Fifty years ago, in 1963, I had just turned twenty years old and had been married for three months. Though I was sympathetic to black Americans’ struggle for freedom and equality, I will confess my immediate life was my primary focus. In no way did I comprehend back then how indebted I would feel someday to those who spoke, marched, and even lost their lives advocating non-violently for equal rights.
This past week’s celebration of Martin Luther King’s legacy has left me in awe and deeply grateful for freedom workers everywhere. It was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and particularly Title VII of the Act, that later allowed me to participate in upward mobility training programs as the USDA Forest Service worked to advance women and minorities to comply with the Act’s requirements to protect individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. This past week, I learned that Martha W. Griffiths (D-MI) lead an effort to include women in the law’s requirements by advocating for the word ”sex” in the legislation. I thank you Martha Griffiths.
From 1965 to 1974 I had become a stay at home mom and had three children. I returned to the Forest Service after my husband’s depression became incapacitating and then was the sole breadwinner after his suicide in 1975. Given the opportunity to work my way up from clerical positions, first to a Human Resource Specialist in 1983 and later a Public Affairs Specialist in 1990 had a direct impact on my children’s and my life. We were able to stay in our home, have adequate food, clothing, transportation, and education opportunities, and even take a vacation now and then. And after I retired in 1994 and struggled with my aging parents’ care needs, my economic independence allowed me to keep some distance from my father’s abuse. I wrote in God Never Hurries—I came to appreciate the sense of paralysis anyone economically dependent must experience in an abusive relationship. My economic independence grew more precious to me.
This past week I have also been painfully aware that there are so many who have not yet benefitted equally from the Civil Rights Act.
What if we all thought about how intricately we are connected in this web of life and see that equal opportunity and adequate resources for everyone would benefit us all? What if we each asked to be shown ways to contribute toward that end?