Meeting an Activist Clone

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

Recently a member of a group that I belong to e-mailed me to ask if I would agree to an interview about my early days in the woman’s movement. A high school junior from Woodinville was doing a paper on that period in HERstory as I call it. We touched base on e-mail and I was soon opening my front door to greet a lovely young person with tape recorder ready. She was well prepared with questions that she hoped would precipitate many stories about my being involved in women’s issues. Anyone who knows me realizes how many stories I have to tell.

Now as you know, people are of all sorts and inclinations. Some like to be on stage, as it were, while others prefer to stay in the background. That certainly adds to the diversity of life. If everyone was like me the world would tip on its axis I am sure. So here was this sweet young self-declared feminist seeking out a feminist from the early women’s movement of the late sixties and early seventies—yes the last century.
Her first query was, “What led you to become a feminist?” That was a no brainer for me.

I had been born to a widowed mother just a month or so after my father died. Instead of being coached to lower my eyes and give the come-on signal to a young fellow I was prepared to be independent and, after college, to make my own living. What a difference from the way other young women were brought up. Mothers in my day prepared a daughter to be attractive to a man who was expected to be the breadwinner in the family. Fathers often treated their daughters much differently from their sons. But there was none of that for me. I was groomed to finish college and get into a profession with retirement benefits.

As I sat with tape recorder eating up all my words it was like an aphrodisiac in a way. My role is to share my life learnings with younger people and here I had the chance to have my words preserved for a special paper my new friend would be preparing about me. She admitted that she was having difficulty persuading her young friends to shed sexist language. I immediately felt a strong connection to this 21st century trailblazer. After all, I had been through a lot of the same difficulty in my earlier life of being shot out of the cannon of feminism into a world not aware of the need for change.

It was a little like looking into my own past as I looked across the table at this eager young woman with a passion for bringing social awareness to her own generation.

I shared with her my awakening to the need for equality for females. It was like something came alive in my brain releasing new insights and letting go of outmoded patterns of thinking. How exciting it was for me to think of being a part of social change benefitting women. Here I was sitting with one of the new generation of activists—an intelligent, truth seeker who could take up the challenge where I had left off.

So many wonderful people have come into my life and I cherish the chance to interact with them and stay connected. Just the other day I returned to swim class after a few months of down time. It was great to be welcomed back. One younger woman said, “You are a beacon of living life fully.” I love being a beacon and hope that this new wave of women’s equality will open up even more avenues for my young women friends to freely travel on. It is great to pass on the torch to capable hands.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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