Looking forward, looking back

When I was in first grade my teacher, Mrs. Goodwin, had us write: If I were President, I would…. I wrote: If i were President, I would marry a good lookin man and make lots of speeches. I then drew a picture of myself in front of a podium giving the lots of speeches. As a first grade student, I had no idea women weren’t ever the president. All I knew is my teacher asked the entire class, boys and girls, what they would do if they were president. For all I knew I could be president.

I am not sure when I realized women were not seen completely equal. I am not sure when I became aware of the ways in which women are treated less than men. My family encouraged me to be whatever I wanted. My mom and dad always told me they wanted me to be an independent woman.

Unfortunately my history classes through high school were extremely lacking. I was a good student (straight As) and yet I never remember learning about the suffragette movement. I knew the name Susan B. Anthony, but had no clue why she was important. It didn’t get much better when I went to college. I was a business major and was only required to take economic history… and as one can guess, majority of the book was about men.

I come from a Baptist background and spent the first part of my life not believing women could be a head pastor… that spot was only for the men. It wasn’t until I started attending a church with the head pastor being a woman, Julie Pennington-Russell, that I really started questioning my belief about women in positions of leadership.

When I was taking hours outside of my department when working on my PhD, I started thinking and learning more about the history of women (better late than never). I took four classes in the Women and Gender Studies Department. Each article and book I read made me want to know more. Every class discussion made me think deeper. I met two amazing women who shared with me and welcomed me.

Through the last few years I have started to deeply think about the role of women in our society. As a woman who is married with a son and career, I am constantly thinking of my role in the world. I become angry when I get questioned for working and not staying home. I am angry when I am only seen as the coach’s wife and not a professional myself.

I look at other women and the ways in which they are treated. I look at the ways we label women in negative ways for the same behavior for which we praise men. She is overbearing, intense, a bitch. He is such a leader, he really knows how to get things done.

I didn’t realize how much I need to see someone like me be president. I never imagined the thought of it would bring tears to my eyes. A few months ago I realized how much I need to see this historic moment in life. Although the most important people in my life have always told me I could do anything, it didn’t seem real until I can actually see a woman rise to the highest office.

As I sit waiting to see if the glass ceiling really cracks tonight, my mind goes back to so many women who came before me. My mind thinks of my grandmother who worked hard her entire life and when my grandfather was at war (his job was washing clothes) she made airplanes at home  in a factory. My other grandmother was the primary breadwinner for many years once my grandfather lost his job. I think about a professor I had in seminary, Dr. Ruth Ann Foster. During her first teaching job, she was forced to teach her classes in the basement and many men walked out of her class when they found out Dr. Foster was a woman. I think about Dr. Julie Pennington Russell and her gracious journey of being the first female pastor in many baptist churches. I think of the family for whom I babysit while I was at Baylor… Dr. Linda Livingston is the Dean of the George Washington School of Business. I think of my sister, Amanda Bigbee. She has shown me the importance of women’s rights and was patient as I found my way.

As Susan B. Anthony said: “Forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.”

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