The Brilliant Minds Behind Apollo Shine On

I wrote my memoir, The Step, to draw attention to the unsung heroes of the Apollo Program. The men and women who made up the technical team, instead of the astronauts who have historically received all the attention and the glory. I’ve been promoting my book and giving book talks for over a year now. I always mention the effort that was made to assemble this incredibly impressive, intelligent and hardworking scientific team that made this seemingly impossible feat, of landing a man on the moon, attainable. 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of addressing Mensa at their Annual Gathering in Hollywood, Florida. I ended my talk, as I usually do, with a Question & Answer session. One man named Bob Tewchuk raised his hand and asked, “Seems there is a rumor that 90% of the Apollo mission computer was code redundant. That is, 10% of the code contained the instructions, and 90% was used for error checking and to ensure there were no errors or crashes. A friend of mine told me this years ago, and I’d like to know if it’s true.”

I worked in PR not in computer programming, so I didn’t know the answer to his question. But I knew someone who would! I took down Bob’s information and promised I would get back to him with an answer. I forwarded his question to two of my former Apollo coworkers and friends, Kenneth Clark and Jim Handley. Here’s Ken’s reply:

“The term “code redundant” implies that there is code that is redundant for some reason such as to recompute a value for which the answer is known in order to verify correctness.  I doubt there was any of that in the flight computers and know for a fact there was none in the ground computers.  A second form might be some form of redundancy in hardware with identical software in the redundant hardware and some sort of voting logic to determine which hardware was correct.  The Launch Vehicle Digital Computer used triple modular redundancy (TMR) logic, but I don’t believe the code was replicated.  The Saturn Ground Launch Computers were not TMR.  However, the Mobile Launcher Computer did contain redundant set of code which was switched to if the primary memory encountered a parity error or no instruction alarm during execution.  I don’t know if the Apollo Guidance Computers contained any form of redundancy and don’t see any evidence of any in my investigation on the internet.

 On the subject of error checking, not even close to 90% of the code would be allocated to that task.  The amount of memory in any of the computers made it absolutely impossible for there to be much if any code in the computers to be used for error checking.  The error checking that existed was to determine if an operation requested or commanded by a program completed successfully.  There were some checks even in the Lunar Lander to report on unexpected errors.  An example of this was the Lunar Module program alarms minutes into the landing sequence (Error codes 1201 & 1202).

 Memory in the computers was mostly magnetic core.  Here are some examples of the memory sizes used in the computers

 Saturn Ground Launch Computers (RCA 110A) – 32 K 24 bit words + 1 parity bit

Instrument Unit Launch Vehicle  Digital Computer – 32 K 28 bit words including 2 parity bits

Apollo Guidance Computers — 2048 K words of erasable magnetic core memory and 36 K 16 bit words of read-only core rope memory.

 

Note:  There were 2 Apollo Guidance Computers in the spacecraft.  One in the Command Module and one in the Lunar Module.

 

Hope this helps,

Ken”

Amazing that over fifty years later his memory is so precise. I called him a genius in my book and clearly he’s living up to the title.

The remarkable triumphs of that team have changed the trajectory of our country forever. The greatest minds of the time collected and working together were ever so powerful. Unfortunately, when Apollo ended the team was disbanded. Many of the brilliant scientists and engineers were sent packing or to sell typewriters.

Our space program has been stuck on the back shelf for years. As we stagnate China, Russia and private companies make leaps and bounds forward. It’s about time we revisit our treatment of the space program and recognize it’s importance in securing our future stability and respectability as a nation. I can think of two guys who would be perfect to head up the scientific team!

Aaron Hernandez: Suicide is not the Answer

By  Martha Lemasters

I, like so many other Gators, followed Aaron through his football years at the University of Florida and then with the Patriots. I cannot describe the sorrow and sadness I felt when word of his suicide hit the news after being acquitted of two other murders. He even cried when he heard the verdict: a huge departure from his first guilty verdict when he showed no remorse but was still defiant.

There isn’t a pastor, coach, advisor or friend who couldn’t use the life of Hernandez as an example of “how to ensure that failure will result” if one follows his path. In fact, I would advise every coach to talk to his athletes, tell them how outstanding he was, he had all the moves, all the strength, all the opportunities, yet failure in every aspect was the outcome.
Why?

I remember hearing about two very famous people talking about their lives. One asked the other, “How did it feel to be named most beautiful woman alive?” She answered, “It wasn’t enough!” The other asked, “How did it feel to win an Oscar?” She answered, “It wasn’t enough!”

With all Aaron had going for him it still wasn’t enough. Why?

He took so many wrong turns in life…and his biggest mistake might just be choosing suicide over life.
He lacked a spiritual foundation…the understanding and belief in something bigger than himself, or the gang mentality. Spirituality gives hope in the face of defeat, healing in the face of loss and the ability to rise above life’s challenges.
I had hoped he would use his time incarcerated to delve into things more spiritual. Without the use of drugs, without the detrimental association with gang members, without the accolades of athletic success, his tough-guy persona quickly crumbled without a firm foundation.

I remember counseling a friend who had just joined our church and was contemplating suicide. She described it as “a bleak sense of impenetrable darkness—feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, when suicide seems not just a reasonable option but the next best step.”

She asked me, “What am I? What is man’s purpose?” I found a scientific response in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, an Miscellany by Mary Baker Eddy: “As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good. Thus may each member of this church rise above the often repeated inquiry, What am I? to the scientific response: I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, an this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing.”

“Then,” she said, “My reason for living is my innate ability, my inalienable ability, “to impart truth, health, and happiness.” Her thoughts of suicide disappeared.

Dear Friends, joy is your trademark; It’s what you do! It’s true about everyone—it always has been and always will be. We don’t have to die to figure this out. In fact, we need to live to do so. God’s spiritual substance and goodness are ours to feel, appreciate and enjoy in everything, everywhere, right now. This makes life a rich, wonderful adventure—one worth living.

March is Women’s History Month


By Martha Lemasters 

Following the Women’s March in Washington and around the world, I overheard one woman saying, “Those women don’t represent me!”

I couldn’t help but think, “Of course they don’t, you’re privileged…you don’t stand in line for sales, you’re not a single mother living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t depend on Affordable Care Insurance, you don’t depend on low-cost medical service…and you certainly don’t have other men in the office making more money than you do for the same job. You also don’t have to go through the desperation and worry of unwanted pregnancies because you can’t afford birth control.

Women who think that none of these issues affects them are thinking only of their own needs. There is a point in a woman’s life when one’s thinking shifts from what “I” need, to what do my sisters, the women in poverty, or those just facing troubling times, need. It’s a time when we think of others.

There’s a saying, “With great wealth, comes great responsibility.” That responsibility includes taking some concern for the needs of others. I know the concept of “wealth” is relative, depending upon one’s own economic status. But surely the atmosphere of compassion should enter the picture and elicit a sense of sharing and giving.

Within the global community the human rights of women vary greatly. Despite all the progress that has been made in some countries they are still subject to violence and even death.

Domestic violence against women continues to be a scourge. In the U.S., a spouse or boyfriend batters a woman every 15 seconds, and in North Africa, 6,000 women are genitally mutilated daily. Uneven treatment in cases of adultery, divorce, and property rights impoverishes and endangers many women.

I have among my circle of friends those who are gay, transvestite, elderly, black, crippled, poor, and disadvantaged. I am aware of their needs, I feel their heartaches, and I see their fear of bullying and loneliness.

To those who don’t believe in abortion…don’t get an abortion…and by all means, if it involves someone else, mind your own business, unless they are of your religion and have the same beliefs that you do. You have no idea what a woman is going through in her life.
Women’s rights, at its roots, is not a political issue. It isn’t defined by liberal feminism or conservative traditionalism. At the core of women’s rights are deeper questions of origin and identity.

We have only to look at the harsh strictures of the Taliban regime, and their effects on girls’ education and women’s freedom. Also, the second-class status of girls’ education in many countries stunts the lives of millions. Uneven treatment in cases of adultery, divorce and property right impoverishes and endangers women. Thousands of women in India are murdered each year over dowry disputes.

There’s a corollary to this truth: Full expression of manhood will be achieved only as women gain full equality.

Christmas at Cape Kennedy By Martha Lemasters

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I can remember Christmas at Cape Kennedy. We had a huge Christmas tree in our cafeteria in the administrative building in the town of Cape Canaveral.

On the last day before Christmas employees were invited to the cafeteria to have cookies and punch.

The chorus would lead everyone in singing a few carols and we were all dismissed early…eager to get home to be with our families.

Decorations were evident in the VAB also…with wreaths hung in the strangest places…over equipment, over doors, over railings.  Small Christmas trees decorated each office as one traversed the hidden areas of the VAB.

I don’t remember anyone ever exchanging gifts. We all were just thrilled and happy to have a few days off to spend with our families. Some who had accrued a lot of vacation time would always take the week between Christmas and New Years, leaving the newer employees to cover.

In every hall and office “Merry Christmas,” not Happy Holidays, greeted us.

Christmas was filled with joy and glee. But somewhere in the back of everyone’s thoughts were the launches yet to come, the new unknown problems to be solved, the commitment to make our country proud…to make the tough schedule put upon the Cape to launch before 1970.

Even at Christmas, Apollo and the work ahead were never forgotten. Oh, pushed aside for a little while to enjoy the festivities of the season…but dangling like an apple before a horse, pulling us onward to the greatest technical achievement by mankind…putting American men on the moon…and bringing them back safely.

Letting Go of Political Hate

stop_hateRecently after the results of the national election became known, a dear friend of mine announced that he was severing all ties and “un-friending” anyone who had voted for the president-elect, including his relatives.

I could understand his disappointment and utter sadness. However, I felt like he was taking the voting for the candidate personally…in other words those who had voted against his candidate were, in fact, voting against him and his needs.

My friend is usually a very loving, caring person so I was surprised at his dismay, and disappointment manifested in this manner.

Someone once said, “If you cut off those who love you, you’re left with no one who loves you.”

It may seem to us that our country is split into opposing factions as a result of the outcome. Bitterness and hate are screaming for our attention and embrace.

Last fall The Christian Science Monitor reported that after what appeared to be a terrorist attack in Ottawa that killed one soldier, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair took a stand against the hatred that is fueling Islamic extremists. He declared, “These acts were driven by hatred, but also designed to drive us to hate. They will not.”

The refusal to hate is a rock to climb upon…a firm foundation that promises to bless all in the process.

We can’t talk people out of hatred. We can’t bomb it out of them. We can’t even be nice enough to them that maybe they won’t hate or try to hurt others. Only when we understand how to dissolve the actual origins of malice will we all be safe.

The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes about hatred, “Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, — to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness and success.”

Hannah More, and 18 century writer and philanthropist said, “If I wished to punish my enemy, I should make him hate somebody.”

Hate is like darkness. Love is like light. When we live our lives with more consciousness of this light, darkness loses its capacity to reach us. As we begin to see that God is all, that this Light or Love is infinite, the darkness no longer even seems real, and no longer governs or influences our view of others.

“An army of conspirators” is exactly what hatred brings if we allow it through our mental door. Whether through self-justification, jealousy, hurt feelings, criticism or condemnation, hatred brings its own torment.

The human mind is often quick to draw dividing lines between people and create reasons for them to oppose each other. But when we strive to see others through the lens of Love, we find these lines start to dissolve.

To see the unifying power of divine Love in this country that we cherish so much, we have to sacrifice selfish desire; we need to yearn to understand and express Love and to see others as Love’s expression.

It is the power of love that destroys hate. It is Love, God, that comforts and binds up all wounds, resolves conflicts and brings harmony into our experience.

Living the unqualified love of God is what enables us to eradicate any lines between one person and another and find unity.

11/10/16

A note to those who doubt we went to the moon – By Martha Lemasters

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One of my pet peeves is a group of conspiracy individuals who doubt if our astronauts ever actually went to the moon. They cite as evidence a flag that appears to be waving, and their belief that an astronaut in those heavy gloves couldn’t possibly work a camera. They believe it was all manufactured in a sound stage.

It saddens me that these non-believers even stalk the astronauts as they make speeches across the nation, calling them fakes and frauds.

I liken these folks to the following analogy:  If you stand at the edge of a beach near me, we can feel the cool saltwater wash over our bare feet. We can watch the gentle waves slowly erase the remains of a sand castle nearby. On a clear day, we can look out to see perhaps a dozen miles of rippling blue before it meets the horizon.

But how little this scene indicates of the ocean’s actual immensity! Thousands upon thousands of nautical miles expand beyond us, connecting the coasts of every continent. Profound depths lay beneath the surface and ceaseless activity of powerful currents impact the weather of the entire planet.

It’s easy to lose sight of this level of magnitude because the default of the human mind is to think far too small—and be content with that.

I believe it’s hard for a small human mind not educated as an engineer, physicist, or software engineer, or simply one who cannot think big, to comprehend the magnitude of what it took to put men on the moon.

More than 400,000 people worked on the Apollo Program, each contributing to the overall success of the moon landings. I was one of those people. Try to keep a secret to just a few of these people that we’re going to operate out of a sound stage?…not possible.

Yes, I am certain we went to the moon, in fact it was my company’s Instrument Unit that laid out the trajectory, programmed by honest, hard-working IBMers, who gave more than 10 years, three shifts a day to Apollo.

There were no clandestine meetings, no cover-ups; every meeting was documented and laid down for history. It was honest-to-goodness American ingenuity and hard work that took us to the moon and back.

I would draw the non-believers’ attention to the moon rocks that were brought back as evidence…more than 800 pounds, examined by numerous scientists and geologists and declared authentic, without a doubt.

I like Neil Armstrong’s comment to one of the non-believers when one of them put before him a Bible and asked him to swear on the Bible that he actually walked on the moon. “I’m afraid that Bible that you have there is fake too.”

Think for a minute of the immensity of the Apollo Program and all those who cannot believe it happened…then think about the even greater immensity of the power, the magnitude of God and you will see how so many people can refuse to believe in God…because the default of the human mind thinks too small.

Whatever is infinite in scope continually impels us to think bigger, to search bigger.

Be a big thinker!

Music was part of the Apollo Days – by Martha Lemasters

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One of the most favorite memories I have from working on the Apollo Program comes from the rehearsals and subsequent shows that the chorus performed for the entire IBM launch support team and their spouses before each launch. They were called Facility Dinners and everyone looked forward to them.

We took liberty with some popular songs by changing a few words and sang songs like Get Me to the Launch on Time, and There’s no business like Space Business. We also sang a lot of patriotic songs like God Bless America, America, the Beautiful; This is My Country, Battle Hymn of the Republic and If I Had a Hammer and many others. We even sang some of the old IBM fight songs, written in the 20’s, including Ever Onward.

We rehearsed twice a week in the cafeteria. We had a local high school girl who played the piano for our rehearsals. When it came time for the show, we employed professional musicians who backed us up. We sang in four-part harmony, all directed under the careful eye and ear of Leon Bill, the Communications section head. Leon had a background in music, producing, directing and even performing in Broadway type shows.

Besides the chorus, we had skits, which I wrote and usually acted in too. There was one skit about a couple taking a vacation on Mars…and another about a lady shuttle commander who fell in love with a subordinate.

What fun days they were. The chorus was very tight knit. We supported each other in work and in play.

Some of my best friends that were in the chorus are still among my best friends today.

The Single Parent – by Martha Lemasters

Being a Single parent

Recently I was interviewed by a writer from a West Palm Beach magazine about my book, The Step: One Woman’s Journey to Finding her Own Happiness and Success During the Apollo Space Program. She sent a long list of questions, including one specifically: How did you balance being a single mother with the job?

My answer: One word…organization! By the early part of the Apollo program I was divorced so I knew the girls had to chip in with help. I had a chore chart for my daughters. As I left the house every morning at 6:30, the oldest daughter was responsible for getting her sisters up and dressed for school. They rode their bikes the two blocks to school. After school, they were responsible for unloading and loading the dishwasher, and setting and clearing the table so that things were accomplished when I arrived home to cook dinner. I think these responsibilities helped carve my daughters’ strong, capable personalities. I am very proud of the women they are today.

Today, things are quite different from the 60’s when I was one of only a few single parents. As divorce or demise of a spouse compels a growing number of single parents to undertake the challenges of raising children alone, many wonder if it is possible to be an effective parent and create a healthy household as a single parent.

Even though my ex-husband remarried a month after our divorce was final, I knew it was absolutely necessary for my girls to have a continuing relationship with their dad. I had to put aside all self-righteousness and realize the importance of this bond.

It became clear to me that my expression of love as a mother had to be represented as both calm and tender but also have that element of discipline, or teaching, when the need arose.

I also had to cope with emotionalism and possessiveness, traits that sometimes are attached to mothers, masquerading as legitimate concerns of motherhood. These traits began to recede as my sense of purity of Love grew. I prayed daily to see God’s plan operating in our home.

When our family’s needs seemed beyond my ability to fulfill, I tried wholeheartedly to understand that God’s love rests on Principle. I learned that I could be relaxed without losing control. I was able to more insistently discern right solutions. Freedom and dominion began to characterize the discipline, and anguish and frustration gradually faded out.

At one point during those years working on the Apollo Program I returned home to find a beautiful piece of artwork plastered on the hall wall…embellished by every tube of lipstick that I owned.

My son-in-law, upon reading my book, asked me why I didn’t get mad at them because I just gently praised their skill as artists and thanked them for what was meant as a loving gesture.

Maybe I was just too tired, or maybe it was seeing their dancing eyes, so proud of their manifestation of love, that I just melted with love, instead of indignation.

How comforting it is to lean on the stability of God’s fathering and to feel tangibly the presence of God as the motivating force within family. Limitation of time, financial pressures, or human inadequacies can be resolved step by step when we rely on the wisdom of our heavenly Parent to govern every decision involving home.

The true concept of family is forever whole; it cannot be fragmented. This truth operates in human experience as a law of progress and harmony. It can silence the clamor of fractured families, adjust the heartaches and repair the fragmentation claiming to be so much a part of society.

We need to know that God’s children cannot be victimized. As we pray to understand the true nature of innocence, we realize the child of God could not be maladjusted, apathetic, disabled, or disobedient.

We can affirm that God’s child is motivated by good, and we can expect our children’s behavior and performance to be the reflection of Soul, the stability of Spirit, and the vitality of Life.

 

My First Business Trip

MARTHAATWORK

Martha Lemasters, author of The Step, at work for IBM at the Kennedy Space Center during the Apollo Progam.

By the 1970s, pantyhose were a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. As more women headed into the workplace, sales of pantyhose grew. The only problem was that there wasn’t very good elastic in the waist and they would start to droop to your hips if you didn’t pull them up!

The day has finally arrived for my first business trip. I am to go to Bethesda, Maryland, just outside D.C., to sit in for the communications manager for one week. I am confident. I have learned to become assertive and stand up for my rights. I am so excited; I feel I’ve earned this trip. I know I’m a professional woman now. I’ve developed my creativity and knowledge. I pick out my best business suit to wear; every strand of hair is in place. Even my attaché case matches the overnight bag I carry. In short, Doris Day couldn’t look any more perfect for the part of a traveling professional woman.

I am to leave from the Melbourne airport, fly to Atlanta for a change to Washington, D.C. I check my suitcase, board the plane and I’m on my way. I expect the trip to be easy but once over Atlanta we have to circle the airport for more than an hour, slipping my boarding time for my next flight to D.C. I now have only three to four minutes to make that flight.

As I descend the stairs from the plane, I think I can make it. I am feeling important as I look around and see most of the passengers are men. I hold my head up high and then it happens. With my overnight case in one hand and my attaché case, as well as my huge handbag in another, the elastic in my pantyhose breaks. Hovering over I use both elbows to pinch each side of the pantyhose to keep them from falling down. Hurrying through the airport the vision is not exactly what would appear on the cover of New Woman Magazine. My 5’9” frame stooping over, elbows in place holding the pantyhose up and scurrying as fast as I can. I know I don’t have time to stop and take the pantyhose off because I will miss my flight. I finally make it to the plane. One of the flight attendants comes over and asks “Are you in pain”?

“No, I just need to get to the ladies room and remove these pantyhose.”

I’d been warned me about the D.C. airport: “It’s one of the most hectic airports you’ll ever go through. The secret is to get to the rental car agency and get out of the airport before the 5 p.m. rush-hour traffic begins.”

With these words ingrained in my thoughts, I make a beeline to the rental car agency as soon as I land. I get the keys and hurry to the huge parking lot. It takes me a while to even find the car; then I have trouble getting the car started. A man passes by and I ask him if he knows the secret to starting the car.

“You’ve got to have your seat belt on,” he says.

I feel so ignorant. But I think the procedure, obviously installed by the rental company, even more stupid. I get started and head out of Washington. I travel about 30 miles, happy that I’ve beaten the worst of traffic when it hits me. I have forgotten my suitcase! As I approach a road sign that reads Manassas, I realize I have also traveled south, instead of north. I travel for another few miles before I can get off and turn around to go back to the airport. My lips start to quiver, tears are coming down my face, destroying my image as a professional woman entirely.

As I pull up to the area designated for arriving passengers, the porter comes up to the window of my car and all my professionalism goes out the window. My chin is even quivering, my bottom lip protrudes and I just break out crying. “I left my luggage in the airport, drove 30 miles in the wrong direction and I don’t know how to get my luggage or even get out of this place and drive the right direction. Can you please help me”?

“Of course I can,” he says gently. “Let me have your claim ticket.” I quit sniffling, give him my ticket and wait in the car. In a short time, he returns with my suitcase and puts it in the back seat.

“Now, where is it you’re supposed to go,” he says.

“Bethesda,” I softly answer as I hand him a $10 tip. Well, so much for being professional.

I finally reach the six-story hotel and check in. It is December and I think it’s very cold but then I’m a Florida gal, I think it’s winter when the temperature reaches the fifties. The temperature is 31 and sinking according to the TV in my room. I decide to eat in the hotel restaurant not wanting to venture out on such a cold evening. After dinner I go to bed early to get a full night’s rest so I can make a dynamic impression with my energy and promptness the next morning.

Talk in the next room awakens me. I glance over at the red dial on the clock and see that its 2 a.m. I imagine the talking is from a late night party someone is having, as I can even smell the smoke from their cigars and cigarettes.

I plug some Kleenex into my ears and turn over hoping to fall back asleep. A loud siren jolts me out of bed. I suppose it’s someone stuck in the elevator. I put the pillow over my head but the sound is too penetrating. I pick up the phone and call the front desk. “Is someone caught in the elevator? The bell on my floor keeps ringing.”

“The hotel is on fire! Get a coat on and evacuate the building at once,” comes his frantic cry. I am dressed in my Florida-style shorty nightgown. My coat, also made for Florida, is thin and falls just below my waist. I packed my new bra and my new tennis racquet. It is a toss-up as to which item to grab to take with me. I put my coat on and grab my beloved racquet and purse and head out the door to the deafening sound of the siren. I am also barefooted and barelegged. The hallway is filled with men, some half-dressed, some half-asleep, some half-drunk, all very anxious. They all head to the elevator. “No,” I yell, remembering my safety training. “We have to take the stairs.” About 30 people cram down the stairs, jumping two and three steps at a time. Once outside I see five fire trucks surrounding the building. One is a hook and ladder, perched at the top floor with the fireman knocking on the window, trying to wake up the people inside.

It is freezing and there is no place to go inside. Out of the whole crowd of hundreds there are three women. At least they have on full-length warm coats. I notice the strange things that the crowd has managed to bring with them: bottles of scotch, whisky, shoes in hand. And I stand here with my racquet.

The fire department is providing oxygen to some of the people who have inhaled smoke. One fireman comes over and asks, if I need artificial respiration. I wonder why he is asking me that, I’m not coughing or slow of breath. I relate it to walking across the catwalk at the VAB.

About 30 minutes later a school bus is brought in for us to get out of the weather. There is no heat in the school bus but at least we can sit down. By dawn, we are told that we can’t go back into the hotel to get any belongings. I put a call into my work contact and tell him what’s happened. Then I utter the words that no professional woman wants to say. “I have no clothes, can you possibly ask around the office to see if someone in a size 12 can loan me a dress for just the day? Oh, and a pair of shoes in size 9.”

Gene, my contact, arrives in about an hour with a green and blue stripe dress and shoes. The shoes weren’t too bad. The dress was about two inches short-waisted and another two inches too short in length. It was also very tight around my hips. I looked like a refugee from Goodwill. Decked out like this, I drove the car to the building and head straight to the receptionist. I resolve to hold my head up and just get on with the day.

“Can you direct me to the Personnel Office,” I ask.

“Oh honey,” she replies, as she looks me up and then down. “We’re not hiring today.

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby…

Martha and IBMersI am reminded of a date in time: August 26, 1971. I was working at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as a member of the Apollo Launch Support Team. At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

Thus began a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts to gain full equality.

I had endured my own challenges in the 60’s and 70’s regarding women’s rights. Following my divorce, I couldn’t obtain a checking account unless my ex-husband signed for me. The very clothes I wore in performing my job as a writer at KSC were designated “safety hazards.”

I was also making much less money than my male counterparts as a PR writer. Yet, I knew that things would change; after all I worked for a very progressive company, IBM.

Betty Friedan’s international bestseller, “The Feminine Mystique” ignited my personal consciousness to what gender equality should mean in America and around the world.

Friedan challenged the assumption, at work and at home, that women should always be the ones who make the coffee, watch over the children, pick up after men and serve the meals.

On my own personal level, after years of proving myself and finally being promoted from secretary to write, I recall with great pleasure that same day that I refused to get coffee.

I was a workingwoman when women did not work outside the home. Some of my children’s friends were not allowed to even come to our home, because I wasn’t there to supervise.

Today, it’s common for both the husband and wife to work. Despite the increased workload of families, and even though 70 percent of American children now live in households where every adult in the home is employed, no major federal initiative to help workers accommodate their family and work demands have been passed.

Today, women are still paid less than men at almost every educational level and in almost every job category; they are less likely than men to hold jobs that offer flexibility or family-friendly benefits. When they become mothers, they face more scrutiny and prejudice on the job than fathers do.

We need to stop seeing work-family policy as a woman’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders.

Yes…we have come quite a way in gender equality since the 60’s and 70’s…but Baby, we’ve still got a long way to go!

 

Martha Lemasters is the author of “The Step…One Woman’s Journey to finding her own happiness and success during the Apollo Program.” She resides in Vero Beach FL and has a summer home in the Highlands area.