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I Can't Be President? 

            The announcement came directly from the pulpit: 

            “Henceforth, women are allowed to become members of the board,” said the minister. “Not President, but any other elected position.”

            What? Did I hear that correctly? It’s the mid-70s, more than fifty years after women were granted the right to vote in state and national elections. But in this rural northern California town, women parishioners have been unable to hold elective office until today. And still, they can’t be nominated for the highest office?

            I look at surrounding faces, trying to assess the thoughts and feeling of others. The small congregation shows no reaction except silence. No smiles, no nods, no rustling of seats.

            Am I the only one who’s angry?

            Maybe the feminist movement hasn’t arrived in agricultural communities? I’m here because my cousin invited me, but it’s my first visit to a church in years. I feel caught in a time warp.  Living in San Francisco, actively involved in women’s groups, I recently completed my first graduate course in women’s studies. There was so much pent-up anger in the classroom that one day students made the teacher cry. Our textbook was Jungian, focusing on differences between women and men. We wanted to focus on similarities. If we’re essentially like men, what justification is there for discrimination?

            Now, I sit quietly in my pew, no longer able to focus on spiritual messages. As others sing hymns, I attempt to calm myself. Still angry, I’m aware of being in someone else’s world. My place here is to experience, to listen, to learn. To share my relative’s world, and her new community.

            At the end of the service, I exit the church on my own, leaving Stella behind to say hello to her friends. I circle behind the minister, shaking hands at the door. I’m not feeling up to pleasant introductions.

            As I head for the car, I walk by two grey-haired women in pastel and white summer dresses. I overhear one say to the other, her voice tinged with excitement: “I’ve waited for this all my life. Can you believe it? On the church board!”

            Her comment stops me. Maybe this moment is worthy of celebration. Maybe change can happen one step at a time.

            I walk away, envisioning her as the first female board member, something she never saw happening except in her dreams.

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