Kayne Pyatt: From Cinderella Complex To Feminist Independence

kayne-pyatt

Kayne Pyatt is a reporter for the Uinta County Herald and worked as an Assistant Professor of Communication in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

She was born in Western Kansas and her family migrated to Wyoming in the 1950s.

She has been a lifetime advocate for women's and human rights in a variety of careers and volunteer work.

She explains why her role model is her mother, how things have changed for women over the years, and how to educate young women about suffrage and women's rights.

Emy diGrappa:

Welcome to First But Last, brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. I am your

host, Emy diGrappa. Wyoming is called the Equality State because we were the first

to give women the right to vote. One hundred and fifty years later, we wonder what

Wyoming women think about the progress toward equality now. Let's find out, and

thank you for listening.

Emy diGrappa:

Today we are talking to Kayne Pyatt. She has been employed as a reporter for the

Uinta County Herald. She's worked as an assistant professor of communication in

Rock Springs, but most importantly, Kayne has been a lifetime advocate for women

and human rights in a variety of careers and volunteer work. Welcome, Kayne.

Kayne Pyatt:

Hi.

Emy diGrappa:

Where did you grow up?

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, I was born in western Kansas, but my family moved around a lot because my

father was in, uh, radio, and there's always a greener pasture somewhere else.

(laughs) And my family migrated to Wyoming in the 1950s, and I call Evanston my

home, because I've lived here longer than any other place.

Emy diGrappa:

Oh, okay. Well, since 1950, that is a long time.

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, I, too, as an adult, have moved away and come back. It seems like no matter

where I go, I always wander back to Wyoming. And I've lived in other, other towns in

Wyoming and also other states, lived in Iowa for seven years, and still came back to

Wyoming.

Emy diGrappa:

So, I have a couple of questions. When I introduced you, and it really seemed that

when I was reading your bio, that your passion has been in your work as an

advocate for women and human rights. And so, the first thing I wanted to ask you

is, who is your earliest female mentor or role model?

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, I'd have to say my mother. My mother was a very strong, quiet, not probably

as social as I have always been, but a very strong woman, and had been through a

lot in her life, and valued education and standing on your own two feet, and that

you could do anything if you really followed it and pursued it. So I'd have to say my

mother, even though as a small child, my dad was my hero and I followed him

around. I remember when I was about five years old, standing at the screen door in

our house, crying and crying and crying because my dad was leaving and going

somewhere, and I wouldn't get to go with him. I'll never forget that, because as I

stood there in the screen door, I saw all these flies landing on the screen door, and

my mother finally coming to get me and comforting me.

Kayne Pyatt:

But I, I used to follow my dad around when I was older, even, when he sold ads for

the radio station. And it, I admired the fact that he was so, it was so easy for him to

communicate with people, and with strangers. And my dad was 50 when I was born.

He was born in 1892, and my mother was 23, 25 years younger than him. And so, it

was like I had these two different time eras growing up with, and almost two

different value systems, really. But both of 'em believed in hard work and had a

strong work ethic, and that was passed down to me and my sisters.

Emy diGrappa:

So, Kayne, tell me about your passion that you have for advocating for women and

the work that you've done in that area.

Kayne Pyatt:

Okay. Well, I think it started when I was in Kindergarten, and having grown up on

what we called Radio Ranch, my dad had gone into business and built his own radio

with a partner, radio station, and in front of that, we had our home, a ranch, and

had horses. And so, I grew up around horses and fol-, and again, following my dad

around. And when I was in Kind-, and so I wore jeans a lot, bib overalls and jeans

with suspenders. And when I was in Kindergarten, this was in Kansas back in the

'40s, and I was told that I couldn't wear pants to school, I couldn't wear jeans to

school.

Kayne Pyatt:

And also, I was left-handed, and my mom and the teacher wanted to force me to be

right-handed. And my mom went to the school and argued with the teacher (laughs)

and I got to wear my jeans, and I stayed left-handed.

Emy diGrappa:

(laughs)

Kayne Pyatt:

And I think, (laughs) I think that that instilled in me this question of why, just

because I'm a girl, do I have to wear dresses and can't wear jeans, when my whole

life on the ranch was riding horses and being outside, and riding a horse in a dress

is just not very comfortable. So, it instilled in me this desire, I think maybe

unconsciously, that things weren't just quite right for girls, and that I was gonna

change that.

Kayne Pyatt:

And so, as I grew, I also grew up in a time with, with Cinderella's story and life was

supposed to, you know, as a, as a young girl and as a woman, you were to get

married, have children, make your husband happy, and that was supposed to be the

perfect life. And I think I was pretty naïve. I grew up in a fairly traditional home. My

dad went to work, my mom stayed home. And so, uh, so partly what developed this

passion about things weren't quite right and, and I wanted to change them, had to

do with a lot of experiences.

Kayne Pyatt:

Getting pregnant at 16 and married and having four children by the time I was 25,

and-

Emy diGrappa:

Wow.

Kayne Pyatt:

Getting a divor-, yeah. (laughs) And getting a divorce 10 years later, and not being

able to buy a car without my dad's signature, finding that credit cards were, women

just didn't get them alone, women didn't get credit alone. And facing those

roadblocks made that desire to change things even stronger. And I remember as a

teenager, because I was so involved with horses, that my dad was in the Stage

Riders Mounted Posse, which was here in Evanston, and they would be in parades

and then, if the sheriff's department needed to call out people for a search and

rescue, that mounted posse went.

Kayne Pyatt:

And I thought it would be neat if there was a junior mounted posse, young people.

So I organized it, I got people, friends that were horse, horse people, boys and girls,

and we had a meeting and we organized and we set up a sort of, what we'd call

today, bylaws. And my dad took it to the sheriff's mounted posse and they agreed

to sponsor us as the junior mounted posse, but a girl could not be president.

Emy diGrappa:

What? (laughs)

Kayne Pyatt:

Yeah. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

What?

Kayne Pyatt:

And so, I got, I was just furious about that and, and hurt, because I had done all the

work to organize it and get it set up and writing the bylaws, and so I dropped out.

And early on in my life, you know, that was a way girls, that was our responses. It's

like if you suffered sexual harassment of any kind or discrimination, you just kept

your mouth shut and did something else. And so, I dropped out of that, but that

stayed with me forever.

Kayne Pyatt:

And I think, I've come to think in my 77 years that there's a thread, a subconscious

thread or, that leads us from childhood all through our lives. And one day I sat down

and was writing in my journal and I, and I wrote some things about how all the

themes and the dreams I had as a child, as an adult, subconsciously, that I have

experienced those, or in reality I've experienced those. So whether subconsciously

or the universe or whatever you wanna call it, I don't call it fate, but the universe

was sort of offering these doors to me, and I would open them, but I see that

connection.

Kayne Pyatt:

So, for instance, as a child, my sisters and I used to play school a lot, and my

younger sister said to me one time as an adult, she said, "You know, you used to

make me so mad because you would never let me be the teacher." And I grew up to

not consciously really planning it, but ended up going to college, getting a master's

degree and teaching college. And I, I guess I'm a firm believer in positive

affirmations, and sometimes those affirmations-

Emy diGrappa:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kayne Pyatt:

May come, just like as a child, it was a dream or the dream to -- I used to read every

Zane Gray book there was and I was really fascinated with the West, and having

moved here when we, to Evanston when I was 12 years old, and then always having

horses from the time I was five years old, I was riding horses -- I was fascinated with

the West and always thought it would have been wonderful to be a pioneer and be

on a wagon train. Well, in 1990, I organized and led the Wyoming Centennial Wagon

Train from Fort Caspar to Cody.

Kayne Pyatt:

And, and that wasn't conscious, you know, it's sort of like those dreams that, uh, to

write. I always wanted to be a writer. And as a child, my sisters and I would cut out

pictures out of magazines and write about 'em and I would pretend I was a reporter.

And now I'm a reporter at 77. Oh, it's just amazing to me how wonderful the

universe is. And a friend of mine once said, "You know, our own lives aren't any of

our business, I guess." (laughs) But in other words, kind of the universe has got this,

these doors for us, and I guess it's our job to just become aware and open those

doors.

Kayne Pyatt:

And so, back to the women, I think all those things that I experienced in my youth

and then after a 10-year marriage with a husband who was unfaithful to me

throughout that whole entire 10 years, getting a divorce, being a single mom. And I

have to be honest, I, you know, still believed in that Cinderella fairy tale, went

through four marriages, four divorces. Most of the time, still feeling like a single

mom raising four kids, slowly began to lose that, that fantasy reality and realizing

that nobody but me was ever going to change my life or make my life better.

Kayne Pyatt:

And so, I went back to college, got my, uh, with four kids, got my associate's

degree, and then 10 years later, went back again and got my master's. When I got

my bachelor's and then my master's, my oldest daughter and my son and I were all

in college together, and-

Emy diGrappa:

Oh, I love that!

Kayne Pyatt:

(laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

I love that.

Kayne Pyatt:

So, some of the things I've done with women is when- in my second marriage, I

lived in Iowa for seven years and I had the opportunity to become a Vista volunteer,

a locally-recruited Vista volunteer, and worked with a sexual assault and domestic

violence program. And later, went on to become the director of that program, and

that just, again, was that desire to make changes for women, and this was an

opportunity to do that.

Kayne Pyatt:

And when I came back to Evanston after my divorce, I started a sexual assault and

family violence program here in Evanston. And I had just a barely squeak-by job at

that time, but, and all my other hours organizing that and was involved in the

League of Women Voters at one time. And then I started, when I came back here

again, (laughs) after getting my masters in Salt Lake City, I started doing women's

retreats. And we would go to the mountains, camp out. It was wonderful. I think I've

spent probably 10 years of my life doing those women's retreats, both privately and

then when I taught at Western Wyoming College, I had, I held women's retreats

there, was involved in organizing the women's conferences.

Kayne Pyatt:

And then went to, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a Goddess Conference in

England, and led by a wonderful woman who traveled all over the world gathering

up arti-, she was an artist and created artistic flags of all the different goddesses

across the world. And so, from that, I became so interested in that I wanted to teach

the feminine mythology, and so I researched, self-taught, and developed curriculum

to teach that at Western. And I used to have waiting lists, I'd let 30 students into my

class and I used to have waiting lists to get into that class, both men and women. It

was wonderful. It was a great experience, and saw young women really grow from

learning about prehistory and pre-Christianity roots of when women had more

power and equality. And, oh.

Emy diGrappa:

Is that in, uh, the class that you-

Kayne Pyatt:

Yeah.

Emy diGrappa:

Were teaching feminism-

Kayne Pyatt:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa:

In mythology? Okay, and what was your spiritual upbringing?

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, my spiritual upbringing, as a child, my parents, Sunday was always church.

And when we lived in Kansas, I think the church that they attended was called the

First Christian Church, and then when we moved to Wyoming, there was no church,

no denomination called that, so we joined the First American Baptist Church. And so,

I always grew up with religion and I always felt like I was a spiritual person, but

when I went back to college, in Westminster College to get my degree, one of the

first classes I taught, and actually, I went back to college to get my bachelors

because I thought I wanted to be an Episcopal priest.

Kayne Pyatt:

And I took a archeology class and an anthropology class, and grew. And from that, I

decided, no, and throughout this whole growing process, I realized that traditional

religion just wasn't for me. And I'm still a spiritual person, but I, I experience that

more in connection with the earth and with what some people call pagan. But

pagan, really the definition of pagan means people of the earth. So I, I had my own

sense of spiritual connection with the earth, with the universe. I guess I'd say it's

more like star-, Star Wars. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

Star Wars.

Kayne Pyatt:

Yeah. Let the force be with you. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

The force be with you, okay, and-

Kayne Pyatt:

Yeah. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

And so, through your journey and discovering, you know, the, the pitfalls that are

created for women and how they fall into 'em, and how you fell into the Cinderella

syndrome and, and then, you know, pulled yourself outta that. But, you know, how

have things changed over the years for women? How do you see that? And what do

you see as positive, that is happening?

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, I think one positive thing that just comes quickly to my mind is how older

women, especially, are given more voice. Not enough, but because I think there is

age discrimination, but even Hollywood is recognizing the need for more movies,

more productions, that involve older women in strong positions. More and more

women are getting into higher levels of political positions, though I don't think

enough. And I have to tell you, I cried when Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the

race, because I wanna live long enough to see a woman president. I lived long

enough to see an African American president, but I wanna see a woman president.

Kayne Pyatt:

And one thing I thought when Obama was elected was, during the whole suffragist

movement, in the split between the suffragists because some wanted to include the

right for women to vote with the 15th Amendment for African American men to get

the right to vote and that whole thing. African American men got the right to vote

before white women or any woman, and I thought Obama being elected, not only do

I think he's an admirable person, but also as the catalyst for, okay, so we came

second after them getting them right to vote, now maybe we will president now.

Kayne Pyatt:

So, I think we haven't, we're not there yet. I see mostly women working in

restaurants and cafes in Wyoming, and I know that they're making less than

minimum wage and they depend on their tips for survival. My heart goes out to

them right now with this crisis, that they're laid off, they're not working. I mean,

thank heavens there's gonna be some help from the federal government. But

women, in many, many cases, are the, uh, their families depend on them. They are

the bread winners today. And so, I, I think we've got a long way to go.

Kayne Pyatt:

I also get a little frustrated, even with my own granddaughters, that they just take

for granted what they have today and they don't seem to really want more or

wanna achieve more or want to strive for more. I, I, a lot of the young women I had

in feminine mythology class, I, I think I saw them grow and I've seen them, and in

fact, many I've come into contact with 'cause Wyoming's a small world, have really

gone on to make themselves proud of where they've, where they've gone and the

jobs and careers that they're moving into.

Kayne Pyatt:

But I, I get frustrated with the lack of knowledge that most young women have

about where we, me and my foremothers, came through to get them what they

have today. So-

Emy diGrappa:

Well, what can we do to change that? What can we do to mentor young women to

open their eyes to what, what has gone before and the work that they need to do to

keep it going?

Kayne Pyatt:

Well, I think teachers are important for that. I felt like I was doing that when I was

teaching at the college, 'cause I taught communication classes as well, and I often

think, you know, that whatever course we're teaching, it's a vehicle for what other

things we can teach. And so I think role modeling, actually giving them information

that they're not getting. And on the suffragette movement, what we did here in

Evanston is that we had an event, we organized a group, a 19th Amendment

committee and all through the last year, we had an event every month. And one of

'em in June was a parade, and we actually had four little girls, under teen years,

they were like, 10, 11, 12, who joined us in that parade.

Kayne Pyatt:

And I think just that modeling and that getting the education out to 'em. I'm thrilled

today to see more and more children's books on famous women and, and on the

suffragette movement, and on the civil rights movement, and on women who made

a difference in the past. So I think writers, teachers, women who are in politics, who

can mentor and role model for young girls. Take 'em with 'em, let 'em spend a day

or two in the, in their legislature with 'em, watching it. I just, sometimes I feel really

hopeless, (laughs) and then some-, somebody like Greta Thunberg will come along

and, and I, my heart just swells at what young people are doing, uh, regarding

climate change. And so, it's a slow process. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

Change is always slow.

Kayne Pyatt:

Yes, it is.

Emy diGrappa:

But I'm glad that you've had these rich experiences, not just for yourself, but also

teaching class and, and influencing other young women, and helping them, you

know, see that they, they have their own power.

Kayne Pyatt:

I love it, and I, I'd like to add, too, that I'm a director and on the board of our

community theater here, Sagebrush Theater, and one o' the things that I try to do is

influence the board to pick plays that aren't just silly and aren't just always comedy,

but have a message and that involve young people. And that, and to get more

young people involved and put them on the board, and try to, try to get more and

more young women to get involved in the arts. I think that's a way where they begin

to explore. Once you're involved in the arts, I truly believe in a liberal arts

education, and I think through a liberal arts education, you're exposed to so many

different ideas, so ment-, many different spots and ways of living, that it can't help

but have an influence on young people.

Emy diGrappa:

Well, since I work for the Wyoming Humanities-

Kayne Pyatt:

(laughs)

Emy diGrappa:

I could not agree more. (laughs) That's so true. I, hundred, a hundred percent agree

with that. But thank you so much, Kayne. Thank you-

Kayne Pyatt:

Thank you.

Emy diGrappa:

For talking to me today.

Kayne Pyatt:

Thank you. I've really enjoyed it. Thanks, Emy.

Emy diGrappa:

Thank for listening to First But Last, brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities.

Please join us again next week as we continue our conversations with women from

around the state. You can also find us at thinkwy.org., where we continue the

conversation on our blog about the history, journey, and the challenges of

Wyoming's intrepid women living in the Equality State. And if you enjoyed this

episode, please subscribe to the show and leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you

for listening.