Meeting Jan Polek

Jan Polek, right, is seen with her daughter, Jenny Polek, in 2006. (FILE)
Jan Polek, right, is seen with her daughter, Jenny Polek, in 2006. (FILE)

Jan Polek, a woman who championed women's rights here for 40-plus years, died this week. Today we ran a news story about her, and her obit ran in our classified section.

People have been emailing me this morning with Jan stories and so I thought I'd add mine:

Jan and I first met in 1986 at a Gonzaga University English faculty dinner. I was newly married to my husband, an English professor, and Jan was married to Fran Polek, a senior professor in the department. One of the other spouses there asked me if I did "freelance human interest features" for the newspaper.

Jan got between me and the woman and loudly said: "She used to cover politics for USA Today!" She is a woman in her own right!"

In the 1980s, women's equality was still a fairly new concept. So it was a big deal to counter gender stereotypes when you heard them. (The woman assumed I didn't work full-time because my husband was a professor. And she assumed I would have a "softer" beat because I was a woman.)

Jan's work, and the work of other pioneers in women's equality, led to today's reality. I still work full-time and now write "human interest features" and am proud of it. I am just as proud to be a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, stepmom and grandma. We can "have it all" now or have the choice to do so.

Thanks Jan. For all.

(S-R archive photo of Jan Polek and her daughter Jenny)

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