PASS THE BATON
"When Elizabeth was publisher of the Wellsville Globe, I had the privilege of working just a half of a block from her office. Businesswomen were scarce on Main Street in the early 1940’s and not well accepted. Almost every building was occupied by a business owner and operated by a local, hardworking man, who in most cases was somewhat chauvinistic. They were not accustomed or receptive to having women at Chamber of Commerce meetings, much less listening to their suggestions."
From page 9 of "Signs Along the Way"
It's hard to believe how much has changed in the past hundred years regarding women's rights - and even harder to explain those issues to the current generation. As a society, we have become complacent about such matters - until Trump slapped us out of our stupor with his misogynistic rantings and behavior. I feel like I'm watching a bad movie from the 1920's...
When did this non-equality thing start, anyway? And how? We all know there are physical and emotional differences, that's what makes us each special. But, every one of us starts out as the same tiny bundle of cells, in the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter what we turn out to be. No - the equality issue raises it's ugly head in matters of politics, legislation, employment, and education opportunities. I can personally relate to issues of women's equality only from the mid 1950's on - you'll have to go to Google for stats and numbers of other eras. I lived many changes, right along with Mom and Grandma Layton. Young ladies, understand that many rights you take for granted today have not always existed, and can be surely taken away.
Divorce carried quite a stigma in the 1950's, and since employment opportunities were mostly limited to "traditional" women's jobs such as secretary, teacher, librarian, etc., many women settled for a cheating and/or abusive husband rather than face the social shame and financial struggles bestowed upon a "grass widow". Mom and Dad were divorced when I was three, and there were minimal child support laws in place. One hundred dollars a month for three girls would barely pay a babysitter - but Mom wasn't even able to collect a dime. In fact, the one time she took Dad back to court to enforce the support, the judge decreased the payments, because Mom made more money than Dad did - which was barely nothing.
In the 60's, elementary girls were not allowed to wear trousers or slacks of any kind to school, it was dresses or skirts and blouses only. In fact, it was the early to mid-1970's before female office workers were permitted to wear pantsuits in the workplace in many cities - and they had to be a matching jacket and slacks. My daughter Shannon would have never made it past Kindergarten - it was a huge struggle to get her into a dress, at least until she turned sixteen or so... How wonderful it is to be able to choose a varied wardrobe, seems like such a little thing these days, but as a little girl, how I longed to wear pants to school! It sure would have prevented lots of skinned-up knees at recess...
Birth control. Feels like it has been our "right" forever, right? Not entirely. In 1965, the Supreme Court finally gave married couples the right to use birth control. However, millions of unmarried women in 26 states were still denied birth control, literally and politically screwed. It wasn't until 1972 that the court legalized birth control for all citizens of this country, irrespective of marital status. Seven years worth of unwanted pregnancies and risky illegal abortions that could have been avoided, if only women had the right to decide. Since I brought up that touchy abortion subject, let me just say this: No woman, anywhere or ever, said, "Such a lovely day, I think I'll get an abortion." It is an unbearably difficult decision that should never be legislated. And that's all I will say about that...
Financial equality hasn't always been a thing, and we still have a long way to go. Women had to have their husband's permission to get a bank account as recent as the 1960's. By 1974, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed, and single, married, or widowed we no longer needed a man to cosign for us. Can you believe it? That was only 43 years ago...
I could go on and on, but will let Grandma Layton's drawing fill in the rest. We can't go backward - our daughters deserve so much more. Carla
9/18/2017 07:42:18 am
We've come so far, yet so far to go. Raised by strong, independent women, I never thought that we were inferior in any way. The inequality manifests itself more insidiously these days. Thanks big sister, in a world where I feel sometimes very alone because of my thoughts and opinions you are an inspiration to me.
9/18/2017 10:04:17 am
I never felt inferior either, except in some relationships I allowed that to happen. We were lucky to have a history of strength and inspiration to draw from. I like in myself that my opinions and thoughts are well-rooted, and I no longer feel the need to defend them. I too believe every generation of women need to know the history of equality, so they can, as Carla says, carry the Baton and know it is alway evolving. As American women we have things so much better than many other cultures, but still have oppression to battle. Each of us can make a difference in our own way. Grandma expects it of us.
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If an inquisitive somebody were to demand a DNA analysis be done on the 3 sisters, he may not be surprised to find those twisted strands are coated with a healthy dose of printer's ink, given our pedigree and the many literary contributions from our maternal ancestors: