“I’m a person to whom funny things happen,” says Janice Fodor, English professor and director of the Learning Center. “I didn’t understand a whole lotwhat women could and couldn’t do.”
Throughout her professional life, Fodor has witnessed gender discrimination as a high school teacher, a corporate worker, and a college professor.
Born in Huntingdon, Pa., Fodor graduated from Juniata College in 1958 and went straight into the workforce. “I was silly enough to think I would get a job at the level of a college graduate,” Fodor says. “I was told I might have to move.”
After searching for weeks, she wound up at the University of Pittsburgh as the editor of the college’s handbook – similar to the E-Book.
The university paid her graduate school tuition– surprising, she says, because “I was right off the farm.”
Here, she experienced her first instance of discrimination. Fodor had joined the Dean of Women in her graduate school and became a high-ranking member. When the council position transformed into the Dean of Students, her job was “automatically” given to a man.
“I had all the academic requirements he did,” she said.
A second instance came when she applied for a job in the admissions department. The department head wrote her a long letter explaining she could not have the job because of “inability to move if needed, possibility of getting married and having children.”
Disenchanted, Fodor then left academia for several years, first applying for work at Alcoa, an aluminum fabrication company. She quit before getting the job after hearing the manager announce, “We start all our girls in the typing pool.”
“I had my own secretary for years before this,” Fodor says. “What did I need to type for?”
She moved on to a job in retail, got married, and eventually returned to teaching at a boys’ high school in New Orleans.
“Some of the kids [once] put a lizard on my desk. I walked in the room, picked it up by its tail, and threw it out the window. One of the boys piped up, ‘Weren’t you scared? Why didn’t you scream?’”
“I said, ‘Don’t you know that one didn’t have any teeth?’” Fodor laughs.
She did a stint at College of DuPage before arriving at Elmhurst in the ’80s. One of her favorite early memories is joining a faculty book club. “One of the best things here was to meet bright and bold women,” she says.
Shortly after, Fodor founded the Learning Center, a place she describes as an “informed source for students.”
“[People come here to] learn to learn, learn more efficiently. We work with good students,” she states. “If they don’t get something in their calculus class, they can come here.”
She also accepted a spot in the English department, starting out teaching English 106. This semester, Fodor is teaching a course on women writers, something she enjoys greatly.
When asked what advice she would give to someone facing gender discrimination, she hesitates, and says, “I would simply smile and go on with whatever case I was pressing.”
For now, Fodor thinks she will continue at Elmhurst. In treatment of women, “the college itself does very well.”
Referring to the strict gender roles enforced in her mother’s generation, Fodor comments, “I’m just glad I live when I do now. When you read all these things about what women were supposed to do, I didn’t do them.”