Women Pushing Equality in Stamps Few Females Have Been Portrayed on Postage

Article excerpt

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Less than 1 percent of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service portray women or women's issues.

"I think it's because there is a gender invisibility in our country about the significant achievements of women," said author Jane Plitt, who thinks pioneering businesswoman Martha Matilda Harper is worthy of such recognition.

In the late 1800s, Harper created what Plitt described in a recent biography as America's first retail franchise, a beauty-salon chain that boasted 500 branches worldwide at its peak in 1928.

Plitt's push for a Harper stamp has drawn the support of U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who is starting a bipartisan effort aimed at boosting the number of women depicted on postage stamps.

Of the more than 1,700 commemorative stamps issued by the Postal Service over the last two centuries, the agency says 133 salute women. In a "Women on Stamps" pamphlet published a year ago, it listed 22 female performers, 14 authors, four first ladies and 15 pilots, athletes, educators and physicians.

Others include the first colonial child born in America, Virginia Dare in 1587; flag designer Betsy Ross; sharpshooter Annie Oakley; and 19th-century suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

Plitt maintains that a dozen of the listings should be excluded because, rather than being gender-specific, they honor professions like nursing or ballet, famous families, or associations like Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America. …