Category Archives: Workin’ women

Yes, A Woman Created Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is June 19, and the hype is underway!  Ads are popping up on traditional and social media, encouraging everyone to find the perfect gift for your perfect Father!  I just received an email prompt to purchase a dad’s holiday in Croatia for my husband.  Whatever happened to crazy ties and comfy socks?

There are so many reminders and suggestions about Father’s Day gifts and gadgets.  Who could possibly forget that Father’s Day is approaching?

But time out!  Let’s consider the impact a mother-in-law had on creating Father’s Day.  The national holiday exists thanks to Sonora Smart Dodd, a passionate daughter, wife, mother — and eventually yes, a mother-in-law.  In addition, she was a student, artist, author, businesswoman and social advocate.

Sonora Smart Dodd
Photo courtesy of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sonora Smart Dodd created Father’s Day.

Dodd was 16 and grief-stricken when her mother, Ellen, died in childbirth.  Dodd overcame her tragic loss and focused her energies on her family — on helping her father and five younger brothers, including a newborn.  At that time in history, many fathers faced with similar circumstances had sent their youngest children away to live with relatives.  Instead, William Smart kept his family intact. Dodd’s love and respect for her dad became the rock-solid foundation for establishing Father’s Day.

Her inspiration blossomed in July 1909, when her minister delivered an impassioned Mother’s Day sermon, more than a year after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10, 1908.  Dodd decided to advocate for a similar holiday honoring her father and all fathers.  By that time, she was a 27-year-old wife with an infant son.  Despite her youth, Dodd had a seasoned perspective on her father and his challenges as a single parent. She relentlessly championed her Father’s Day effort for more than a year, hoping it would be celebrated on her father’s June 5 birthday.  Finally, local clergy agreed to deliver the first Father’s Day sermon on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.

Could Dodd have predicted, so early on, that she would spend much of her lifetime spearheading a Father’s Day movement? Controversy and political maneuvering related to Dodd’s efforts and Father’s Day continued for more than half a century.  A movement in the 1920’s and 30’s even proposed scrapping both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in favor of a Parents Day.  Who could have guessed that Dodd would have to wait until 1972 when President Nixon officially established Father’s Day as a permanent national holiday to be celebrated each third Sunday of June?

Dodd died in 1978, at age 96, knowing she had accomplished her lifetime goal of honoring fathers.  Sonora Smart Dodd was quite the woman.  She was also a mother-in-law, like many of us.  She passed on a powerful message about the persistence and resilience of love — a much more enduring gift than socks, neckties and trendy technology on Father’s Day!

Mother In Law Farmers? Heck Yeah!

This farmer pulled out in front of me at a stop sign. No, I didn’t honk my horn. He had the right of way, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride, cruising behind his tractor at 15 mph.

Heading home

We live in Massachusetts, and there are some gorgeous farms here. Many are located in towns just outside Boston. According to 2010 statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service, farms total 7,700 statewide and the average size is 67 acres. About 5,465 men and 2,226 women farm here. That’s about a 2:1 ratio between men and women. It’s impressive that so many women are accomplishing what’s often considered a ‘man’s job’ — besides being mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers.

My husband was raised on a Minnesota farm and loves the dirt there. I know that sounds weird, but occasionally, he’ll spout something like, “There’s no dirt like the rich, black soil in Minnesota.” He typically makes such pronouncements when he’s digging around our backyard and suddenly hits New England ledge.

Digging up dirt

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare the two states – Minnesota vs. Massachusetts. A little agricultural rivalry between the Midwest and East Coast is always fun. Minnesota has 81,000 farms. That’s more than ten times the number in Massachusetts, and they’re large, averaging 332 acres. A total of 73,631 men and 7,361 women are farmers there. The percentage of women farmers in Minnesota is lower compared to Massachusetts. But if you think about it, 7,361 women in one place could make a fair-sized town.

Farming is definitely big business in Minnesota, but Massachusetts also has a proud agricultural heritage with many dairy farms, livestock operations, cranberry bogs, apple orchards, pumpkin patches and even Christmas tree farms. Regardless of where we live, farms are vital to our national economy.  They also provide us with beautiful scenery and bountiful harvests.

My mother-in-law was a farmer’s wife. A Philadelphia girl, she fell in love, married a Minnesota farmer, moved 1,300 miles away from her family and managed to raise four lively sons. She also tended fruits and vegetables, canned, sewed, cooked, and cleaned. She actively volunteered in her church and community and handled many other responsibilities. She traded city life for a challenging but rewarding life in a small farm community. When I think of my mother in law, I think of the frontier women who helped settle this country. She was a pioneer and a farmer in her own right.

So, hooray for our farmers — and especially for those strong, confident women who are successfully breaking the gender barrier and running farms. I say, “You go, girl!”

(Click on your state and discover some interesting agricultural facts from the USDA.)


Mothers In Law Work Hard

The majority of mothers-in-law juggle demanding jobs along with a bunch of obligations and expectations.  Most of us put in a solid day’s work. Then we come home — and we work some more.

Many working mothers-in-law are in the forty+ age range. It seems logical that we’d be more employable as we become more experienced and qualified. You’d expect that we’d be paid more too!  But have we really made strides in the job and equal pay areas?  The Economist recently reported, “Globally, women earn 10-30% less than men.”

This is no sissy job!

Are the salaries more competitive in the U.S.? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2009, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $657 or about 80% of the $819 median for their male counterparts.”

Finding employment and being paid a fair wage can be even more challenging for a woman once she reaches a ‘certain age’ — our age! And, have you noticed that attitudes on aging are different for women and men? For instance, older men frequently date much younger women, and there’s little stigma. Reverse the scenario, and whoa . . . society is hyper-critical! The chatter reaches fever pitch. Sugar daddies are acceptable, but what about sugar mamas? Unfortunately, age discrimination is still around.

Workin’ Women will focus on the important work we do on the job, at home and as volunteers. We will share stories about mothers-in-law who run the gamut – from top executives to school bus drivers to human rights advocates to entrepreneurs. All are equally important and inspiring. We will feature the latest employment news as well as resources, tips and links for improving skills and finding jobs.

Your work-related experiences are important to us and we want to hear from you. Share your stories! We’re advocating that mothers-in-law become the best they can be on and off the job.  Remember that hit song by Helen Reddy – I Am Woman? Well, we are women! Hear us roar (in a very good way!)