best of her in this field, you have to have a good poker face.

“So I think it’s the same thing in law enforcement, if you’re dealing with someone who’s in crisis, they need your response to be calming.” Rushing said. 

Rushing had many kind words for all the women (and men) out there. She encourages everyone to stand up for themselves, to not let anyone stand in their way. Rushing also likes to think that we have two hands for a reason, one to help ourselves, and one to help others. She explains that you should always look for opportunities in life to use that other hand to help others.

Just these three women have created pivotal things for us like blueprints for wifi, investigative journalism, and even brought chinese food to America.  There are so many women out there that have benefited society that many people have neglected to give credit to, and this article helps deep dive into a few women who have played a part in that.