• Past Forward: Dorothy Parker, Sophie Tucker & Virginia Woolff

    by Julie Parker

    What if you could ask historical figures their opinions regarding current issues?

    I “interviewed” Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967), Sophie Tucker (1886 – 1966), and Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) regarding issues women face today.

    Forgive my audacity.

    *******

    Thank you, ladies, for joining me in this discussion.

    Sophie Tucker

    It’s grand to be here.

    Virginia Woolf

    An interesting premise.

    Dorothy Parker

    [Nods, as she lights a cigarette.]

    According to statistics, in the United States, 10 million girls and women suffer from anorexia and/or bulimia eating disorders, usually stemming from a low sense of body image.

    Woolf

    The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. Although it may seem daunting, one can alter others’ perceptions of whom and what we appear to be.

    Tucker

    Boy, you got that right. I was never a petite gal. I weighed 145 pounds at thirteen. Those were the cards I was dealt.

    When I performed on stage, they put me in black face, because I was big, ugly and looked “too Jewish.” Later, I was called a good-looking, hefty squaw. [Laughs]

    A legacy of Margaret Sanger’s work is that affordable women’s health care and family planning options are becoming more available throughout the world. Unfortunately, certain demographics continue to refuse contraception insurance coverage. A law student testified before Congress supporting a requirement that religious entities (such as employers and educational institutions) fund contraception under their insurance policies. A radio personality immediately went on-air and called her a “slut.”

    Parker

    I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy. Fresh hell.

    Woolf

    I was never one to publicly advocate my political leanings, as I believe that art and politics should be separate. Having said that, I read the Book of Job. I don’t think God comes out well in it.

    Tucker

    I am very proud of my Jewish heritage. Is it wrong of me to assume that it’s mostly the Catholics who object to the coverage?

    The director of The National Council of Jewish Women asked, “How can we ensure that women in this country have access to no-cost birth control, regardless of where they work?”

    Tucker

    [Nods, and smiles.] Excellent.

    Equal pay continues to be a challenge. Women get paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. It’s even lower for African-American and Hispanic women.

    Parker

    Why, it makes perfect sense, really. We poor, wee things waste 77 seconds every other minute daydreaming about places, and layouts for our counterparts’ white, chalky outlines.

    Tucker

    [Laughs]

    Parker

    My father ran sweat shops. I am too aware of the need for equal rights. I sure as hell didn’t get paid as much as the men, unless I demanded it. A hideous struggle to be freed from “little women” status.

    Woolf

    The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.

    Can a single mother do it all? That is, work full-time, enjoy a career, and raise children?

    Tucker

    Other than my father, no man supported me – and that includes my three ex-husbands. I was a single mother of a wonderful boy, and I enjoyed a career which took me all around the world performing on stage, and in the movies.

    Yes, but your parents pretty much raised your son, because of your extensive traveling.

    That’s true, and they did a bang-up job. Look, I wish it could have been different, but I had to create a career out of nothing, by myself, because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life at the cook stove and the kitchen sink. My first marriage, to the father of my son, didn’t last too long, because my husband had no ambition at all.

    I regret all that time I couldn’t be there for my son, but, because of my hard earned success – at a career I enjoyed – I was able to financially provide for him.

    Woolf

    I believe it was Margaret Sanger who said, “A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.”

    Tucker

    Amen to that.



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