Honoring women’s achievements
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Phyllis Wigger, front row, left, and family[/caption]
March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women everywhere. We spoke with two of our residents who had different professional experiences as women and as mothers, but who both made significant contributions to their communities and the workplace.
It was 1973 when Pat Mayfield started selling real estate in the Farmington area. It was an active time in the women’s rights movement, as laws were passed against gender discrimination in education and hiring. Even so, when Pat opened her own real estate business three years later, she wasn’t readily accepted by the mostly male brokers she competed with.
“There was only one other real estate company here with a woman as the owner and broker,” Pat said. “We had to fight our way through and we would say, ‘We’re women and we can do it.’”
Eventually, Pat’s results proved she was more than capable of running her own business – something her husband had encouraged her to do. In time, she had three locations and supervised a staff of about 30 salespeople, all the while weathering the market’s ups and downs. Her son, John Jr., joined
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her at Mayfield Real Estate. He took over in 2001 when Pat retired, and it remains one of the top-selling agencies in the region.
Her favorite thing about real estate work was the people, from her clients to her employees. Pat said she hopes she helped break ground for more women to enter the field and succeed. “I have noticed in the ads so many young women who have opened their own offices. I’m really proud and happy for them. When I started that was almost unheard of. They said, ‘She won’t last long.’”
Pat’s granddaughter also is following in her footsteps, bringing Mayfield Real Estate into its third generation.
Today, Pat enjoys keeping a journal of anecdotes from life at Farmington Presbyterian Manor, and she’s compiling them into a book. Her role model is the great Erma Bombeck. “It’s about so many of the people here that I’ve met that have interesting lives, and others who have got so much personality and willpower. They think so positive; I just admire them. And there are so many funny things that happen here.”
Pat said life at Presbyterian Manor is “like living in luxury senior hotel... It’s not the end of your life, it’s another chapter in your life. Maybe the best chapter.”
When she was still a Farmington High School student in the 1940s, Phyllis Wigger became an operator for the local telephone company. She was a country girl who had attended a one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade, and at 16, she wanted to work. But Phyllis had no interest in becoming a nurse as her dad had urged.
Phyllis worked at the phone company for 10 years, into her marriage and starting a family.
When she had her second of their three children, she decided to stop working for a while and be at home with them. “The most fun of my life was raising my family, really,” she said.
For 10 more years, Phyllis enjoyed the life of a stay-at-home mom.
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Circumstances changed again, however, and she went back to work when the kids were in school. Phyllis and her husband divorced after 28 years.
She tried to return to her old position at the phone company, but she met resistance. She took the employment exam; they said they lost it. After she pressed, they allowed her to retake the test, only to offer her a split shift at an office 100 miles from her home.
Phyllis said it was clear they didn’t want to hire an older woman. Instead, she found work at the community hospital, then joined the State of Missouri’s social services department. For 15 years, Phyllis first helped people apply for food stamps, then she worked with the children’s home.
She enjoyed her job because it was meaningful, but it wasn’t easy.
“I thought I was doing something where I was helping people,” she said. “I found it to be a difficult job. There are a lot of sad situations that people get into. That part was not the most fun in the world, but it was an interesting job.”
Today Phyllis is happy to have one of her sons and her daughter close by, and she’s clearly proud of all they have accomplished. Thanks to the examples these women set and their perseverance, doors have opened for future generations of women to pursue their dreams – of work, of family, of serving their communities.
We hope you’ll take a moment this month to reflect on the women in your life who influenced your own accomplishments!