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The voice of experience in a changing world Ellen Goodman to assess the women's movement during Buffalo talk next week

Ellen Goodman is in her car, driving to her summer home in the Casco Bay area of Maine for a long weekend in late spring, but she takes time out for a conversation about her upcoming trip to Buffalo.

It's probably not her first time in Western New York, Goodman acknowledges.

But as to when her previous trips here might have been, Goodman is having a bit of trouble remembering.

That's hardly surprising.

Goodman, after all, has been working in professional journalism since the early 1960s. She was hired at The Boston Globe in 1967, and the column she wrote there for decades was widely syndicated, so Goodman made appearances all over the country during that time.

Now, the columnist – who also is the author or co-author of eight books – will speak about women and their changing place in society in the keynote address of the WNY Women's Foundation's annual "What She's Made Of" event on June 13, starting at 5:30 p.m. in Kleinhans Music Hall. (See www.wnywomensfoundation.org for more information.)

"I'm going to be talking about the women's movement," said Goodman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1980.

She bills her topic this way: "Where we've come from, where we are – (and) are we stuck here?"

"We've been through a huge amount of social change," Goodman added. "A lot of it has been lopsided – women's lives have changed more than society has allowed them to change."

Goodman, 71, lives in the Boston area with her husband of 29 years, Bob Levey, a former Boston Globe staff writer. (She was married once before, and divorced.)

A 1963 graduate of Radcliffe College, Goodman began her career the same year, as a staff researcher at Newsweek magazine. She then worked at a Detroit newspaper before moving to the Boston Globe. Over her decades as a journalist, Goodman has written a lot about women's issues.

At this point in her life, she said, she sees women's roles evolving from that of being "working moms" to "working daughters."

That means that many women who are past their child-rearing years are now finding themselves taking care of older relatives.

"It's probably the biggest thing that's going on," said Goodman, who took care of her own mother until she died a few years ago at age 92. "We're facing what can only be called a longevity revolution."

"In the last 100 years, we're living 30 years longer than we previously had. There's a lot of good news in that. But there's a lot of news in that that's complicated."

At the same time, Goodman said, mothering itself has gotten much more complex.

"There's a growing – and huge – amount of pressure on being the perfect mother," said Goodman, who has two grown children and two grandchildren.

She laughed. "Meanwhile," she said, "the number of ways you can be an imperfect mother has grown exponentially. Everything from obesity to online porn – what has happened, to a certain extent – to a large extent – is that the onus is now on parents. We've become the counterculture. Our role is literally to counter the culture."

Goodman's leisure time is spent making ceramics and playing golf – which is, as she puts it, "a default sport" for athletic people when they get older. (She used to enjoy more tennis and squash than she is able to nowadays.)

Goodman said she plans to deliver a pragmatic view of the progress of women in her talk in Buffalo.

In other words: there will be an appreciation of how far women have come, in all the years she has been writing and critiquing.

"My generation traded depressed for stressed," she joked. "[But] not many women would want to go back to the lives their mothers and grandmothers had."

But there also will be a blunt assessment of the fact that much more change is likely still ahead.

"There are changes that need to come from change," Goodman said.

One optimistic note Goodman sounded was about the ability of women to help each other by working together – as they have for a long time.

"One of the problems is, women tend to think we have to solve all these problems on an individual basis – and that just won't work," she said. "Things are hugely different than they were for women a generation ago.

"But we ain't done yet."

email: cvogel@buffnews.com