UB – the University at Buffalo – as a Sexist Institution (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

When I first entered the University at Buffalo as an undergraduate student in 1989, I felt included. For me, as a woman, it is important to me to feel and be a part of any group or institution that truly “includes” women, both appreciating and respecting women. The atmosphere that is present at UB today, in 2014, however, has changed. UB has become a sexist institution that promotes a perspective and images that make men the priority. Women’s concerns and interests have taken a backseat to those of men, sometimes being entirely excluded. What happened?

The University at Buffalo (UB) is one of the four university centers within the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Being born and raised in Western New York State, I was aware of UB as an institution that was prestigious, with a reputation for educational excellence. As a high school senior, I was accepted at all of the eight or ten colleges and universities to which I applied. UB was actually my second choice behind Ithaca College, though I chose to attend UB because of the lesser cost, closer proximity to home, and excellent reputation as a research institution. I had been interested in pursuing a medically-related career at that time, and I am an individual who gets much enjoyment from completing research, so UB seemed the perfect place for me to go after high school.

After arriving at UB, I quickly gained the feeling that it was a place in which I could soar, and I was correct. In my first year there, I became a member of several student organizations in which I was interested; studied a science-related curriculum to prepare for a medical career; worked part-time in my dormitory complex; was active in the university wind ensemble and chorus; and was a member of both the indoor and outdoor women’s track and field teams. I was not, nor have ever been a “partier;” and I never put on the “freshman 15.” In fact, I became more busy and active at UB, getting into better shape, and structuring my life and managing my time so that I would be as successful as possible. While doing this, I also met new people, made new friends, tried out different avenues of interests and enjoyment, and stayed as focused on my studies as possible.

As a member of the women’s track and field team at UB, I was one of the Royals. The men were the Bulls, and the women were the Royals. My specialty areas were in field events, including shot put, discus, and javelin. In my last two years of high school, I was recognized as one of the top competitors in shot put and discus throughout Western New York State. While I also competed in nearly every other event throughout the six years that I was a member of my varsity high school team, those two were my top events. As a Royal, I was a proud member of the women’s team at UB. Today, women’s sports teams are only known as Bulls, a masculine term that excludes, overlooks, and denies the “femaleness” of women. As such and in the manner that it is used at UB, the term ‘Bulls’ has become a sexist word that excludes women, and in turn, prioritizes only the gender, concerns, and interests of men.

Throughout most of my time spent at UB as an undergraduate, I was also a member of the university’s pep band. The Pep Band was a group that played songs during men’s home football and basketball games to liven up the crowd. The Pep Band also played at one away football game per semester. In my schooling prior to attending UB, I had been a member of the band and marching band for eight years. Included as a requirement for being a band member in high school was participating in both the marching band and pep band. Therefore, while UB did not have a marching band at that time, I was quite familiar with what was expected and required of musicians, whether they were extremely serious or playing just for fun. The Pep Band provided an outlet for students to play their instruments socially and recreationally.

Thunder of the East Logo (Retrieved on June 16, 2014 fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_of_the_East)

Thunder of the East Logo (Retrieved on June 16, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_of_the_East)

At UB today, there is the Thunder of the East Marching Band. The main logo that promotes the image of the group reflects a man playing a trumpet. Inequality and sexism are represented in the image because of this. There is no woman who is reflected in the logo. Women are completely excluded from being portrayed in the logo, though the marching band is not a group that is exclusively male. This reflects another situation in which men’s gender, interests, and concerns take priority over women, excluding women.

At UB, I never had a boyfriend. As a heterosexual woman, that was a part of my life that was lacking. At more than half way through my senior year, I was still a virgin, and was quite proud of it. I had prided myself in trying remain chaste for the “right” person. Certainly, I dated and always had many male friends, with many who were very good friends – respectful, caring, protective, and gentlemanly, more like good brothers. But, there was never one who could adjust to my busy and focused lifestyle; perhaps there was never a man who wanted to work as hard as it would be required to maintain an intimate relationship with me. My focus was on my studies and activities, ending up with completing two degrees in the less than 3.5 years, less than the amount of time that it takes most students to complete one degree. And, perhaps I was not willing to “make” the time necessary for which an intimate relationship would have required to be successful. Through all of this, it was still okay at UB for me to make my own decision in regard to the types and levels of intensity of my relationships with others.

In the latter part of 1992, in my last semester at UB as an undergraduate, a peer raped me. The rape occurred on a blind date with him that had been arranged by two mutual friends, one of whom was a fraternity member. This man was a fellow UB student, two years younger than me, from Downstate New York who was also a member of the same fraternity as our mutual friend. The morning following the violent and hurtful rape that I experienced, I informed my two friends about it, and one friend encouraged me to confront the rapist about it by phone, another hurtful experience for me. While four people knew of the rape, it was not reported until I reported it to UB campus police a few years later, having caused all those involved to protect the rapist so that he cleanly got away with his crime, as well as creating accomplices out of our mutual “friends.”

In later reporting the crime to public safety at UB, one of the police chiefs laughed about it, dismissing it and minimizing it. The case went through the legal system, but the perpetrator was never charged, nor prosecuted. He got away with a violent rape in which I was harmed and injured in many ways. No one at UB provided me with any support in coping with what had occurred. No one told me that women at college and university campuses may have a chance of being raped. No one told me that men who are members of many college and university fraternities believe rape is sex. No one told me that the assistant district attorney in Buffalo would deny that I was raped, telling me that I had not been raped. No one told me that my life would be forever altered by being trusting of a man who was twisted in his thoughts and actions, violently raping and harming me, and getting away with it. No one asks to be raped. And, when it happens, I have experienced that it is the victim or survivor who is blamed, revictimized, and punished by many in society who do not hold the offender responsible or accountable for his actions.

Ejaculating Snow Penis at UB in 2010 (Retrieved on May 28, 2014 from http://photographsbyseon.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-snow-phallus-is-back/)

Ejaculating Snow Penis at UB in 2010 (Retrieved on May 28, 2014 from http://photographsbyseon.wordpress.com/ 2010/02/27/the-snow-phallus-is-back/)

Colleges and universities in which there is a rape culture present within their fraternities are not only sexist and harmful, but criminal. When all those who are supposed to protect women from harm, and support them in their reporting and recovery, but do not do so, and instead, support the actions of the rapist, they embolden and enable such men to continue their criminal actions, believing they can get away with it, because they have gotten away with it. It has been my experience that this hidden rape culture within certain fraternities at UB has continued and has been perpetuated. The annual tradition of fraternity men creating snow sculptures of ejaculating penises is only one reflection that this hidden rape culture within UB’s fraternities still exists, and is very much alive and well.

Lastly, when I completed my studies at UB in 1992, and returned to attend the graduation ceremony in 1993, it was a Division III institution. There had been a lot of talk and news about the possibility of UB going to Division I. Many students did not think it would happen; in fact, many hoped that it would not happen, including myself. This is because there was a belief among students that football would detract from UB’s reputation as a renowned research university in the Northeastern United States. My experience, as well as that of many students and faculty, was to observe that to occur.

In 1994 and 1995, I returned to UB and took several classes as an open student. I completed undergraduate courses, a graduate course, and a post-graduate class. It was during that time that I realized that the atmosphere and mood at UB had changed. Football became the “all important” aspect of UB. An example of that occurred in my sociology class. In my class were three football players who had extremely disrespectful attitudes and toilet mouths. They were disrespectful to the instructor, resistant and angry about having to attend class (and often, did not do so), and sat in the back of the class, swearing and causing disruption. Unfortunately, because they were football players, they were “untouchable.” They got away with all of these behaviors, and appeared to have the support of the heads of the athletics department in their unruliness. They acted abominably and they got away with it. Professors were afraid to speak out and express themselves about the manner in which education was deteriorating at UB, having been replaced with football, so lauded and supported by the institution’s president.

Women who enter UB, as well as other colleges and universities, must be informed and educated about these types of issues that are present in institutions of higher education so that we can better empower, bond with, and protect ourselves. Our society so often teaches girls and women that we must sacrifice ourselves, our identities, our safety, our intelligence, our feelings, our bodies to men. In order to survive and even prosper, women have often learned that it is a man’s world, and that we must be submissive and/or subservient to men. There are men and women who perpetuate this societal standard when they promote issues such as sexism and inequality toward women, as well as issues including sexual assault and rape. Denying and turning a blind eye to resolving these issues only promotes a culture that becomes even more sexist, unequal, harmful, and violent toward women and girls.

Prestigious universities such as UB have an opportunity to get back on the right track. College and university leaders must remain open-minded when faced with issues such as sexism, inequality, and sexual assault on campus, including rapes experienced by both women and men. They must not attempt to hide, cover up, ridicule, deny, or minimize these situations. Doing so only worsens and perpetuates them. College and university leaders must promote environments on campus that are fair and equal, respectful and appreciative, caring and sensitive.

I went to UB to gain an excellent education. While I, indeed, obtained a great education from an outstanding institution, I also graduated from UB, unnecessarily, as a rape victim and survivor. 😦 No one did anything to prevent or stop it from happening then, and to my knowledge, the culture there has not changed for the better for women, thus still perpetuating its continuance now.  UB did not make it better for me, but it can still make things better for others.

Author’s Note: This post – along with dozens of others regarding campus sexual assault – is listed on the National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence website as of January 1, 2015 at: http://www.ncdsv.org/publications_sa-campus.html .

Remembering American Military Veterans on this Memorial Day (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

My son put out the American flag today, in special remembrance of America’s military veterans and in celebration of Memorial Day 2014.  Putting out the flag has become somewhat of a tradition for him throughout the past few years, particularly since it was a requirement for one of his achievements as a Cub Scout.  Today, he put out the flag as a new Boy Scout.  Last evening, my family also watched the Memorial Day tribute celebration on television, as broadcasted by PBS.  That has also been a tradition in my family for many years.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the annual Memorial Day broadcast.

In remembrance of military veterans in my family, I have authored this article, having arranged photos and/or memorabilia of all of those known family members and/or ancestors who have served in the American military.  I am thankful for those who have risked their lives and/or who have given their lives for the freedoms that I enjoy.

One important issue to keep in mind, however, is that our freedoms may be our right, but should also be practiced with appropriate reason and rationalization.  I stated this, particularly due to interpretations of the Second Amendment of our country’s Constitution, in regard to the right to bear arms.  We should all keep in mind that while we have a right to bear arms, that does not mean that we have the right to take another’s life, unless circumstances absolutely warrant it in matters of self-protection.  Let us not allow the right to bear arms, as well as monetary-backed interests to that aim, to remain more important than protecting people’s lives.

May we all strive to live together in peace and harmony.  Let us all remember the sacrifices of those who serve and who have served in our military forces so that not only our freedoms are maintained, but so that the spirit of democracy may infuse those in other countries, as well.  May our military forces stationed in Afghanistan soon return home, and back to our wonderful democracy!

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran's Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran’s Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, , Hamburg, New York, 1880s

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, Hamburg, New York, 1880s

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

John Nice, Jr.,  American Military Member

John Nice, Jr., American Military Member

I am also aware that one of the Tomaszewski men (formerly of Gowanda, New York, and now of Chicago, Illinois), a cousin to my mom, was a pilot in the Air Force, possibly in the Vietnam War.

These photos, information, and memorabilia represent all those known individuals within my family, and from my family ancestry, who have served in the American military.  I salute you for your risks, sacrifices, and in the case of David Briggs, his ultimate sacrifice, for the freedoms and protections of others.  While I have taught history, and honor and appreciate our military veterans, I am not one who has the will to risk my life in possible sacrifice in the military.  You all are a credit to our country for your service, and to the preservation of democracy.

Some Photos from my Briggs, Staffin, Ritter, and Gale Family Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nearly all of my vintage and antique family photos are from my dad’s side of the family.  Because my mother’s family were immigrants from Poland to Germany to the United States through Ellis Island around 1950, I have fewer than a hand full of vintage photos from my mom’s side of the family, the Krakowiak side, though I do have a few.  Photos and tin types from my dad’s side of the family include those from the following families: Babcock, Briggs, Gould, Hoyler, Staffin, Gale, McEwen, Crawford, Cole, Ritter, Henn, and Goetz.  And, those are just the images, while there are other families who are part of my ancestry, including Rump, Rodgers, and others.

My direct ancestral heritage – in addition to that of Poland from the Krakowiak family – reflects people from England, particularly the families of Gale, Bulson, and McGee; the French and German ancestry of Adelia Staffin; and the German ancestry gained from the families of Gould, Rump, and Henn; and both Hoyler and Ritter (through marriage).   The Briggs’ and Babcock’s were also from England, but had been settled in the United States prior to the Gale’s.  My ancestry can also be traced back to England’s King Henry VIII, as a result of his many marriages; and Clement Briggs, one of my ancestors, who traveled to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1621 on the Mayflower.  The name “Briggs” has many variations; and is believed to have been derived from Saxon William atte Brigge of County Norfolk, England in the 1200s.  That is the furthest back in time that I have been able to trace some of my ancestry.

The following photos and tin types are those that I have selected to reflect some of the many images of my ancestral heritage from the Briggs, Staffin, and Gale families, as I know it, so that the richness of culture, values, and family can be shared and enjoyed outside of my family, as well.  The photos were taken in North Collins and Collins, New York, near Buffalo.  I will make additional posts with pictures reflecting the other families identified in the near future.  Note that for photos that have estimated dates, I have tried to date them as best as possible to reflect an accurate time of when they were taken.

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1840

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1860 (Tin Type)

This is the oldest tin type that I have that reflects ancestors of my family.  The tin type was in the condition seen in the photo when I got it from my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, so I have carefully preserved it as best as I can.

Adelia Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad's Mother's Father's Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1845

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad’s Mother’s Father’s Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1865-1875 (Tin Type)

Adelia was said to have been a short, but fiery and tough woman.  It is possible that she was married through an arranged marriage to my great great grandfather, Wallace Briggs, because they married when they were kids.  It does not even appear that Adelia is 13 years old in the first picture in this post, however it is believed that she and Wallace were married at about that age.  Adelia and Wallace had five boys (Clarence, Howard, Harold, Sumner, and John); and while I am unsure about how Adelia died, it is possible that she died in childbirth.  She would have been 26 when Clarence was born (the second oldest son) and 37 when John was born.  The oldest boy was Sumner, born in 1879 when Adelia would have been 23.

No one in my family seemed to know how Adelia died, or if they did, they did not talk about it.  I know that she seemed to have died at a young age (possibly under 40 years old), and Wallace married a second wife, Veronica, having four boys (Ivan, William, Lawrence, and Leo) with her.  Therefore, nine Briggs’ boys grew up and at least seven of them (all but for Howard and William “Bill”) had families in North Collins, New York in the 20th century.  Birth and death dates that I have, as recorded by my grandmother, for Adelia’s and Wallace’s sons are as follows: Sumner (1879-1939), Clarence (1882-1953), Howard (1886-1944), John (1892-1934), and Harold (1893-1965).

Sumner Briggs married Frances Creed, and they had four children, including Rexford, Emerson “Coon,” Harriet, and Buddy.  Howard Briggs was a bachelor.  John Briggs married Ella Rieckhof, and they had one child, Lois, who married Harold Rodgers.  Lois and Harold had a daughter, Margo, who had a son, Eric, who would be about my age.  Harold Briggs married Emma North; they had a son, James, who married Mabel Orton.  James and Mabel had three children, including Beverly, Barbara, and Bruce Briggs.  I know that Ivan married Louise Gullo, and they had three children, including twin girls and a son, David (who died in the Vietnam War).  Bill married Ruth, but they did not have any children.  I don’t know about descendants of Lawrence or Leo.

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs was the daughter of John Staffin and Phoebe (Wilcox) Staffin; and she was the sister of Mary Ann (Staffin) Smith (who married John Smith) and William Adam Staffin (who married Cora Wickham).  John Staffin was born in 1830 to Adam Staffen (1804-1869) and Anna (Mathias or Mathis) Staffen (1807-1886), and was brother to 10 siblings.  Anna’s father was Johann Mathis, who was a blacksmith, and her mother was Anna Maria (Schmitt) Mathis.  Adam and Anna sailed to the United States through Ellis Island from France in 1840, purchasing land in Collins, New York.  They had left their home in Saarlouis, Germany to sail from the Port of LeHarve in France, coming to the US with $800.

Adam and Anna were schoolteachers, teaching in a large room of their home; and Adam was also a stone mason and farmer.  At that time, the Staffen’s school was the only one in the area, and young men traveled from miles around to be educated by them.  They taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were paid in kind with raw materials rather than money. When Adam and Anna Staffen came to the United States, they spoke fluent French and High German.  They were Roman Catholic, and are buried in the Langford Catholic Cemetery in Langford, New York.

Adam Staffen was one of three sons (Jacob, Adam, and Nikolas) of Johann Steffen (1748-1814) and Susanna Girlinger (1766-1833).  Susanna’s parents were Phillip Girlinger and Maria (Bauer) Girlinger.  Phillip was a farmer in Germany.  Johann Steffen was the son of Simon Steffen (1716-1771) and Catharina (Schwartz) Steffen.  In 1741, the marriage record of Stefan Simon (who changed his name to Simon Steffen around 1847) reflects that he married Catharina Schwartz, and that her parents were Franz Schwartz and Apollonia (Everhard) Schwartz.  Simon’s parents were Dominicus Simon and Catharina (Corsain) Simon.  Around 1838, Simon and Catherine moved from Longville, France to Ittersdorf, Germany, although rule changed from German to French rule at that time.  It is possible that the move and name change were due to political reasons.

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin's

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin’s

Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s parents were Chauncey L. Wickham and Rosene (Spaulding) Wickham.  Cora married William Adam Staffin – brother to Adelia (Staffin) Briggs.  Cora and William had (I believe) four children, including Marion Staffin, Charleton W. Staffin, Burton W. Staffin, and Burnell E. Staffin.  Somewhere along the line, I do not have an exact record of at least one generation of the family, somewhere in-between Anna Staffin marrying Edward C. Ritter.  I do know, however, that Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s grandchildren included Sara Jane Staffin, Mary Ann Staffin, Robert C. Staffin, and Norman R. Staffin.  I just don’t know whose children they were – Charleton’s, Burton’s, or Burnell’s.

Marion Staffin married, though I do not know what her married name was.  I believe that they had a daughter or granddauther, possibly named, Anna, and she married Ed Ritter.  Ed Ritter, to my knowledge, had several siblings, including Fritz Ritter, Herbert Ritter, Mrs. Hoyt Prince, Mrs. Guy Hickey, Mrs. Clarence Simmons, and possibly another sister and another brother, though I am unsure of their names.  Ed and Anna Ritter did not have any children.  To my knowledge, Ed was a butcher, and I have a tin type of him reflecting that.

My Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, standing at left; Others Unknown. Circa 1870-1880.

Tin Type of my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, Standing at Left; Others Unknown, North Collins, New York. Circa 1900-1910.

This is a tin type that shows my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, as a young man, possibly around 1900-1910.  I do not know the identities of the other young men in the image.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo shows my 15 additional tin types from my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, NY, Circa 1930-1940

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, New York, Circa 1930-1940

My great great grandfather owned and operated an ice carting business in North Collins, New York.  He transported blocks of ice to people’s homes for their use in refrigeration, such as in their root cellars.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890 (Photo Taken in Springville, New York)

This is a photo of Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and possibly Howard Briggs, from North Collins, New York around 1890.  It is the best photo that I have of them as young boys.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

From what I understood from my grandmother, this photo was supposed to be a silly picture of three of these Briggs’ young men.  They went on an outing and had several different photos made on this day, reflecting different backgrounds and venues.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

This is a photo of my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, as a baby in 1912 in North Collins, New York.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

In this photo, my grandmother was about two years old.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

This is a photo of my grandmother either on the day of her engagement or wedding to my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

This is the only photo that I have that shows both of my great grandparents, Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, in the same photo.  This was taken in 1946 in Collins, New York at the childhood home of my father, Bruce Babcock.

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, New York, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

This is a photo of John Briggs, a brother of my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, from North Collins, New York in 1917 before he went off to fight in World War I.  There were several Briggs’ brothers who fought in the War, and they all returned home alive.

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

This is a photo of identical twins, Marie and Veronica Briggs, from April 1941.  They are daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs of North Collins.  David Briggs was the son of Ivan and Louise, and died while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. For many years, there was a memorial to David outside the front of the Catholic Church in North Collins, New York.

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Here is  another photo of the twins.  They were about three-years-old in this picture. Veronica was named after her grandmother, Veronica.

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing these photos.  I will make additional posts with photos that reflect the others of my ancestral families that I identified, shortly.

References and Sources:

Anna Emerling Spengler (~1980).  The Emerling Family Tree: Chapter 7 – The Staffins.  Springville/Collins, New York.

Family tin types, photos, and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

The Name and Family of Briggs: Manuscript Number 341 (1984).  New York, NY: Roots Research Bureau, Ltd.

Wentland Funeral Home (1968).  Funeral Card of David I. Briggs.  North Collins, NY: Wentland Funeral Home.

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.

“America’s Invisible Poor: White Single Mothers” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The holiday season is the time of year for giving, including giving and generosity to the poor and less fortunate.  This church is collecting food for this food drive, and this bank is collecting for this canned food drive, and this grocery store is collecting these toys, etc.  This is all wonderful and needed in our society in which the poor are often invisible and forgotten.  Following the crash of the housing markets and real estate in this country in 2007, the economy has not been kind to the poor; and, indeed, many of those who began experiencing poverty at that time are still impoverished.  Times are still difficult for those who are poor, and who live at or below poverty level.

In the United States, a country in which the highest current poverty rates are among Blacks, followed by Hispanics, the population by race that has evidenced lowest poverty is Whites.  Even so, in my own observations among Caucasians, those who experience the invisibility of poverty are single and/or divorced mothers.  Perhaps because the present poverty rate among Whites is less than 10% of the population in the United States, and because Caucasians are the majority race in this country, particular poverty among White single mothers is relatively invisible.  I mean, how many White single mothers do you know who are in poverty?  Perhaps because I am more cognizant of it, I am aware of several, though are you able to identify any?  I would like to share a bit about those Caucasian women who are divorced and/or single mothers in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

One Caucasian woman I know, who is in her early 40s, is a divorced, single mother of one child, and has lived below poverty level for the past five years.  She is educated with a master’s degree, but has been unable to acquire gainful employment for the past 5.5 years.  She has received several forms of public assistance within the past four years, received unemployment benefits for more than two years, and is currently receiving food stamps.

While this lady is appreciative of the assistance that she has received, it has not been enough to raise her socioeconomic status, and she continues to live below poverty level.  She has also received some financial, food, and clothing assistance through a charitable organization that is associated with her church in the past two years.  She lost her home, experienced a bankruptcy, does not have health insurance, and has been unemployed for the past 4.5 years.  Also being depleted throughout a period of several years has been her retirement account.  She is also a recipient of food and support from her extended family.  What she desires is gainful employment in order to care for and support her family.

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/ 218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

Another Caucasian woman whom I know is experiencing a divorce.  She is a woman in her late 20s to early 30s.  Her husband had an affair, left her and their four children, and is living with his mistress.  Having four young children, she has remained at home to care for and raise them, and is not employed outside of the home.  She is also not educated beyond high school.  Her husband left her and their four young children, along with a house that she is unable to pay for.  She hired a divorce attorney who is well-known in the area, and hopes to utilize his services in order to secure as stable a financial future for herself and the children as possible.

One young White woman whom I know has three children and is pregnant with her fourth.  She is about 18-20 years old, and she and her children live with her parents.  She does not have a boyfriend or significant partner involved in her life to provide assistance to her or the children.  She remains at home to care for her children, is not employed outside of her home, and does not have health insurance.  She receives food stamps, and is in a program to potentially receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF).  The TANF program requires her to come to four two-hour meetings during a one to two month period in order to receive assistance.

This lady must leave her children in the care of her parents, and take a bus – including a switch-over to a second bus – throughout a long distance, in order to attend the TANF meetings for potential assistance.  She went to one meeting, and did not attend any of the others.  She feels tired and hopeless that she will ever receive the assistance and support that she needs in order to better herself and her circumstances.  For a young woman, she is the most passive and hopeless White single mother whom I know.  I have wondered, myself, if her circumstances involve incest or sexual assault, particularly because she lives with her family and she began having babies at the age of 14 or 15 years old.

Another woman whom I know is also White and single due to her husband’s death.  She is in her 30s, works as a hair dresser, and has four children, including a newborn.  Her husband committed suicide; he did not present with noticeable symptoms to her of being depressed or suicidal, however I would have considered him to be an alcoholic.  She is responsible for the four children, the family home, the costs of the recent remodeling done to the home. and the new truck.  She has received the assistance and support of her parents, as well as by some people in the community and through church.

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Yet a further White woman whom I know is in her 40s, and is recently separated from her common law husband of 20 years, with one child.  While together, the woman and man had their struggles, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and went through a bankruptcy.  The woman has not worked in many years, does not have health insurance, and was reliant on the meager financial support of her common law husband and his parents.

This woman’s parents died when she was a child, and she, herself, was raised by her eldest brother.  She applied for food stamps and was required to provide documentation of her financial status, though she was unable to submit all documents because her partner refused to give them to her.  The food stamp case worker required her to jump through several hoops that she was unable to do because her partner was uncooperative, thus contributing to the further detriment of the woman and their child.

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

Regarding this woman, at one point, her broke down, and she was unable to pay for repairs, causing further hardship.  She and her partner, both, have had many sexual partners throughout their own relationship, with her partner openly speaking about his current mistress to her and their child.  The woman, herself, has intimate relationships with both men and women by meeting people on ashleymadison.com; some of these liaisons provide her with money and/or high ticket items that she uses to support herself and her child.  In short, she has become like a prostitute, trading sex for money and/or merchandise in order to survive.

A sixth woman whom I know is also a White single mother.  She is in her 20s, has one young daughter, and lives with her parents.  She works, but is not educated beyond high school.  When her daughter is not in school, her parents take care of the girl.  Of the women I have described above, this lady and her daughter might more closely “fit” what many people may believe is the appearance of being poor.  They are both very thin, and their clothing is of a lesser than average quality.  In cold weather, they both wear light-weight clothing and jackets that do not keep out the cold.  They do not speak of being in need, though it clearly appears that they are.

Another woman whom I know is White and in her 50s with one daughter.  She is divorced, and had been employed as an office manager at a small insurance company.  Two of the young male managers of her company praised and praised her for all of her wonderful work, overtime, and upgrading of the company, but were really being deceitful and fired her, taking over her position.  She filed for unemployment, but is having difficulty with her case because the managers are supporting each other and not her.  She was devastated at losing her job – her sole income; and she lost her home and possessions because her property went into foreclosure.

This lady is extremely depressed, and is taking anti-depressant medication.  She and her daughter now live in a rented room in someone’s residence.  She receives food stamps and welfare (TANF).  She had been attending regular TANF meetings, but has stopped coming out of her despair, devastation, and hopelessness.  She has no family in this area to help provide emotional or financial support.  I am very concerned about her, have given her some emotional support, and have privately prayed for her well-being.

These women are examples of some Caucasians in the Atlanta, Georgia area who are divorced and/or single mothers, and who are in poverty or in need.  All of these women – but for the sixth one – dress well, appear to be fit and healthy, and care for their children as best as they can.  Yet, they are often ignored and overlooked in their poverty because – as some have said they have been told – they don’t “look like” they are poor or in need.  These women are experiencing the invisibility of poverty of Whites who are single and/or divorced mothers.

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

I, for one, would just like to say that looks are deceiving.  The examples of invisible poverty experienced by the women I have described herein are just that – that looks are deceiving.  Just because the women do not “appear” to be poor, impoverished, or in need does not mean that they are not.  People make all kinds of incorrect assumptions and misjudgments about others simply based on the way that they look on the outside, but sometimes, those notions couldn’t be more wrong.

Because there are more Black and Hispanics who are impoverished in the US than other groups, these are the populations that one might typically think of when generalizing about those who are poor.  On any given day, if one visits a local welfare office in and around Atlanta, about half of the people waiting for assistance are Black and the other half are Hispanic.  There are typically no (or extremely few) people of other races there who can be observed seeking assistance.  That leaves Whites at the bottom.

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html)

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/ publications/pub_912.html)

Because Caucasians are the majority race in the US, and because they experience the lowest rates of poverty in our country, there is an invisibility of poverty among Whites, especially among White mothers who are single and/or divorced, and their children.  Even while researching online to obtain information and images for this article, I did a search on Google, using the key words, “poverty in America,” and found only two images of White women (with their children) in poverty; one image was a famous Depression-era photo.  This is yet further evidence of the invisibility of the poverty of White single mothers in America.

More aid, assistance, and support is needed for White mothers who are single and/or divorced.  Better opportunities for child care, education, and employment are also needed for this population.  Too many White single mothers and their children are being ignored and overlooked in their poverty.  White single mothers and their children need not experience the invisibility of poverty because they are White.  This country can and must do better for those who are in need, especially those who are most vulnerable, overlooked, and invisible.

References

DeGraw, D. (2010).  Census Bureau poverty rate drastically undercounts severity of poverty in America.  AmpedStatus.  http://ampedstatus.com/census-bureau-poverty-rate-drastically-undercounts-severity-of-poverty-in-america/.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Federal Register (2013).  2013 HHS poverty guidelines.  Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, pp. 5182-5183Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Fight Poverty (2006).  Child poverty rates across the states, 2004.  Doors to Diplomacy 2006.  http://fightpoverty.mmbrico.com/facts/america.htmlRetrieved November 25, 2013.

First Coast News (2011).  Poverty rates rise in America.  First Coast News.  http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Landy, B. (2011).  Blog of the Century: Graph: Poverty on the rise in America.  The Century Foundation.  http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-americaRetrieved November 25, 2013.

Meier, D. (2013).  Bridging differences: What we talk about when we talk about poverty.  Education Week.  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

National American Indian Housing Council (2013).  NAIHC: Native Housing Update: HAC release report and map on rural areas, poverty & housing in America.  http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs165/1102839656375/archive/1112744786740.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Rogers, S. (2011).  US poverty: Where are the super poor?  The Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/nov/03/us-poverty-poorest.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wallace, B. (2012).  Poverty in America infographic.  Z6 Mag.  http://z6mag.com/lifestyle/poverty-in-america-inforgraphic-1613292.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wight, V.R., Chau, M., & Aratani, Y. (2010).  Who are America’s poor children?  National Center for Children in Poverty.  http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

“Remembering 9/11” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

The safety and security of our country became a thing of the past on September 11, 2001.  Terrorists highjacked large airplanes, crashing into our beloved Twin Towers and Pentagon, as well as (supposedly) a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, taking the lives and security of 1,000s of victims with them.  In the aftermath, countless families, friends, emergency responders, medical personnel, and all of America was deeply affected by the tragedies.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed America the face of evil and hatred.  As Americans living in our safe and cozy world of freedom and democracy, many are oblivious to the terrorism, hatred, and evil that occurs around us throughout the world – and on 9/11, in our own country.

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

About 27 years ago, I had a vision in a dream of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.  Because it was a dream, I did not know that the images that I saw would actually become a reality.  The instant that I heard on my vehicle’s radio of the plane crash into the first tower in New York City, I knew that the image that I had dreamed was real.  I was shocked, saddened, grieving, incredulous, and without words that what I had seen in my dream really happened. 

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

The actual image in my dream that I saw so many years ago was of both Twin Towers burning, and minutes after hearing of the first plane crash, the second occurred.  I had taken the day off from work that day due to a medical appointment, and after it, was glued to the television into the night, still incredulous about the terrorism that had occurred. 

Firefighters Raising Flag in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

Firefighters Raising Flag
in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

It was devastating to think that I might have been able to give some warning about the event, but did not, because I had not realized that it would be real. 😦 Then, I also think back and wonder if anyone would have believed me even if I did share about such a tragedy.  Would I have also come under scrutiny?  Had I known better, it would have been worth the risk to inform about what I saw in my dream.

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

I lived in Manhattan in 1993.  The Twin Towers that I fondly remember are those that stand tall and proud, high into the New York City skyline.  That is the New York that I remember.  And, while I prefer to remember the New York City that was in the past, we cannot escape the fact that terrorism does occur and that there are terrorists among us.  I believe that Americans must take greater care and caution in protecting ourselves on a greater scale, to be aware of anything that appears suspicious or amiss, to inform authorities and/or take personal action to deter or stop potential terrorist acts from occurring. 

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

While we have made great strides as a nation in strengthening and burgeoning our national security, the events that occurred at this year’s Boston marathon are a reminder that more needs to be done.  For the greater good and for the best interests of everyone – including the terrorists who cannot see that their actions are wrong – we, as a nation, must be more aware, take more action, and be more cautious and inform about others’ actions that may seem strange or suspicious. 

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

We must be aware when people take piloting classes, but are not interested in learning how to land a plane.  To me, that would immediately raise suspicions.  We must observe when people are carrying heavy backpacks into crowded events, placing and leaving them there.  We must be aware of people who park vehicles in particular areas and abandon them.  We might even be aware of people who wear heavy clothing on a hot day, in order to conceal a weapon. 

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

Americans must awaken from our slumber, no longer being complacent about our safety and security.  There are many people out there who hate Americans and who will do whatever possible to injure or kill as many of us as possible.  We must be vigilant of our surroundings and environment, taking action, removing our apathy and complacency. 

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

The events of 9/11 should have taught us that we should not necessarily view the world with rose-colored glasses any longer.  Let us always be aware and vigilant so that such terrorist actions are not repeated on our soil.

Photo Credit Websites:

1: http://www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress/events-091101.html

2: http://nwoobserver.wordpress.com/

3: http://www.kpbs.org/photos/galleries/2011/sep/06/remembering-911/

4: http://www.xtimeline.com/evt/view.aspx?id=837061

5: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/09/07/remembering-911

6: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/09/7-pentagon-attack-arlington-september-11-attacks-aftermath-pictures/

7: http://911blogger.com/news/2013-02-19/shanksville-pennsylvania-911-mysterious-plane-crash-site-without-plane

8: http://socyberty.com/issues/ten-years-after-the-attacks-of-september-11-2001-obama-recules-in-new-york-at-attacks/

9: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/11/11-years-later-nyc-remembers-911-terror-attacks/