Monday, May 22, 2017


Recently, a friend of mine who is a contemporary, told me that she was reading The Handmaid's Tale as part of her Book Club.  She asked if I had read the book and I told her, "I have the book;  I read it when it came out;  I think in the 1980s."  

She asked my opinion and I said, "Oh, I love to be able to use the words 'dystopian' and 'cautionary tale' but they are very a propos!"  She told me she'd urged her teenage granddaughter to read the book because they were planning to watch the series on television.  The granddaughter pooh-poohed the possibility of women losing their hard-won rights.  

My friend asked me to talk to her granddaughter to let her know the "way it was" for women of our generation and to fight to never let it go backwards.

I gave her the Sue's News article below, which I published in 2010:

                                                  TOKEN TIME

I always knew that I was NOT a "token", because I knew that I was qualified for any job or promotion I received, but I was often "paraded out" to show visitors just how "progressive" the companies were. When it happened, I would mutter under my breath, "TOKEN TIME". My mother always told me that I needed to work like a HORSE, act like a LADY and then they would treat me as a WOMAN. I spent my work-life in non-traditional, so-called "men's jobs", but my mother told me I would always have to work twice as hard just to be considered equal. For nearly all of my work-life I was the ONLY female in the management teams; my proudest accomplishment was that late in my career, I was able to promote other qualified women.

When I became the FIRST female manufacturing supervisor at Mead, the Company newspaper featured an article about me and I felt like the story about Dr. Johnson's talking dog: it wasn't that people were surprised that the dog could talk, but that he could do it well!   [Now you know where my often-used phrase "I do it well" comes from!]

One time, at International Harvester, in the 1970s, we had a group of potential buyers from China tour the plant and they were brought to meet me in my department. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was being introduced to THEIR "token" woman because all of them in the delegation were small in stature and dressed exactly the same, wearing the green Mao uniform. I know that my Company and the Chinese delegation didn't expect what transpired between the Chinese woman and me. Fortunately, her English was very good. She asked "Are you the only woman?" I laughed and said, "Yes". She bowed to me and I bowed to her and then we reached out and hugged each other and we both squealed with laughter. I told her about "Token Time" and she said that she felt the same way. I could see the discomfort on the face of the President and CEO of my Company as he was unsure of what was transpiring! I wouldn't want to use a stereotype, but the Chinese men WERE inscrutable so I wasn't able to judge their opinion.

I often wondered what she said to her comrades later.

When I went to interview at Rockwell, it was June 5, 1982; I had lost my job at International Harvester on April 15. I thought I didn't have a chance in Hell of getting the job; I had already been interviewed by the Personnel Department and I was told that the final and determining interview would be done by Don Waddell, who had returned to the company after his retirement;  he would launch the Nacelle program. I was warned by Personnel that he was a very critical interviewer and that I probably wouldn't get the job.  I thought, "Why the Hell did they bring me in to interview if they knew I wouldn't be hired? Oh, yeah, a government contract;  that's why!" 

There I was, in my de rigueur, perfect blue suit, white blouse, navy blue pumps, and matching Coach briefcase. Mr. Waddell, more than six feet tall, met me at the Personnel Department and we traipsed across the building to his office in the Nacelles Department.   Everything in the plant was covered with tarpaulins. I thought that my chances were nil and that this was "an exercise in futility" because I had no aircraft background. We sat down and I saw my resume on his desk and something was circled in red. When he started to talk, I could tell he was from southern Ohio.  

He began by telling me that he would be required to hire so many "minorities" but he wasn't going to hire anybody he didn't want. I swallowed hard at that remark and of course I was uncomfortable with his telling me that, but I just sat and behaved myself.   He also told me that Personnel was trying to force people from other Rockwell plants on him, because they had preferential hiring practice for other Rockwell people, but that he was going to pick his own team. He said, "I see that you must know something about these Gemcors";  I answered that I did.  He said, "That's good, 'cause I don't know nuthin' about them." He said, "They hired this German guy as an Engineer over them for the whole plant and I don't care much for him, so I need somebody I can trust in my Department." I was swallowing frantically because it sounded as if he were interested in ME. Dare I hope? He said, "I figured you had to have a lot on the ball to get where you got." Then he asked, "You wanna go down and see where you'll be working?" I answered, "Yes, sir.", as if it were the most normal thing in the world to be going to see my workplace after the strangest interview in my life.  

 As we returned to his office, he told me that he would "get me in" but it might take awhile because he had to "go through the motions with Personnel";  he asked if I would be O.K. being on unemployment.  I told him that I would NOT be receiving unemployment compensation because I still had two weeks of my salary continuation from International Harvester and that I had received a job offer from another company yesterday and I would accept it and wait until he called me. When he told me it might be as late as the "end of the year", my hopes plummeted, but I maintained a brave exterior. When I returned to Personnel after the interview, I was asked how the interview had gone and I said, "Very well." I knew better than to divulge that he'd told me that I was going to have a job.

Each week after the interview, Mr. Waddell's Secretary Jonda Trace would call me to tell me that Mr. Waddell wanted to talk to me. Each week, he assured me that I was going to be on his Team. I received the job offer from Personnel on November 1 and I began work on November 15, after six months of being on tenterhooks.

Several months after I was hired, I told Jonda how I had been so worried all those months even though Mr. Waddell kept reassuring me.  She said, "You never had to worry; you passed the FLOOZY TEST." I was stunned by the remark and asked what she meant. She said, "They kept sending all those women from Tulsa Rockwell and other places,  expecting Mr. Waddell to hire one of them,  but he would tell me he had to interview them but he wasn't going to hire any of those floozies!" Then she said, "After he met you, he told me he'd found the gal he was going to hire because he knew you'd had to work hard to get where you'd gotten and every week he would say, 'Get hold of that little girl from down in the sticks!' and I'd call you!"

Mr. Waddell had informed the Company that he would stay only to have Aircraft One launched, which we completed ahead of schedule and under budget. At his retirement party, Mr. Waddell leaned over and whispered to me, "You'll be the first woman Manager in the history of Rockwell!" I have said he's the only man who could make me feel like I was twelve years old.  I squealed with delight and said, "Oh, Mr. Waddell!" ( I swear I sounded like Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards with Lou Grant.)

Thank you, Don Waddell,  for giving me the opportunity and for the happiest years of my entire work life.

I am glad I hadn't corrected him about all those ILLEGAL things he'd said during my interview!

No comments: