The Berkeley Girl:Rendezvous in London
Janet entered Berkeley as a shy, straight-arrow freshman, looking to her childhood sweetheart Aaron Becker for advice. When her brother is drafted, she defies Aaron, joining the anti-Vietnam War movement. Her parents send her to Paris to get her away from the radicals, never dreaming that Janet will run headlong into the historic 1968 May Revolution.
Janet is marching with her friends in Paris when Aaron unexpectedly shows up to rescue her from the police. She thinks he’s changed, fleeing the draft and no longer the cautious homebody she left behind. They are falling in love all over again, even as she must bid farewell her Parisian lover. “Teo the Czech,” as Aaron calls him, is a student in Paris, like Janet, and a gentle giant who has long planned his returned to Prague. Aaron steps up again, offering to smuggle cash into Prague for Teo in order to protect Janet from the errand.
Aaron and Janet agree that after Prague, they will meet in London. They want to spend time together before she heads for California to be with her parents until her brother returns from Vietnam.
When Janet and Aaron meet up in London for their romantic week, things quickly go awry. Janet has chosen their digs, Courtfield Youth Hostel, a place with strange rules that encourage sexual trysts – not what Janet is ready for yet. Meanwhile, Janet makes friends with the quirky “adults” who run the Hostel: Paget Philips , a yoga-preaching sitar-playing hippie, his more businesslike wife, Lenore, a feminist in batik shirts, and their toddler son, named after an admired radical poet. When they check in, Lenore sees that Janet has been to Paris, and invites her to their apartment to talk about the experience. Janet finds herself excited about getting to know the Philipses, who she sees as adult role models.
Lenore opens up her new tenant to the struggle for women’s rights. Against Aaron’s better judgement, Janet is out on the picket lines supporting Lenore’s feminist group and the women strikers at the Dagenheim Ford Motor plant.
This story brings to the forefront the historical events of that June 1968, when the female political powerhouse, British Secretary of State for Employment Barbara Castle, sided against the giant employer Ford, guiding the women machinists to eventual reclassification and commensurate wages.
Meanwhile, Aaron struggles to find gainful employment, more and more convinced that his dreams of a meaningful scientific career have been sacrificed to his anti-Vietnam stance. He wants nothing to do with Janet’s new feminist cause or her “hippie dippy” friends. Leaving Courtfield Youth Hostel without a forwarding address and asking Janet to phone only in case of an “emergency,” he urges her to return to her parents in California.
When Janet begins to pull “emergencies” out of a hat, and the unpredictable Paget Philips might provide a ticket to Aaron’s future, they all head down to visit Paget’s parents in Cornwall to see if the dilemmas can’t be fixed.
One Triumph in History
Note from the author: Discovery that this historical event, the Dagenheim machinists’ strike, took place the very week that my protagonist, Janet Magill, left Paris and arrived in London, is what set me up for Janet’s journey as a woman and a fighter for equal rights.
This year, when our presidential candidate exhibited such blatant disrespect for women, and so many Americans did not take offense, it confirmed my decision to make the feminist cause – needed now as much as ever – a theme in this novella.
Aaron’s draft dilemma and Vietnam War protest, as well as Aaron and Janet’s future together, are, of course, still major themes!
A quote from Barbara Castle, British Secretary for Employment, June 28, 1968:
I am delighted to announce that, following our talks this afternoon, the 187 [female] Ford machinists will be going back to work on the 1st of July. They will receive an immediate pay rise of seven pence an hour which will put them at 92 percent of the male rate. However this is not all. As a result of our discussion, I can confirm that the Government is in full support of the creation of an Equal Pay Act, and by the autumn of this year I guarantee appropriate legislation to ensure that this act becomes law!
The 1970 Equal Pay Act passed by the British Parliament, came into force in 1975.