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A Day Without a Woman - Reflections of AFT Washington Staff

Wednesday, March 8th, International Women's Day, was a day of action called, "A Day Without a Woman." Our staff have reflected on their experiences being a woman or having women or girls in their lives. 

From Elizabeth Ferrell, Office Manager/Bookkeeper

At a very early age, I learned that if I wanted to have school clothes, I had to earn the money to buy them. So, it seems like I’ve been working forever – at least since age 10 or so.  Strawberry picking, green bean picking, babysitting, you name it – like most kids in my generation, working was what we did to help out the family. Since my mother did not work outside of the home, the money we four older kids brought in made a big difference to our family of seven. My baby brother being too young, two girls and two boys made sure they were shopping at Mode O’Day, JC Penney’s, and Red Goose Shoes come Fall. And my mother would have what she needed, of course, courtesy of my older brother.

While we talked at dinner and yes, other times, I don’t recall talking about specific rights, such as women’s rights. It was assumed that we understood the term “human rights” and it’s inclusivity.  Certainly, not it’s exclusivity. So as I grew older and began experiencing some of that exclusivity and down-right danger, I began to read, discuss, and take classes about all the shades of those wavering human rights.

Yes, I should have told on a doctor or two.  A parent or two.  A male friend or two. But that knowledge came later, and with that knowledge I armed my daughter. I still won’t let her put her elbows on the dinner table, but she’s hell on wheels, takes no prisoners, and makes twice as much money as I do, easily. 

And while she wouldn’t know how to pick a flat of strawberries on a good day, she is the epitome of liberation - racist folks in her life notwithstanding. 

From Karen Strickland, President

International Women’s Day is important to me for a lot of reasons. A big one is that my mom worked as a state employee for many years while she raised me and my three siblings. After we were grown, her union, WFSE, won a settlement in a “comparable worth” lawsuit. She got a big raise, which was fabulous but would have been even better for our family if she’d gotten it back when a study first showed the disparity between men’s and women’s wages for comparable work…1973! Better late than never, but I’m deeply troubled by the ongoing disparity between men and women and between white women and women of color. It breaks my heart to know that sexual harassment and assault continue, and to see a teenage girl’s self-esteem drop as she develops into a young woman and is valued (or not) based on her beauty. That’s why we need this day, International Women’s Day, A Day Without A Woman! Because injustice and inequity are embedded in our society and around the world and we must keep fighting for what’s right!

From Nancy Kennedy, Labor Relations Specialist

Prior to working at AFT Washington, I was subjected to sexual harassment, unwanted and unsolicited innuendo but I didn’t know my rights and my two kids depended on my salary. I reported to an older woman who was not subjected to the same treatment and was doubtful that what I reported to her was really the truth. She believed I was misinterpreting what was said. I was filing in the bosses office and had to get down on my knees to put something in the bottom drawer. My boss caught my attention and when I asked what he wanted, his response was “while you are down there we both know what you can do for me.” 

From Dan Troccoli, External Organizer

For my part, I wonder what kind of world my daughter will inherit when feminism is redefined by what you wear and whether you “lean in” to the, frankly double duties that women are subject to instead of questioning them.  A re-politicization of what International Women’s Day stands for is long overdue, with renewed demands around not only objectification and harassment, but also control of their own bodies and healthcare.  I want my little girl to have a revolutionized view of what it means to be a woman. 

From Christine Landon, Data Manager/Communications Assistant

I’m a transgender Native woman.
In 1996, when I transitioned full time from
male to female/
man to woman/
Two Spirit/
it’s complicated,
my income dropped 30% and has stayed depressed,
as I have/
as I was/
as I expect to be.
Same person/
not the same body,
worth less/
not worthless.
Just late in joining my sisters in the game!