by Marcia Gewelber
I was borne a feminist. In my own home I experienced many
inequities. My father always spoke of and encouraged equal rights for men
and women. Since he died when I was 10, I alone carried the Flag of
My mother, for example, always believed my brother was more equal
than I. It reminded me of the book, Animal Farm, in which the “Pigs were
more equal” than any other animals. It was she I had to fight to go to
college. Since my brother was 7 years older than I, I watched as he went to
college, joined a fraternity, while my mother bought him a used car so he
didn’t have to travel by subway.
She had already told me when it came to my turn to enter college; she
would not give me a “red cent” to quote her. In the year 1959 she told me,
“It’s not necessary for girls to attend college. You can work as a secretary,
like other girls your age.”
Well, for those of you who know me, I applied for scholarships and won
one which paid for school as well as my books. At that time, I majored in
Business. To turn a phrase, I “burned my bra” well before Betty Friedan
made it a cry to rally women.
After I graduated valedictorian, I took many types of jobs until I could
save enough money to go back to college and major in Writing. It was at
that point that I was hired by a Psychiatric Group of doctors to transcribe
tapes of cases of child abuse that would be entered into court records.
At that time, the group had just hired their first female Psychiatrist. I’ll
call her Dr. Smith. I had a chance to talk with her on breaks, getting to
know her background and the woman herself. She was a strong woman,
extremely bright, especially being the first female Psychiatrist among men in
the same field at medical school. I learned she felt she had to be better just
to survive. And survive she did.
I worked in that office where the male Psychiatrists would talk to each
other in front of me as if I didn’t exist. That’s when I learned that Dr. Smith
was hired at half their salaries without the “golden” lists of benefits that the
men had in their contracts. They would talk down about her, putting her in a
position of second-class citizen in their eyes—only because she was a
I kept notes of what they said, knowing instinctively they were
breaking the law, my law. At last I felt I had enough ammunition to speak
with Dr. Smith. It happened I was able to get her alone in the cubicle in
which I worked.
I began by telling her how much I admired her, and how I felt about
female equality. And, I pulled out my notes and began to list all the gossip I
overheard, beginning with the salary difference. She became agitated
immediately. That’s when I explained that I did not want her to use my
name; that I needed this job in order to return to college.
After about 15 minutes, she promised me she would not use my name
and thanked me profusely for informing her about all the discrepancies
included in her contact. She hugged me and said she would confront them
What I did not know was after our talk she hired an attorney, and was
going to sue the Group. I never saw her again.
Shortly after that, I was fired for a cause they manufactured. I felt hurt
and betrayed. After all, she had promised to keep my name out of it.
I quickly found another job and earned enough to go back to college.
My hurt feelings disappeared because I had a new direction in life, and I
knew I would finally be working as a writer. I graduated as “Writer of the
Year” and have enjoyed my career from then to now.
Today, I look back and see that I wasn’t a snitch, I was a hero in the
sense that Dr. Smith was now on equal footing no matter where she landed,
and I helped getting her foot up, so to speak. I realize how much courage it
took for me to let her know about the disparities she was facing.
And, today, I still wear no bra, knowing I am a true-life feminist!