Saturday, August 1, 2009

Do you remember when the want-ads were segregated?

When I graduated from college and looked for my first job in 1969, the want-ads were segregated by gender -- Help Wanted Men and Help Wanted Women. It was the beginning of "Women's Lib."

I had forgotten how outraged I was over the innumerable inequities we faced as young women. Today, I focus on issues yet to be resolved -- pay equity, sexual harassment, comparable worth, education for women in developing countries... There's still so much to be done. But, I read this obituary today and remembered the battles of the past.
Gerald Gardner, 83, Dies; Bolstered Sex Bias Suit - Obituary (Obit) - "In 1969, First Pittsburgh, led by Wilma Scott Heide, who would become president of the national organization a few years later, filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations against The Pittsburgh Press, then the leading local daily. The complaint contended that the division by sex of the paper’s employment ads — “Male Help Wanted” and “Female Help Wanted” — amounted to discrimination against women.

“What Gerry did was calculate the statistical chance that a woman could get a job in one of the male categories,” said Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority and a former president of NOW. “He calculated pay differentials. The disparities just flabbergasted him. He contributed the hard intellectual theory based on the math, and he made it understandable, powerfully so.”

When the commission upheld the complaint, The Pittsburgh Press took the commission to court, saying that the ruling violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press. The case went to the Supreme Court, whose ruling, in 1973, effectively forbade newspapers to carry sex-designated advertising columns for most job opportunities."
This quiet man was an effective activist for the feminist movement. According to the Washington Post's obituary:

"He produced a lot of change for the equality of women," said Evansgardner [his wife]. "He was shy, gentle and quiet but very active in women's rights."

Dr. Gardner organized a picket line at the 1973 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., because the league had a boys-only policy. His efforts there, and a series of lawsuits filed by NOW and women's rights advocates, pushed the organization to integrate girls for the first time the next season.

In 1975, Dr. Gardner provided more of his methodical research toward a federal lawsuit filed by NOW and the Pittsburgh NAACP, alleging that the Pittsburgh police department's hiring practices discriminated against women and minorities.

The lawsuit led to a citywide consent decree that impelled police to hire in groups of four: one white man, one white woman, one black man and one black woman. The decree remained in effect for 15 years but was later dropped after a lawsuit alleged reverse discrimination. The decree had helped Pittsburgh lead the nation in the number of female and black police officers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Here's a hat tip and thank you to Gerald Gardner. Your life made a difference in our lives.

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