Women’s Rights to Equal Pay

Lilly Ledbetter was recently honored on her birthday by the National Women’s Law Center.  She is an equal pay advocate who championed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for which she is the namesake.  I applaud her.

I am currently reading a book called, “The Psychopath Test”, by Jon Ronson.  This read, coupled with Lilly Ledbetter’s kudos brought to mind a particular incident that occurred while I was employed as an RN Charge Nurse at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, a State Mental Hospital known by locals as simply, Shataulga Road.  If someone tells you that you need to go to Shataulga Rd, they are inferring that you are somehow “crazy”.

There was a Director of Nursing there by the name of Joyce Morelock.  I admired her.  She was tough and like a mentor to me in that she had an air of professionalism, seriously required in that environment, despite the fact that she was always overdressed for that type of work in her heels, stockings and suit-skirts.  Although I did not dress like her, I was called J.J. for Joyce Junior, in part, because I was Charge Nurse and had the charge of maintaining order in her absence.  We worked the forensic unit, Unit 6, where the craziest of the crazies were located.  These were often patients from the jails and we were expected to determine if they were actually sane or actually insane.

On one particular night, we had a male patient who stripped naked and proceeded to jump around on the furniture with his penis stretched out strumming it like a guitar.  He was screaming something about Donkey Kong, various obscenities, and displaying his martial arts moves as he bounded from furniture to furniture to the top of the nursing station where an L.P.N. named Donna and I sat in a state of shock.  We called a Code Stress, which was supposed to bring assistance to deal with just such crises, and it was a crisis.  Five strapping young men arrived and lined against the wall refusing to help to get this man under control.  One actually said it was against his religion to put his hands on another man.  When asked, “Why did you bother showing up?”  He responded, “I use the ‘talk down’ approach.”  Well, it was obvious that Donkey Kong was not about to be talked down. So these big tall strong men stood against the wall and did nothing.  The patient ran into the bathroom and jumped in the shower.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  He lathered himself up with soap to make himself impossible (he thought) to grasp.  I sent Donna to the med room to fill a syringe and told her to meet me at the bathroom door.  I ran and grabbed a blanket off of a patient’s bed and tossed it over Donkey Kong’s head as he exited the bathroom.  Donna and I took him down and shot him with enough emergency narcotic to adequately sedate him.  Once sedated, the men placed him into an ambulance to carry him to the VA hospital. This former marine, trained in martial arts, broke out of four point leather restraints and fled the scene in a hurry, running past the men who thought they had him detained, jumped the fence and was gone.

I later learned that Donna, an L.P.N. was paid less than these Psychiatric Technicians who lined the wall on that night.  J.J. strengthened her tough reputation, but also found out that there were four male Nurses on duty that night at the hospital that had not responded to the Code Stress.  She also found out that they were all paid significantly more than her.  I was sorely disappointed.

Later, while working on a med-surg. unit in another hospital, I learned that the male nurses at that hospital received 30% more pay than the female nurses.  When us ladies asked the Unit. Manager why that was so, she said that male nurses functioned both as nurses and as orderlies, doing a lot of the heavy lifting and transport.  I wasn’t buying that.  We female nurses functioned as Nursing assistants also, giving baths, doing heavy lifting, transport and diapering adults.  It was something we just had to accept.

Tremendous strides have been made in the workforce of woman over the past fifty years.  There was a time, except during times of war, when women did not work outside the home unless they had been abandoned by their spouses, divorced or widowed.  They took menial jobs for little pay.  A few respectable women were teachers, nurses and secretaries. Happy Birthday Lilly Ledbetter,  I am glad you were born. We have come a long way, but it is social progress, not social perfection. 

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