I “met” Chris Smith, from Piecing A Life online several years ago. We were both full time RV’ers and had a lot of the same interests. Two years ago we met in person, when she was workcamping in Kanab, Utah.Thanks, Chris, for helping me celebrate my sixtieth birthday!
Congratulations on your upcoming 60th birthday! And thank you for the invitation to look back a little on my own life.
For me, 1978 through the middle 1980s, when I was in my 30s, was probably the most fascinating and life-changing period of my life. I’d been married since 1968. My husband worked two jobs at night and attended nursing school during the day. I was completing work on my degree in Business Administration from Portland State University in Oregon, working as a part-time secretary for an oil spill cooperative, taking care of our first house, and raising two young daughters. I read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan for the first time. And I became a political activist.
No, reading that book didn’t make me an activist, although it was very instrumental in that. For quite a few years I had been developing a sense that women were not supposed to be second-class workers, paid $.59 for each $1.00 that men were paid for similar work. We should not have been still fighting for access to legal, safe abortions even though Roe vs. Wade had become law in 1973. As a high school student, I had friends who left school when they became pregnant because they had no access to the pill or other forms of contraception. And abortion was still illegal. I had a scare myself.
Friedan’s book helped me realize that I was not alone with my thoughts and feelings. I promptly became an active member the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), now called NARAL Pro-Choice America. I paid $300 for a round-trip ticket from Portland, Oregon to Washington D.C. as a delegate to NOW’s annual conference. I demonstrated with thousands of other green t-shirt-wearing men and women in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). I attended Senate and House open meetings. I visited the office of Senator Bob Packwood. And I sat in on public meetings for abortion rights. I learned the subway system in the Capitol as well as discovered the best and least expensive cafeterias. I loved their Senate Bean Soup.
When I returned to Portland, there was no way I was going to let all that heady experience die. When I graduated from PSU in December 1980, I began working as Credit Manager for Willamette Week, an excellent alternative weekly newspaper. I volunteered in the NARAL booth each weekend at the Portland Saturday Market, answering questions and providing information about that organization. With my family, I participated in marches for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. I wrote letters to the editor of our local paper, and some of them were published.
I loved that time, perhaps even a little more than my political activist time right now. Granted, information on the internet, email and social media such as Facebook make it much easier to connect with vast numbers of people on all sides of the political spectrum. But, at age 65 I still feel a need for the more face-to-face interactions I experienced in my 30s. I am still a very politically liberal person with many of the same beliefs I had when I was younger. An MA in theology and ministry just honed those beliefs more and helped me see a more multi-faceted view of reality. Although I am no longer personally affected by the contraception and abortion issues, my daughters, granddaughters, and their friends are. I feel much sadness and anger with the anti-abortion movement of today. I continue to be active in causes such as immigration, women’s rights, health care, gay and lesbian rights, the homeless, and the economy. I participate in anti-war marches as well as demonstrate with the Occupy movement. I make my beliefs known by posting on Facebook (I’m probably kind of a pest at times). I read extensively, all kinds of articles and books. I blog about my beliefs, thoughts, and experiences on Piecing A Life.com.
For me it is all about fairness, about the needs of people, ALL people, not just those of a particular religious or political persuasion. And I like to think my actions are making a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small that difference might be.
Thank you again, Karen, for this opportunity.