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Freeman of the Press: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: August 3, 2016 12:00 AM

"You've come a long way, baby," was a slogan created in 1968 to sell cigarettes to women. Its success would kill women who became addicted to the cancer-causing substance, but the ads did promote how far women had come in 100 years.

I'm glad to have witnessed the progress in my lifetime, although I also have been frustrated to experience some of its hurdles.

I grew up in the '60s and '70s when girls were excluded from competitive sports in public schools. Then President Richard Nixon signed Title IX in 1972 which said girls could not be excluded from any federally funded education program or activity. Today, girls sign up for a variety of sports for all ages, and they aren't labeled "tomboys" or other derogatory names. To "run like a girl" doesn't mean she's a loser.

My love of sports and the building blocks that created my self-image began when I was 6 years old. My dad was taking my two older brothers to the store to buy "ballgloves." I tagged along. The gloves were on the bottom shelf, and my brothers began trying them on. I mimicked their actions and tried on several gloves before finding a perfect fit.

My dad was somewhere else in the store. No one worried about a child being snatched from a store in those days. He called us to the checkout, and my oldest brother handed over his glove. My other brother placed his glove on the counter. I relinquished my glove and waited as he examined the leather mitt. My dad could have reminded me I was a girl, and girls don't play baseball, but he didn't. He added my glove to the others.

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That would be the beginning of my athletic career and love of sports, because the only requirement to play neighborhood baseball was to have a glove, and I had one.

But more importantly, my dad didn't limit my dreams. That's what the ballglove symbolized. I went on to letter in field hockey at Stow High School and play softball and ice hockey in later years instead of only cheering from the sidelines.

But this was a time when there were no female astronauts and few female doctors, lawyers or politicians. We were a transitional generation, fighting for equality that many young women take for granted today.

I still remember being told at a job I had in my twenties that I didn't need a raise because I was married, which was ridiculous. My boss didn't know how much my husband earned or how much we needed to make ends meet. In addition, it was an insult to my work ethic. The phrase "equal pay for equal work" took on a new personal meaning. If I was doing a good job, I should be rewarded for my work. My work. I deserved to be rewarded whether single or married.

Our generation experienced the barriers, the glass ceiling that kept us in an inferior role to men.

Every Sunday I was reminded of my second-class role. Religion is a powerful tool to control people. The poor were told to accept their circumstances and wait for riches in heaven; slaves were told they would find comfort after death for the suffering inflicted by their masters; and women were told to submit to men and that meant physically, financially and emotionally. Even today, many churches won't allow women to be priests, to teach from the pulpit, or handle the finances of the church.

That's why every achievement a woman makes, whether it's equal pay, becoming a doctor, engineer, astronaut or president of the United States, is worth celebrating.

And if a little girl chooses a chemistry test tube instead of a baker's measuring cup, or a hammer and nails instead of a rubber ball and jacks, it only means her choices are unlimited.

You have come a long way, ladies.


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