I came to UNC in 1968 as one of only a few women in my class and, I think, one of only three to graduate with a PhD. I had come because of my interest in Human Ecology, and to study with Amos Hawley. At the time, there were five current or former ASA presidents at UNC. I was told that UNC had been able to recruit such a stellar faculty because of the great retirement program provided by the state. Besides Hawley’s book, I remember being entranced by Wilson’s Intro book, which I thought did an amazing job of describing what Sociology really is, and Lenski’s book on Evolution. And I would never have become the quantitative scientist I am without the kind guidance of Tad Blalock. What a treat to be surrounded by such luminaries! Jack Kasarda was a classmate and also an office mate for a year or so. We had long talks about religion, which proved useful to me in a later time.
On a personal note, it was my first experience of the Deep South, and coming from Seattle, Hillsboro was another planet. If “the war” didn’t mean the Civil War, it meant the Revolutionary (not WWII), and a trip to Mt. Morris (10 miles) was cause for a major planning effort and then reporting on “the trip” to the neighbors. I had also never encountered Southern racism, having come from Seattle where everyone is a migrant and what racism there definitely is was still minor by comparison.
My husband had his first teaching job at Bennett College, so he was commuting 50 miles to work in Greensboro, where the National Guard shot two students across the street at A&T.
Tad Blalock was among those who demonstrated every single week against the war in Viet Nam. After Kent State, when the National Guard was on the UNC campus, I felt a lot of pressure to boycott classes, but as the first in my family—and my entire neighborhood—to even attend college, never mind graduate school (“what’s that?” asked my grandmother), I didn’t want to skip classes.
It was also a difficult time because my husband and I had four grade-school aged children. Chapel Hill schools had been integrated less than 5 years and things were not going well. My kids had a very hard time with the public schools, even after we moved to Chapel Hill, but we were too poor to consider any alternative.
Speaking of poor, I did have an NIH fellowship through the Population Institute that paid $3000/year. My male colleagues who had the same fellowship received an additional $500/child, but I did not because I was a woman and therefore not eligible. The ACLU fixed that!!! Even with my job with the Art School that paid a whopping $4/hr, I still had to sew my kids’ clothes and my husband’s sport jacket, and get “furniture” from Goodwill, but at least we ate. The ACLU also had a word with the school board about daily prayers in school when both the teacher and the principal refused to discontinue them and offered to have my first grader stand in the hall while the rest of the class prayed. For me, there were many challenges during those years in addition to being a student, challenges that many of my classmates did not have.
My first teaching job was at SUNY Geneseo, teaching undergrads Statistics, Marriage and the Family, and World Population Problems. Teacher Evaluations were the new thing, and I got a teacher of the year award while there and got promoted to Assoc. Professor. Then I was recruited to Kansas, where I got tenure and had a split appointment with the Institute for Social and Economic Research, the first woman ever to be employed as a Principal Investigator.
My career as an academic sociologist ended after I was at KS for four years, when I took leave to do the research about the social and economic effects of the accident at Three Mile Island for the Kemeny Commission, and never returned. I continued to do environmental sociology research for the next 10 years as President of Social Impact Research, Inc., which I founded.
My career has taken many twists and turns since then, but my foundation as a sociologist has informed my thinking about norms, values, culture and social systems wherever I’ve been. Briefly, after Reagan was elected, all contract Environmental Sociology work dried up, and I was recruited to be an Executive Recruiter, using my knowledge of demography and epidemiology to recruit insurance professionals. Eventually, I went to work for one of my clients, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, as an inside researcher, management consultant, and staff support for consumer advisory groups (write the VP’s Strategic Plan; estimate whether we have enough beds to make it through the winter flu season; why does it take so long to get a vasectomy at one clinic and not others?).
Eventually, I returned to school to get a second Master’s in Nursing at Yale, and became a Nurse-Midwife at age 50, attending births at homes, hospitals and birth centers. I built a practice and a birth center in Kennewick, WA, which I ran for 10 years, and also was the Executive Director of birth centers in Washington DC (where Secretary Sebelius and Justice Sotomayor visited) and Bryn Mawr, PA. I became President of the American Association of Birth Centers and had the opportunity to participate in national health care policy conversations. I returned to academia as an Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. I worked on a business plan to start hundreds of birth centers, with the objective of significantly improving our atrocious (and worsening) maternity outcomes, by reducing medical interventions that harm mothers and babies and providing the kind of care that helps. Essentially, I am trying to find a way to change an entrenched social system that provides too many poor outcomes for the majority of women who are healthy.
Although I am retired from clinical practice now, I continue to serve on both national and local health policy committees, with a focus on maternity care. Last year I married Stan Woody, who is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Domestic Violence Perpetrator Treatment Provider. I give a “Daddy Boot Camp” to his two women’s and three men’s treatment groups about twice a year, in which I teach participants how to bond with their children before they are even born, and how to manage the stresses of pregnancy and the immediate postpartum periods, which are high-risk times for DV. I now lecture nationally on assessment and treatment of DV by BOTH genders, for the sake of the children. Stan and I have also just used our combined backgrounds to develop a 4-hour training on Hate and Prejudice for DV workers, therapists, social workers, and marriage and family counselors, which has turned out to be timely given the recent election.
We live in Kennewick, in the desert part of Washington State, in an area with 200 wineries within an hour of the house (come visit!). My kids and step-kids from a brief second marriage do not live in this town, but most of Stan’s family (including great-grandkids) do, so there are plenty of family activities, and we get to Seattle about monthly to see my family.
I think it’s fair to say that I have spent my life as both a learner and teacher. If I learned nothing else at UNC, it was that there is such a thing as a social force, and that it is nearly as difficult to resist as gravity. Social change is not easy. But I’m trying!
Submitted December 2016