I started a business rehabbing run-down historic properties. I followed in the footsteps of my mother-in-law and a cousin-in-law, both of whom were well-known for their pioneering efforts in historic preservation. I bought up six eyesores with beautiful bones, all within a block, and expanded the National Trust Historic District so that they would all be eligible for historic tax credits. I completed them within five years at a square-foot cost of $22 to $25. Now I am done bragging.

What amazed me is that the work was invisible. It became by association a “rich lady’s hobby.”

It wasn’t invisible on the street; it made a huge difference. And the tax credits were there for others to utilize as well, so other renovations followed mine. But the city was blind. The Rotary Club was blind. The mayor and the governor were blind.

Now I’m not bragging. I’m saying what it was: I got up early every morning and met my contractors before they started work. I had plans ready. I got filthy dirty, my nostrils lined with dust. I paid the men on time, what they asked for. I checked on all the work. I kept to a schedule and filled the units as soon as they were done. I financed with local bank loans and paid them back ahead of schedule. I paid my taxes and filed annually with the state. This was a worthy business, a hard business of dealing every day with unruly men, angry men, and stealing men.

But because I was a woman, it was resented by the working men and invisible to everyone else.

I even met with the governor and showed him the cheaters who were bending the rules and undermining our efforts. He said, “What a wasted opportunity!” and did nothing.

I wasn’t blind or deaf. I could read in the papers and hear on the radio stories about other entrepreneurs. I heard about the guest speakers at Rotary, the exciting people who were bringing back the economy of our little town. And it wasn’t the acclaim I needed; like any business, I needed other investors to follow suit, to buy properties, to rent storefronts, to forward tenants. I needed the city to repair sidewalks, to install stoplights, to bust up drug deals. I needed the state to block well-connected cheaters.

My daughter’s godfather did the same kind of work about 10 blocks away, and he got tons of recognition. He filled his historic buildings with firms of men. He got state recognition. He made sure his buildings became the renaissance of the city.

I finally got so irritated that I wrote a letter to the editor of the only paper in town, and I asked Why aren’t you writing a story about my work?

No answer. My mother-in-law and my cousin-in-law and I were a type. We didn’t NEED to do this work, we chose to. It was a hobby, if women did it.

Just like #MeToo, there is no proof. There are only accusations on my part and deafening silence in return. It isn’t explicit gender bias. Lots of women do good, hard work for no acknowledgement. And my buildings are still standing, still being used, still holding their value. I just feel sad that the momentum wasn’t utilized. Our efforts didn’t save the city. Didn’t even start to save the city. As the governor said, What a wasted opportunity.