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“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”…Toni Morrison
It was a momentous day for me when I first met Dusty Roads and Jean Montague in the swimming pool at the Santa Rosa, California YMCA. Both vibrant and elegant elderly ladies, they were pristinely coiffed, makeup and lipstick perfectly applied. Even their earrings and swimsuits were color coordinated. They held my friends and me in rapt attention as they told their stories about what it was like to be a stewardess in the 1950s and 60s fighting sexual discrimination when most of us were young girls. They talked about stewardess training and how they would be fired if they got married and what it was like to be subjected to “girdle checks” by female supervisors before boarding an airplane flight. They said Jean was fired at the age of thirty-two due to an American Airlines mandatory retirement policy and that Dusty worked as a union organizer and legislative lobbyist to repeal that rule and fight for fairness for all stewardesses.
Having been a women’s rights advocate ever since my college days at UCLA and a former high school history teacher specializing in dissent and reform in American history, I was naturally fascinated by Dusty’s career path and her historical significance to the Women’s Movement. As a former project manager and writer in the telecommunications and banking industry, advancing to become an information technology executive and vice president at Wells Fargo Bank and later, president of a California state-regulated water company, I wanted to know more about Dusty’s career and her work on behalf of women. I discovered that, although she had been written about in some women’s history books, her life story had never been written. I asked her if anyone had ever approached her to write her biography. She lamented that no one had. That’s when I said, “I want to write it.” She grinned and said, “I’ve just been waiting for someone to ask!”
My life changed dramatically as I spent most of the next two years interviewing Dusty and Jean and conducting research about them.
When Dusty recounted some of the difficulties she had working in the sexist airline culture of the 50s and 60s it reminded me of what it was like having a career thirty years later in the newly evolving field of computer technology, also a patriarchal culture, especially when the first personal computers came out. I remember having to fight sexual bias but without the backing of a union. I quit a lot of jobs but never gave up on my career and finally succeeded with help from another woman who I considered a technology trailblazer in my company.
I wondered what made Dusty tick; what qualities and strengths catapulted her to become a union leader and lobbyist and what she thought of the direction women’s rights are headed in today. Dusty rekindled my old teaching days desire to write historical non-fiction. Her charismatic leadership inspired stewardesses to stand up for their civil rights and her story confirms, as did Gloria Steinem when we visited with her in 2014 at a Case Western Reserve University fundraiser, that Dusty was the spark that started what was yet to be known as the Women’s Liberation Movement. Dusty inspired me and I am proud to be writing her biography, a book that I wanted to read.
Today, my primary interest lies in writing inspiring stories that re-discover exceptional women who have been mostly forgotten by history and who present a positive example of how women today can navigate career roadblocks, confront extraordinary situations in life confidently and attain their highest potential. I also enjoy reading, swimming, photography and traveling. I live in Sonoma County, California and am a proud member of the Redwood Writers Organization, a branch of the California Writers Club. I am also a member of the Non-Fiction Authors Association, National Organization for Women, American Association of University Women, American Historical Association, and the Sonoma County Humane Society.
Please check out some of my favorite websites listed on this page and feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you!