from the archives: anti-suffrage gossip

I had a blog post up yesterday at The Beehive (the Massachusetts Historical Society blog) sharing an item from our collections authored by anti-suffrage activist Margaret C. Robinson:

Margaret C. Robinson to Mary Bowditch Forbes, [1917],
Mary Bowditch Forbes Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society,
I didn't include a full transcript of the item in my final blog post, but I thought readers here might be amused. So before or after you read my post contextualizing the item, here is the full letter. Margaret Robinson's note (pictured above) reads:

Dear Miss Forbes.

You may be interested in this suf. column from a Utica paper which Mrs. Maynard has just sent me. We have got them excited haven't we? Please see that anything you may publish on the subject is sent to Mrs. J.F. Maynard, Genesee St., Utlca Utica, N.Y. as she want[s] to reply to this clipping.

I had such material for this week's issue of the [Anti-Suffrage] Notes, that I have put it in the form of a small newspaper. I can hardly wait for you and Mrs. White to see it. I shall have the type left standing a couple of weeks in hope that people may use it widely and that we may need thousands more.

Emily Balch asked Ford to pay her expenses for a year in Christianin to work for peace. She got leave from Wellesley for last year and had her plans all made to go. He not only refused but told her he wanted nothing more to do with women! Emily Balch told this to the person who told me! She ^(Miss Balch) and other pupils of Rosika [Schwimmer] have started the People’s Council which is openly demanding the overthrow of our government! Isn’t that great anti-suffrage material?

In haste, with warm regards to you & Mrs. White,

In addition to what I write at the Beehive, I think I particularly enjoy the image of Robinson being so excited about the latest edition of her newsletter that she's going to leave the type set to print even more copies once the initial run is fully distributed. If I ever track down a copy of that particular document I'll be sure to share it here at the feminist librarian!


comment post: erotic expression and vulnerability

You may have heard about the teaching assistant who recently accidentally sent a nude photograph of herself to her students in lieu of the attachment she meant to send.

I'll let you all cringe in sympathy for a minute, because let's admit we've all been there -- maybe not in the nude photo sense, but in the "impolitic electronic communication" sense.

Done? Okay, good. Now the larger conversation in this instance is what lesson we might take away from these types of mistakes. That's what Claire Potter of the Tenured Radical and I have been discussing in comments over the past few days. My original comment was prompted by this passage in Claire's piece:
Herein lies a lesson for all of us: accidents happen to the best of people, so caution in the matter of nude selfies is advised. Things like this, and revenge porn, wouldn’t happen if people didn’t take nude pictures of themselves, and either give them away to boyfriends who they think are going to love them forever, or keep them on their computers. 
In response, I wrote:
I get where you're coming from on the "don't take nude pictures" line. However, I think a better approach would be to recommend more exacting privacy practices when it comes to erotic images and text you wish to keep between yourself and your intimate partners. Good practice: Not keeping nude photographs of yourself on your workplace computer. (Unless your work involves creating/disseminating nude photographs of yourself, obviously.) Bad practice: Keeping your naked photos in the same "Downloads" folder as the cat pictures you want to send to mom (and not labeling each set clearly, and double-checking all attachments before hitting "send").

Sure, the accidental sending off of the wrong photograph was inappropriate. Probably the TA's supervisor needs to have a conversation with her about working in less haste and keeping her private images private. But the real problems here in my opinion are a) a culture that shames women who leave evidence of their erotic lives that others accidentally or purposefully discover, and b) the students and administrators who see the sexual content of the accidental file transfer as grounds to blow this incident out of proportion.
Claire pushed back, writing in part:
But like the rule on secrets (information is no longer secret when two people know it), it is really unwise to give a photograph of yourself to *any*one that will shame you if it exceeds its intended audience. One person's erotic gift is another person's har-de-har-har or porn/revenge fantasy.
 To which I responded:
Thanks for the response. Again, I take your point in that caution is generally good advice.

I think where we (might?) differ in weighing the tricky balance is that I believe it is misplaced to offer advice like " it is really unwise to give a photograph of yourself to *any*one that will shame you if it exceeds its intended audience." We aren't prescient beings. We can't read the future. Sometimes we date asses who don't overtly advertise themselves as such. Sometimes a breakup is unintentionally messy and in a moment of pique the angry ex posts something they shouldn't.

I would argue that, as a society, we should not then turn around and blame the person who shared the image in a moment of private pleasure in the first place. We should blame the individual who shared that image of their ex without that person's consent.

In the balance, I think pushing individuals to err on the side of super-uber-never-share caution when it comes to erotic expression ends up reinforcing a culture of silence around pleasure. I can see it reinforcing women's sense that their sexual expressions and pleasures are invalid, shameful, and something not to share -- even with those whom they are sexually intimate with! That seems like a recipe for sexual mis-communication, as it fosters a climate of self-censorship rather than self-expression of desire.

Again, I realize you are NOT advocating for women (particularly) to stop speaking, writing, or enacting sex across the board. I think what I am observing is that such advice as you give above might unintentionally contribute to a culture-wide, persistent shaming of individual people daring to claim a sexuality that is personal and authentic to themselves through creating (among other things) images that speak of that desire, and sharing them with the people they wish to communicate that desire to.
Claire was gracious enough to continue the conversation, writing among other points:
I honestly don't think we are helping women by either saying they don't have to think about this, or that they should not distrust the capacity of other people to do them harm. It's not a moral issue from my perspective: it's a question of maintaining control if and when that is important to a person. I'm also a little curious about how it is that sharing a nude selfie is authentic and desiring in a different way than showing up in person and removing one's clothes, but that's another conversation, and this may be a generational distinction more than anything else.
To which I responded:
Thanks again for your thoughts.

I think to the extent we disagree it's a matter of emphasis rather than a more substantial philosophical divide. Like you, I would certainly counsel mindfulness about how, where, when, and with whom we share our most intimate selves. At the same time, none of us are omniscient and none of us are responsible (or can control) the actions of people who mishandle those parts of ourselves. If we withhold those parts of ourselves out of fear that we will get hurt ... chances are we won't get hurt, but we also won't have had that chance to share either.

Re: "I'm also a little curious about how it is that sharing a nude selfie is authentic and desiring in a different way than showing up in person and removing one's clothes, but that's another conversation, and this may be a generational distinction more than anything else."

I hesitate to attribute things too reflexively to a generational divide. There are likely people in your age cohort who have (or will) share erotic images of themselves; there are likely many my age (mid-30s) and younger who would recoil from that impulse.

I didn't mean to make it sound like the "nude selfie" is somehow a sacrosanct category of erotic expression -- but I think historically speaking we could probably find the rough equivalent of "the nude selfie" in virtually any generation. In the 1920s perhaps you and I would have been discussing the advisability of college girls going to dance halls, in the 1890s perhaps the advisability of girls sending erotically-charged letters to their beaus for fear they would fall into the wrong hands. I think that erotic self-expression is often a razor-thin balancing act of (on the one hand) sharing one's self with enough vulnerability with one's lovers for a successful, mutual relationship and (on the other hand) policing the boundaries of that intimacy against unwanted intrusion.

So yeah, I think we could haggle endlessly in this situation (or any other situation X) whether in the balance responsibility for breaching those boundaries falls more heavily with the individual or society (and what the consequences of that breach should be). But I don't think our readings are wholly incommensurate.
Any thoughts, readers?


writer, respect thyself [rambling thoughts on undervaluing scholarly labor]

To interrupt the recent run of photo and video and cat related posts with something a bit more library-professional about the place, I've been thinking a lot this week about the tendency of many historians, both amateur and professional, to undervalue their intellectual labor.

Amateur writers do this by, well, framing their labor as "a labor of love": something they've undertaken in their own time, funded out of their own (often shallow) pockets, because of their passion for a particular historical story and their desire to share it with the world. Professional academics do this by, well, framing their work within the context of their academic careers: emphasizing the often grim realities of contracting faculty salaries, vanishing funding in the humanities, and the "non-profit" (at least for the author) structure of most academic publishing. 

Neither of these frames are factually incorrect. We are often underpaid professionals who continue to do the work we're qualified to do out of personal passion and a belief that what we research and share with the world matters in some "greater good" sort of way.

Yet practically, this attitude toward our own work erases the necessity of, well, paying rent. It also colludes with a culture that equates cost with value to erase the work that goes into our creations. By romanticizing the historian (or any other intellectual or artist) who labors with little expectation of financial solvency, let alone reward, we contribute to a culture that devalues what we do. A culture that allows the institutions that employ many of us to pay wages that leave us perpetually financially insecure.

I have a couple of good blog posts on this subject -- by people more eloquent than I -- that I'd like to share, but first let me describe the situation that sparked these reflections.

As Reference Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society, one of my primary responsibilities is facilitating all of the requests for images of material in our collections for use in publications and other projects like documentary films, exhibitions, websites, and so forth. It's one of my favorite parts of the job: it allows me to stay in touch with what use people are making of the resources we make available, and increasingly means (as I pass the six-year mark!) that I see researchers whom I worked with at the beginning of their project finally completing their PhDs or winning a book contract or having an article accepted for publication.

(via Massachusetts Historical Society)
Images you can pull off our website, are available to re-purpose in certain exempt contexts -- classroom lecture, conference presentation, personal blog -- free of charge. The image above is a letter I wrote about for our February 2011 object of the month series.

For made-to-order high resolution images (the file type most professional projects require) incur fees. We charge for this service along two scales. There are reproduction fees, which cover the cost of the labor in producing the image; people are required to pay this fee regardless of how they are using the image -- even if they're just going to hang it on their bedroom wall. Then there are licensing fees, which are charged based on the nature of the publication; we license the images we create that people go on use in their own creations as a way to earn some income from our own creations (the digital reproductions of material in our collections) and pay not only staff salaries, but also for the ongoing care and keeping of these valuable historical documents and artifacts. 

This can be expensive. Images cost $45-60 per file in reproduction fees, and anywhere from $0-450.00 per image in licensing fees. If you are an author seeking to use multiple images in your forthcoming book this can add up fast. I've worked with several authors in the past year who, despite small academic press print runs, have faced over $1,000 as a quote for obtaining the images they would ideally like to use. Our fees are steeper than some independent research libraries charge, but also more sensitive to the scale of individual projects than others. In short, we're balancing the desire to provide access with the need to pay our staff for the work that they do and all of the not-inconsiderable overhead of preservation, storage, and security.

While most people understand this, I do have the occasional individual who tries to haggle with me to get the prices reduced or eliminated. They cite a series of potentially mitigating factors: their relationship with the Society, the fact that they're paying out of pocket for the images, the fact that they're retirees on fixed incomes, that they're academics on tight incomes, that other institutions have offered them lower rates or waived the fees, that the author will not be making only -- sometimes, in fact, they're losing money -- on this project, and so forth. 

I'm sympathetic. I really am. I also understand completely when people decide they can't afford our prices and seek cheaper images elsewhere -- I likely would in their shoes if the cost was prohibitively high. I wish them the best and honestly mean every word that I type. 

But having had several exchanges along similar lines in the past few weeks, I've been wishing I could have slightly more meta conversations with some of these people. "If you've spent ten years writing and researching this book on your own dime," I was to ask them, "why for all that you hold holy have you signed a contract with a for-profit press that is requiring you to pay upfront for all of the production costs?" 

Or, sometimes, when they get sniffy about how steep our fees are, I want to lean a little heavier on the words labor and staff time in my replies. "Why," I want to ask them, "do you feel entitled to obtain something from us for free, even after I explain to you that creating this product takes the time and effort of half a dozen people who work at our library?" 

In these exchanges, I sometimes see an altruistic competitiveness creep in that's really unattractive: I've labored over this work for years without complaint, expecting little reward, some people seem to imply (likely not consciously), and because I'm not benefiting financially from this project -- in fact, I'm losing money! -- you should be likewise generous to the cause of History and give these images to the project for free

Sometimes, there's even the implication that we're somehow holding these digital photographs hostage, selfish money-grubbing institution that we are.

The librarian part of my soul certainly kens this argument. If our society was structured differently, with robust socialized funding for cultural heritage institutions and a guaranteed national income for all citizens that provided me and my family (and everyone!) with food security, housing security, and healthcare, then I would absolutely advocate we digitize and make freely available the images our scholars want to use. They are smart, articulate, energetic, diligent, and prolific people -- and the wide range of stories they come up with to tell using the rich materials in our collections are part of what make my job a daily joy. 

But we don't currently live in that world, and in the world we do live in we should not undervalue our own already culturally devalued work by setting ourselves up pre-emptively as martyrs.

Think carefully before you give your work away, particularly to others who will make a profit from it

Even if you decide to give your own work away, recognize that this does not give you the right to expect others to provide you goods and services for free. Factor in that even on projects you are doing for the pleasure of the work, you will need to pay people fairly for the work they contribute.

Sometimes people will charge what you feel is too much for their labor or products. It's certainly fair to decline their goods and services and go elsewhere. If they care about keeping your business, or if too many people decline what they offer because the price is too steep, they will probably decide to lower their prices. 

What you should never do is try to shame or guilt scholars or artists for earning a living doing the work that they love. 

You also shouldn't be ashamed or feel guilty for trying to earn a living doing the work that you love. 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as an early professional was to be sure to not undervalue my work, and to charge an hourly rate for free-lance research that, at the time, seemed scandalously high to me (used, as I was, to student stipends). But the higher hourly fee we negotiated demanded that both my employer and myself take the project seriously as a professional endeavor. In the two years since then, I have given several colleagues who asked me for free-lance advice the same nudge: "Ask for what you feel would make the job worthwhile," I tell them. Or, "Think about what you believe your time is worth, and then ask for a third again more."

I also remind them to calculate in any expenses they may incur on their way to completing the job they're being asked to do: transportation, equipment, service fees, etc.

My current free-lance rate starts at $25.00/hour, exclusive of expenses, though I do negotiate based on the nature of the project. I always advise emerging professionals who ask what to charge that they should never accept less than $15.00/hour for their research or scholarly work.

I promised you links. 

Writer John Scalzi has an excellent round-up of posts he wrote about how to spot an exploitative book contract (and why he would never sign one). If you read only one of the posts, I would recommend "New Writers, eBook Publishers, and the Power to Negotiate":
People: Unless the publisher you’re talking to is a complete scam operation, devoted only to sucking money from you for “publishing services,” then the reason that they are interested in your novel is because someone at the publisher looked at it and said, hey, this is good. I can make money off of this. Which means — surprise! Your work has value to the publisher. Which means you have leverage with the publisher.
And on a more academic note, Sarah Kendzior asks at the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Should Academics Write for Free?"
Academics entering the media world tend to move from one exploitative arena (low-wage academic work) to another (unpaid freelance writing). But writing must never be an act of charity to a corporation. Ask for what you are worth—and do not accept that you are worth nothing. Insisting on payment for your labor is not a sign of entitlement. It is a right to which you are entitled.
We all labor for free, at times. I've been writing this blog on an unpaid, voluntary basis for over six years; I won't be stopping any time soon. Yet I've just spent three hours writing this post. That's $75.00 I owe myself. I also write book reviews, for free (or in exchange for a book). This fall I'm working on a series of seriously under-paid encyclopedia articles, which I chose to take on for the experience. I will probably negotiate for better terms next time, or decline the next call for authors that comes my way.

There is nothing intrinsically bad about voluntarism. But it does not follow, therefore, that there is something intrinsically virtuous about volunteering your time (or asking another person or institution to volunteer their labor and resources) rather than asking for recompense.

Think carefully about how, why, for whom, and on what terms you will labor for free.

And respect the right of others to determine for themselves how, why, for whom, and on what terms they will do the same.


teazle vs. the top shelf

Last week I shared a video of Teazle perched on the drying rack in our living room and snatching a little stuffed critter from the bookshelf. Since this is not one of her toys, we moved the critter to the top shelf of the bookcase and moved the drying rack away from the shelving.

Since then she's been doing complex mathematical modeling in her tiny kitty brain, and tonight she put her latest model to the test.



west coast trip [no. 4]: sylvia beach hotel

On our way back up the coast from Hayward to Portland, Hanna and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (a few calendar days early) at the Sylvia Beach Hotel -- one of my favorite retreat spots on the West Coast.

It probably tells you all you need to know about my relative level of irredeemable nerdiness that it was in the Alice Walker room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel the summer after my 21st birthday, on a solo road trip vacation, that I enjoyed my first "hard" liquor (a Smirnoff Ice -- I know, right? So daring!).

If memory serves, it put me to sleep.

This was the morning view from our bedroom window this time around.

We had less than twenty-four hours in Nye Beach, but we definitely want to go back. Particularly given the friendly company of hotel cat Shelley.

Sylvia Beach hotel is a book-themed locale with each bedroom named and decorated after a particular author. We were in the Emily Dickinson room. On the third floor is a cozy library space with a kitchenette for coffee and tea and lots of chairs with glorious ocean views.

In the morning after our night over, we soon hit the road for Portland -- but not before stopping at Carl's Coffee for, well, coffee and Books on Beach for a great selection of higglety-pigglety books. Including a number of H.P. Lovecraft collections that Hanna was particularly delighted to find.

The store was a converted tea shop, and this was their "waiting to be shelved" system.

Through most of adolescence, it was a pretty specific dream of mine to end up living on the Oregon Coast running an independent/used bookstore like this in one of the tiny towns along Route 101. I'd sell books to the tourists in the summer and the locals in the winter, filling the long periods between wintertime customers (or the days when the storms blowing in off the ocean made going outside a formidable option) hunkered over my notebooks writing novels and drinking tea in front of a crackling fire.

As you can tell, even then I had no head for business.

We were sorry to leave, and we're both looking forward to going back!


cats with new tricks [photos]

We've been chilling at home a lot the past two weeks, even more than usual, due to Hanna's convalescence (she's on the mend, but under strict instruction to keep on resting through the weekend).

The cats are delighted. Also worried. Worrlighted?

Gerry has decided, around the third anniversary of her joining our family, to become an intensely human-centric companion. As I type this, she is hunkered down between me and Hanna on the bed.

Teazle, on the other hand, has gone the opposite route: instead of crowding closer, she's taken the opportunity to get up to no good. She's like her own walking, talking marauder's map.

This is her latest trick. She's been trying for months to figure out how to scale the drying rack, and just this week mastered the act. 

She's so proud.

Here it is in video form:


on being out day [a belated post]

This Friday, October 11th, was International Coming Out Day.

I thought, in passing, about writing something but I was distracted by trying to get things done at work and by the fact my wife was getting a chest x-ray for pneumonia. And then picking up antibiotics (thank goddess for antibiotics) for her. And remembering to feed the cats. And pick up something for dinner.

Hanna in the redwoods (Sept. 2013)
So this is a belated post on the theme of coming/being out. I don't have anything particularly original to say, except that I am grateful to all of the people throughout history, past and present, who have conspired to make International Coming Out Day an unremarkable occasion in our day lives. Hanna and I live in a time and place where our bisexual inclinations and same-sex relationship are known and largely honored structurally in our workplaces, with our landlord, at our health center, in our city, state (and now, finally, the federal government), by our friends and relations. We hold hands and kiss in public, speak of things sexual while dining out, review queer porn, blog about being dykes.

We don't fear being evicted, fired, blacklisted, jailed, physically attacked, disowned or disinherited, treated as sick because of our sexual selves, or otherwise grossly discriminated against. And if any of these things were top happen to us, we would have advocacy organizations and a network of supporters to turn to for aid.

In many ways, our security is exceptional: many queer folks still live in the toxic closet, or cover aspects of their identities, for fear of social and material marginalization. The young and the old, the gender non-confirming, trans folks, queer people in nations that still actively persecute sexual minorities.

There is obviously still work to be done.

But this week, I'm grateful in my own small domestic way for the work of activists and the kindness of those people in our lives who together made it possible for my Friday to be, in part, a story about leaving work half an hour early so I could get to the pharmacy and pick up Hanna's antibiotics. A story about a boss and colleagues who sent well-wishes for Hanna's quick recovery. A story about a health clinic that knows were a couple and has no problem letting me pick up her medications.

A story about going home to my wife.


some stuff we've been watching

Hanna's in the third week of what's just been formally diagnosed as bronchitis, so between her feeling crap and me keeping the household running (and Gerry getting a cold somewhere in there) none of us have a lot of energy for much beyond work except watching telly.

Thank the goddess for WGBH.

One thing we've gotten sucked into is Last Tango in Halifax. Let's just say we stopped by for Derek Jacobi and hung around for the lesbian sex (NO REALLY).

And then on a lighter note:

Watch The Cafe on WGBH 2 on PBS. See more from WGBH.

The Cafe is a truly delightful little twenty-minute comedy about the denizens of a small seaside village in southwest England. I think my favorite episode might be the one featuring the Hellboy living statue...

Meanwhile, we're thinking good thoughts for all of our friends and fellow citizens affected by the government shutdown (not surprisingly, a fair number of museums, archives, and other cultural institutions are federally funded) and hoping the anti-ACA faction don't get their way at the expense of the rest of the world.

More when things are a bit less of a muchness around here.


west coast trip [no. 3]: hayward

Hanna and I just returned from Connecticut last night, where we enjoyed a brief overnight stay in Storrs so Hanna could deliver a conference paper on late 18th & early 19th century English travel narratives of Ireland, and then yesterday had lunch with friends. If only travel were less expensive, we'd do it more often!

Meanwhile, here are some photos from the wedding leg of our west coast trip.

We were in Hayward, California, to participate in the wedding of Chloe's parents: now Diana and Collin Thormoto.

The night before the wedding, we held the rehearsal on the back patio of Collin's parents' home.

We had to calm down nervous Pastor Dan, who was thrown off-guard by the super-organized bride and groom.

Hanna, one of the three wedding attendants, got to practice her paces on the arm of Collin's brother David.

The wedding was on a Monday in Tilden Park at the Brazilian Room. Despite being September, the afternoon was brutally hot and we had to keep everyone as cool as possible before the ceremony!

The wedding had a bunch of awesome nerdy touches, from the TARDIS cake topper and Sting cake knife to the Star Wars processional music and Lord of the Rings-themed reception tables. You can see lots of beautiful photographs by the professional photographer here.

The wedding "cake" was actually a tower of cupcakes catered by James and the Giant Cupcake, brought in and arranged by these to enthusiastic women (one of whom was wearing a cupcake on her head!).

While not officially part of the wedding party, I was asked to help out and invited to sit at the head table (Bag End) with my own most fabulous spouse. The skirt I wore was sewn for the occasion by my colleague Andrea, who moonlights as a costumier.

(If you squint you can see our bridesmaids gifts -- gorgeous silver necklaces!)

Less than a week after this extravaganza, Hanna and I got to celebrate our own first anniversary while the newly minted wife and husband were off on their honeymoon on Kauai. We silently wished them many happy returns of the day -- and then snuggled up under the comforter and fell back asleep!

Next up, redwoods and ocean views ... we take in a bit of the Oregon Coast before catching our flight back to Boston.


in praise of obamacare [because experience]

As we are all well aware by now (unless you've been living in a media blackout), the Affordable Care Act-mandated healthcare exchanges -- the websites that will enable uninsured folks and people paying for individual plans to enroll in health insurance plans and gain access to government subsidies -- open today.

Much has been written about the political right's hysteria about the ACA, or Obamacare, and their effort to deter the eligible from using these exchanges to gain access to affordable medical services. For the past few weeks the freak-out has only gotten worse.

So I thought, on this auspicious day of an important piece of the Obamacare roll-out, I'd offer up a big "thank you!" for my own experience with Obamacare's more local predecessor, Romneycare.

When I moved to Massachusetts in 2007, I had been paying independently for health insurance since graduating from college in 2005 and becoming ineligible for my parents' workplace-sponsored healthcare coverage. I paid to extend that coverage for several months through COBRA at the price, if memory serves, over $300/month. As that cost was unsustainable, even living in my parents' household, I switched to a catastrophic-coverage plan through Michigan's Blue Cross, Blue Shield. The monthly payments weren't too bad, about $50, but the deductibles were so high that I was paying out of pocket for all of the routine, preventative care that I actually needed: primary care, medications (I'm on several ongoing prescriptions), as well as dental and eye care. Actually, before moving to Massachusetts, I had never had coverage for dental, or eye care. I was used to paying $90-180 per appointment for regular dental cleanings.

Mental health care, too, was something that my family had never had coverage for -- counseling appointments were strictly out of pocket, if we were lucky reimbursable through the flexible spending account (FSA) my parents paid into every year.

Between 2005-2007 I worked a number of part-time positions for between $7-10 per hour. My last pre-library school job was at Barnes & Noble where I worked 15-30 hours/week for minimum wage. I started there at $7.50/hour and when I quit the job to take a position at the Massachusetts Historical Society I was making around $9.00/hour.

At the MHS I earned $14.00/hour, which was more than I'd ever made in my life. But at 21 hours/week only came to roughly $15,300/year ... before taxes. In order to buy into the Simmons-sponsored student health plan, I would have had to take out additional student loans to cover the premiums.

Thankfully, as a part-time graduate student I qualified for the Massachusetts state-subsidized healthcare program. After submitting an application, providing proof of income and lack of insurance options through work, and waiting for the bureaucracy to churn away I was approved for Commonwealth Care. Hanna was also approved as well, after many years of being uninsured during periods of low- and unemployment in states without comprehensive health insurance programs.

bDuring the rest of my part-time employment/graduate student days -- until I transitioned to full-time professional employment with work-sponsored healthcare coverage -- I had Commonwealth Care to thank for access to a primary care provider, to eye- and dental care (for which I paid only co-pays for the first time in my life) and, wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles mental health coverage.

Let me repeat this for you:

For the cost of between $0-$100/month in premiums, and $0-20/visit in co-payments, scaled as our income changed, Hanna and I had access to comprehensive medical care. Thanks to Romneycare. 

Between 2007-2011, while we pieced together part-time work for living expenses and shouldered the burden of student loans to cover tuition, we had the peace of mind that our medical needs wouldn't go by the wayside due to our inability to pay.

our awesome health center
Romneycare paid for us to go for our annual physicals and our ladybit exams.

Romneycare paid for my thyroid medication and all of Hanna's prescriptions, sometimes with no co-pay.

Romneycare gave Hanna access to psychiatric and counseling services when she needed them to combat depression.

Romneycare brought us eye exams and low-cost prescription lenses.

Romneycare funded dental cleanings, x-rays, and repair work.

There's been a lot of talk about how young adults, supposedly healthy, have little incentive to engage in these health insurance marketplaces. Yet there are plenty of young adults out there who have chronic health conditions (or are working to prevent chronic health conditions toward which they would otherwise be trending). Apart from anything else, how many of us need glasses or contacts? Despite America's love affair with youthful bodies, young bodies are not always healthier bodies. And the struggles of those bodies are not always within our powers to ameliorate or eliminate without access to health care professionals.

I can't create the synthetic hormones that make up for my lack of a functioning thyroid.

I can't grind the glass to create the lenses that allow me to work and drive safely.

I can't manage my migraines without assistance from my primary care provider.

Hanna needs ongoing support to navigate her depression and anxiety.

We've both, in the past two years, needed diagnostic tests and physical therapy to prevent chronic injury.

In 2011 we both transitioned into professional positions that offered robust health plans as part of the benefits package. Today, we pay roughly $120/month (pre-tax) in premiums through our employers to continue our access to medical, mental, dental, and eye care. Most appointments come at a $15-20 co-pay; prescriptions are $5-20 per refill. We are able to utilize flex spending accounts, and thanks to a strong union, Hanna's co-payments annually top out at $135 for her wage bracket.

Last year we were reimbursed about $800 by Harvard for prescriptions and co-payments.

I haven't done the math for all our medical services, but without insurance our counseling appointments alone would cost $10,800 as billed ... about 2/3 what we pay in rent annually.

While we're lucky to have workplaces that offer these benefits, it's also reassuring to know -- in this age of uncertain employment -- that if one or the other of us needs Commonwealth Care again, it will be there to access. I've referred friends the program. And I'm glad to know that many, many others in the state of Massachusetts have been able to access care like we did, supported by our tax dollars.

(According to one subsidy calculator, if Hanna and I needed to purchase
private insurance, even at our current income we'd get $900 annually
in federal subsidies to help make that more affordable.)
This coming year, I'm going to feel a little bit better about being an American citizen in a nation where people in Michigan, Texas, Oregon, and elsewhere can access care also.

Supported by our tax dollars.

I believe this is (the beginning of) government as it could and should be.

Thank you, Obamacare, for taking a step in the right direction.