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Gerald Gardner’s research helped end gender-segregated ads

cbyerlys Icon Posted by Carolyn Byerly

July 31st, 2009

I found my first job in 1963 by looking through the “jobs for women” section of the classified ads in the local Colorado Springs newspapers. It would take another decade for those gender-segregated ads to disappear, and then only because National Organization for Women had filed its landmark complaint against the now defunct Pittsburgh Press . That case would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and result in the 1973 ruling saying the practice was illegal.

NOW’s complaint was made possible by the research of Gerald Gardner, a geophysicist and mathematician who died July 25 at age 83 of leukemia. Gardner’s calculations had shown the significant amount of money a woman stood to lose over her working life because she had been barred from applying for jobs open only to men. Gardner may be gone, but he most definitely should not be forgotten by women. He helped lay the cornerstone of modern feminist media policy reform.

T. Rees Shapiro’s obituary of Gardner in today’s Washington Post quotes his wife Joann Evansgardner as calling him a “shy, gentle and quiet” man who “produced a lot of change for the equality of women.” Gardner was a founding member of Pittsburgh’s chapter of NOW, and a life-long supporter of both gender and racial equality. The majority of his contribution was in doing research showing the effects of discrimination – research that underlay major gender and race discrimination cases through the 1970s and 1980s.

Born in Ireland, Gardner graduated from Trinity College in Dublin before coming to the United States for his master’s and doctoral degrees. He and his wife were arrested in New York in 1972, along with other protesters, when trying to supplant a bust of Susan B. Anthony onto a statue of Father Francis P. Duffy in Times Square, according to Shapiro’s obit.

Gardner’s work reminds us that those who do applied research in the service of equality that such behind-the-scenes efforts provide a needed foundation for social movements and the change they enable. Such work is not always visible, but it always matters. Thank you, Dr. Gardner, for the model of your great activist scholarship and life .

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