I Am Woman—Thoughts From MAKERS Executive Producer

I am part of a generation of women who owe a lot to the MAKERS. When we were growing up, our mothers had few options for interesting work outside the family. By the time I was looking for a job as a journalist in the mid-70’s, media organizations were actually looking for women like me! They figured they’d better give us a shot after successful discrimination lawsuits filed by the women at Newsweek and The New York Times.

Of course, I knew about the women’s movement; I lived through it in high school and college. But I had only a vague idea of the details when I began my career. I think many of us who came of age in the “I Am Woman” era just didn’t have time to look back. We were too busy trying to prove ourselves in a man’s world.

So seven years ago, when Dyllan asked me to join what eventually became the MAKERS project, I jumped at the chance. I was surprised to learn that no documentary had been done about the full scope of the women’s movement and its aftermath, but happy, too, that we would have that opportunity.

At one point in the MAKERS documentary, you will hear women’s health advocate Byllye Avery say, “Our minds were being blown.” Well, that’s often the way I felt when I was interviewing the MAKERS, starting with marathon runner Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s strategy for overturning discriminatory laws before she joined the Court; what Oprah did when she found out she was being paid half as much as a colleague doing the same job; Hillary Clinton’s struggle with her image as a woman in the public eye; and the stories of lesser known women like coal miner Barbara Burns who successfully sued her boss for sexual harassment because, “Nobody kisses me unless I want them to.”

It was a privilege to talk to all the MAKERS I interviewed, but when I met Lynn Povich I couldn’t help but say, “Thank you.” She was one of the young women who took the bold step of suing her bosses at Newsweek in 1970 and paving the way for women like me.

Feminist leader Gloria Steinem, who is a MAKER and served as our advisor on the project, once told me she gets thanked a lot, too. Her response is to quote the suffragist Susan B. Anthony who wrote, “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going.”

I hope that the stories on makers.com and in the MAKERS: Women Who Make America documentary will inform women, men, girls and boys about this history and inspire them for the future.


Make sure to watch MAKERS: Women Who Make America tonight on PBS at 8PM EST (check local listings)!


Photo: Brian Virgo/AOL

Tags: Betsy West