MAKERS Reminds Us of Our Own Stories

UCLA Crew varsity wall

That’s where my name was, for one year – Ann Voorhees ’74, right where Mark Breeding’s name is now.

I just read Marlo Thomas’ Huffington Post article about tonight’s PBS special, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, and I’m sharing the news in the hopes that you’ll open your email in time to run to your television and tune in! She says you’ll need your kleenex, so lay in the supplies and tune in at 7 pm eastern.

 

The special is about not only the iconic women whom we all know (and love), but also and perhaps more important in some ways, it’s about lesser known and even unknown women whose day-to-day lives became monumental struggles, simply because they were women, who simply wanted to live the lives of their choosing.

I’m excited to watch MAKERS especially as the mother of two adult daughters who grew up listening to my own stories of unequal treatment, stereotyping, victories, and defeats, but who I think never really felt those experiences in their gut – probably because the stories just seemed a little unbelievable in today’s world.

I was the first female coxswain on men’s crew at UCLA, for example, and am very proud to have seen my name added, in 1974, as the first woman on the decades-long list of varsity letter winners painted on the boathouse wall. But right on top of that pride, I harbor 35 years of bitterness because my name is there no more. The crew coach ordered it scraped off the wall the next year, when I wrote a critical editorial in the campus feminist newspaper, Together Magazine, about UCLA’s grossly inequitable treatment of women athletes. You can see the uneven lettering and out-of-order names and dates in the area where the coach and his rigger awkwardly filled the space so it wouldn’t be an obvious gap.

Ironically, it was through the television show “Mad Men” that my daughters say they first really felt, as well as knew of, how women were treated in our past. And they now deeply understand why I felt the need to create Women At Woodstock to create an interlude of time, space, inspiration, and the magic of women’s friendship as we consciously choose to reach for our true dreams and aspirations.

Tonight’s film promises to widen and deepen many young women’s understanding of who we are, and why, and the struggles that we endured to bring all women forward to where we stand today. Bravo!

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