Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 63: In Praise of Dangerous Women

It is March (again, I know my calendar skills are impressive) which means that it is Women's History Month. This year's theme is "Women's Education--Women's Empowerment."

While I am now a farm writer, that doesn't mean I forget such occasions, it just means that now I write about women farmers, women gardeners, and women scientists. In fact, my Care2 post on Monday is about ways to inspire the next generation of women to pursue these areas.

However, I have been a bit busy and I haven't been able to make plans to attend some of the events for this month that I wanted to. So, I was very excited to see a special program being offered by the Torrance AAUW. The American Association of University Women is an awesome organization that "advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research and is open to anyone holding an associate or equivalent (RN), baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university."

I am also a bit ashamed to admit that for no real reason, I haven't been a member in a very long time and I am finally getting around to fixing that. However, as usual, I digress. The program today was called "The Women Who Rocked Torrance: 1912-2012" and was a sneak preview of an upcoming book on 30 women who have made a difference in Torrance.

It was very inspiring to hear about women who I have never known but who have made such an impact, and to hear about some that I have known and do know personally. Their stories are fascinating, and all the more so because of the things that they had to overcome to make a difference, especially stereotypes and resistance to them doing things simply because they were/are women.

An example is Susan Rhilinger's story. She's currently a City Council member but she retired from the Torrance Police Department about ten years ago. She was the first female sergeant, lieutenant, and captain in Torrance PD history, the first ever. She and other women actually had to file a lawsuit to get the City to allow them to be full police officers (this was back in 1974) because women were not allowed to be.

I had heard of Susan before I even met her, or even came to work or live back in Torrance. My friend Mike Tracy (the Police Captain I wrote about on Day 45), loved to give me a hard time about pretty much everything. I am a liberal, he was a conservative and a cop. But, he especially loved going after the fact that I minored in Women's Studies in college. Usually, he said things just to get me going and I never failed to disappoint.

We would go back and forth all of the time about politics, feminism, sexism, and even baseball, he could never understand how I could abandon the Dodgers for the Giants, and he would say "even your favorite team is liberal!" (I still hear that from people today).

When I told him I was getting a job at the City of Torrance, he told me, "you need to meet my friend Susan. She's the only woman lieutenant and like you, she doesn't take any crap and never sees any barriers because she's a woman." I said, "gee, it actually sounds like you think that's a good thing, or, are you just jerking my chain like you always do?" He said, "Nah, it is a good thing, and you will go far, just like she is, kid, I know it." Too bad he's not here to see how far I have gone, and more importantly, how far she has.

No comments:

Post a Comment