I’m a proud descendant of women who worked for a living. My mother was a nurse; my aunt, a teacher; my grandmother, a hair dresser, and another grandmother was a farmer. My great-grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, ran a boarding house after becoming a widow with seven children to raise. So it seemed natural to me to do my dissertation on women’s careers. My committee, however, had their doubts, especially when I wasn’t willing to compare women’s careers to men’s.
My dissertation focused on women in so-called women’s fields, where women had been for more than a century: Nursing, Social Work and Education. I compared their survey answers to answers given by women of earlier generations in prior studies of women’s careers. This research and dissertation led to my co-founding and co-directing the Women and Work Research and Resource Center, at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington. This center was funded by corporations in the North Texas area which had an expanding women’s workforce, who served predominantly women customers: Zale Corporation, Sanger Harris Department Store, and Tandy/Radio Shack Corporation. Our center collected and compiled relevant resources, and sponsored and published research reports from our yearly national conference, and consulted with employers and educators of women.
The colleague who worked with me on the center project was able to get tenure, partly on the basis of our achievements. When I came up for tenure the following year, however, I was turned down in spite of an eight-to-one vote in my favor from the faculty tenure committee. It felt tragic at the time but, in retrospect, I see it as a generous gift from the universe, guiding us into a totally different direction.