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Rickey Gard Diamond: Vermont Woman Magazine

(Host) In observation of Women's History Month, we conclude our series about some of the women who've worked in journalism in Vermont. This morning we hear from Rickey Gard Diamond, who recalls how the magazine, Vermont Woman, got its start.

(Diamond)I'm not happy being old enough to be history myself now, but I do enjoy telling the story of the founding of the newspaper Vermont Woman - that's still publishing today. Suzanne Gillis put her own money on the line as publisher, and then got investors and advertisers to go on supporting women's voices within Vermont's formidable press corps.

Our first advisory board included novelist Liza Alther and lawyer, now judge Amy Davenport; also Sister Elizabeth Candon, former Secretary of Vermont's Agency of Human Services, and Lynn Heglund, then head of the Governor's Commission on Women, who that year would oversee the passage of 20 statutes improving the legal status of women.

Yet we thought it was important that no one woman be singled out for our first cover. So we chose ten women of different ages and ethnicities, in wildly different endeavors ranging from farming to governing, homemaking and construction.

Today, women permeate Vermont news, and Sue is no longer the only woman publisher in the state. But back then, women entrepreneurs, athletes, scholars and policy-makers were only emerging.So our initiative was doubly important.

When the first edition came out in the fall of 1985, we went out on street corners, dressed in tuxedos and sparkly red bowler hats to give papers to everyone. Maggie Maurice, the gossipy Burlington Free Press columnist helped create anticipation and our picture made the Free Press front page. I was the founding editor and still have on my office wall the letter from the Governor congratulating us.

Just the year before, Madeleine Kunin had become the first woman elected to that office. Her portrait inthe Vt. Statehouse remains the only woman in the Governors' gallery. But our paper was the first to notice the equitable numbers of women she appointed throughout her government - a precedent so remarkable no governor since has been able to go back to old standards that for the most part had excluded women.

That year, the biggest item to report was The Equal Rights Amendment. At first, 71 percent of Vermonters said they favored the ERA, but by November, 1986, the amendment went down in defeat. The scare was unisex bathrooms and gay people marrying.

Gloria Steinem, a founder of Ms. Magazine, came to our newspaper's anniversary party soon after and reminded us Vermont's vote had been the narrowest in the country. The Governor and 22 women who had been on that first year's covers celebrated with hundreds of friends the 95 women writers and 410 advertisers who had supported our efforts that year.

Some say the Women's movement did so well that the human dignity of each man, woman and child, whatever his or her color or sexuality, now seem self-evident in a civil society.

But women must continue to write, publish, dance another kind of revolution and sing urges larger than fear. We must stand on street corners in our red bowler hats and tuxedos and give all the people the best that we've got.

Rickey Gard Diamond is a journalist, novelist and retired professor, whoreturned just recently to editing Vermont Woman. She is learning aboutweb pages and Facebook, but still lives and writes in Montpelier.
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