I came of age during the women’s movement in the 70’s and early 80’s, and learned of glass ceilings and male chauvinist pigs. I learned that women were paid 69 cents for every dollar that a man was paid. But I also learned of great historical women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, and Amelia Earhart. I loved reading stories with strong fictional women like Robert A Heinlen’s Friday and Shakespeare’s Katherine, poetry by Maxine Kumin and Denise Levertov, and articles in Ms. Magazine. There were battles to be won, but great role models as well.
Earlier this week I was flying high, as I got to see some “real life” role models, that didn’t exist in the 70’s and early 80’s — live and in person.
On Sunday, our new diocesan bishop, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, came to my church, celebrating communion, and then joining us for a ground-breaking ceremony out at the new church site. Bishop Mary was in her element during her sermon and the communion, clearly at ease. It was inspiring to see her in action — her sermon’s clear and actionable message, the sense of grace and authority she conveyed at the altar, her sense of humor and approachability. And of course, I was pleased when she told me that an upgrade of the diocese website was in the works, with an RSS feed being discussed.
On Tuesday, I made a damn-the-torpedoes trip to San Francisco’s Professional Business Women’s Conference, ignoring work and health deterrents. I wasn’t going to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Madeleine Albright, America’s first woman Secretary of State. But I was probably more excited about hearing Cokie Roberts, NPR’s famous political journalist, whom I had been listening to my entire adult life, my personal Walter Cronkite — if Cokie said it, it was so. I wasn’t disappointed.
Secretary Albright called on more women not just to join the political arena, but to use their political positions to help other women, and to champion legislation to help women and children. She told us a delightful story of all of the women secretaries of state at the time — 14 in all — meeting, and promising to return each other’s phone calls. One male secretary of state complained that he didn’t get the same access as Barbados did, and she told him that he should see that his successor was a woman! He stopped complaining. She also shared some of her views about today’s foreign policy, and what it was like for her during the war in Kosovo.
Cokie Roberts shared some of the stories from her latest book about historical politically powerful women, Dolly Madison among them. She shook her head as she told us of an earlier example of a woman standing behind her unfaithful husband as he confessed to his electorate, “something repeated entirely too often through the years.” She talked some about her mother — I had no idea her mother had been a U.S. Congresswoman! I’d already bought some of Secretary Albright’s books, so Cokie’s will have to wait. It was delightful to hear her voice, and once again, to hear perspectives and facts laid out in that engaging style that I’ve enjoyed for so many years.
Exposure to these women leaders was inspiring, and just the boost that I needed to make it through the rest of this hectic week. I’ve worked long hours making up Tuesday’s lost time, and will work more until JavaOne is underway. But then it will be done. I’ve spent time to address the health issues, too, and will spend more in the coming weeks. But the docs are all aligned, and I have a plan to follow. This weekend, when I’m not working, I’ll spend hours meeting still other personal commitments, but somehow, with fresh memories of Bishop Mary, Secretary Albright, and Cokie Roberts, it doesn’t seem as daunting as it did a week ago.
Perhaps I’ll listen to Mary Poppins’ soundtrack as I work tomorrow.
I also attended the PBWC conference in San Francisco last week and very
much enjoyed it. It is interesting to hear that Secretary Albright had three
kids when she was quite young. I guess it is possible for a woman to raise
kids and also have a fulfilling career – not an easy task, but doable 🙂
Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to share your thoughts and experiences with all of us. I too attended the PBWC and felt inspired, as I always do when I meet with a group of professional, bright, and motivated women. Having come from a time when a woman’s profession was very limited, it has been an experience to watch the power of women grow to make such a wonderful difference in political, educational, and business arenas. It has been quite a ride, and one which makes me proud of the accomplishments of women such as Secretary Albright and Cokie Roberts. Thanks again Susan for sharing.
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