When I look back in time, I can’t believe how the roles of women have changed during my lifetime. In the early 60’s, when I was born, women were supposed to be homemakers. Some women received good educations, in order to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries, but even then a job was something they would only do until they found husbands and started families. These career options were acceptable because women would be supervised by men. The church I was raised in preached that women were never supposed to be placed in positions of authority over men, because that would be contrary to the roles ordained by God in the Garden of Eden. A great deal of my extended family still belongs to that church, and they still hold these beliefs sacred, but I won’t get into my opinions of that in this posting!
Anyway, my Dad and Mom left that church when I was a young teenager, and joined a new one from a different Lutheran Synod. Women could vote in the elections held in this church, and that just seemed right to me. I always thought of girls and boys being equal, perhaps because of my mother and four sisters, who always made sure that I clearly understood this basic fact. Then there were strong female teachers in Velva who I felt were as capable as any man I knew. They were intelligent, organized, and possessed great interpersonal skills: I thought they could do anything! There were also many exceptional girls in my class at school. Some were more intelligent than me, some were more athletic than me, and most were way more articulate than I would ever hope to be! I guess these influences in my life convinced me that there was absolutely nothing that couldn’t be done by a woman, and I didn’t have a problem with that.
There was also a television show that aired during these impressionable years that affected my opinions of women in the work place in a positive way. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran from 1970 until 1977, and it did more than open my eyes, it opened America’s eyes. “Mary Richards” was a young, single, career minded Minnesota woman who was self sufficient and not looking for a man to support her. She worked in a nontraditional job at a television station dominated by men who at first believed she wasn’t capable of doing a “man’s job.” She later proved herself capable, and eventually earned the respect of many of her coworkers, although some continued to discount her simply because she was a woman. I had always believed women to be equal to me, but “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” presented this equality in more substantial ways than I had ever imagined possible. “Mary Richards” had become the “ideal woman” in my mind, but I wouldn’t realize it until 7 years later!
While in college, I met many career minded girls. I know that many of these went on to establish themselves in their respective fields, and that some, no doubt, have reached the top. At the time, though, all of us students, both male and female alike, were mostly unsure about our futures. Some boasted of their inevitable, impending success, but for the most part, we didn’t know where we would eventually end up, if anywhere. I was surrounded by many potential “Mary’s” but the problem was that none of them were “Mary” yet.
Then I met her, the girl of my dreams, but her name was Sue, not “Mary.” Sue had already completed college, and was employed by the new Fargo television station, KVNJ, as a writer. She was a confident, capable, Minnesota girl working in a man’s job, surrounded by men, and she absolutely loved it. While I was growing up, most women I knew who held jobs outside the home hated having to work, and complained about it, but Sue was enthusiastic about her job and simply beamed whenever she talked about it.
Sue invited me to visit her at work quite soon after we had started dating. When I arrived, the receptionist called back to Sue’s desk and announced that she had a visitor. Sue was the ultimate professional as she showed me around the station and introduced me to her coworkers. It was during this time that I realized Sue had already gained the respect of those working with her and this fact convinced me that she was indeed very special.
A few days after I visited the TV station, Valentine’s Day came along. I don’t remember what I got for Sue, but she got me a shirt and tie. I went into the bathroom and put it on. Her roommate arrived soon after and snapped the first picture of us as a couple. Later that evening, Sue told me that she believed in me. She said she was confident I would be successful in whatever I chose to do when I finished school. It was at this moment that I knew I had found my “Mary Richards,” and that I was in love with her!