Due to life circumstances when I was 19, I was living on the streets of Cambridge Mass. I had no money, no winter clothes, no job skills and no family or friends who could help me. Slowly I put a life together, cleaning houses for cash, living in a squat. Finally, after a few years I lucked into a free ride at a good college. I remember how overwhelming it was to be given a heated dorm room and go down to a dining hall with all the food I could eat at meals. My clothes, desperately hand-sewn from thrift store remnants, were suddenly quirky and cool.
The month before I graduated though, disaster struck. Due to a faulty condom on an otherwise forgettable night, I was pregnant.
America was in recession. Even entry level jobs were going to be tough to find because the tail end of the boomer generation had sucked them all up. For a young woman like me, without a home or a family at my back, and the specter of hand-to-mouth living still blazing in my rear view mirror, I knew there was no way I could go forward with a pregnancy at that time. Without knowing where I was going to live, much less what job I’d find, I couldn’t adopt a cat from a shelter, much less take care of a baby. Yet, feeling the lack of family keenly, I would never be able to give a child up for adoption.
I felt I had no choice. I went to the local Planned Parenthood.
After I graduated, my first job paid enough for a tiny studio apartment but only if I didn’t eat one week per month. So, I didn’t eat one week per month. I worked relentlessly and took out loans for professional courses in my field. My goal was to make $30k by the time I turned 30. I made my first million by 40. The companies I founded have created many jobs in Rhode Island and across the country. My current company has made the Inc 500. And now I invest my savings into our community, funding and founding nonprofit organizations.
None of this would have been possible as a young woman utterly alone in the world with a child. I’ve been very lucky in life. Much of that luck was due to the women who fought so hard for equality in the 1970s. I will fight equally hard for the next generation of young women.