Thursday, August 21, 2008

It is hard to believe today the discrimination against women that persisted through most of the twentieth century.

In 1985 my mother's sister, Edith, passed away. The following story was told at her funeral

As well as being an accomplished violinist. an active volunteer at the Neighborhood House, she aced the classes at Reed College and went on to get a masters degree in sociology at Columbia University in New York.

We are now talking mid 1920's.

She applied to enter the PHD program in sociology at Columbia.

Her advisor laid it out straight. She had the tickets but there were no jobs available for women in the field at the doctorate level. There were limits to the the number of PHD candidates and he could not in good conscience take a spot away from a man.

She took a teaching job at Mills College. At the time one of the most prestigious all women's colleges in the country.

As classes were about to start, she received a telegram from Columbia University. The University had relented. There was a spot for her in the PHD program.

She approached the president of Mills College with the telegram.

The president handed back her teaching contract and put her on the train to New York. She had broken one glass ceiling as the first female doctoral candidate in sociology at Columbia University.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A moment to remember

In case you missed the story on the internet, cousin Adrienne's granddaughter Sada Jacobson won a silver medal in women's sabres fencing. This duplicated her 2004 appearance.

Also, this is the first time since 1904 that an American team has taken all three medals in this sport.

When Sada's eyes began to tear, a gentleman in the first row handed her his handkerchief. She wiped the tears and handed back the handkerchief only then realizing that the donor was former President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

She said had she known in time she might have kept it for a memory of that day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whatever became of Mickey?

Mickey(not his real name) was a power to be reckoned with. He was purchasing manager for a local company that manufactured large agricultural equipment that incorporated tons of steel and sophisticated electronic parts.

We at BBS became acquainted with Mickey through our recycling operations. They generated truckloads of scrap metal. We sold them some new steel on an immediate need basis but their purchases were in large quantities and cut to lengths that would insure minimum waste and preparation on their part.

The competition for their business was intense. It all had to be approved by Mickey.

I was skeptical when a tenant in a rental I owned told me she had called police the night before as Mickey was banging on her door in the middle of the night screaming the name of a woman and vowing to kill her.

Mickey apparently been drinking with some friends and on the way home became so obnoxious his buddies dumped him out of the car at an intersection near the rental.

My partner who dealt with Mickey expressed disbelief when I related the incident. There was a one line entry in a police report in the local paper confirming. Mickey was back on the job the next day.

Phone calls started coming in. Mickey was very high handed. The company was cancelling orders leaving suppliers stuck with cut to order product. They were paying their bills and reordering other material. What did we know?

Then the calls changed to they are extending their payments, collections are tough, we have material prepared to their specifications. Can you tell us what is happening?

The other shoe dropped. The company closed.

We thought Mickey came out right side up. He was now production manager for another local manufacturing company.

Then he vanished.

Two years later he walked into my office asking to be hired as a laborer.

He stated that he had been working at a manufacturing company in Seattle. One night he had repeated the door banging thing. This time when the police arrived he attempted to run away. The police released a dog that clamped its teeth into his leg and as he attempted to dislodge the animal it took a chunk of muscle leaving a large divot.

He had sued and received a judgement of $40,000.00. While waiting for the check he had tapped his mother's savings and tapped his friends but now he needed a job. I hired him.

From time to time one of my suppliers would ask if I had heard anything of Mickey. It gave me a pleasure to say that he was working as a day laborer in my warehouse.

One morning my manager reported Mickey's check from Seattle. He opened the safe and indicated a paper bag.

He had accompanied our work crew to a nearby restaurant that included a backroom with a long bar.

Mickey was there throwing out $50.00 bills to buy drinks for the house. He had cashed the huge check and demanded the money in cash.

Steve my operations manager had enticed him back to our office fearing someone would hit him over the head. My store manager reminded him about his mother exhausting her savings counting on reimbursements.

He surrendered the bag and staggered off to his nearby flophouse room.

My employees were able to get a list of debts and pay them on his behalf. For the most part he came by to draw enough money to stay drunk for a few days. He bought an old car that broke down. His bouts with the bottle became longer and longer and eventually his health broke.

He was hospitalized and disappeared from the area.

He was bright and talented. In the short time he worked for me he designed and built special work aids out of steel and was very personable in demonstrating welders for sale to customers.

He screwed up his life because he of his addiction to alcohol.

What a waste!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

After writing the Goldburg You'r in Business thing. I recalled a case study we read in Human Relations class.

Bell Systems in the 1940's had a typing pool of over one hundred women typing letters for various administrative departments.

The women were divided into groups and each group had an experienced editor who read each piece circling errors and sending the missive back to be reworked.

A consultant was called in when rejections approached 100%.

Interviewing members of the pool he found that most of the women were recent graduates of prestigious colleges some with masters degrees. They had their resumes out for positions in their field and in the meanwhile took the typing job to pay the rent.

The recommendation was that the editors be eliminated and one supervisor do random checks.

When the women learned that they were to be treated as responsible adults errors disappeared.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In the late 1800's a middle aged couple arrived at the office of the president of Harvard.

The man asked to see the president.

When asked if he had an appointment, he replied in the negative but added that they were in town only for the day and would be happy to wait for a break in the busy man's schedule.

The two sat quietly for several hours as contractors with rolls of plans and instructors with briefcases full of books entered, sat, and eventually were sent into the inner office.

Sometime after five the president came out and told the secretary not to send any more people in as he was leaving for the day.

The secretary pointed to the couple and explained their patient wait.

The president walked over to them. "I am already late for a faculty meeting. I will give you five minutes"

The man cleared his throat. "Our son was killed this summer in a tragic accident involving a horse he was riding. He had attended Harvard and said it was the happiest time of his life so we would like some kind of memorial here."

The president cut him off. He indicated that if they were thinking of a picture in a hall they were already lined with portraits of alumni who had become senators or ambassadors and, yes, even presidents.

Well something more than that.

Drinking fountain? We have them at every corner. One of our alumni just donated a wing for a building. It cost close to a million dollars.

This campus represents big money, about $100,000,000.

At that point the woman who hadn't said a word up to that point said, " Dear, if that is all a university costs let's build our own."

Without a further word the couple rose and left.

On some farm land they own south of San Fransisco they built their own university.

They named it Leland Stanford Jr. Memorial University.

"It is nice to be important it is more important to be nice."