While I’ve always believed in the equality of the female of our species, regrettably, as a young woman in the 1970’s, I was not drawn to the political battle. Thank God there were others who were. I don’t know if my daughter’s generation realizes that if it were not for the accomplishments of people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gloria Steinem, and a host of others, they might still depend upon the signature of a man to open a bank account. Seriously. I was a junior in high school before a woman could legally walk into a bank and open an account without the signature of a man. *See reference below.
I’ve been struggling lately regarding tardiness in finding my voice. It’s embarrassing. I watched the Prime Video series Mrs. America https://www.amazon.com/Mrs-America/dp/B086T67QPC and it made me sad that I hadn’t been more involved in the fight to ratify the ERA. Um, still not law, by the way. I watched On the Basis of Sex https://www.amazon.com/Basis-Sex-Felicity-Jones/dp/B07M5HLCKH and again, felt deeply disappointed in my own contribution. Why wasn’t I actively involved? More willing to accept responsibility? At least become better informed? Opportunity missed.
I can sit here and say I wasn’t gifted with the intellect, encouragement, or grit of a Brooklyn girl like RBG. I can claim Gloria was a California girl with a fascinating upbringing that would open doors not even cracked for a preacher’s daughter from Greenwood, Indiana. Excuses.
Let’s visit a real conversation I had with my mother in the 1960’s:
“I know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“Well, what is it?”
“No you don’t. They have to lie for a living.”
My apologies to my lawyer friends. Maggie was doing the best she could with what she knew at the time.
My central message these days is: Find out who you are and be her. At the age of 63, still searching. Obviously, this isn’t my lifetime to be a lawyer or a judge or a feminist icon and that’s okay. But I do know deep within my heart, a country who underutilizes the power and underpays the talent of half the population, based upon sex, is foolish. Perhaps my mission is to speak to those who are just awakening, whatever her age. To exemplify the lifetime learner. Perennial growth.
My most fervent prayer for my daughters, granddaughters, nieces, young neighbors and the entire cadre of women about whom I care is they learn to listen to the still small voice within and allow it to be her guide. While they’re young. Or whenever. May we all draw upon the spirits of the bravest outliers. Those nasty women who did their own thing. Those who were confident enough to reject the limitations of the weighty robe of pleasing. Those who found out who they were and had the gumption to do something about it. May we all find our unique voice and use it with pride–when we are ready–in our own way.
*1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act passes in the US. Until then, banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income. They would also discount the value of those wages when considering how much credit to grant, by as much as 50%. https://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/aug/11/women-rights-money-timeline-history