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Women's rights advance at a snails pace

Evelyn Metzger is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


Having watched television coverage of both Republican and Democrat political conventions this year, I noticed that they both featured a large number of women speakers.

As it has been stated by various political pundits and commentators — both parties are seeking the women’s vote. I find that quite ironic. Because in this country, we’ve never had a woman president, the glass ceiling has only cracked, not broken, and women earn 77 cents to a man’s pay of $1 for equal work.

There are currently 24 women presidents or heads of state in countries around the world such as Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland — and the list goes on. So what is our problem? Are we really a nation of male chauvinists? 

I think so, and I came to that conclusion at an early age. It was a surprise because there was no chauvinism in my family. But when I was hired at age 16 for a part-time job as a sales clerk at a local department store, I was shocked, yes shocked, to find out that the men of my same age in the same department, hired at the same time, were paid $50 more per month.

That was in 1944, and women had been allowed to vote in national elections for only 24 years, since 1920. Many states, including Oregon, had allowed women to vote in their local elections for various numbers of years before. Even Canadian women beat us to the polls by three years, winning the vote in 1917. But they had to be 21 years of age, until 1970, when it was lowered to 18. Our age requirement has always been 18.

Women’s status in our society has improved, but there is still a long way to go. In 1952, I was hired by a major airline to work at the Portland airport ticket counter. Upon being accepted, I was informed in no uncertain terms that I would never be promoted because that was their policy with female employees. I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t care. I was a job hopper and there was no shortage of jobs at that time. My resume had a long list of previous jobs in various businesses, from the telephone company to offices to department stores to restaurants, and I only put down half of them on my application. I knew how to type but I wouldn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want to sit behind a typewriter. I was actually overqualified. So if I didn’t like this job, I would quit and go on to something else as I had done many times before.

But something unusual happened. The airport job turned out to be enjoyable and I stayed there for almost five years, in spite of the fact that there was no chance of advancement. There was a job opening in the training department in my fourth year but they wouldn’t consider me because I wore a skirt.

But I did have a last laugh a few years later, after I left the airport, married with two small daughters. Friends still employed at the airline told me that a woman was transferred in from Chicago to take the management position at the passenger service department. She was quite young and very well educated. I’ll bet there were a few noses out of joint after that.

Well, there has been improvement in women’s status albeit at a snail’s pace. We may elect a woman president some day. I hope I live long enough to see it.




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  • 18 Dec 2014

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