WOMEN OF THE YEAR: Great Changes, New Chances, Tough Choices

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    neurosurgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, "I've been well accepted by professionals and patients all along the way. If you pull your own weight, do a competent job, you're accepted." Conley is both amused and irritated when she goes to a party with her husband Philip, a financial analyst: "Everybody asks him what he does, and conversation revolves around that. Nobody asks me what I do. They think they know."

    Atlanta's Dr. Nanette Wenger, 45, who is director of the cardiac clinics at Grady Memorial Hospital, notes a change since she got her M.D. 21 years ago: "Women are now referred to as 'Dr. Smith' or 'Dr. Jones'—not 'that woman doctor,' as I was." Because of sheer ability, Wenger is in great demand as a physician and consultant round the world. In one week recently, she jetted to Israel to deliver a paper to the International Society of Cardiologists; then she popped over to Geneva for a meeting of the World Health Organization; next she flew to Dallas for a conference of the American Heart Association, of which she is a vice president; from there she headed for New York City for a gathering of the American College of Cardiology. At 6 p.m. Saturday, she was welcomed home by her three teen-age daughters—just in time to bustle off to a party with her husband Julius, a gastroenterologist.

    Women have long had some positions of influence in American religion, but now they are gaining in power. The most notable disputes have been over admitting women to equal status as clergymen. Ever since St. Paul's strictures on the subordination of women ("I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men"), Christianity has been patriarchal. Yet Roman Catholic women are now participating in the Mass as lectors, and in the distribution of the Eucharist. Nuns, of course, have undergone an astonishing transformation in the past decade, doffing habits and leaving cloisters to live in the community at large.

    In Protestant churches, a small but rising number of parishioners look up at the pulpit on Sunday morning—and see a woman. The United Methodist Church has 576 ordained women, up from 332 in 1970, and the United Presbyterian Church has more than 200, compared with 103 in 1972. The Lutheran Church in America, which began ordaining women in 1970, has 27 women in clerical posts.

    The Episcopal Church has yet to recognize women as priests. But 251 women are attending seminaries, some with hopes of becoming priests, others with plans to teach in seminaries. Over the past 18 months, 15 women have been ordained as priests by four bishops. One of the women, Nancy Wittig, 30, served for four months as a deacon at St. Peter's Church in Morristown, N.J., but resigned because of lack of support from the vestry. In some perplexity, Wittig demands, "How come, if the church proclaims we are all God's children, I am considered less?" Among the others ordained, one is a part-time prison minister in Rochester; two are professors at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass.; the Rev. Lee McGee is a chaplain at Washington's American University. Alison Cheek, of course, has her church work in Washington. But most of the others are working at secular jobs—because they cannot get anything else.


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