Champion of Women’s Rights: Charmaine “Char” Ross

Charmaine "Char" Ross has been fighting for women's rights her whole life.

Charmaine “Char” Ross is 96-years young and a champion of women’s rights. In a recent conversation, Char explained why she has been a faithful FINCA supporter for more than fifteen years. “I dealt with female discrimination a good part of my life and resented it,” Char told us. As a result, she recognizes the importance FINCA’s focus on empowering women. And she greatly appreciates the fact that FINCA offers our clients a hand up, not hand-outs. It’s reflective of Char’s own journey. Hard work on her part plus timely help is what allowed her to achieve her dreams.

Good Grades but Limited Prospects

Growing up, Char told us, “my brothers had all kinds of liberties I didn’t.” And despite graduating from high school with good grades and thoughts of going to college, her parents expected Char to “get a job upon graduation to bring in money for the family.”

At the time, Char recounted that the only job opportunities for women were secretary, nurse, salesperson, or teacher. She didn’t want to be a secretary where she could be subject to the whims of a man. And being a nurse or teacher would require additional training. So, Char resigned herself to becoming a salesperson.

A Helping Hand Changes Char’s Future

Fortunately, a thoughtful teacher stepped in. The teacher introduced Char to the president of local college. Char walked away from the meeting with a scholarship and two jobs on campus. Even with that level of financial aid in hand, Char noted that “it took my parents a week to decide whether I could accept the offer. They finally said yes but never gave me one cent of help. I worked as a waitress in the summer to get money for books and supplies.”

Char got married her sophomore year in college. A year later, at the end of her junior year, she gave birth to the first of her three daughters. Raising a family required Char to defer her dream of getting a college degree, but it didn’t stop her. “When my youngest daughter was in junior high school,” Char said, “I asked my college if they would allow me to return. They did, and I got a degree in physical education.”

As a mother and teacher in the 1960s and 1970s, Char saw her daughters as well as other women and girls continue to face discrimination. “I taught at the same school that my girls attended. They were only allowed to use the gym and other facilities when the boys weren’t using them.” Meanwhile, Char worked summers and weekends at a golf course. At the course, “women were not allowed to play on weekends until after 2:00pm so the men could play all morning. And during the week, women got only one morning a week of group play while the men had three.”

A Champion of Women’s Rights

Women’s second-class status flabbergasted Char. She wasn’t a rabble rouser, but she raised her daughters to be strong, self-sufficient, loving women. And she had the pleasure for many years of teaching sex education to ninth grade girls. In the course, “I got to instill in these young women how the choices they made at this time would impact the rest of their lives.” Char taught them to be strong and independent. And she got many letters from parents thanking her.

Several decades later, well into her “retirement,” the female general manager of a local golf course hired Char as a weekend starter. As a local newspaper wrote in a feature article, “it was a perfect match… Char was a natural with the public, quick witted and gregarious.” She held the job for three years until the golf course was sold. The new owner wanted a younger man starter. More discrimination, this time both gender and age.

We asked Char if we could share her story with our community of supporters. She responded that “if it could be enlightening, especially to younger women who do not fully understand how discrimination against women has been woven into the fabric of our lives, then yes.” But she mostly hoped that her story would encourage others to see the value in FINCA’s work and help FINCA raise more money.

“Today,” Char notes, “we have achieved some success in dismantling sex discrimination. But it is fragile and is jeopardized by those who believe women should be contained.” She believes that we need FINCA and other organization like it to continue to be a champion of women’s rights. And she reminds us that “I had dreams and worked hard my whole life to achieve them. And it was people helping me along the way that made so many things possible.”

If Char’s story has inspired you, make a donation to FINCA today.