Jackson Norbutas

Adolfo Camarillo High School | Camarillo, CA | 10th

Inspirational Family Member
Audrey Marie Fontenot

My name is Audrey Marie Fontenot. I was born in Louisiana in the year 1939. I never had an easy path through life, which is why I believe that family is the most important backbone of society. Obviously I didn’t grow up with equality between the sexes, even my great-grandchildren might not grow up with the equality that we strive for, but what got me through the tough times is family.

When growing up, I didn’t start school until I was around seven years old, which is weird to think about now, with all the new pre-Kindergarten classes. My parents were sharecroppers, so you could say that we weren’t the wealthiest of folks. I had one brother and two sisters, so growing up, it was pretty crowded, and if you didn’t love your family, you hated them. Well we were about as close as a family as you would find. I was constantly sick as a child, and when I wasn’t sick, I would be out in the fields with my family. In this environment, school wasn’t the easiest it could have been. I ended up dropping out and moving to Eunice, Louisiana when I was eighteen. While I was there, I got a job working at a drive-through restaurant as a waitress. While working there, I met the love of my life, Harold Fontenot. I had to quit my job and move back to my hometown to help with family problems.

Harold would come out and visit me all the time and seven months later, we decided to get married. I moved back to Eunice to be with Harold, and in 1959, only one year later, we had our first child, Dwayne. From that point on our family kept growing with Cindy, Kackie, and our youngest child Vickie. We wanted children, but we didn’t plan to have a big family, and looking back, it truly was a gift from God.

Harold's family came from a very poor region of the state as well so he was used to home raising animals just as I was and it was his idea to eventually raise rabbits. When it was time for them to be butchered, our family had grown too attached to the rabbits and Harold had to release them in the forest. Many years later, Harold brought home a turtle, a live turtle. While I never loved turtle meat, Harold loved it and I knew that. I watched him struggle for only a short while to clean the turtle with his horrible arthritis until I pitched in an effort. He talked me through how to get the meat prepared, and after a long nap, I told him to never bring home any more exotic animals because if he wants it, we could just go to the store and buy the food already prepared. A few years later he brings home a chicken.

After decades of fun, laughter, and good times, Harold passed away. I truly realized the gift of family after that point in my life. I had nothing but support from my friends, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. To think that some of my family is treated unfairly compared to my other family is a horrible thought. When you are a family, it doesn’t matter if you are a guy or a girl. All that matters is that you should always have support from your family, and respect from your coworkers. At the end of the day, we remember the day we got plumbing, we all remember the day we got electricity, and we all remember what it was like to be put down by someone else. So why should half of us suffer?

Historical Figure I Admire
Alexandra Van Grippenberg

Alexandra Van Grippenberg, a name that not many people are familiar with, was a Finnish author, newspaper publisher, elected politician, and just about anything else you can think of, she has done. She lived to the age 58, and it could easily be said she was the leading voice in the women's rights for equality movement in Finland. She was born on August 30, 1855 in Kurkijoki, Finland. As early as the age of 28, Alexandra Van Grippenberg (nicknamed Fennoman) took an interest in the worldwide movement for women's rights. In the year 1883, she attended the Women’s Congress in Washington D.C., which was also the start for her tour through the United States and England to study women’s rights in order to write her book, A Half Year in the New World.

When she returned back to Finland after her journey, she had many new ideas on how to establish a strong sense of equality in her home country. In 1884, Alexandra Van Grippenberg was a founding member of the Finnish Women’s Association. In this, Alexandra Van Grippenberg was the head of a campaign for political, educational, and professional equality. The second part of this campaign was to support equal property ownership and divorce laws, the last part of the campaign was to abolish the state-regulated prostitution.

Only five years later she became the vice president of the International Council of Women. This is the start of her appearance on the world stage, which will be seen again only a few years later in 1906. That year, she won the vote and spent her term attempting to educate all women to be wise political participants. Three years later she was elected to the Finnish Diet (Finnish Assembly) where she argued against the legislation that protected women saying that if anyone got special treatment, there will never be equality. One of the last attempts for women’s rights that she made only one year before her passing was she founded the Finnish National Council of Women and was elected its first president.

All in all, Alexandra Van Grippenberg was a social activist in the movement of women’s rights and in her reach for equality she became an author, a newspaper publisher, an activist, and an elected politician.

What the Project Means to Me

This project on Women’s Rights has really opened my eyes to the struggles that people have taken to be treated fairly. Being a man, I never truly understood the struggles that women have gone through to be treated fairly, and I still will never be able to grasp the full extent of problems women go through because men are void of going through them just for being a man.

My favorite part of the essay was talking to the elders in my family about their experiences and what they had to go through, I think it was fun mostly because I could tell that they loved to have their story heard. Learning not only the struggles of women in our country, but also the struggles of the world made this project more interesting because it helped me broaden my picture of how connected our planet is, even across oceans and borders. Learning about one of the first women politicians of Finland was very heart warming because I got to write one of the first biographies about a very dedicated woman who saw inequality in everything she worked on and worked her entire life to change it. I was amazed when she went against a law that said women get extra benefits because that is one of the biggest struggles in life, to not just throw away a problem by “paying” people to look the other way, but by sitting down and actually solving the problem.

My grandmother has always been a family person, and after my grandfather passed away, I thought that she would want to have their stories shared. All in all, this project was a fun learning experiment and I’m glad that I now know more about the Women’s Right to Vote movement.

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