Monday, April 25, 2011

Susan Foster, House Leader Gerald Ford, 1972

After graduating with a B.A. in psychology from Albion College in 1971, Susan Foster landed a clerical job with Cong. Charles Chamberlain, a Michigan Republican and friend of her father's. She had been on the job for less than a month when she received a call from "Roll Call" to photograph her for the "Hill Pinup" section of the February 3, 1972 issue.

"Now 'Pinup' and being a college graduate with graduate school aspirations didn't mesh for me," she said. "I asked the 40-something secretary sitting next to me what the Hill Pinup photographs were like. She let out a shout of delight, 'Here's your chance, girl! They want you to look very sexy -- you know, lots of cleavage and a lot of leg. You'll get calls from congressmen themselves!'"

Susan returned to the waiting photographer and said, "I have some photos from a friend's portfolio." Here is the photo (above) that appeared.

Shortly after this incident Susan was recruited as a legislative aide to Cong. William J. Keating, a Republican from Ohio.

"I was told that I would be the first female legislative aide to a Republican member of the House of Representatives," she recalls.

"My first week with Cong. Keating's office will always be remembered as one that was exciting and memorable to this day."

Susan went on to explain that one of the highlights of the job was attending the weekly legislative meeting in the offices of Speaker Gerald R. Ford. There was one problem: Keating's administrative aide was embarrassed to inform her that Ford did not allow women to attend the meeting. He added, "But if you want to try, I'm not going to stop you. The Boss doesn't mind either; I've already cleared it with him."

"The first thing I remember is how plush the carpet felt beneath my feet as we entered through heavy wooden doors that were wide open to accommodate the hundreds of aides filing in. The second thing I remember was what my fellow legislative aides suggested. I was to hold my head high, square my shoulders, and walk as if I belonged there. That worked for approximately 20 feet -- from the double-door entry of the suite to the single doorway to a large room that held legislative aides from the offices of every Republican House member. That doorway was framed by two well-dressed guards who, in retrospect, resembled the quintessential Secret Service agents. As I approached the door I could feel that all eyes were watching the scene about to unfold. The guards moved together in one synchronized side step, thus blocking the doorway. 'No secretaries allowed,' I was informed.

"'I'm not a secretary. I'm a legislative aide, and I would like to attend this week's meeting,' I said. The arms that folded across their chests spoke volumes, but there was one quiet sentence uttered with heavy emphasis on each word: 'Don't-come-back.'"

Later that day, with Cong. Keating's approval, Susan penned a letter to Speaker Ford personally. There was no response.

Susan went on to earn a masters in social work and become a celebrated medical writer and author. She is credited with the 2004 passage of a resolution issued by the International Firefighters Union for a moratorium on cell antennae on firehouse roofs, following a flood of emails from firefighters worldwide reporting confusion, disorientation, depression, sterility and worse.

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