Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why it matters to me

 

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.

 

26 comments:

  1. Oh Wow Terry. You nailed it. Back then, girls didn't do much sports either and if they did, we always played second fiddle to the boys. I remember taking feminist classes at college and hoping sometime in my life things would equal out. My dad was an elementary school principal. He used to come home griping about the women and how they made it difficult for men to succeed. By the time I was in high school, he and I had had so many fights about the women that we would go for days not talking. By the time college rolled around, dad want me to go in the business world so I could make some real money. I ended up in the securities/investment world. Even more sexist and discriminating than my dad. It was awful seeing/experiencing the pay discrepancies. By then, dad had mellowed out and was much more understanding and supporting of women in business. Fast forward to now. He is 90. Fighting dementia. Fighting the fact he has lost control of his mind and his body. When he starts complaining, he starts in again on the women. All his problems are because of the women. His nurses and I just keep repeating the mantra -- it is the disease. But I think down deep, I know that it is more than the disease. His dislike of the women in business/teaching/working outside of the house really was the way people were brought up back then. As he dements, he returns farther farther back into his life. Right now we are in 1945 at Camp Skokie and in the Army. Thanks for letting me ramble. Thanks for acknowledging so eloquently how historic this week has been.

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  2. You are so right about how much change has happened. We must not forget all those trail blazers as well as all the women that were in the trenches such as yourself changing the face of our country and the world in so many ways. I think you looked lovely in your bee hive hairdo and are still quite beautiful!!

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  3. Lovely post. Things have certainly changed over the years. I didn't realize that about needing a cosigner, but I did have difficulty getting promotions, having to work twice as hard and yet losing a job with a man. Also with men not accepting my leadership role or having trouble taking direction from a woman. Actually that still happens to this day. We've made a lot of progress, and having a woman who could be a president is a great accomplishment for all of us. We still have a long way to go.

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  4. Anonymous6:52 PM

    Well said and true. I wish there was a 'like' button!

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  5. Great post. i was born in 1925, had to quit my job when I married in 1951. Hope to live long enough to see Hillary in the White House. Get out and vote!

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  6. Bravo!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story!!

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  7. Amen sister! It's amazing the things women have had to deal with. I was just offered a job at $10k lower than a former colleague of mine...it still happens! I'm with her~not JUST against him!

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  8. Chantal Guillermet12:34 AM

    I agree with you Terry ! and don't you think a woman would have another sensibility ?

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  9. Same age, same kind of story but different details in mine. My husband's career in mining eventually had the family moving reasonably often to accommodate it - of course he earned a great amount more than my teacher's salary, so without question, it always had precedence! And there have been a lots of pluses and benefits along the way. There are now female engineers and geos in the industry and these people do get equal pay and opportunity, typically. But mining spouses and families no longer move - their partners, the employess do. From drillers and samplers up to the highest execs, all fly in and fly out on work rosters, typically 11 days out and 4 or 5 days home. Despite it sounding like progress and recognition, there are some serious social downsides at family and community levels. Young things' jaws drop at the concept of having to move to a job like 'we' did, and some of the places we lived. I always found rich involvement in every community we were in - including volunteering and at times interesting paid jobs, quite often with other mining companies.

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  10. Yes, it IS important! What you say here certainly resonates with me. I am praying that we continue to move forward and not backward.

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  11. Wow! What a powerful letter. I graduated from high school the year you graduated from college. In high school, I was not allowed to take a drafting class because "girls weren't allowed to." Yes, we've come a long way, but there is farther to go. Thank you for a great reminder!

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  12. I have a similar picture taken in 1964, a year out of high school - no college for me - according to my father, college was for boys, not for girls and he would not support my taking that next step. I got a job 5 days out of high school with an insurance agency (had an offer from a real estate agency and a law firm) and never looked back. Much like banking, men rule that industry, but I managed to make it work for me, even working part time for 8 years when my 3 children were young. When I became a supervisor, I had 34 people to manage, over half made more than myself, most of them men. That was the point when I realized that I had not managed my own career properly. The last nine years of my career I worked in the "home office" of an insurance company researching and developing programs which was work that I loved to do. I quit work after 40+ years.
    I have two very successful daughters (son is a success as well) who have been taught their self worth and earning respect in the workplace through hard work and commitment and speaking up for themselves. Oh, and they are both college graduates!

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  13. I was filled with pride this week....such a contrast with the convention last week. Your post awakened memories of reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I was enraged! Felt as if I had been duped. I was a struggling young mother and wife trying to be the very best at it and falling short as my heart wasn't in it. I fear that the young women today will not appreciate and protect the rights so hard won. But each generation has its own issues and battles. Let's
    hear it for Hillary. Really want to see how she will handle the Presidency. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

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  14. Good post. I was born in '66. We had limited girls' sports in high school, and always second best equipment. Not even soccer until well after I'd graduated from college. You floored me on the credit thing. Holy smokes. We've come a ways, but not far enough. I'm really excited about a Hillary presidency.

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  15. Amen and amen! Reminds me of the time I applied to substitute teach in the math department of the neighborhood high school and was asked why a girl would major in math! Also of the times when as a stay at home mom, I attempted to take care of banking chores and the bank would call my husband at work to see if it was okay!

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  16. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Thank you for this perspective, and to remind me how lucky I've been. Only 12 years younger than you, I was able to graduate with an engineering degree because of supportive male professors and fellow students - mostly guys. But I was one of a lucky few. We must all keep fighting for equal treatment - even in 2016, even if its not our immediate challenge. I am with HER! From the proud owner of your "Air" art piece- still love it every day! Carol H.

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  17. I didn't have the lovely beehive but my picture looks just like yours. I was "allowed" to go to college for no reason other than to marry a college graduate. How's that for forward thinking on my dad's part? I never lived by myself or had to buy anything as I married right after my senior year. Such a good girl.

    But last week my heart swelled (sort of like the Grinch) as first Bill Clinton described his wife and then our President described Hillary as being "way more qualified to be President" than either Bill or himself. Who would or could have hoped for this? We still have scared white men who will hate her till time stands still--but I hope enough "other" men will vote and I hope EVERY woman will vote.

    Please send this letter of yours to every op ed editor in the country. They'll gladly print it. And the women who read it will be humbled by your words.

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  18. this is an amazing post and I hope that it gets read by many many people - especially young women who need to know these kinds of things.

    thank you Terry

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  19. Just found your blog and love this post. I'll follow you now. It's all bittersweet for those of us who remember this world (our kids and grandkids often don't get it). But I am so grateful it will be a better world for my granddaughter. Hugs and thanks for the great start to the day!

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  20. Oh Terry, thank you so much for sharing. As a young(ish) working professional, I do take gender equality (ok, mostly equal) for granted and I attribute this to you and many other women faced with the same struggles who persevered. I am grateful for you, my grandmother, my grandfather and our family friends who raised boys (and girls) who were taught that women can be anything and deserve the same opportunities as their male peers. It is amazing that we are only a generation apart and the lengths women have achieved from the time you left college to the time I left (just 39 years). Again, thanks for sharing and I am honored to take your story with me always and exercise my American right to vote... for a woman.

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    1. Jess, you struck a nerve with me! I am Terry's age and since my early realizations of what we women were up against, I have believed a huge element of change lies in how we raise our boys. Recognition of fair play has to start early and needs reinforcement by enlightened men. No matter what positive messages we give our girls, if our boys aren't getting it too then it seems an impossible hurdle. Women seem to be alarmingly victimized and objectified on college campuses today, so my generation has surely failed in many ways.

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  21. We dare not forget history lest we repeat it.... and in this case we need to celebrate our progress and accomplishments long and loudly for all to hear! Thanks for writing down y(our) story!

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  22. Anonymous6:54 AM

    This is not the first time one of your postings has brought tears to my eyes. You seem to be able to express my exact feelings but in a much more eloquent way than I ever could. Lovely post,thanks. Julie

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  23. The struggle has lasted longer than our lifetimes. I am 69 years old, and my grandmother was a suffragette in Scotland a hundred years ago. My mother always dinned into me as a child that I had the precious gift of a vote and I must always use it. I always have. I wish the USA well in their current election and I hope the women of America will make the right choice for your country. Good luck!
    Christine

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  24. Our stories are so similar and yet so different. My mother was a single woman working as a housekeeper and struggling to make a living but she always aspired for me to go to college and do better - marry a college man! Oh mom! I did go to college, I did marry a college man eventually. But, I was fired from my first real job because I was pregnant,it just didn't look good and shouldn't I be home taking care of my husband? Had to drop out of school because of that big belly, it was disgraceful to flaunt that sex thing in a place of learning so I was shamed every day. My Daughters and granddaughters now take for granted all our very hard won rights and even willingly give many of them back in the name of beauty or sexuality. I had tears in my eyes the night Hillary was nominated and even though I do not vote with my vagina I can say I'm happy to at last see a viable female candidate.

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