Things Have Changed — But…

Young women today don’t realize, I think, how things were, and not that long ago. Gail Collins’ new book reminds us of how things were.

When I was in high school I decided to be a “lady lawyer” — that was the term for women lawyers, since there were so few.

In college at a Jesuit university, if we women EVER wore pants, we had to leave campus by the shortest route possible.  My dorm roommate could go to breakfast in her nightgown with a coat over it, but not in pants.  This wasn’t just about what we wore — it was about control.

When I got an “honorary” scholarlship at my first choice Jesuit university — i.e. no money — a male friend who was a student there told me they never gave scholarships to women.

In one of my first jobs, at a bank, a woman co-worker in a low-level clerical job pointed out to me that she had exactly the same educational credentials as the male junior executive in our dept.  Our dept. was managed by a woman, who said that she got into management because she couldn’t type.  If she could have typed they would have made her a secretary.

When I was married and tried to apply for a credit card in my own name, I had to fight with the bank.  And some friends had to fight with the hospital when their first child was born — the wife had kept her own name, and the hospital wasn’t about to register a child with a different last name than its mother.

When I got my PhD and went on the academic job market, at the major job-hunting conference someone I interviewed with (fortunately) told me my dean was undermining me. He was telling people that I had a husband in SF and so wasn’t mobile, even though I was interviewing for jobs all over the country.

And in today’s NY Times, an op-ed by a woman who went to college in the 80’s who says “My generation was wrong to think the fight for equality was over.”


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