A Labor Day Tribute to Women Like My Granny

I recently came across a little booklet (see the whole thing in the slideshow below) that commemorated the opening of the new Citronelle State Bank building in 1956.

When this new building was opened for business my grandmother Audrey Malone, who was the bank president, had worked at the bank for 35 years. She’s the white-haired lady in the pictures. When these photos were made, she was my same age – 53.

(You can read the story of how she got to be the bank president here and here.)

At the time this booklet was published, Granny had been president of the Citronelle State Bank for 14 years, and it had nearly $2.5 million in assets. That’s about $26.5 million in today’s money. No small potatoes. And it grew to that amount from a couple hundred thousand dollars under the leadership of…insert gasps here…a woman.

Back in those days – the 50s – women were often discouraged from working at all by their family members, their preachers, and other people in power. And if they did work outside the home, it was usually doing “women’s work” – teachers, nurses, secretaries and the like. 

Granny bucked that notion by going to work and by being very, very successful in a male-dominated field. And even though she was very matter-of-fact about it, she was never able to make the same amount of money her male counterparts did. No matter how well she did, she was still just a woman.

(I’m tempted at this point in the narrative to say something like, But still she did very well for herself. Or maybe She was definitely one of the lucky ones. But when we make excuses like that, when we offer placations, when we sugar-coat, we give a pass to systemic wrongdoing. Nobody ever says, He did really well…for a man. Granny was a smart, hard-working person who made less money than men doing the same job because she was a woman. Period. End of story.)

And 66 years later, women still do not receive equal pay.

This year, in the United States, a woman earned on average $.83 for every dollar a man earns. In the great State of Alabama, it’s nearly a dime less. Here, women only earn $.745 to every dollar our male counterparts earn. And nationally, Black and Hispanic women are paid just 64% of what white men are paid. 

That’s why, while I know Labor Day is a day to honor labor movements and union workers, today I also want to recognize the contributions of women who work all day and then come home for their “second shift;” qualified women who are passed over for promotions, opportunities, and raises; and women who are out there every day making things happen behind the scenes while others take the credit. I want to recognize women who labor longer for less money.

To underpay someone while expecting the same work is to say that their very humanity is not valued – that they are a lesser human being. It’s also a way to maintain economic control over someone who poses a perceived threat. It’s a way to stay in “power.” 

Too bad our male-dominated society isn’t brave enough or smart enough to see past the ends of their own noses and explore a world where women are valued contributors – equally compensated contributors – to our society and how maybe (read “most certainly”) our world would be improved. I often hear talk of women staging a one-day “sick out” just to prove how much we contribute, and I always hope it happens. Maybe this year is the year. Then they’d surely see our worth.

When I look at that picture of Granny sitting behind her desk at the bank, I see a determined look in her eye and a slight smile that says Go ahead and underestimate me. And I wonder if she’s imagining a future where she’d be just as valuable as a man sitting in the same chair. Or maybe she’s dreaming of a granddaughter who will one day be her same age and have the same courage of her convictions…even though she’s just a woman.

A few more quick things:

  • Ever wonder what happened to your favorite Southern department stores? Check out my latest piece for It’s a Southern Thing to find out.
  • The latest issue of Mobile Bay Magazine is on newsstands now. Go buy your copy to see my interview with artist Wyatt Waters about his new book The Watercolor Road.
  • And last, but certainly not least…

Today’s my Daddy’s birthday! Here’s a picture of us getting our daily steps in last week.

2 thoughts on “A Labor Day Tribute to Women Like My Granny

  1. I always enjoy your work Your little brother told me a few stories about your grandmother, too. Strong women should be running the world.

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