When my mom was in junior high in the mid 1970s, girls weren’t allowed to take shop class, while boys were allowed to learn how to cook and sew in home economics. My mom challenged her school’s policy and thanks to her, ninth grade girls were operating power tools at her school in 1975.
More than two decades later it was a requirement for all students to take shop when I was in junior high. Thanks, Mom (it’s kind of ironic you ended up married to a shop teacher).
I recently watched an episode of MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a PBS series that highlights the women in recent past who yelled, who fought and who went against the “rules” to give today’s women the freedoms we enjoy. Freedoms I admit, I take for granted.
It’s important to be reminded of where women were not too long ago. The episode I watched began in the 1950s, during an era when women went to college to obtain a “MRS” degree and snag a husband before they graduated so they wouldn’t have to put their degree to use. Growing up there was never any doubt I wouldn’t go to college. I always thought it’s what happened after high school. When I wanted to be a professional beach volleyball player my parents invested in club and camps. When I wanted to be a travel writer my parents encouraged creative writing classes and workshops. When I wanted to be a journalist my parents packed me and dropped me off at college.
I could be whatever I wanted to be and it’s because of the women who came before me. Thanks to people like Gloria Steinem and Barbara Walters (journalists who made an impact during a male-dominant era) I have enjoyed a successful post-graduate career as a sports journalist and editor. That was no easy feat for a female minority in past decades. There were times (four times to be exact) I was the only full-time employed female on the sports desk in a newsroom.
I am fortunate to be a product of a blended family full of strong, independent, successful women, like my mom. The females of my family tree include an Air Force colonel, a registered nurse, special education teachers, state workers and a mom who raised three kids on her own. These women were the daughters of the homemaker generation, women who didn’t go to college. I have grown up looking up to these women every day. I saw the work they put in to make the impact they do and I want to be a part of that.
In my family is also a female collegiate athlete from the 1970s-era. Last week ESPN launched “Nine for IX” a documentary series that features women in sports to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Thanks to the trails blazed before me I was able to play sports all through elementary, junior and high school, for fun in college and to this day in recreation leagues. Girls are even playing football and wrestling. It’s normal today but not too long ago, women and athletics were viewed differently.
Katherine Switzer was in college when she wanted to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, a time when women were not allowed to for fear they would grow muscular legs, mustaches and their uterus might fall out after 26.2 miles. But run she did and with the aid from her All-American college football boyfriend, she crossed the finish line. Five years later women were welcome to enter the race. Now women are running ultra-marathons, 100-mile races and competing in the Ironman triathlon.
The MAKERS episode featured a variety of voices in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s (my mother’s generation) that left me inspired and proud to be a part of the female population. Before women had equal rights, one woman would stand up to cause a fuss. A fuss that would lead to a movement. The term homemaker isn’t the same as it used to be. Today women can be a stay at home mom and own her own company.
This post is a thank you. A thank you to the women who shook up the world and moved mountains. This is a thank you to giving the women of my generation the opportunities we enjoy without question. Thank you to the women in my life who have encouraged and showed me what it is to be a proud, strong woman who can be whatever she wants to be, and with success.