Life, Death, and Cuddles

Life, Death, and Cuddles

Easter 7


Yesterday I gave a bit of historical information regarding President Theodore Roosevelt and the first decade of the twentieth century.   One of the more prominent stories about President Roosevelt, nicknamed Teddy Roosevelt is that he considered himself a pacifist.  With that intent in mind, he traveled to the deep southern part of the United States to resolve a border dispute between two states.


It may seem that when a region or territory applied for statehood that the state’s border would have been defined.  In the early 1800’s the state of Mississippi was rejected because it was believed that the size of the Mississippi Territory was just too large for one state.  The United States government insisted that the territory be divided into two states, Mississippi and Alabama.  This is the reason why the states are almost mirror-images of each other.  Several years later Texas was allowed into statehood, a fact that did not sit too well with Mississippians. 


In 1902 Teddy Roosevelt traveled to Mississippi which was once again involved in a border issue regarding the state’s defined jurisdiction.  This time the argument was between Mississippi and Louisiana.  An avid outdoorsman, Roosevelt was invited to partake in a hunting trip.  The hosts wanted to insure the President found his quarry and so they captured and tied a black bear cub to a tree for him to shoot.  Roosevelt felt that not a challenge and very poor sportsmanship.  He refused to shoot the bear.


November 15, 1902, political cartoonist Clifford Berryman published a cartoon entitled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” which showed the President leaning on a hunting rifle saying to someone holding a small bear.  The cartoon was seen by a shopkeeper in New York.  Wanting something to draw attention to his storefront in Brooklyn, Morris Michtom asked his wife to make two stuffed animals bears to put in the windows.  Rose Michtom made her bears with two black buttons for eyes and the public was enthralled.  Morris asked and received permission from President Theodore Roosevelt to call the plush bears “Teddy’s Bear”.


Also in 1902 an enterprising German woman continued her hobby of making stuffed animals.  A victim of polio and confined to a wheelchair since her young teens, Margarete Steiff entertained herself by making stuffed toys of the animals she found in magazines and books.  Her first attempt was an elephant that she used as a pincushion.  Soon, however, children began playing with her pincushion and so she made them just as toys, adding dogs, cats, and pigs to her repertoire. 


Margarete’s nephew visited the United States and saw performing bears in a carnival.  He returned home and suggested he help Margarete improve on her bears by making their arms and legs jointed.  To ensure people got an authentic Steiff bear, a button was placed in the ear, a trademark that is now found on all Steiff toys.


Regardless of who you believe got their Teddy Bear to the market first, the product was an instant success.  In less than five years, Margarete Steiff has sold over nine hundred and seventy four thousand teddy bears alone.  Her motto then is still the company slogan: “Only the best is good enough for children.”  Morris and Rose Michtom’s stuffed bears became the start of the Ideal Toy Company which operated for over ninety years.  Regretfully the bear that started it all, the black bear cub provided to President Roosevelt did not have such a great career as either Margarete Steiff’s or Rose Michtom’s bears.  Shortly after Teddy Roosevelt refused to shot it, it was killed.


IN an article that appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature in 2012, Esther Duflo wrote:  “Women empowerment and economic development are closely related: in one direction, development alone can play a major role in driving down inequality between men and women; in the other direction, empowering women may benefit development.  The persistence of gender inequality is most starkly brought home in the phenomenon of “missing women.” The term was coined by Amartya Sen in a now classic article in the New York Review of Books (Sen 1990) to capture the fact that the proportion of women is lower than what would be expected if girls and women throughout the developing world were born and died at the same rate, relative to boys and men, as they do in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, it is estimated that 6 million women are missing every year (World Bank 2011) Of these, 23 percent are never born, 10 percent are missing in early childhood, 21 percent in the reproductive years, and 38 percent above the age of 60. Stark as the excess mortality is, it still does not capture the fact that throughout their lives, even before birth, women in developing countries are treated differently than their brothers, lagging behind men in many domains. For each missing woman, there are many more women who fail to get an education, a job, or a political responsibility that they would have obtained if they had been men. “


Duflo does not even refer to those such as the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped in 2014 and who remain missing two years later.  Gender equality is a necessary reality if the world economic picture is to improve.  Women have much to offer which is the reason behind this series about female inventors.  All lives matter, regardless of color, race, or the matching of X and Y chromosomes.



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