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Mayberry Monday – “Ellie for Council”
August 23, 2010, 10:48 am
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August 23, 2010

Mayberry Monday – “Ellie for Council”
By Holly McLeod, PHR

Ninety years ago this month (August, 1920) the 19th amendment to the Constitution was signed, granting women the right to vote. Many women paved the way to reach that goal including Susan B. Anthony, a renowned civil rights leader who played an integral role in the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th Century, and Julia Ward Howe, an author who wrote and lectured on women’s rights and who also penned the words to “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Since then there have been many gender equality laws passed such as the Equal Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and most recently the Lilly Ledbetter Act. But even in 1960, many years past the days when a woman’s place was “in the home,” things were different than they are today.

In 1960 America was waking up from the innocence of the 1950’s; rock and roll was beginning its heyday, teenagers were gyrating to a new dance craze called The Twist, Xerox introduced its first reproduction machine, John F. Kennedy won the presidential election, the United States sent its first soldiers to Vietnam, my mother only had five children instead of six because I hadn’t been born yet, and an epic television show premiered – The Andy Griffith Show.

As the U.S. was in the throws of the “cold war,” even peaceful Mayberry had its share of political upheaval. Sexual politics, that is. In1960 the stereotypical “fairer sex” was still largely relegated to housekeeping and child rearing. Even though women had been given the legal right to vote for many years, during this time many started to speak up more loudly about gender rights. Ellie May Walker was one of them. Ellie came to

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Mayberry to help her Uncle Fred run the local pharmacy, Walker’s Drugstore, and she eventually became Sheriff Andy Taylor’s girlfriend. When Ellie realized Mayberry’s Town Council was comprised entirely of men, she decided to campaign for a seat at the masculine table.

Male chauvinism was rampant in Mayberry as the men folk became incensed that a female had the audacity to run for Town Council. The ladies of the town were all excited that they would get a female representative in government. The men decided it was in the town’s best interest to ward off this impending disaster. They knew they held the purse strings of their families, so the men came up with the seemingly brilliant idea of withholding money from their wives. To counter, the women knew they also had power over their husbands so they decided to withhold their “wifely” chores like cooking, housekeeping, and keeping their husbands’ clothes all nice and laundered.

Mayberry was in a stale mate. In one camp were the men, bent on stopping the tomfoolery of having a female on the Town Council. In the other camp were the women, bent on making their husbands’ lives miserable unless they acquiesced to voting for Ellie. It was a full blown battle of the sexes. Only Deputy Barney Fife seemed to be unscathed, being the only unmarried man in the bunch. However, his peace quickly came to an end when the other men found out he had signed the petition in order to get Ellie’s name on the ballot.

Even the youngsters got in on the game. Andy’s son Opie mimicked the comments he had heard his Paw and others say about women. It wasn’t until Andy heard his own negative words come out of the mouth of his child that he realized how foolish he had been. Subsequently, Andy had a change of heart and made a speech to rally the others in favor of Ellie. The result was Mayberry’s first female Councilman… I mean, Councilperson.

When “Ellie for Council” first aired on December 12, 1960, the Civil Rights Act hadn’t yet become law, nor had a myriad of other gender equality laws mentioned earlier. It was still legal to make hiring decisions based on gender; it was still acceptable to pay employees differently based on gender; and it was still permitted to have arbitrary dress and appearance expectations based on gender.

1960 was a long time ago, but I’d like to believe we can still appreciate the lessons from that era that Andy and the gang learned about the value of others — at home, in politics, and in the workforce. I would also like to think that Susan B. Anthony, Julia Howe and their contemporaries would be proud of how far we’ve come.

See you next Monday. Stay tuned…
Holly McLeod is a Human Resources Manager for Landrum Professional Employer Services and Landrum Consulting. She is a certified professional in human resources (PHR) and has more than 15 years of human resources consulting in the corporate world, healthcare and manufacturing environments

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