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Meeting Jan Polek

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)