I grew up in the post-WWII era. If the concepts that grew into NOW and Title 9 were on anyone’s planning board, no one in my neighborhood’s culture knew it. I got the implied message from my mother that my life's goals should be safety and security. Options like elementary teacher, nurse, or (Mom's particular exemplar of the ideal job for a woman) telephone operator, were dangled in front of me. The message was that security meant marriage and motherhood not career.
Today I stand in awe of my biologist daughter and other women her age. She counts scientists and surgeons among her friends. But it’s when I meet women my age and older who worked past those 1950’s and ’60’s expectations that I realize just how far we’ve come.
A year or so ago I wrote about the women I work out with, most of whom are 70+ and whom I call The Goddesses. This time I’d to tell about Gail Weber, editor of TOSCA magazine.
I met Gail a few months ago when she contacted me about the possibility of including my art book “Past Matters” in her magazine. Over the next few weeks, our email correspondence convinced me that this was a woman I wanted to meet. Her writing brought to mind adjectives like dynamic and smart. My journalism teacher genes jumped at the chance to be active again. I wanted to interview this woman!
I got the chance to do just that when we finally met at a Barnes and Noble coffee shop. When she told me she was originally an English literature major, I asked her about her journey from English lit to magazine editing. And there it was...the attribute that I’d sensed in her in her emails, the attribute that set Gail apart from the “be safe” mentality I grew up with. She and I are close in age. Where did this come from?
“I practiced law for 23 years, she said. “The 80s and 90s were very intense and I worked 70+ hours a week. Always wore a conservative suit. In court a lot. During this time I was also learning more and more about the arts and that was a side interest. I was the one in our group of friends that arranged most of our arts related outings.
“In the mid 2000s I started to burn out. I was getting ill a lot and fatigued. I was no longer interested in practicing law and (I was) out of energy.
“In 2005 I started TOSCA*. I closed my law practice in 2006. I’ve met a brand new group of people that I would never have met had I continued in law. It has been enlightening, fun and fulfilling. It’s still a challenge but I have the desire to meet the challenges and bring more arts to people.”
I can't begin to know all of the reasons why one woman sets out on a road less traveled while another takes a safer, less daunting path, but I do know this: I thank the Powers That Be for these women who give the rest of us the courage to keep on tryin’.
*Twin Cities Theatre Opera Shakespeare Culture Art
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Gail M. Weber
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