Who wears the pants in this office? Not the women.

I usually avoid political news items, especially trivia, but when I saw an article proclaiming that the TV show “Fox and Friends” had a no-pants rule for its female hosts,  I couldn’t help remembering a job I had back in the late 1970s for a trade weekly for travel agents called Travel Trade.

It was conducted on a strictly gender-specific plan: The news department was made up completely of men and the features department of women, and we worked in completely separate rooms (and probably had very different salaries, although I have no idea what anyone else in that place made).

And although the offices were dusty and ill-kept, and although as features editors/writers we never actually met with anyone outside the company (almost all of our contacts were over the phone), it was an absolute rule that women had to wear skirts or dresses — pants were not allowed. As somebody who had helped change the “no pants” rule in my high school, I was a bit taken aback by this, but I needed a job and this was one in which I got to both edit and write, so I lived with it.

I still remember the day after I quit for another job. I walked in wearing jeans; when the head secretary (who must have known that I was leaving) saw me, she fairly bristled with indignation. It was like something out of a sitcom; I’m really sorry that smartphones with digital cameras had yet to be invented, because I would have loved to have had a photo of her.

So it’s fascinating that “Fox & Friends” had a policy that I thought was outmoded 35 years ago.


Melinda Hunt’s Hart Island Project

Since 1869, an estimated 850,000 of New York’s unclaimed, impoverished dead have been interred on Hart Island off the coast of the Bronx. They are the city’s ultimate nobodies, collected and ferried over to the island’s 101-acre potter’s field to be stacked in pine coffins and buried by city-prison inmates.

via Piercing the Mystery of Potter’s Field – NYTimes.com.

Several years ago, when I was researching a story, I came across Melinda Hunt’s Hart Island Project, a fight to shed some light on the mystery — and hidden bureaucracy — that is Potter’s Field. Administered by the Department of Corrections, for years it was nearly impossible to find out whether your father or daughter or friend, whether because of poverty or fraud or mistake, was buried there. Worse yet, if you did find out, it was nearly impossible to get permission to visit the island, involving a long and tortuous trail of paperwork that many didn’t have the time or knowledge to pursue.

Because of Hunt, there is now a Web-based database where families can find out whether a missing person may have been buried there — and if so, where. It’s an example of how an injustice can perpetuate itself for generations because nobody, outside those affected, know about it — and about how one determined person can make a difference.