Austin, Texas’ small business and entrepreneurial history is long and full. There were special support meetings called “Satellite Network Meetings” all over town and even in Round Rock long before there were Meetups and Bootstrap groups.
And, there was The Networker, a small monthly publication especially for women. From June 1980 to its last issue in August 1987, I wrote, managed or was its editor. We covered politics, interesting women, events around town, the arts, business, sports, education, healthcare, and jobs. We covered issues from the ERA to “Should women fear computers?” And, yes, that was the title of an article. We covered women magicians like Judy Wilkes and Valerie Cordell, early aviators like Pearle Ragsdale, truck racer Shawna Robinson, women firefighters and women at war. Young and old, of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds were included in our news. We even did some interesting articles about men including Cactus Pryor and cartoonist Ben Sargent.
The Networker was originally a City project that came out of what I believe to be Austin’s first networking event, the Austin Women’s Network Brunch, sponsored by the Austin Commission on Women (then called the Austin Commission on the Status of Women). The brunch was an outgrowth of the 1979 Women’s Conference.
We soon became a non-profit corporation and moved away from control of the City. The magazine’s slogan was “The Paper Texas Women Read”. And, they did. In its heyday, it had several thousand paid subscribers and a circulation of 7000 readers without ever receiving any City funding.
In 1984, then mayor Ron Mullen declared July 17 as Networking Day and “called on all citizens to recognize the contributions made by The Networker in promoting equality of opportunity in the job market” and presented us with our first proclamation. Awesome!
Putting it together was an all volunteer effort except for the typesetter and printer. I feel very privileged to have worked with a very talented group of women including Meg Wilson, Nadea Gizelbach, Billie Passmore, Mary Margaret Navar, Lu Russell, Martha Hartzog, Beverly Scarborough, Brenda Trainor, Mary Bird Bowman, Leslie Geballe, Beverly Larkham, Theresa Feschek, Fancharm Gibson, Mary Wheeler, and Barbara Brown. There were some great men associated with us as well including Austin historian Ed Van De Vort, Joe Stengel, Craig Meurer, and photographer Dan Diener.
But the most fun was working with my mother, Jane Dinsmoor. It was her fault I was there anyway because she suggested I write for The Networker. I did. The column was called “After Image”.
Then she suggested I become The Networker’s Managing Editor since I was such a good nag. She meant that sincerely and with great pride. So I did. I must have done ok because I became the Editor. I can tell you The Networker gave me the best education into how Austin works and how to network.
Besides giving me motherly advice, she wrote a wonderful column called “Overtime” each month and “People” where she interviewed well known and less well known women including architect Judy Brown, international storyteller Helen Handley, Eleanor Richards (Gov. Ann Richards mother-in-law and politico herself), and scholar Dorothy Hartshorne. Much of the snail mail we got or the comments made to me in public were about her articles. I was very proud of her, too.
August 5th would have been her 92 birthday. With great affection, admiration and thanks, I want to reprise one of her best loved articles, “The Cockroach”. A “fitting” subject as she would say for summer in Texas. Enjoy.
If you have memories of those Satellite Meetings, The Networker or other activities that helped spur small business or entrepreneurial development in our area, please share it.
by Jane Dinsmoor
from The Networker, Vol 2, Issue 1, January/February 1981
In Austin it is now perfectly within the bounds of good manners to discuss the common roach. I’m glad. Silent emotional storms of that magnitude are the pits. True, whole generations of ladies lived their lives denying the existence of both diarrhea and roaches, but those ladies are known as forebearers. In the North one still refers to the critters as “Building Beetles. . .Water Bugs. . .not Roaches, you know.”
According to my dictionary, “roach” is short for “cockroach” which is “any one of a family of insects; especially a small brownish or yellowish species found in kitchens, around water pipes, etc.”
The only thing correct about that definition is the etc., and I need a new Austin-type dictionary. Actually a roach is any of a thundering herd of other similar insects. Their colors are best described as repellent roach brown, repellent roach black, etc. And smallish? The smallish-est you have to worry about weighs in at 15 pounds. You can tell a little one because it’s only carrying two sacks of potatoes.
But to continue. . .it is ridiculous to think that anyone ever went out looking for a roach! “Found,” indeed. They pop out of drains anytime anyone turns on the water; they pose majestically on toilet tanks; they stampede across the kitchen floor at night; they appear with the desert at any meal to which guests have been invited. Give me a quick-moving Southern guest who can stomp a roach off the rug and never spill the syllabub.
My dictionary also states that the word “cockroach” is an “alteration of the Spanish word ‘cucaracha'”. . .and what does that do to international relations? But there are also German cockroaches. My friend the exterminator told me so. We have had many, many, of these discussions over coffee as we waited for the fog to settle so we could count casualties. “Yoicks!” says he. “Yoicks!” says I. “I think it’s safe for you to have house guests now. . . if they come right away.”
He also told me you never get rid of roaches. . .just keep them at bay. I know what he means. They kept me at bay for the first three months I was in Austin. My greatest triumph came when, at the height of the battle, I lashed out, connected, and kicked a big one smack in the head!
Keep roaches at bay indeed! Light up the Tower! Give me my spray, my swatter, and my good right foot! I will overcome!