Larry Wilson: My own women of distinction

Recalling once when we first began naming Women of Distinction in the Pasadena area, and writing a column celebrating, almost at random, the lower-cased women of distinction in my own life and then a bunch here in town, I shy from the naming of names the way a hiker shies from a rattling in the bushes right by the single-track trail to Mount Lowe.

In that column of three years ago, various people were named; by definition, not everyone. How could you name everyone of distinction in town when, also by definition, half the people you know are of the women persuasion?

Not that they needed to respond, but I never heard a peep from those who were lauded. Nor did those who were not named themselves give a holler. But the friends and the family of the distinctives who were not named in what, as I say, was a casual rounding-up of the monikers of the good and the
great . . . well, they were vocal in the extreme.

“How on Earth could you ignore” Jean or Joan or for all I recall some boy named Sue? they asked.

I didn’t ignore them. I just didn’t claim that my list was all-inclusive.

I even remember how I created the casual compendium. In my mind, I pictured Pasadena, and went in a great circle around the town, starting in Hastings Ranch, sweeping like a second hand down toward Chapman Woods, through the central business districts, Madison Heights, San Rafael, Linda Vista, the East Arroyo, the heart of the Northwest, the historical neighborhoods along Washington Boulevard and then into Bungalow Heaven.

I was sitting on Colorado Boulevard, facing south, so this was indeed a clockwise venture — if I was looking toward the bottom of the clock. I came up with 20 or so names and stopped.

Too soon, it would appear, too soon.

As in any such naming in what more and more hopes to become an egalitarian society, the question it implies is, How long? How long will we have to have a Black History Month? How long will we need to have affirmative action? When will we all be equal?

There is no real answer to those questions. We don’t know how long. All we do know is it will be at some historical point after we all are gone.

Certainly in terms of the equality of women, we have made strides in the workplace, in the groves of academe, in the division of labor in the home. But in recent years we have also gone backward in the number of women in American political office. While not just Iceland but Britain and Germany and now perhaps even Mexico have had women as top national political leaders, we have not. A recent New York Times op-ed asked, Where is the feminist leader to take the torch from Gloria Steinem? Does the Ms. magazine founder have to lead the way until she’s in her 90s?

I remember writing another column many years ago celebrating the fact that my boss and my investment adviser and my physician and my lawyer — and my wife, and my only child, if it came to that — were all women.

Now, I’m lucky — I don’t have a lawyer. But my (different) physician, and my dentist, and my (different) investment adviser — and dear wife and child — sure are. I shall not name them, to protect the brilliant. And the rest of you women of distinction in my life — you know who you are.

– Larry Wilson is public editor of the Pasadena Star-News and the San Gabriel Valley Newspapers.