With the first snow of the year, there was a lot of boot stomping at the entrance, but now the Board of Education meeting starts in earnest. Ethel, sitting in the back with Marjorie, is sweating, but so much more is everybody else, even after shucking their coats onto the rack. This is the old one-room schoolhouse from 1902, still used for Board meetings. Fred tries to put just enough into the wood stove but never gets it exactly right.
Ethel is sixth on the list. She has done the Readings at Redeemer Church four times now and is getting comfortable with public speaking. Number five, old Mr. Murchison, goes on at length about the need for a crossing guard on McKinley, but finally Ethel is called.
As she stands at the lectern, addressing the five-member Board, she is upright, shoulders back, breasts thrust forward, feet a little bit apart, the snow having melted off her toes, relaxed and firm on the rough old floorboards. She has notes with her but quickly loses the need to look at them.
“I strongly urge the Board to allow girls to wear pants to school. Today it was snowing and my two daughters had to go to school in skirts like they have to do every day. When they came home their knees were chapped. It’s not healthy for girls to go around in bare legs in the winter.
“I know there is a proposal to allow nylons, or tights, but they do not really provide warmth.” At this point the last little chunk of unmelted snow drops off her hair and falls onto her nipple. She flicks it off -- “sorry” -- and continues. “Also it is not fair. The boys get to wear nice warm pants. I hate seeing the boys waiting for the bus, all covered up, while the girls look almost half naked and shiver.
“When I went to school my sisters wore skirts down to their ankles which they told me were pretty warm. But now the fashion is for skirts above the knee, and that is -- reflected in the uniforms the girls have to wear. I know people might have religious -- ideas about this, but St. Paul was preaching in semi-tropical countries. I don’t think he meant for girls to suffer while boys don’t.” As she makes this point everyone in the audience, watching from behind, sees her bare buttocks flex.
“In conclusion, I want the Board to change the school dress code and the uniform so that girls can wear pants on cold days. Rainy days too.”
A couple of “hear, hear”s. Virgil, the Board President, after conferring, says, “We will form a committee, and Ethel you’ll be on it if you want.”
Ethel, surprised, looks back as if Mark is there, then says, “Okay.” This is a good sign. Everyone knows she is the best seamstress in town. If they are going to venture into the new world of girls’ pants, they would need her advice.
“Ned will head it,” Virgil says.“He’ll call you.Sharon, take this down.”Sharon, the recording secretary, is sitting to the side, doing shorthand on her little pad.