By Alice Herb
As I watched the Senate hearings on now-confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, I was reminded of an article I read years ago that maintained the following: Girls whose fathers encouraged and/or supported them to pursue careers usually not open to women often succeeded when they did so. If one adds a husband who also urged her on- and was not threatened by a wife’s abilities- who knew what she could become. And that is Justice Jackson. To see her proud father and mother, as well as her very accomplished husband, sitting behind her, we can begin to understand the power of that support. Of course, it didn’t hurt that her daughter also sat there looking so proud and happy for her mother.
People have asked me over the years how I had the courage or perhaps nerve to study law in my generation. I always look back at my father. He had a steady, strong belief in my abilities and always said that I could do whatever I decided to do. When I called him to tell him that my college advisor had suggested I apply to law school, he was elated. He pushed me to apply. My husband, who was overseas in Korea at the time, responded wholeheartedly to go ahead. And so I did. I was accepted into law school and graduated, and was admitted to the New York Bar a month after my 23rd birthday. I cannot say that I am nearly as brilliant or successful as our new Justice, but that law degree was certainly helpful when I was widowed at age 32. Neither my father nor my two husbands ever questioned my ambitions but rather pushed them along. My mother, a strong, powerful person in her own right, thought it might be better if I pursued a life as a teacher so as to have a similar schedule as any children I might have. But once I had children she was willing to pitch in and care for them so I could work.
Even children whose strong fathers did not survive to see them as adults can also be influenced by their fathers. My cousin, a Holocaust survivor who lived through the war in Poland, lost her father when he was brutally murdered at the beginning of the war. He was a strong, brilliant, and courageous man who sought to protect his wife and daughter by obtaining false papers for them, and had enough respect and faith in his wife to feel assured that she could carry on without him. And so it was. They survived the war. My cousin eventually immigrated to the United States after training as a physician in the United Kingdom, became a radiation oncologist, and married and had two sons. Her husband also encouraged her career and she became an outstanding clinician.
We are but two additional examples of what can happen when women are accorded the same respect and expectations as men. So let us cheer on our well-educated husbands and fathers who know that their daughters and wives are as capable as any man of providing for a family, while at the same time living up to their own potential. And hats off to the remarkable Justice Jackson. May she have a long and fruitful career at the Supreme Court.
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]
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