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The Great Secretarial Pantsuit Coup

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Mary Kay Carter recalls normalizing women's pantsuits in the workplace.

Women always dressed in dresses, nylons, heels, jewelry to go to work. And the pantsuit became a fashion statement that…We liked… a group of us decided at work that we would all get pantsuits… They were a good fabric, well-fitted, like a suit…And one day… the ladies in the office all decided they were going to wear their pantsuits to work and see what happened.

We were all secretaries…And we thought… ‘What's the worst that could happen? They could send us all home to change clothes?’

And we kind of set the trend for the rest of the people in the building. They all started wearing pantsuits after that, and after that, it just kept growing and growing and it just became acceptable. - Mary Kay Carter

March is Women's History Month. We are celebrating women and girls who've made and empowered positive change in the world. In this Area Voices, Mary Kay Carter remembers the shift from dresses to pantsuits in the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

I made my first one… it was a blue…a knit fabric… it had long sleeves and it was warm. And in the winter, it made sense. You had to walk a long way to your car and your trippy, dippy heels and your bare legs! – Mary Kay Carter

If you have a story of progress or change that has empowered the women in your life, Let us know about it. Email or text us 218-326-1234

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. She returned for a second stint in 2016-23. She produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota.