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Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009.  (REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Aretha Franklin sings during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)


The Week in Women: A royal engagement, a history-making transgender politician and the legacy of Aretha

By Brigit Katz on August 17, 2018

It’s a blast from the past in this week’s newsletter, as we look back in history and look forward to the people who are making it. Let’s get started, shall we?

Aretha Franklin, who will forever be remembered as the “Queen of Soul,” died on Thursday at the age of 76. She had been battling pancreatic cancer. Over the course of her career, which spanned more than 50 years, she won 18 Grammys, sold 75 million records and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She brought soul music to the mainstream, and her influence can be felt in many of the powerhouse female singers who succeeded her. Franklin was also a feminist icon. One of her most famous songs, “Respect,” was originally about a man’s desire for peace in the home; in Aretha’s hands, it became an anthemic demand for women’s rights. “We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white,” she once said. “It’s our basic human right.”

Remember those halcyon days when Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman were just two wacky reality TV show personas who had never stepped foot in the White House? Well, Manigault Newman, who once served as Trump’s aide, is now spilling all the tea about her former boss. She claimed recently to have heard a tape of the real estate mogul saying the N-word during filming for NBC’s The Apprentice, and also alleged that Trump forced White House staffers to sign non-disclosure agreements barring them from speaking negatively about Trump, his family, or his organizations. Trump, exercising his usual restraint, took to Twitter to call Manigault Newman a “dog” and “crazed, crying lowlife.” If you need us, we’ll be buttering up all the popcorn.

Christine Hallquist became the first-ever transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship by a major party after winning a landslide victory in the Democratic primary in Vermont on Tuesday. Hallquist, a first-time candidate, was previously chief executive of the Vermont Electric Cooperative. She now faces a tough battle against incumbent Phil Scott, a Republican, in the general election. But Hallquist told The Associated Press that she’s ready for the challenge. “I can handle all the bigotry and all the grief in the world,” she said, “to know I’m supporting people in a marginalized community.”

Japan’s Princess Ayako has broken with tradition by becoming formally engaged to Kei Moriya, her college sweetheart and — gasp! — a commoner. The two took part in a traditional betrothal ceremony, known as “Nosai no Gi,” over the weekend in Tokyo, and they are expected to be married on October 29. The marriage will require Ayako to relinquish her royal status. Under the decades-old Imperial Household Law, royal women cannot inherit the throne and must leave the royal family upon marrying a commoner. There has been a recent push in Japan to modernize these rules—not least because there are only a few males left in the country’s imperial family. But thanks so much, Princess Ayako and Co., for giving Disney the plot of its next animated film.