June 28, 2022
When my husband and I were first married, and he was in medical school, I taught high school English at a large and diverse public high school in Webster Groves, Missouri. That job supported us during those years, but that was in 1971 and my income didn’t make a difference when I applied for a credit card. Only my husband’s income counted, but he didn’t have an income.
In his last year of medical school I was pregnant. Our first child was due in August, which meant I would be able to teach through the end of the school year, and then we would move back to Minnesota where Bruce would be a resident in family practice. He would have an income.
What I didn’t know those first months of my pregnancy was that the superintendent of schools and the principal (both white men) conferred to decide if I would be allowed to continue teaching. Apparently, school board members were consulted as well. You see, I was the first female teacher in the school district who didn’t lose my job because of pregnancy.
There is another piece to this story. There were a number of students, who were also pregnant, and during the lunch hour we gathered in my classroom to talk about how we were feeling and what we saw in our futures. I was the only one who had a bright future; a future that included a husband with a good job; a future that included good medical care; a future that welcomed this new life I was growing.
I know some faculty members felt those young women should not have been allowed to continue attending classes, and I also recall some of my colleagues who were uncomfortable working with a pregnant teacher and expressed that discomfort, making off-color remarks.
I have often thought about those young women sitting uncomfortably in my classroom on chairs not made for pregnant women. What has happened to them and to their babies? And what do they think about the recent Supreme Court decision.
I tell these stories because they are examples of women not being viewed as full human beings, as people deserving of all the rights assumed by men, especially white men.
Others decided what I and other women were allowed to do and how to move forward in our lives.
The next decades saw lots of changes. Thank you feminists of both sexes for working to make these changes. Not all was perfect. Not everything changed, and the fight for equality for all has continued, but now, just like the children’s game, Simon Says, the Supreme Court has dictated, “Take a giant step backwards.” The writer Glennon Doyle calls this time “The Great Backslide.”
I am angry and I am sad. And I am scared about the future.
Earlier in the week I sat in my “Paris” garden and addressed and wrote messages on postcards to be sent to registered Democratic voters in Florida. The message was a simple reminder to request mail-in ballots for the upcoming election. I supplied the postcards, the stamps, and the time, and Postcards to Voters sent me the instructions and a mailing list. The morning’s task felt like prayer.
Be angry. Be sad, and acknowledge your fear, but at the same time lift your voice in the way that truly makes a difference: VOTE.
Vote and remind others to vote. Are there young people in your lives who are eligible to vote? Ask them if they have registered? If they haven’t, let them know what they need to do and help them do that, if necessary. Share stories and experiences with them about what it means to live without the right to live authentically and fully. Tell them to celebrate your birthday or the 4th of July by requesting a mail-in ballot.
It is good to march and protest and certainly to support worthy candidates and causes financially, but ultimately, what each of us can do and needs to do is vote. Vote for candidates who are willing to support the rights of all people.
How are you? I would love to know.
For information about sending postcards: https://postcardstovoters.mypostcard.com/blogs/ptv-faq/how-to-get-addresses