by Ann Marshall
As I grew up, I thought women’s equality was an “of-course-we-are-fact”, not an “issue.” My mother had had a professional life for 10 years before she married Dad. She worked for U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez until she was 30, splitting her time between Santa Fe and Washington, D.C. She was smart, confident, and capable.
Mom and Dad brought me up expecting to obtain a college degree and believing I could do whatever I set my mind to. In the ferment at the University of Colorado, the nascent movement for women’s equality seemed a natural progression to me and my gal pals, not an anomaly.
How little I knew!
In 1962, prompted by Eleanor Roosevelt, President Kennedy established the Commission on the Status of Women. First task: Figure where women’s equality stood in American society.
Now, 56 years later, I’m astonished at how many things I was not expected nor even allowed to do in 1962:
- Women in America were excluded from serving on juries, an exclusion the Supreme Court unanimously upheld so as not to interfere with women’s functions as wives, homemakers, and mothers.
- Women were excluded from high-level federal jobs, even when uniquely qualified.
- Women were denied credit and mortgages unless they had a male cosigner.
- Women were not allowed to teach in public schools if they became pregnant, and some school systems refused teaching jobs to married women.
- Airline stewardesses were forced to resign when they got married or reached the age of 31.
- Women rarely received tenured professorships, jobs in educational administration, or admission to law, business, engineering, architectural, or medical schools — on the grounds they would use up a seat that should be filled by a man.
Women earned 58 cents on the dollar that men earned for the same work.
- Fewer than 1 percent of judges were women.
- Unless you were Katherine Hepburn, whose decision to wear trousers in public was daring, it was unthinkable that you would wear slacks, except in the privacy of your own home.
Surprising? Yes, indeed. Read this and so much more in Judith Nies’ THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND.
Learn from Past; Celebrate Progress
And remember: The battle for women’s equality is not over. We still have work to do, as evidenced by a newer cause for foment: The #MeToo” Movement. See one of my recent blogs on this topic.
Meanwhile, let’s celebrate what progress we’ve made toward women’s equality. As Loretta Lynn reminds us, we HAVE “come a long way, Baby” — and enjoy her music at the same time.