“If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door …”
Today, we say “build a better mouse trap.” It’s so popular an adage that it’s almost cliche. So I’m sure that you know that the quote is most often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “The Value of Good Work,” circa the turn of last century. But I bet you didn’t know that an exact match for the passage above has never been found in any of Emerson’s published writings or personal journals, only statements of similar theme, e.g. “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.” (Hey, everybody needs an editor). So the quote is attributed to him, still to this day.
But I digress.
I’ve always liked this quote, regardless of who said it or how it has evolved on the ears of generations. The assumption rings true, even if it were anonymous.
I’m proud to say that I’ve set out to “build a better mouse trap” at every workplace I’ve joined. And I’m prouder to say that my work, and surely the work of my colleagues, over these past four years, have contributed to building a better About magazine.
In this industry, we do often feel as though we’ve built our house in the woods, so to speak. And yet, we’ve seen our own little corner of the world here in Stark County beat a well worn path through this magazine’s pages each month.
I know that it means something to this community to have a lifestyle magazine representing its interests. A magazine not just about Stark County, but for Stark Countians. You should know that it means something to me and to every person who touches the magazine that you pick it up and read it every month.
This installment of the Jess Files originally was earmarked for my thoughts on #MeToo and #Time’s Up, coinciding with “The Power of Women” cover story. But then, with my departure just a few weeks from this issue’s debut, I wanted to take time to thank you, dearest reader, for indulging the changes and additions we’ve made over the past four years, from our relaunch and significant redesign in March 2014, to today’s issue, the first and long-overdue female power issue in our history.
It’s a journey, a labor of love, a mouse trap worth toiling over to put this magazine together month in and month out.
Then I got to thinking—why can’t my last piece of writing for the magazine be both? A farewell and a call to arms?
Here goes: I’ve been a bad feminist most of my life. I don’t know that I have an excuse, per se, other than to say that I didn’t experience—or didn’t think I had experienced—gender discrimination. I grew up in a white, middle-class bubble of time and space where I could be president (theoretically, of course), I got (almost) every job I’ve ever applied for and really wanted, and I’ve always been happyish with my salary. I didn’t feel less.
When I’ve been invited to participate in professional women’s organizations, I’ve always demured, saying I’m not really a joiner, wasn’t interested in the “ya-ya sisterhood.” I thought so long as I worked hard, kept my head down and delivered good work—built that mousetrap—I’d be rewarded both financially and philosophically.
I once told someone that I didn’t want to go to a women’s negotiating seminar because I didn’t want to learn how to negotiate like a woman. I wanted to learn how to negotiate like a man.
So I suppose I actually have Harvey Weinstein to thank. If it weren’t for his despicable, deviant and utterly soulless behavior acting as a volcanic catalyst for women’s rights, I’d still be focused only on me and mine, without recognizing how crucial it is for all women to work together, to band our voices together, not just in cases of assault, but in cases of grabbing that brass ring.
Being heard, being represented, being on top.
The letter from the editor this month calls upon women and men alike to start uplifting women, especially the younger generation. To teach each other to aspire to greatness. To teach each other that greatness can be had, gender be damned.
And so I’d like to end my very last column talking about the very important woman who will continue to lead this magazine to greatness: Kelsey Reinhart.
I admire her work ethic, her creativity and her grace. It has been my privilege to help her grow professionally. And even moreso, it has been a gift to have learned from her in return. I’m surely better for it.
I step away knowing that in her hands, an even better mouse trap is right around the corner. I’m very much looking forward to next month, when my May issue of About arrives and I get to see what she’s created inside the 10th anniversary issue.
Thank you for reading.