Home » Uncategorized

Memories of a role model from long ago

Submitted by on Monday, 2 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published April 16, 2008, thehive.modbee.com

Sometimes, the oddest things can send me on 20-year jogs down memory lane.

Today, a story about Carme Chacón launched the trip. Chacón, 37, recently became the first woman to serve as Spain’s defense minister. She’s also seven months pregnant. Yesterday’s photo op included images of Chacón and her baby bump inspecting troops.

Which reminded me of Liz Martin, a lady I crossed paths with a lifetime ago.

Back in Liz’s child-bearing days, a baby bump wasn’t shown off. A gym teacher at the time she became pregnant with her first child, she was forced to resign the second she started showing. Not take a leave of absence, but resign. Liz was so slight, she was out the door shortly after her third month ended.

Liz – and she was always just plain Liz, never Delegate Martin – was in her 50s and her second career when I ran across her. She’d gone to law school and settled with her growing family in Morgantown, W.Va. Once the children were reared, she turned her attention to politics, winning election several times to the state Legislature.

I was a nervous 19-year-old student reporter covering a subcommittee she served on when I met her. One by one, the political hotshots blew past. No time for a snot-nosed college kid.

Liz had time. She spent a half hour with me and a reporter from the student radio station.

I kept running into her during my time at West Virginia University, as I served various legislative internships and she climbed the leadership ladder.

My junior year, her climb stopped. She picked the wrong horse in the speaker’s race and earned herself a seat on the back bench. Really, she’d had no choice. One contender also was from Morgantown, and he and Liz were close politically. The other side dangled temptations. She could have been the first woman to chair the House Judiciary Committee, but she stuck with her friend and her convictions.

When it was over, she never complained about her seat at the back of the chamber. Unlike her friend – who turned bitter, petty and petulant after his defeat – Liz put her head down and did the job she was elected to do.

Still, she was a back bencher with sway, and not just because the tight speaker’s race made for tight votes and ever-shifting alliances over the next two years. Colleagues came to her because she was smart, sane and ethical, and they knew it.

By the end of that term, she’d had enough. Enough of the Capitol, enough of being away from home. She decided to run for judge instead of seek re-election to the House.Want to work on a campaign, she asked me shortly after the Legislature closed.

I had almost a month between the end of the internship and graduation. I also have a low boredom threshold. I jumped at the chance.

And I will never forget those hours spent in Liz’s office, stuffing envelopes and working phones as we gabbed about life, politics, feminism and family.

Or seeing that slip of a woman put on her 80s power suit – remember, the ones with shoulder pads fit for a linebacker? – to traipse to coal mine after coal mine, grab a grubby hand at the shift change and ask for a vote.

She wasn’t going to dress down or talk down. The miners deserved the same professional appearance and approach she gave the Rotary Club.

She was the first woman I ever heard talk candidly about giving birth. Her first experience was so easy she almost didn’t leave a picnic in time to get to the hospital – the only pain she felt was a weak tummy ache. She thought she’d eaten some bad potato salad.

She taught me that you could have it all, but not always all at once. Truly radical thinking for 1986.

We talked about her opponent’s sleazy, sexist whispering campaign – at the time, you could count on one finger the number of female judges in West Virginia – and how she was not going to sink to that level.

Liz lost the election but, in classic classy Liz style, she refused to sulk. That night, as we gathered at her office while the death knell sounded on her judicial hopes, I realized I was looking at a living, breathing role model.

For years after that, I tried to live up to Liz. I often fell short – I’ll never master her cool unflappability. Slowly, though, the memories of this marvel slipped from my mind.

Until today, when a story about a pregnant Spaniard reminded me of a woman once forced to quit her job because she was having a baby.

Liz, you’re just as inspiring now as you were 22 years ago.

Thank you.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

Similar Posts:

    None Found

Popularity: 4% [?]

Comments are closed.