Katherine Mesa: Enlightenment as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“The Art of Enlightenment”

Enlightenment As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, February 12th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

The Enlightenment was a time period and movement characterized by its philosophical and intellectual influences on society. There was also debate amongst academics and philosophers in regard to the theories of life in relation to religion and science, and the role they play in the government, such as through the separation of church and state. This was a period of innovation and growth, where creativity was at the forefront of the movement. France played a crucial role during the Enlightenment, and it can even be claimed that the French Revolution was a source of its inspiration, and its influences can even be seen today. One influential piece that ties to The Enlightenment was the book, Candide, which is a satirical novel that highlights different aspects of enlightenment ideals, ranging from social and class hierarchies to the political and power dynamics of its time. 

Political and revolutionary ideals were also transformed during this time, and their influences on government are still taken into account today. This is relevant in terms of the ideals of democratization and liberalization of power structures.

Some prominent philosopher thinkers of this time included Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, and were heavily centered around the ideals of government. For example, John Locke concentrated his theories around the modern republican government, the social contract theory, and individual rights. On the other hand, Baron de Montesquieu focused his intellectual ideals on the separation of church and state and checks and balances. Lastly, Jean Jacques Rousseau deconstructed the philosophical ideals of human nature in relation to civil society. 

However, while male political figures like the ones mentioned above were highly idolized for their work, it is important not to undermine the strong feminist leaders and philosophers who are continuously pushed under the rug. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft was a champion for women’s rights and published two novels, “A Vindication of the Rights of Man” and “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” She also advocated for equal access to education for women as well as implemented mixed gendered schools to ensure equity in the quality of education.  

In terms of the intersection between faith and reason, this is a very controversial topic that was not only concentrated during the period of The Enlightenment, but also is even seen today. When analyzed through the lens of this being reconciled, it is essential to acknowledge the historical impact of this ideological conflict, as well as its complexity. For example, religious faiths are not one-dimensional, and are very diverse among different populations, where addressing the issue of reason and faith being reconciled is not a straightforward approach. In addition, when defining what encompasses the rationale behind reason and faith, it is also essential to recognize varying interpretations and perspectives of what encompasses rationale. For example, some may claim that faith and religion are rational approaches to life, while others may claim that scientific objections are the true rationale. This conflict will continue to progress and will never be resolved as long as individual and philosophical perceptions dictate the conflict.

Work Cited:

“Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government.” Building Democracy for All, EdTech Books, 1 Jan. 1970, https://edtechbooks.org/democracy/enlightenment.

Voltaire, et al. Candide. Chivers, 2008.

Monica B. Perez: Miami As Text 2023

Monica at the Everglades by John Bailly // CC by 4.0

Monica Perez is a student of the FIU Honors College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. With that and future schooling she hopes to administer therapy and conduct research. With a secondary interest in ecopsychology, she hopes to also use elements of nature and the environment to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Her current motto is “seek radical empathy” as she strives to understand and share in others’ thoughts and life experiences.

Spring Encounter As Text

Monica and Professor Bailly demonstrating “selfie attendance” By John Bailly / CC by 4.0

“The Last Chapters”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on the first week of class, January 13, 2023

On one’s last semester of undergraduate study, it is common practice to reflect on what has made the past few years so special. My undergraduate experience has been far from conventional. It was not until my second year that I was fully able to attend school on campus. Now, it is my third and last, and I am looking for a way to approach this semester that will make the confused freshman inside of me proud of what she becomes. One thing I am heavily focusing on is how to make the most of my commitment to study abroad in France with the Honors College.

This is a moment I have been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl listening to my mother tell stories of her own travels to Europe as a young adult. She has never been back since (life gets in the way), so this has been one of the greatest motivators for me to seize the opportunity to experience something different. I chose this program for long list of reasons, so I will only name a few. For one, France is the European country I am most intrigued by. From my limited knowledge, it is so culturally different from the United States despite being so heavily involved in its conception and history. In my time there, I would like to explore this difference a bit further and theorize why I think it is present and what I can learn from the French lifestyle.

Another reason I chose this class is because of the professor and course content. I am familiar with Professor Bailly’s teaching style and personality as I have taken his courses and interned with him in the past. It is very complementary to mine as I am highly anxious, overly empathetic, and an overall over-thinker. I know that the fast-paced, “just do it” attitude of the course is exactly what I need to make the most of this trip. The content of this course interests me because as a psychology major, I learn about mental health and society from the American perspective (understandably so, considering I will be conducting research and psychotherapy in the United States). It will be useful to learn about how a society’s history influences their artistic expression, which may hint at their views and values regarding mental health and wellness.

It is safe to say I am feeling curious, excited, and motivated about this course and my last push at FIU. I am curious to discover what my findings will be, what new questions I may develop, and how I may change over the course of the trip. I am excited to experience something so old yet so new to me. I am motivated to make the most of this trip by honoring my past and current selves in this transitional period of my life. I expect the course to challenge me physically and mentally. I expect to be uncomfortable and find comfort in my discomfort. Most importantly, I expect to learn more about art, world history, current world issues, and myself. I look forward to seeing what the last chapters of my undergraduate study may hold.

Enlightenment As Text

Image by Ekaterina Ershova from Pixabay / CC by 4.0

“Just the Beginning”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on February 3, 2023

When studying history, it is important to note the language being used to convey certain events and figures. For the sake of making a subject appropriate for younger students, those writing textbooks and designing curriculums will simplify conflicts and ideas, understandably so. However, there are times where these people become carried away and certain topics are oversimplified. This comes to mind regarding the Enlightenment. he Enlightenment was a time where society shifted the focus from religion to science, embracing “reason” over “superstition”. In my experience, this time is presented to us as a start-and-finished period where humans simply “woke up”, embraced science, and there is no more necessary growth to be done.

Voltaire’s Candide addresses this by poking fun at the idea that Enlightenment thinking and philosophy was a humanity’s saving grace. In Voltaire’s eyes, this radical optimism leads to the same tragic life as belief in religion. Growing up around philosophers, the titular character was fed the notion that humanity had achieved the “best of all possible worlds” due to the innovations of the time. After a traumatizing life, he realizes that the enlightened world of philosophy and science is not humanity’s savior, and he concludes that we must “cultivate our own garden.”

Voltaire’s message can be interpreted in several ways, but many choose to understand the “garden” as a metaphor for one’s inner peace and personal enlightenment. One must put time and effort into it to see it blossom and produce fruits. I like to think of the period of Enlightenment the same way. Instead of a start-and-finish time where humanity was saved by the sciences, the Enlightenment was a time where we started to normalize and prioritized critical thinking, personal growth and education, and the pursuit of equality. While great strides were made in these areas, humanity still struggles with these ideas even today. We need to work on these areas in order to make true progress.

The education system leads us to believe that society made this swift change toward reason, and there is not much else to learn. It depicts the modern day as a utopia by oversimplifying the past and omitting current scientific and socio-political struggles. This leads to complacency, and people do not feel motivated to cultivate these ideas for themselves. We need to acknowledge that we still have not reached “the best of all possible worlds” despite making incredible progress. The Enlightenment planted the seed, but it is our responsibility to cultivate our garden and grow.

Historic Miami As Text

The Miami River by Image by Marco Brugo from Pixabay / CC by 4.0

“Back in Time”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU at Downtown on February 17, 2023

There is something very special about historic buildings and landmarks. They have the ability to connect us to our geographic ancestors by transporting us into the past. Downtown Miami is home to several geographic and architectural landmarks that have seen Miami become what it is today. Some places represent the “wins” of Miami’s history, and others represent times where greed and racism led to the mistreatment, oppression, and murder of innocent people. From the Miami River to the Freedom Tower, these places tell Miami’s story in a way no textbook can.

One building that perfectly encapsulates Miami’s history is the Wagner Family Homestead. It was built around 1855 and housed the interracial immigrant couple: William Wagner and Eveline Aimar and their children. According to a text by Margot Ammidown, the Wagner family was on a walk near the Miami River when they encountered a group of Seminoles. Rather than act defensively, Wagner invited them for dinner at his home and offered them garments to replace their tattered ones. While these events do not discount the atrocities committed by United States’ settlers on the Indigenous nations, it is important to recognize that this is an excellent display of modern Miami. It is a city where people of every race, ethnicity, shape, and gender identity come together to eat, dance, tell stories, and celebrate life. The Wagner house is now located in Lummus Park, where people can visit the structure and picture the eclectic group sitting around the house enjoying a supper despite the turmoil surrounding them.

A landmark that exhibits Miami’s shortcomings is now located just feet away from the Wagner Homestead. The structure known as Fort Dallas was constructed at around 1844 on the William English plantation as slave barracks. In the 1850s, the structure was used by the Unites States’ Army as a trading post and military barracks. This building marks a time of intense racial injustice and reminds us that Miami’s history is not perfect. While the city is marked by diversity now, it had similar beginnings to the rest of the country. To touch the limestone wall is to touch the hands that built it- the hands that built the city.

One geographic landmark shows both the beauty and shortcomings of the city, both of which are still present today. The Miami River is what brings life to Miami. It carries fresh water from the Everglades into the Atlantic ocean and originally created a unique ecosystem for that the Tequesta used to drink, bathe, and eat. Miami would truly not exist without it, and we have it to thank for our presence here, no matter how we arrived. In 1897, Henry Flagler opened the Royal Palm Hotel, which started a cycle of pollution into the river. Today, the very water that brought civilization to this land is not even safe to bathe in. This shows a part of Miami (and the rest of the United States’) hubris: greed and ignorance. It was greed that brought Henry Flagler to Miami, and while it was his railroad that kickstarted the development of the city, he destroyed its natural resources in the process.

Downtown Miami is a treasure trove of history and has many lessons to teach us. It shows us our successes and juxtaposes them with our faults and shortcomings. It can be tricky to talk about history, especially in times as divisive as these, because there is no way to talk about one without the other. It is uncomfortable to admit when we were wrong, but it is part of the truth. Both the beautiful and the painful can be true, and it is landmarks like those in Downtown Miami that teach us that.

Revolution As Text

Execution of Louis XVI from Wikimedia Commons

“How Far?”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on February 27, 2023

The French Revolution is characterized as a pivotal moment in French history that overthrew the monarchy and set the stage for a new country built on equality and liberty. Nearly 100 years after the Enlightenment, the people of France were ready to liberate themselves from the rule of the monarchy and the Church. After years of living in poverty as the monarchy wasted their money on aesthetics and luxury, revolutionaries were pushed to use extreme lengths to achieve their goal. While their methods were questionable, they succeeded in transforming their country, lighting a fire that will likely never burn out.

The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury details the events of the French Revolution from the perspective of the monarchy. It describes in painstaking detail the methods employed by the revolutionaries to torture and kill the royal family. This skewed perspective causes modern readers to consume this media and become lost in its captivating story, developing sympathy for Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The eight year old boy was manipulated, drugged, and sexually mentally abused for years before being killed via neglect. He was manipulated into believing that his mother and aunt sexually abused him as a child, delivering a testimony that lead to his mother’s execution.

It is clear that the acts against Louis-Charles were entirely unethical and justifiably considered “evil”. However, what the book fails highlight are the identical stories of every child neglected by the monarchy for years before the revolution. If each of those stories were recounted in such detail, all the libraries in France could not hold the novels written. If the revolution had not happened when it did, hundreds more innocent people would have died from very similar conditions as the lost king. In the opinion of a modern, sarcastic, leftist college student, most of the revolutionaries’ actions were justified and necessary. The monarchy had to die to end the atrocities they were committing, and there could not be hope for a reinstatement.

The acts I found the most troubling, however, are the lengths at which the revolutionaries went to abuse Louis-Charles. It is clear to me that the use of physical, sexual, and psychological violence against children is never justified, no matter how atrocious the actions of their parents were. Because of his age, it is my opinion that Louis-Charles was as much a victim of humanity as the other deceased children of France. It is important to note that my opinion carries much less weight than that of people less privileged or more educated than I am. While I will never apologize for my opinions, I will always do my best to admit my privilege. It is easy to give an uneducated opinion because you do not have to do much work. I hope to never understand what it is like to experience the level of oppression the French people did, and I hope to never have to make such a difficult decision as war heroes and revolutionaries have made and continue to make.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo of Vizcaya by Elisa Rolle // CC by 3.0


By Monica B. Perez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on March 10, 2023

In efforts to calm tensions and promote peace among all people, certain people and institutions find it appropriate to simply not discuss the downfalls of the past by individuals or institutions. These decisions, however, tend to be made not by the victims or descendants thereof, but by the oppressors or their descendants. The problem with this situation is not the approach itself so much as those enacting the approach. If a victim wants to “forgive and forget”, then they should feel empowered to do so, but if the voice of the victim is being silenced, shut out, or goes unheard, a second layer of oppression is occurring. This concept is unfortunately evident in Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens officially opened its doors in December of 1916 as the winter estate of James Deering, a wealthy and prominent figure in Miami’s history. It began operations as a museum in 1953, and has since been the home to numerous cultural events and enjoyed by many from all over the world. It exemplifies the Mediterranean architectural style complemented by features made from limestone, a material native to Miami’s tropical climate. This makes it a shining example of Miami’s cultural exchange and identity as a sliver of Europe interacts with the Americas. Most (if not all) limestone elements were constructed or somehow manipulated by black Bahamian workers; however, there is little to no representation of this or other marginalized communities in Vizcaya’s permanent exhibits.

It must be admitted that the institution of Vizcaya is taking steps to acknowledge the role of Bahamians in the construction and design of the estate. They have released a few articles, podcast episodes, and hosted several events to uplift those stories. However, the current layout and exhibit of the estate holds little to no acknowledgment to this practical and cultural contribution (spare depictions of Bahamians kneeling in submission carved in limestone, a material which only Bahamians knew how to manipulate properly). This brings to mind the disturbing new legislation presented and approved by Governor Ron Desantis to ban numerous majors and minors, including those related to Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and others that include these ideas in their curriculum. While the actions of the Governor are far more extreme and reach much further than those of Vizcaya, the deliberate avoidance of addressing these topics in any way contributes to the harmful and disgusting culture of academic censorship politicians like the Governor wish to create.

The actions of the governor compromise academic integrity, freedom, and truth because they gloss over the harsh effects on past oppressions on today’s world. As mentioned prior, this creates further oppression. Vizcaya’s hushed approach at discussing the contributions of black Bahamians on the construction and design of the structure may have been acceptable in the past, but in light of recent attacks on education, it is becoming more important for institutions to promote truth and encourage real healing by highlighting the oppressed as much as the wealthy parties that funded the endeavors.

World War II as Text

Image by Larah Vidotto from Pixabay

“Scars Inherrited”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU

Evolutionary psychologists and other scientific researchers are just beginning to study how certain life events and traumas affect people for generations after the event occurs. Generational trauma (also called inter-generational trauma) is described as a series of events that evoke negative psychological symptoms and distress to people (typically families) across multiple generations. There are multiple events that are severe enough to cause such damage on a bloodline. Mass exile and displacement, racist actions, war, and genocide are a few. This concept is different from PTSD and other trauma-related issues because it takes many forms. Some people may adopt or inherit symptoms that mask as other disorders.

Heightened anxiety and difficulty focusing may present as ADHD. Obsessions, intrusive thoughts, and related self soothing behaviors may mimic OCD. Depressive symptoms and disorders may arise due to hopelessness, internalized anger, or intense confusion. When untreated, these symptoms can further traumatize others that are completely removed from the original event. Because of this, it is crucial to understand generational trauma and how we can help those who may be suffering due to a trauma that they did not even experience.

Besides scientific research, there are ways to explore the complexities of generational trauma and how different members of a family may suffer the effects of a tragedy despite not living it. In the 90 years following the Jewish Holocaust, much media has been created to discuss the ways that survivors and their descendants cope with the tragedy. One incredible example of this is MAUS by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel that addresses life in a Nazi concentration camp the complex relationship between father and son after horrific tragedy. The novel alternates between two storylines: one that details how his father, Vladek, survived survived the Holocaust, and the other in the years leading up to his death. Spiegelman discusses his mother’s suicide and how deeply it affected him. She chose to end her life after battling with depression as a consequence to the Holocaust, and this further strained the relationship between Art and his father.

In MAUS, readers see how despite not living through the Holocaust, Art still suffers from the after-effects. While we cannot be sure what their lives would have been like without the trauma, we see how this event created a scar in the family that may affect them for generations to come. While many like Art sought psychological help, others have not had such an opportunity, and it is likely that the after-effects continue to linger. Even today, family and other close relationships are deeply affected by the Holocaust and other tragedies.

Despite the lack of scientific validity, works like MAUS can inform how we approach generational trauma because it details its evolution in a personal way while still being easily generalizable. More research is needed to develop interventions for this phenomena, but works like this help survivors, their descendants, and outsiders understand their own traumas. This raises awareness for the issue and may push agencies to fund more scientific research.

Departure as Text

Image by Free Photos from Pixabay

“The Last Page”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU

My last Spring Semester has been one of immense growth both personally and professionally. I have landed a position for a post-bachelor’s experience, dove into the world of research by co-authoring a poster at a conference, and begun to prioritize my own personal and professional needs. I have planted the seeds of numerous friendships and can already see them sprouting. As I become more secure in my personal and professional identity, I feel more prepared to travel to Europe.

The content of this course has inspired additional reading and watching to better understand the culture and values of the country I will be visiting. I have read more French literature and watched French films because I simply cannot wait to immerse myself in the lifestyle. Our course discussions have challenged my opinions and philosophies, strengthening some and changing others. Reading books that have been banned in the past and some that are banned now (like Candide and MAUS) help me understand why it is so important to do one’s own digging to find truth. Needless to say, my expectations for the Spring course alone have been exceeded.

As mentioned above, I am feeling much more prepared to travel on my own and much more excited for everything I will learn about art, history, French culture, and myself. This excitement has caused my nerves to spike because I am imagining the newness and change this will create within me. To be frank, I am a little scared going into this program because I know I will be very different when I return.This, however, is a fear I will attempt to diffuse because there is nothing I can do now but wait and see how this change manifests.

I expect this trip to expose me to concepts and physical experiences I have never seen before (this is a given since I have never been to Europe, but I suppose I should be realistic about my expectations). I also expect to become more in tune with myself and how I want to live the rest of my life. I do not want to make finite life decisions or commitments because that would hardly be realistic, but I do want to get a better idea of who I am and who I want to be. This is not only because I am traveling without family for the first time, but it is also because I am graduating this summer. Because of all these changes, I am feeling a wide ranges of emotions I have difficulty describing.

I am more than satisfied with my choice in program, especially since this program will not be the same after this year. I know that the professor, pace, material, and teaching style are right for me because I am pushed in a way that other courses do not push me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I am happy to be grouped with motivated classmates who will teach me so much and encourage growth. It a great environment for learning, and I cannot wait to see what this summer holds.

Michelle Gonzalez: Normandy as Text 2018

Michelle Gonzalez: Normandy as Text 2018


Many generations have come to learn the history behind World War II, but many (much like myself) overlook the lives of men and women that have sacrificed their lives for the freedom we often take for granted. Much less, we only see veterans as sacrificial lambs that were destined to be soldiers, with no attention to their lives neither before nor after the war. Sure, we visit memorials and take a few pictures to say we were there—but were we really there? 

 Many historians try to combat this shroud of ignorance, but their efforts are futile when it comes to the lives of young men and women that have no remarkable distinction, only after they have enlisted and lost their life, such as the majority of World War II. 

Elizabeth A. Richardson was no exception to this unfortunate reality. Very few research is available online—she was just another American girl that grew up in an industrial town in Mishawaka, Indiana (Madison, 2007).  However, as this writing progresses, I’ll do my best to convey the most accurate information of the remarkable Ms. Richardson, whose life and death deserve such honor, as the rest of the three women and many men that are often forgotten and taken for granted outside of Normandy Cemetery. 

Before, During, and After World War II

Before World War II, Elizabeth A. Richardson was born in Mishawaka, Indiana where she later graduated from Mishawaka High School in 1936. Like any young girl, full of life and expectations, Richardson moved to Wisconsin where she later enrolled in Milwaukee-Downer College and worked at an advertising agency.

Before her service in the war, the isolationist policy resonated within her beliefs in which she advocated that Americans should not intervene in World War II: “The U.S. will be suckers if they enter it” (Madison, 2007). However, like many American’s perceptions, her perception also changed on December 7th 1941—the day Japan awoke the “sleeping giant” in Pearl Harbor, declaring war on the United States. 

Subsequently, as she saw her friends and loved ones being drafted, she refused to stay idle in her advertising job so she enlisted as a volunteer for the American Red Cross in 1944, along with two of her close college friends (Madison, 2007). 

After passing her physical and psychological evaluation to join the American Red Cross, Richardson began six weeks of intensive training in Washington D.C. (Madison, 2007). After her successful training, she later boarded Queen Elizabeth where she was one of fifteen thousand Americans to set sail across the Atlantic to war, in July of 1944 (Madison, 2007). 

Once in England, The Blitz and other destructions immersed Richardson in a country whose environment and infrastructure had been deteriorated by World War II (Madison, 2007). To many English and Americans of the time, the efforts of Americans such as Richardson were much revered through signs of hope. 

That is, the American Red Cross’ responsibility was just that: bringing hope to fallen troops. Richardson did this through volunteering in clubmobiles, a single decker bus that brought food and entertainment to soldiers in order lessen the stress of war and have a connection to home. However, not only did Richardson bring hope to the Americans stationed in England, she also felt like an oddity since war had created a stupor amongst men in disassociating themselves in the presence of American girls, “…you feel sort of like a museum piece—’Hey, look, fellows! A real, live American girl!'” (Madison, 2007)

Ultimately, Richardson was even more convinced that her role was to heal morale and support her brothers in uniform. She did this through bringing American culture to American soldiers that had been far away from home. Through small talk, Richardson was able to lend an ear to soldiers who hadn’t seen their wives and children or those who simply missed home. 

Moreover, throughout the war, Richardson, like the other women that volunteered for the American Red Cross, did not let her appearance fall through. I believe her attention to detail in her appearance, though rugged from war, was important in establishing morale, much of what the American Red Cross strived for. It was attention to these details that gave soldiers a sense of hope that life does carry on and that savagery does have an end. That is, like many volunteers, Richardson took the time to apply lipstick, nail polish, and even perfume! (Madison, 2007) Such pride in her appearance paralleled with her devout patriotism and efforts for soldiers to persevere. Soldiers acknowledged her feminine attempts and appreciated how women like her brought “a little bit of home” to war (Madison, 2007). 

Painted red lips, coupled with a big smile and greeting made the donuts and coffee taste better for the soldiers. However, as Richardson grew closer to the soldiers, she began to learn of accounts that were never released in newspapers or shared with a loved one back home. Richardson had become much of the soldier’s confidant, seen through what she would write to her parents, always tip-toeing around the notion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the affect it had on the men: “If you only knew what combat does to these boys—not in the physical sense, although that’s bad enough—but mentally.” (Bosshart, 2014).

Ultimately, though Richardson’s role was not that of a soldier, she was in battle against soldier’s disillusionment and morale. Her work was what we consider domestic in which she would cook, clean, and wait on soldiers (Madison, 2007). But to what extent was her role domestic amidst the battlefield? Her job required a strong emotional quotient, interpersonal, and organizational skills not all women have when embarking to a foreign country, much less war! (Madison, 2007) Richardson was much of what made the American Red Cross special to men who were absent from loved ones since the onset of war—demonstrating violence and pacifism can meet in the middle as seen through her life and death. 


            When enlisting in war, the fear of never returning to your loved ones is always eminent. For Richardson, she hoped her involvement in the war was like a “toothache” that ended quickly. Unfortunately, on July 25, 1945 at Le Havre, Richardson boarded a two-seater military plane in route to Paris that never landed but crashed near Rouen, instantly killing her at twenty-seven years old, with pilot “Sgt. William R. Miller of the Ninth Air Force” (Indiana Magazine of History, 2013).

Richardson is now interred in “Plot A, Row 21, Grave 5” in the Normandy American Cemetery in France (Madison, 2007). 

What Her Sacrifice Means to Me

             When we think of World War II, it’s difficult to find a personal connection with the many men and women that sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Many of us recall those who were drafted onto unwanted war duties, but forget those who whole-heartedly volunteered because of a sense of moral obligation to better the lives of people. Society also tends to forget the lives of women—a recurrent theme in society, evident in the four women that are buried here.

That is, Elizabeth A. Richardson was not part of an unwanted synecdoche of young men that were drafted out to fight World War II. Instead, she was a self-made woman from Mishawaka, Indiana that felt a selfless desire to help victims of war in Europe, ironically becoming a victim herself. 

It’s inevitable to feel detached to her, simply because of time and circumstance. However, the fact that she, a woman in the 1940s, volunteered in a Clubmobile through the American Red Cross to provide not just food, but a connection to home says a lot about her character to me. 

I can’t say I would personally do the same, waking up every morning, on the brink of death, applying lipstick and a smile to lessen the ambiance of war. But she did, and so did three other women here and that makes me feel so powerful as a woman. It reminds me to remember that I am also capable of doing such a selfless act for principles of freedom. However, it also reminds me that freedom comes at a price

We’re amongst that price of 9,387 dead, in which Richardson contributed smiles through doughnuts, gum, cigarettes, newspapers, and music (Bosshart, 2014) while others contributed bullets and bombs. The peace that emanates from her story signifies hope in humanity in a time of genocide, where she only contributed compassion and everyday experiences war desensitizes soldiers from. 

A quote from Richardson reads, “I consider myself fortunate to be in Clubmobile–can’t conceive of anything else. It’s a rugged and irregular and weird life, but it’s wonderful. That is as wonderful as anything can be under the circumstances.”  Though Richardson was only twenty-seven at the time of her death, she managed to be an empathetic figure of a mother, sister, girlfriend, and wife to all the men she encountered. 

Ultimately, her sacrifice is something I’ll never fully understand but can learn from to be a better person. Seeing the “wonderful” in such a bleak time is the hope we can hold onto like many fighters and victims of World War II have demonstrated. 

Currently, recent politics seem to foreshadow this historic recurrence in which we will need individuals like Richardson to see the “wonderful” again and try to forget fighting but compassion for one another, be it through coffee, doughnuts or a smile. 


American Battle Monuments Commission. (1970, January 01). Normandy American 

Cemetery. Retrieved June 30, 2018, from https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery

Bosshart, M. (2014, January 29). Elizabeth A. Richardson, an American Red Cross 

volunteer buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy. Retrieved July 23, 2018, from http://www.outandaboutinparis.com/2011/08/elizabeth-richardson-american-red-cross.html

Indiana Magazine of History. (2013, December 30). Soldiers’ Solace: Clubmobile 

Women During World War II. Retrieved June 30, 2018, from https://indianapublicmedia.org/momentofindianahistory/soldiers-solace-clubmobile-women-world-war-ii/

Madison, J. H. (2007). Wearing Lipstick to War. Retrieved June 30, 2018, from https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2007/fall/lipstick.html

John William Bailly  20 July 2019

Isabella Marie Garcia: Normandy as Text 2019

Isabella Marie Garcia: Normandy as Text 2019


for Dolores Browne

Sergeant of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps. 

Drafted from Connecticut.

Gone on July 13th, 1945 and only 23, maybe 24, years old.

I know you served in the first and only all-female, all-black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. Number 6888th. I know you’re one of only four women buried in this very ground as a result of your service. I know you were one of three black women killed in a Jeep accident in France and that your fellow comrades and gracious French citizens had to raise money in order to organize your funeral. I know you were the only one of those three women who died days later as a result of your injuries and that no other traces can be found of where you come from. 

Who claims you?

That’s all I know of you. 

The women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight,” went by one motto:

No mail, no morale. 

They converted temporary post offices into demanding workstations, with several shifts of sorting through sky high piles of letters and packages in order to get mail to its proper owner. Even if there were 1,000 Robert or John Smiths fighting in Europe, they would find the exact man to hand a personal message to, never failing in fully delivering and completing their missions. Over 855 women served in the 6888th battalion of Women Army Corps, and 150,000 served in the Women Army Corps. Their conditions were rough, their sacrifices were great, and for the women of the only all-black battalion, they were never publicly recognized for their service at the end of the war. 

I don’t know much. I don’t know who your mother is or where you went to school, if you loved coffee or smoked cigarettes. I don’t know if you owned a record player and would play the top hits with your best friends after school, I’m not sure if you had many friends or if you were a loner. I don’t know if you intended to marry or if you wanted to become a doctor. 

I don’t know who you really are but I recognize you today.

What I can guess is that you went abroad with a fire burning through your veins to prove yourself. Not just your individual persona, but the color of you skin and the hearts of your fellow sisters. You have to prove your worth when you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone. I’ve felt the need to prove myself but never to your extent. 

I’ll never be in your shoes. I’m not black. I come from a Cuban family that fled to avoid persecution but the shade of my skin isn’t vulnerable in the eyes of the world.

I’m a woman but privilege is real. 

I can’t relate to much of your life, but what I do relate to, I cling to, that urge to prove yourself only to fall into a trap. Nobody there at the end of the day to recognize all of your hard work. Nobody who believes in you, or at least you think doesn’t believe in you. You’ve felt all that and I have as well.

I don’t know the details of your life, Dolores, but the circumstances you lived in and what you represented have paved the way for women of color across all fields, making strides gradually but surely. You are one of four women in this cemetery, and that’s little, sure, but it’s never been about quantity.

As a young woman of your age, I thank you for what you’ve done and what you could’ve been. You are one of 150,000 women who gave themselves to us in order to be stronger, freer women. 

I see you in the young girls who run freely without care.

I see you in the young black woman who fights gun violence and breaks her throat in protest.

I see you in the innocent black lives that are lost as a result of hatred and ignorance.

Young black women, ready to fight, not with guns, but with words and their crafts, I see you.

I see myself in you, Dolores, and for that, thank you.

Isabella Marie Garcia

John William Bailly  19 July 2019

Victoria Atencio: Normandy as Text 2017

Victoria Atencio: Normandy as Text 2017


I don’t know you but I do
I admit I don’t know your name, your birthday, or even how you look 
But I know who you are. 

I don’t know you
But I know you lived, you fought, you died
Trying to resist a life that threatened the very core of humanity
From spreading its salute any further

I don’t know you
But I know you sabotaged the oppressors at every stage
Even from within the walls of a prison built to stifle your sprit

I don’t know you
But I know you rejected the dehumanization of the human race 
Under the constant cover of the cattle tag permanently etched onto your skin

I don’t know you 
But I know you questioned the prejudices that a seemingly meaningless act 
Could assign to your peers
Or the stereotypes it could confirm to the world

I don’t know you 
But I know you lived, you fought, you died without ever knowing who your actions would save
Simply hoping that you could

I don’t know you 
But I know that even if you were too young to understand the significance of your actions
The uniform you carry yourself under expresses it to the world 

I don’t know you 
But I know your experience as a casualty of war
Directly influenced the end of the horrors against humanity And exemplified the success of your ideals

I don’t know you 
But I know that even if you did not want to contribute the way that you did
You lived, you fought, you died so that little Lucienne Friedler and all the children from Maison d’Izieu could survive strongly, running and playing freely
Alive through the sentiments of society. 

I don’t know you 
But I know you tightly gripped the torch from Flanders fields 
And carried it zealously up the shores to certain death 
To confront a foe you could not see

I don’t know you
But I know you felt the responsibility of passing this idea
Through time and space from failing hands 
Of refusing to accept the unacceptable. 

Though you might not have done it all alone,
Anyone who had any role in this fight for freedom is responsible for it all
So I don’t know your name, your age, your favorite color, not even your hopes and dreams
And I’m very sorry I don’t know you
Just know that you may now sleep soundly under the poppies
Because, along with the rest of the world, 
I god damn son of a bitch sure as shit am glad that I do 
Know you 

(Editor’s note: “god damn son of a bitch” makes reference to the first English words young Joseph Weismann learned from US GI’s when they liberated France.)

John William Bailly  19 July 2019

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