when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for November 2008

Yesterday the 2008 holidays “officially” began.  And while I enjoyed the turkey, dressing, pies and all of the other delicious food prepared by my in-laws on the Coast, I tend to reminisce on holidays past.  And I remembered that last year, at Christmastime — December 24, 2007 to be exact — Former Mississippi Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, the only woman elected to three statewide offices in Mississippi, died after a lengthy illness. She was 87.

Governor Gandy was very private; few people know that she suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.  She suffered in silence and dignity.  She had such personal dignity that few individuals ever saw her unless she was dressed in a suit and heels.

Governor was the first woman in Mississippi ever elected to the offices of state representative, state treasurer, insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor.  Each of these, save the state representative position, was a statewide campaign.  And, as you can imagine, Miss Gandy was a trailblazer in these campaigns.  Many Mississippians had never seen — never even imagined — a woman political candidate.
Yet she was always succinct when she was asked to speak of women running for office.  Her position never wavered:  “We’re not trying to be better than men, we’re just trying to join them.”

And join them she did.  She was the only woman in her graduating class at the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1943.  She joined the legislature in 1948, was elected State Treasurer in 1960, Insurance Commissioner in 1972, and Lieutenant Governor in 1976.  She was the first woman to hold these positions, and the only woman to hold the positions of State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner to date.

During her four-year term as Lieutenant Governor, Gandy voted to break a tie that led to passage of a law requiring that leases on school lands be based on the land’s true value. They previously earned as little as pennies per year in some counties, and the change resulted in millions of new dollars for the public schools.

I had just graduated from law school when Miss Gandy was elected Lieutenant Governor and I knew what an amazing feat this was for a Mississippi woman.  While she had been the only woman in her law school graduating class in 1943, there had been only 3 in mine in 1975.  Times were not changing rapidly, but they were changing.

When I consider the past during the holidays, and contemplate the future, my wish for young women is that they become aware of how the rights that they accept as commonplace are so very newly won so that they will work hard to protect them.


It is an unfortunate fact that women do many things as a result of socialization.  For example, to this day women prefer to marry in the month of June because, in the middle ages, it finally got warm enough in May to have the annual bath.  Brides continue to carry a bouquet because, while they definitely smelled better than they had prior to the bath, they used the bouquet to hide body odor that had been accumulated in the month or so subsequent the bath.

And then there’s the “bring home the bacon” stuff.  While we know that women can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and all that other stuff, in the middle ages only men brought home the bacon.  And when the man of the family could afford to bring home bacon, he was some special man because pork was a prize.  So, when expecting visitors, a woman would hang the bacon up in the thatched roof hut of a home in order to demonstrate that her man could…you got it…bring home the bacon.  And if she were enjoying the visitors and feeling generous, she would cut off a little bacon to share with guests.  They would sit around and chew the fat.

So in response to the middle ages, women continue to marry in June, carry bouquets, prop up their spouses by demonstrating his ability to accumulate wealth (without acknowledging their own contributions) and share, share, share.

Maybe we ought to re-think why WHY WHY we do what we do.  Not that we have to change.  I am not going to wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day…it’s too ingrained.  But lets just think it out…socialization is not necessarily on women’s sides.

November 2008
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