Global View on Racial and Gender Discrimination: Ellen Walsh

Ellen Walsh Portrait

A Global View on Racial and Gender Discrimination

Top Takeaways:

  • Why it is going to be a difficult struggle for women to achieve equal rights in the Middle East
  • The importance of influencing and empowering girls to get an education to reach their dreams and become important people in society
  • The power of traveling beyond your home to enrich your life with experiences of different cultures

Ep. 52 - Ellen Walsh takes a global view of racial and gender discrimination as she reflects on a childhood filled with the joy and discoveries of living in Hawaii, Japan and Iran, along with the pain-filled memories of living in Mississippi in the mid-to late-1950s; a state where segregation was the "law of the land" and witnessing her mother's pain as a brown skinned Polynesian married to a white Portuguese engineer. Her mother was directed to the "colored door" while her father was directed to the front door. Ellen Walsh has lived in several countries and contrasts the differences among those countries and the United States, especially in gender equality.

"Travel enriches your life to a greater understanding of different people and you find that they are the same, they are not that different. They may speak different languages, but the sense of humanity is common throughout." -Ellen Walsh

Gender Discrimination in Iran

Her mother chose to stay home rather than bear the repeated humiliation only to encounter another form of humiliation as a "western woman" living in Iran during the 1960s when her husband became a civil engineer with an American firm. Ellen shares the impact from a society where women were marginalized by being denied the benefit of education, the inability to have their own independence through something as seemingly "small" as the right to drive a car, and living by cultural mores that said "a woman's place is in the house". It was another period of time where her mother became a recluse rather than live by the norms.

Fueling the Motivation to Succeed

But it also fueled both her father and mother to ensure all four daughters would return stateside and go to college as a means of validating their value as women and ensuring their economic independence. She now believes that her motivation to earn her B.S., M.S. and complete her doctoral studies was highly influenced by these multi-cultural experiences. Ellen Walsh believes that if all Americans traveled outside the U.S. they would find that people are more alike than they are different and that they want the same things for themselves and their children.

Career

Ellen Walsh, a Retired Professor of languages, pursued her undergrad and graduate degrees in the romance languages after her childhood experiences living in Honolulu, Japan, and Iran. She completed her doctoral studies in Spanish at George Washington University and went on to become a professor of the romance languages at GWU. The Influence of a woman mentor worked to redirect her work from academia to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) where she spent 33 years teaching foreign langauges to DoD personnel often as a matter of "life and death" given their work abroad.

Key Moments

Listen in to learn more about gender inequalities in the Middle East and how it can be damaging to women who want their independence. You will also learn about the power of cultural enrichment which is a result of travel experiences.

Ellen describes her culture-rich childhood and how she studied Spanish in undergrad and graduate studies [2:44]

She explains how she missed the women rights movement and the civil rights movement when she lived in Japan with her parents [6:32]

Ellen reflects on her experiences living briefly in Iran and the impact it had on her family [10:38]

How women were denied and are still being denied basic rights like education in the Middle East [17:47]

She shares how she introduced her husband to traveling and the experiences they’ve had over the years [21:29]

She talks about her son’s adventures and experiences traveling abroad just like she had [25:33]

Ellen’s hope for America that people learn about different cultures and continue on the path of globalization [28:43]

Why you should travel beyond America, plus the racial discrimination Ellen’s mother experienced in Mississippi [29:57]

The future travel plans that Ellen and her husband have and why those places [32:42]

Resources

Women Face Harrassment

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