I am working this holiday, but my heart celebrates with those who honor Martin Luther King today.
In 1961, I went to work for the Houston Lighting & Power Company. It was my first job, and immediately I encountered female discrimination. It surprised me because I had never even thought that the restrictions placed on women were discriminatory. They were, but I did not know it, similar to the way I was not fully aware of how blacks were discriminated against. To me, it was normal; it was just the way it was.
Of course I had heard of the marches and civil unrest that was taking place in the South, but it did not affect me. I remember the first time I saw a black person eating at a large department store food counter in downtown Houston. I also remember riding a Greyhound bus as a kid, and the blacks had to sit in the back. I remember “coloreds” water fountains. I remember picking cotton and the blacks picked in one field, while we whites picked in the other.
It was in the 1970s that I learned that women, white or black, could not get credit in their names. I still use the credit card that I was able to get in my own name, instead of my husband’s name. Women had a hard time getting jobs in the professional fields. For blacks and for women, it did not miraculously change overnight. It still is a hard fought battle.
So I honor Martin Luther King this day. He had a great effect on my life as a white female. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave blacks, and white women, the same rights that white men already had.