As an academic and a college president, I wish I could say I was first introduced to the idea of women doing their own thing, making their way in the big wide world, through some worthwhile book or artsy film.
But I can’t. In my parochial, supportive (in a tough-love kind of way) blue-collar community, it was cigarette ads that most helped me envision a world for women that was different from the one my beloved mother inhabited so adeptly, and mostly comfortably.
I was a young girl leafing through my mom’s pile of Better Homes and Gardens when I first saw the 1970s ads for Virginia Slims. I loved those ads. The women were beautiful and cool, and — as a preteen — I bought hook, line, and sinker into the notion that women of the day had "come a long way, baby." To me those ads said that, as a woman, you could be yourself and still thrive in your personal and professional lives.