“On Leaning Out,” Ashley Nelson’s article [July 22/29] about the challenges and trade-offs working women face when they give birth, was a sad commentary on workers’ rights in this country. I was happy that she described the European approach to supporting women, which is light-years ahead of the United States.
It is also important to point out why it is so critical for women to be home with their young children for their first few years. Research is increasingly clear that a constant maternal presence during early childhood—particularly up to age 2—is critical for a child’s growth into a mentally and physically healthy adult. This is not a happy message for feminists who value women’s economic independence over their roles as mothers. But the evidence grows that women who, by choice or necessity, sacrifice time with their infants and toddlers are neglecting their most important role in the child’s life.
MARY ANNE MERCER
West Plains, Mo.
“On Leaning Out” reminded me of being a working mother—I worked in an auto plant. When I was pregnant, I took a leave without pay, and I had to return six weeks after the baby was born. Half my pay went to the baby sitter. We were often laid off, and then I didn’t need the baby sitter, so my unemployment compensation gave me the same net income as the job. Once, when I went to the unemployment office with my children, the agent said, “You can’t work because you have these children. If you come with them again, I’m going to disallow you.” So I had to get someone to watch the children when I went to the unemployment office. I know things are better organized for women in other countries. Here, you are on your own.
Reader Discretion Advised
I have clipped out the full-page ad from the July 22/29 issue for your new e-book Molly Ivins’s Letters to The Nation (TheNation.com/ebooks) and posted it on my office wall. I didn’t know her well, but I was one of a number of PR people (aka “goddamn flacks”) who, along with journalists from the Star Tribune, including Molly, frequented the Little Wagon bar two blocks from the newspaper’s offices in Minneapolis.
It didn’t take much to get her going. One hot summer night, after getting a little buzzed, Molly jumped on a table and shouted in her broad Texas accent, “Goddamn it! Minnesota beer tastes like shit, and Minnesota men can’t fuck!” She was right about some Minnesota beers, but evidently no one had had the courage to tell her that the man she had cast her eye on to be her lover was gay (a term not yet in use then). I think he must have been unaware that the eyes of Texas were upon him. Molly, of course, went on to bigger and better things. She will long be remembered for her brilliant journalistic career, which cancer ended all too soon.
WILLARD B. SHAPIRA
New York City
Pity James Boughton, who in “Dirtying White” [June 24/July 1] sets out to persuade Nation readers that my “aim” in writing The Battle of Bretton Woods is to liberate markets by “eliminat[ing] bureaucracies like the IMF.” Apparently, all those anti-IMF rallies are populated by hard-core capitalists demanding that we “bring back the gold standard.”