A Working Woman’s Shame
Here’s how a woman is betrayed and betrays in the working world. It took a painful lesson to do the right thing.
Act I: Stripes
There was, of course, the babysitting. That was back in the day when desperate for their night of escape from their domestic daily grind, moms would toss their newborn to you, a kid yourself at nine years old, with barely a minute of instruction about bottles or bedtime before they shut the front door. Babysitting aside, I’ve been working since I was 12 because I was so anxious to get to work. Why I’m not sure. I was the youngest in my family and just a girl. I wanted to prove my worth and earn my keep.
My parents wouldn’t let my sister and I deliver the morning papers like my brother got to do. They were worried about two young girls out alone at dawn. I looked elsewhere. Since I was an aspiring nun, I wanted to get my first God job as an altar boy. Despite the fact that St. John’s Church couldn’t find a boy to do the job, Father O’Flanagan wouldn’t hear of allowing a girl upon the altar. I turned my sights on medical work. If not a nun, in response to the irritating grown-up question, “What do you want to be?” I told them I wanted to be a nurse, which was a lie. I made the mistake at seven of telling my beloved second-grade teacher I wanted to be a doctor, but she told me that was a job for men. (Yes, this was really long ago.) So, Florence Nightengale, I would be. I volunteered as a candy striper at Denver General. In exchange for my work. I was given my pink and white striped dress and told to wear white ankle socks and comfortable shoes.
I was small for my age, but no matter. A doctor told me to wheel a patient, an old man (he could have been 30, but when you’re 12, all adults look ancient) in a hospital gown, from his room to get an X-ray down the hallway. I weighed in at about 75 pounds and he was a big guy, probably more than 200. No surprise it was an effort for me alone to push his wheelchair into the X-ray waiting room. Once there, he began waving his arms and yelling at me frantically in Spanish, which I didn’t speak. A nurse overheard and told me he needed to use the bathroom. She didn’t say, “Let me do it since you are but a young, innocent girl and shouldn’t be helping a…