About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going. She also manages the blogsite for the Women's Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos, a civic engagement group on Martha's Vineyard.

Missing: Abortion Services on MV

Did everybody see this important story in the May 24 Martha’s Vineyard Times?

It’s titled “New Study Reveals Gaps in Island Reproductive Services,” and that’s exactly what it does. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are the key points:

  • The study referred to in the headline, “Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health on Martha’s Vineyard,” was conducted last fall by Rural Health Scholars, a group of students from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and Medicine.
  • From the story: “The main findings of the study revealed a need for sexual education revamp at MVRHS, better support for the Island’s LGBTQ community, and inaccessibility to pregnancy termination services.”
  • Health Imperatives, the nonprofit that runs the M.V. Family Planning Clinic on State Road, Vineyard Haven, is federally funded and so can’t provide “pregnancy termination services,” i.e., abortions.
  • Not only is it impossible to get a surgical abortion on the island, medical abortions (a series of pills taken within the first eight weeks of pregnancy) aren’t available either.
  • Local pharmacies aren’t allowed to carry abortion pills, and to even prescribe the pills,physicians have to be certified by a pharmaceutical company.

To address the lack of access to pregnancy termination services on the Vineyard, the Friends of Family Planning (which supports the M.V. Family Planning Clinic) will host a public forum and panel discussion at the Old Whaling Church on August 4. What do Vineyard women want and need, and how do we best organize to get it?

Note also that Cecile Richards, former head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be speaking the very next day, August 5, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the summer M.V. Authors’ Series. Tickets are now available from Brown Paper Tickets. $45 includes a copy of Richards’s new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.

This sounds like a great opportunity to step up our efforts to improve women’s health care on Martha’s Vineyard!

Rally for Gun Safety

Before yesterday morning was out, news arrived of yet another school shooting, this one at the Santa Fe, Texas, high school. Nine students and one teacher were killed and ten others wounded, including a school resource officer who at last report was in critical condition. Once again the shooter was a white man: 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis surrendered to law enforcement at the scene and has confessed to the crime.

Word spread quickly on social media and via email, and despite the short notice about 15 Vineyarders gathered at Five Corners at 5:30 to mark the event, honor the dead, and call for stronger gun-safety laws. Women’s Committee members Maria Black, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna Sturgis were among those attending. Both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette covered the event.

Many passing vehicles honked, waved, or called out their support. One fellow, however, driving a late-model pickup that was almost big enough for a tiny house, held up traffic while he vociferously protested the protesters.

By the way, there was a school-related shooting in Illinois on Thursday, fortunately with no fatalities; the only injury was to the gunman, a 19-year-old — you guessed it — white guy. Friday night in the Atlanta area, one woman was shot and killed and another wounded near a high school graduation. Reports are still sketchy, and it’s not clear if the shooting had any connection to the graduation.

Women’s Committee member Sarah Nevin is at right; next to her, holding the green “Enough!” sign, is her daughter Katrina.

Keith Chatinover, member of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos and senior at the MV Public Charter School.

Action Needed on ERPO

This was posted this morning (Wednesday, May 15) by the Mass. Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Dylan Fernandes, who represents the Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket district in the state house of representatives, is a co-sponsor of this bill, but if we express our support, he’ll be able to take that to Speaker DeLeo.

If you live elsewhere in Massachusetts, you can be connected to your rep by using the link below.

The Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is an important tool for keeping firearms out of the hands of, among others, domestic abusers.


CALL TO ACTION!! We’re making good progress in getting Extreme Risk Protective Order legislation (H.3610) passed in Massachusetts, but our representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo still need to hear from us! 87% of MA citizens support this legislation, and our leaders need to know that we support them in bringing this life-saving bill up for a vote!

You can be automatically connected to your rep’s office using this link: https://p2a.co/4wHxymX

If you’d rather send an email, you can use suggested wording below. Find your state rep’s contact information here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

“I am a constituent and a member of the MA Coalition to prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of over 60 groups statewide.

It’s time for the MA Legislature to take action to prevent more gun violence in our communities by passing an Extreme Risk Protective Order Bill. An ERPO Bill would empower Massachusetts families and law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by temporarily reducing access to guns by individuals at a high risk of endangering themselves or others.

Will you actively support the ERPO bill by telling Speaker DeLeo know that you have his back and that he should bring the ERPO bill to the floor for a vote?”

“A Taste of Honey” Rescheduled

A Taste of Honey, the eighth and last film in the Women’s Winter Film Series, had to be cancelled because of weather. It has been rescheduled for this Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. at the Edgartown library. Please join us!

This 1961 UK film was startlingly ahead of its time and has plenty to say to our own era. From the Edgartown library e-newsletter: “With its unapologetic identification with social outcasts and its sensitive, modern approach to matters of sexuality and race, Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey — based on her prize-winning play — is still a startling work of realism. Directed and co-scripted by Tony Richardson, it remains a defining film of feminist and working class cultural movements.” It stars Rita Tushingham (who won a BAFTA and a Cannes best actress award for her performance), Dora Bryan, Robert Stephens, and Murray Melvin.

Virginia Penta Munro, the Edgartown library’s program director, curates consistently excellent film series. She suggested both this one and Frida for the WWFS — excellent choices both.

Focus on Women @ MVFF

The M.V. Film Festival’s March 15–18, 2018, festival includes these four films that explore women’s lives from a variety of angles. Lots of other good stuff too! For schedule and more info: http://tmvff.org/.

In the Taliban-controlled area of Waziristan, where sports for women are decried as un-Islamic, and girls rarely leave their houses, young Maria Toorpakai defies the rules by disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sports freely. As she becomes a rising star, however, her true identity is revealed, bringing constant death threats on her and her family.

Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.

Amy Nicholson in Variety: “To young fans who’ve slapped Ginsburg’s face on T-shirts, coffee mugs and a million memes, she’s a hero, icon, and rebel, the yas queen of the judicial branch better known for Kate McKinnon’s Saturday Night Live impersonation than her hard-fought feminist victories.

“RBG colors in that knowledge gap, showcasing the Ginsburg who argued for equal rights in front of the Supreme Court before SNL was even on the air. This spry celebration reveals that the real Ginsburg is neither beast nor badass, but an even-tempered, soft-spoken mediator—not typically the traits that inspire rousing high-fives, but qualities that honor the slow, uphill slog of positive change.”

The Divine Order
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Divine Order is set in Switzerland in 1971 where, despite the worldwide social upheavals of the previous decade, women were still denied the right to vote. When unassuming and dutiful housewife Nora (Marie Leuenberger, winner of a Best Actress award at Tribeca) is forbidden by her husband to take a part-time job, her frustration leads to her becoming the poster child of her town’s suffragette movement. Her newfound celebrity brings humiliation, threats, and the potential end to her marriage, but, refusing to back down, she convinces the women in her village to go on strike … and makes a few startling discoveries about her own liberation.

On Preventing Gun Violence

Mass. attorney general Maura Healey

Nine members of the Women’s Committee just sent a letter to the editor to both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette. It supports Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s recent op-ed in the Boston Herald insisting that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

We also call for the passage of H3610, a bill providing for an ERPO (extreme-risk protection orders) law. The bill, currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

If Florida had an ERPO law, it’s likely that the arsenal of the alleged Parkland high school shooter could have been confiscated.

Here’s the text of the letter:

To the Editor:

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, at least 14 wounded, and countless bereaved, we stand with Attorney General Maura Healey when she says that this “is not a reality we can accept.”

We stand with her, too, when she adds that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table. That includes common sense reforms like universal background checks, giving police discretion to deny licenses to domestic abusers, and allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.”

Massachusetts has been a leader in showing that thoughtfully written and effectively enforced gun laws can reduce gun deaths without impinging on the rights of responsible gun owners. At present, however, Massachusetts doesn’t have an extreme-risk protection order (ERPO) law, which would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

A crucial bill to rectify this — H3610, “the Decker bill” — is in the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Our state representative, Dylan Fernandes, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Please consider calling the co-chairs of the Joint Committee to urge that the bill be reported out of committee favorably. The co-chairs are Rep. Harold Naughton (617-722-2230) and Sen. Michael Moore (617-722-1485). You can also call House Speaker Robert DeLeo (617-722-2500) to express support for the bill.

Before the February 14 Parkland shooting, there had been frequent reports and complaints about the alleged shooter’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior. If Florida had an ERPO law (it doesn’t), his ability to buy firearms could have been curtailed and his arsenal confiscated.

Thoughts, prayers, and passing the buck have not solved the gun violence crisis and never will. It’s long past time for Congress to heed Maura Healey’s insistence that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

For more information on these issues, including legislative updates, readers are urged to contact Everytown for Gun Safety and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Ann Wallace, Cathy Walthers, Kathy Laskowski, Maggie Brown, Margaret Emerson, Max King, Nan Byrne, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna J. Sturgis

Films to Watch Out For

While organizing the Women’s Winter Film Series, we kept learning about films that could have been included — if the series went on for a year or so. Here’s a list of some of them, so you can invite a few friends over for a home viewing — or organize a women’s film series in your own home!

Many are available for home viewing at no or low cost through CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing), a network connecting Cape & Islands libraries), Kanopy (a live-streaming service available to patrons of most Vineyard libraries), PBSNetflix, or YouTube. Contact info is given for the others. Several are available primarily through Women Make Movies (WMM), a nonprofit dedicated to the production and distribution of films by and about women. Many of WMM’s films can be purchased for home viewing for $19.95.

Note: This list isn’t comprehensive. Nowhere close. Have a film that really should be on the list? Mention it in the comments!

More Noteworthy Films by and about Women

A Better Man (2017; co-dir. Attiya Khan; “a fresh and nuanced look at the healing and revelation that can happen for all involved when men take responsibility for their abuse”; http://www.docnyc.net/film/a-better-man/)

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004; Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential bid) YouTube (pay); Women Make Movies; PBS

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (2016; Jane Jacobs vs. development mogul Robert Moses) CLAMS.

The Color Purple (1985; classic adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel) CLAMS

Dolores (2017; about union organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta)

Driving with Selvi (2016; dir. Elisa Paloschi; the story of South India’s first female taxi driver, a refugee from a violent marriage; http://drivingwithselvi.com/)

Eagle Huntress, The (2016; 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl fights to become the first female eagle hunter in her family). CLAMS

Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009; documents the relationship of Edie Windsor, a pioneer in the fight for marriage equality, and Thea Spyer). CLAMS

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (2012; about activist and radical black academic Angela Davis) CLAMS

Frida (2002; biopic about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo) CLAMS

Girls Lost (2015; gender-bending Swedish film that explores growing up female) Netflix and CLAMS

Gotta Make This Journey (1983; Featuring the pioneering a cappella ensemble of black women,Sweet Honey in the Rock) WMM

GTFO: Get the F&#% Out (2015; documentary exploring the misogyny, harassment, etc., facing women in the video game industry) Kanopy

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990 version) CLAMS; Amazon prime video; Hulu

Heather Booth: Changing the World (2017; portrait of a veteran activist-organizer) WMM

The Hunting Ground (2015; dir. Kirby Dick; documentary about sexual assault on campus; http://thehuntinggroundfilm.com/)

I Am Jane Doe (2017; sex trafficking) Netflix

Iron Jawed Angels (2004; Alice Paul and the US women’s suffrage movement) CLAMS; YouTube

Live Nude Girls Unite! (2000; documentary about the organizing efforts of strippers and support staff at a San Francisco peep show in the mid-1990s) Kanopy

Love It like a Fool (1977; short about the activist singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds [1900–1978]) YouTube

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2017; dir. Bob Hercules & Rita Coburn Whack; documentary about the amazing memoirist, poet, and activist) PBS

Mozart’s Sister (2010; drama based on the life of Nannerl Mozart) CLAMS

Nothing Without Us: Women Who Will End AIDS (2017; dir. Harriet Hirschhorn; http://www.docnyc.net/film/nothing-without-us/)

Ovarian Psycos (2016; fierce, unapologetic and feminist young women of color in Los Angeles confront injustice, build community, and redefine identity through a raucous, irreverently named bicycle crew: The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade) WMM

The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen (2016; the lifelong journey of a black lesbian dancer activist who grew up in Boston) WMM

Radical Grace (2015; dir. Rebecca Parrish; three feminist U.S. nuns fighting against the patriarchal church hierarchy and for social justice; http://radicalgracefilm.com/)

The Revival: Women and the Word (2016; follows black lesbian poets and musicians on a several-city tour that connects them with their audiences, their families, and the black feminist legacy that sustains them) WMM

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014; documentary about the early U.S. women’s liberation movement, 1966–1971) Netflix

Sonita (2015; dir. Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami; in Iran, Sonita, a refugee from Afghanistan, dreams of becoming a rapper while trying to avoid a forced marriage) WMM

Suffragette (2015; a drama about the militant UK suffrage movement of the early 20th century) CLAMS

A Taste of Honey (1961; working-class teenage girl finds herself pregnant after being thrown out of her mother’s house; focus on her new support network/family) CLAMS

To Keep the Light (2016; Inspired by the stories of real-life women lighthouse keepers, Erica Fae’s acclaimed film focuses on Abbie, a lighthouse keeper’s wife in late 19th century Maine; http://www.tokeepthelight.com/)

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters (2016; dir. Sally Wainwright) Netflix; CLAMS

Trapped (2016; dir. Dawn Porter; abortion providers fight back against legal restrictions; http://www.trappeddocumentary.com/)

Vessel (2014; dir. Diana Whitten; a woman’s project to offer abortions on a ship offshore evolves into something stronger) Netflix

What Doesn’t Kill Me (2017; dir. Rachel Meyrick; about survivors of domestic violence with a focus on children for whom courts give custody to abusive fathers) WMM

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015; documentary about the great singer-pianist-activist) Netflix; CLAMS

With Babies and Banners (1979; story of Women’s Emergency Brigade during a major UAW strike from December 1936 to February 1937; 45 min.) YouTube