Keeping retirement weird. International Women’s Day.


It is primarily women who will be hurt by Senate Bill 1.  Photo: Fred Klonsky

Aunt Mary – who was not my actual aunt – grabbed the live lake perch out of my hand and said, “You do it like this.” Aunt Mary proceeded to smack the fish’s head against a tree.

My brother-in-law and I had been out on Lake Champlain off the Adirondack camp his family owned. We had spent the day fishing by Split Rock. Which, as far as I could tell was an excuse to go through a case of beer.

I did, however, land a few lake perch.

“That’s how you kill it,” Aunt Mary lectured me.

“Now you can go gut and scale it,” sounding more like a drill sergeant than the slight elderly lady who stood before me.

I am pretty sure that Aunt Mary would have described me as a sissy. Her word. Not mine.  I had no experience fishing lake perch. In fact my only fishing experience was as a nine-year old with my professionally unemployed actual Uncle Al.

A word about my Uncle Al.

He was a large Hawaiian shirt-wearing guy who was married to his long-suffering wife, Aunt Frances. Having no children of their own, Uncle Al took pleasure in terrifying his young nephews and nieces. The youngest of us would break into tears at the very sight of him walking into the room we were in.

On the other hand, Uncle Al and Aunt Frances were the ones who took me to Disneyland when our family first moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia.

And Uncle Al took me to go fishing on a barge off the coast of Southern California. My first fishing experience.

My only catch of the day was a mackerel.

I was terribly excited. At which point Uncle Al took the 8 inch fish off the hook and threw it back in the water, grumbling, “garbage fish.”

I was horrified. And, of course, broke in to tears.

Back when Aunt Mary was showing me how to kill lake perch, Anne was working in a male-dominated private sector industry and I was teaching in the female-dominated elementary school industry.

Our different careers only served to secure Aunt Mary’s suspicions of me and she was even further unimpressed by the fact that I was the one who was going to cook the perch and serve it with the apple pies I had baked.

Aunt Mary came from a generation where men brought home the bacon and the women cooked it up.

About the female-dominated elementary school industry: Male privilege ends with a K-5 teacher’s paycheck. It works like this: The younger the age of the kids you work with the lower your pay because it is more likely that you will see women doing the work. 

In my old district the board of education was made up of mostly men, the superintendents over the years were mostly men and the principals were mostly men.

In Park Ridge, where I taught for 30 years, there are two school districts. There is a K-8 district and a high school district. There are two collective bargaining agreements. Same town. Same families. Same tax base. Guess which teaching job paid more? The K-8 district or the high school district?


This gets us to the pension issue.

You didn’t think I was going to ignore the pension issue, did you?

Which gender is primarily getting smacked by the loss of our post retirement benefits as a result of Senate Bill 1?


And in Chicago, it is primarily African-American women who will be hurt by Rahm Emanuel’s plan to cut post retirement benefits. While the percentage of African-American teachers in CPS has dramatically dropped over the past twenty years from nearly 60% to barely 20%, a huge percentage of retired Chicago teachers are African-American women. Back in the day, public school teaching was one of the few professional fields African-American women were permitted to work in.

As the Chicago Teachers Union points out:

Retirees living in the city’s majority-black zip codes earn more than $600 million in annual pension incomes from the four public funds. The African-American middle class in Chicago will be the hardest hit by reductions in retirement benefits.

I write all this because today is International Women’s Day. It has been celebrated in Chicago since 1908.

It’s not the only day I think about my Grandmother Esther Wainer and Helen Klonsky, my mom.  Both strong, independent and politically active women. And the rest of my family – mostly women – Anne, my daughters, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Powerhouses. Each and every one.

And I send a heart-felt shout out to my colleagues and retirees.

6 thoughts on “Keeping retirement weird. International Women’s Day.

  1. In other words, Emanuel, Rauner, and Jack Kass of the Tribune are bullies that like to pick on old women!!!!!!! What manly men they are!!!

  2. “The younger the age of the kids you work with the lower your pay and the more likely it is that you will see women doing the work.” A colleague believes the teaching pay scale should be reversed: Highest salaries should go to primary teachers; 2nd highest to upper elementary; 3rd to middle school; 4th to high school; 5th to college; and 6th (lowest) to administrators. Sounds reasonable to me!

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