Here's me—1968, the year I graduated from college, ready to face the world in my beehive hairdo and unbounded optimism. When I was ready, a year later (I spent my first year out of college working for my sorority), to get out into the real world, after getting a job, my first adult decision was to buy a car, using the money I had saved for the down payment. My dad, of course, had to co-sign on the loan, because women could not borrow money or apply for credit before 1974. For the same reason, he co-signed the lease on my first apartment. If I hadn't had a Dad or husband, I'd have had to find some other agreeable man to sign for me. Really.
Over the next couple of years I had three different jobs. My first was in a fancy furniture store where I was training to be an interior designer. My pay, as a trainee, was very low, then when I moved from trainee to commission sales it dropped to practically nothing. The older men I worked with regularly managed to poach most of my customers and my commissions. When I complained I was told I had to understand that they had families to support. I didn't. And I was a terrible salesperson.
My next job was an utter disaster from the outset. I taught sewing at the local Singer Sewing Machine dealership. (I told the whole story here) During my training I learned that all Singer shop managers, throughout the world, were men. Women were deemed incapable of such a job— you know—managing people and "money stuff"! It seems laughable now, and felt outrageous even then. But, due to my shop's poor male management, business was so bad that my job was eliminated after only a few weeks, so I never had to ponder my lack of upward mobility within the Singer organization.
The third job was designing and creating window and store displays at the downtown Boise Bon Marche department store. In many ways I was born for this job and I loved so many things about it, but once again I had to swallow the knowledge that the men, who I actually supervised, made more money than I did, because—you guessed it—they "had families to support." There was also a small incident when one of those men asked to be given a different job because he could not deal with the idea of a woman supervisor. He was accommodated and my boss, apologetically told me it was because he was from a military family that the idea of taking directions from a woman was so abhorrent. We had to understand such things...
By now I had met and married Ray and, though I loved creating displays, it seemed my best option was to go back to school and become a teacher because that was one of the few professions where women enjoyed a measure of equity, though there were no female administrators and I was told, when I was hired that if I became pregnant I would have to quit. As it turned out, this policy was overturned that very year and I did get pregnant! But I had never wanted to be a teacher and I struggled.
I embraced the Women's movement that was coming into its own and little by little things changed. I worked and studied my way into other, better jobs over the years and life has been good. Change came, but only because women fought for it. I've never forgotten that. And I bless those women—Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, so many more... And now the movement is ancient history and most equal rights pretty much taken for granted, as they should be. Younger women didn't see the change happen, so I'm not surprised that they don't view the idea of the possibility of a woman president as anything any more unusual than the idea of a woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (which didn't happen until 1972, by the way. Look it up. Katharine Graham) Our stories of how women were treated when we were young now sound antiquated and a little like the stories our parents told of walking 5 miles, through the snow, to school each day. Yeah, yeah, things were tough.....yawn.
So, now, for me, it all comes back as we nominate a woman—A WOMAN!—to run for president. A woman in the White House. A woman capable of the job. Not as a symbol, but as an affirmation of not just equal opportunity but equal ability, equal intellect, equal emotional strength. It could have been any number of such women over the years, but it wasn't, until now. We could actually have a woman president. It will happen, if not now, soon. Because now it can happen. And it still matters.