Willie Green was driving as we headed toward the truck-stop for dinner after church. It was my first Sunday back at my Student Pastorate in rural Kentucky after being away for my wedding and honeymoon in 1983. Seeing a political poster stapled to a telephone pole, I asked Willie,
“who won the election for Governor while I was away?”
In her tobacco-thickened bluegrass drawl she grumbled, “Oh, that Martha Layne Collins, did.”
“You don’t sound happy about it.” I replied.
“I just don’t think it’s right, her being a woman and all.”
It was quiet in the car for a little while. Then Willie said,
“But then, I didn’t think it was right having you be our pastor, either.”
A little nervous, I asked, “So how’s that working out?” She laughed and said,
“It’s working out great! I guess maybe that Martha Layne won’t be too bad a Governor after all.”
Five years or so later, I was sitting at the kitchen table back home in Omaha visiting my parents. My Dad, who had always been my champion, encouraging me every step along the way in my education and preparation for ministry was reading the World Herald and said something about “that’s the problem with the economy these days, all these women going to work.”
“Um. Dad,” I ventured. “I thought you are really proud of me and the work I do.”
Dad put down the paper. I could see the cogs turning in his brain.
“Maybe the problem,” I said, “isn’t that women are working, maybe the problem is that the economy isn’t.”
“Well, that is another way to look at it.” Said Dad.
Last week I was at the county jail where I meet with some of the women for Bible study and discussion a couple times each week. “Any results yet on the election?” someone asked. It was Friday afternoon. I told them it was still not called for either candidate, but it looked like Biden and Harris were pulling ahead. The reaction among the women was mixed. What surprised me was two of the women, one young, one older, both said they didn’t want Biden and Harris because Harris is a woman, and “women shouldn’t be doing jobs like that.” I checked my watch, hoping it would tell me what year it is. When it didn’t, I told the women the story of me and Willie Green and the election of Martha Layne Collins in Kentucky thirty-five years ago.
It turns out the women had discussed it with a man who did some other ministry in the jail, and decided they agreed with him that women aren’t fit for leadership, that women need to know their place and stay in it. Why? Maybe because they, like so many of the women I meet at the jail, have known nothing but abuse from men for most of their lives. Instead of having the gift of parents, teachers, pastors and professors, male and female alike, who cheered them on and encouraged them to aim higher, these women have been put down and pushed around and told they don’t count. But they do. I told them they do. I told them being a woman in no way makes them less than a man, and, in my opinion, Senator Harris being a woman in no way disqualifies her from office.
Women, like men, can and should do all that God has given them the gifts to do. God created all of us in God’s image, and God said, “that’s good.”
The day after I was at the jail, on Saturday, the election was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I wasn’t particularly a Harris fan through the primaries, but when she spoke on Saturday as the Vice-President elect of our nation I broke down and sobbed great big, racking unexpected sobs. I think it’s right. I think it’s just right, her being a woman and all. And I suspect on Saturday afternoon God said something like, “it’s about time!” before saying, “now that’s really, really good.”