Josh & Ethan’s Excellent #13Percent Adventure #5

Posted on October 3, 2015


Barbara Roberts: Up the Capitol Steps

Blog Post #3: I am woman, hear me roar

 Thousands of Oregon children are now barred from entering public school. This is a shameful, irresponsible thing to let happen.

– Joanne Hummel, President of sponsoring organization for Senate Bill 699

Over one hundred years ago Oregon provided for the education of our blind and deaf children. Now we must take another step in providing an education for all of Oregon’s children.

– Sarah Brown, teacher in the Parkrose school district

As parents most of us know how rapidly a child grows to maturity. So, can you imagine the tears and despair of a parent of an emotionally handicapped child, marching his child grow too quickly to adulthood, while more studies are conducted without followup-programs? I ask your support of SB 699 in the name of thousands of children waiting for help.

– Barbara Roberts, then construction firm bookkeeper and single mother of two

Those were three among many statements made to a Senate committee by those testifying in support of Senate Bill 699, which would secure State funding for special education programs in Oregon. The committee approved it unanimously, passed it to another committee which sent it to Senate, which ultimately approved the bill without a single dissenting vote.
Barbara’s relentless pounding of the halls in Salem had yielded a great victory, but they weren’t out of the woods yet.  The bill still had to get at least 31 votes from the 60 member House, and needed Governor McCall’s signoff.
It seemed liked a Herculean task to her, and by any stretch of the imagination, it was. But then, somewhat randomly, the bill was passed to an unexpected House committee, one that didn’t generally handle education issues.
Barbara thought this might be a problem, but those worries dissolved when the very next day it went directly to the full House for a vote, and passed with 57 votes out of 60; two members were excused and one was absent. Four years would pass before the same educational rights would be extended to all 50 states.
It was almost anticlimactic—she barely had time to blink before she and all the other parents and organizations that had supported the bill had won. Even today, the wonder hasn’t worn off for her. After her wealth of political experience, she is still amazed that the vote passed as it did. Still, she had won a battle, and she liked it.
The pain of her divorce was still present, as it became official in 1972. Despite all his promises to be there for the boys, Neal and his new wife Karen had decided to move to Southern California. His promise of support to the boys would be replaced by a string of child-support checks. Eventually, even those would stop.
Money for Barbara became desperately tight, so she decided to move her family to a smaller house. She also began skipping her lunches to save money for food for the boys. All luxuries had to stop, and yet for all its struggle, the three-person family was happy. They didn’t stop their activities, they just transitioned to free ones, like park visits and trips to the grandparents.
Outside of family life, the struggles of a single mother were becoming clear to her—an insurance company belittling her struggle; a telephone service insisting on either a deposit (despite years of on-time payments) or a cosign by a male member of her family in order to transfer the line to her name; a boss denying her a raise based on the fact that she was not the family’s breadwinner (which she was), owing to the fact that she was receiving child support payments (which she wasn’t).
It was as if she had been taken out of the darkness, and everything became clear: male dominance affected almost every aspect of her life.
She made it clear to the telephone representative how she felt, that she already been paying for the service, and that she didn’t need a man’s signature, especially since there were no requirements of said man…it just had to be a man.

Two things happened on that long-ago 1972 day: I got a telephone in my own name and I became a feminist.

That’s all for today.
Next week: Flexing some Political Muscle

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