Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 26, 2010

We still have a way to go

My mother-in-law Donna was born on the 31st of this month and, had she not died last summer, she would have been 100. The approach of her birthday has made me think about all the changes she saw in her lifetime. Heck, when Donna was born, women couldn't even vote!

An e-mail from my college friend Deb made me think about the subject even more. It had an attachment, titled "1943 Guide to Hiring Women."

I opened it and read the "Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees."

Among the bullets were:

*Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

*General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

*... Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

*Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.

*When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy ...

After reading it, I checked whether the guide was real or a hoax. I put in a few key words and checked it out on Snopes, a Web site designed to ferret out the accuracy of "urban legends."

Apparently the guide was, indeed, real. It was written by L.H. Sanders and published on page 244 of the July 1943 Mass Transportation magazine.

And speaking of transportation and women, just two weeks ago, women who flew planes during World War II - but weren't considered "real" military pilots - received long-overdue recognition. Some 200 women who served as Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress, in a ceremony on Capitol Hill. These women flew non-combat missions to free up male pilots to fly overseas. Thirty-eight WASPs were killed in service in World War II. But they were considered civilians, not military members, and were not entitled to the pay and benefits given to men. They were only afforded veteran status in 1977.

Other things have changed for women too. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008, there were 29.4 million American women 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or more education - higher than the corresponding number for men - 28.4 million. Women also had a larger share of high school diplomas, as well as associate, bachelor's and master's degrees.

About 66 percent of female citizens 18 and older reported voting in the 2008 Presidential election, compared to 62 percent of their male counterparts.

Wow! We HAVE come a long way, baby!

But it's taken awhile. While Donna always remarked about what a good life she had, she mentioned many times that if she'd had the opportunity, she would have liked to try her hand at business - that it seemed "interesting" to her and not something open to women when she was young.

And there have been other changes too. Returning to the 1943 guide, I think I'm still doing pretty well in the "pep" department and "deal with the public efficiently." I've neither been a "husky" girl nor had any shortage of initiative. In fact, I have to work to keep the number of projects I'm working on at any time to a manageable number.

However, as an "older woman," I must admit to being "cantankerous and fussy" ... whenever someone sells one of us short! We've come a long way, baby ... but we still have a way to go!

Donna always did like to read. I wonder what she would have said about the hiring guide.

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