Marilyn Goldstein, 80
Newspaper Reporter (Retired from work, but not from life)
Marilyn Goldstein found herself at the forefront of a movement that would go on to shape modern feminism as we know it. While working as a reporter at Newsday in the Sixties, she fought through corporate sexism, and ultimately won a court case for women’s right to promotion and fair wages. “Be proud of being a feminist,’ she says. “Feminist is not a dirty word.”
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
This career path was accidental. Out of college I wanted to become an advertising copywriter- which I did. Then came marriage and a baby. It was 1962– in those days most women never even considered working if they could afford to stop – so I quit. After having a second child and realizing my life was missing a work-related center, I started writing humor pieces about life in the suburbs and sending them to Newsday, then the 6th or 7th largest and most respected U.S. paper. To my surprise, they liked my work and offered me a job on what was then called the Women’s Pages – food, fashion, furnishings, and the goings on in women’s volunteer organizations, such as the PTA.
The Women’s Page was a female ghetto, long gone into oblivion. But, since it was about women, I got there just in time to cover a new movement, then called Women’s Lib. There, I witnessed its slow acceptance and world-shaking advances – and watched women’s ghettos like the Women’s Pages disappear. My greatest achievement was not political. It was raising two caring and daring feminist daughters, who are doing the same with their daughters. But every once in awhile I do think about being one very small part of a movement that changed the world, and I smile.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
In the early 1970s, with the women’s movement in full swing, my female colleagues got together and filed a Title 7 sex discrimination suit against our employer. I was among the leaders in the suit, so I was the designated city room feminist.
Years later, and thanks to our suit, I rose steadily through the ranks. I knew I was being considered for a position as a columnist, the top of the reporter pole, but I didn’t get chosen that time. Later a male colleague of mine who palled around with the top editors told me the then Managing Editor held me responsible for “all the trouble” (including the fact his wife ran away with his best friend, but that’s another story too). My colleague quoted the Managing Editor as saying, “She’ll never get a column as long as I’m here.” And I didn’t. But shortly after he retired I got my column.
"I paid a price for my activism and leadership."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I paid a price for my activism and leadership. I didn’t get the great promotion I deserved until the Managing Editor who seemed to hold me personally responsible for the entire women’s movement retired. And I don’t regret it one bit. So much progress was made after the suit. Today many of Newsday’s top editors are women.
4. As you #SWAAYthenarrative, do you feel empowered? What has been your emotional reaction?
I just kept being the best reporter I could be, while taking an I action that benefitted the myself and many women. I’ve since realized I was standing on shoulders women who started fighting for decades, even centuries, before me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word. And be a role model for your daughters and sons, show them you can do what you set out to do, and so can they.
"Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word."
It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.
One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."
The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.
What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.
How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.
As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.
I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.
So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.
I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.
Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.
It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.
We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.
In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.
We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.
I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!
And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.
During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.
It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.