[The Stories of America editors: This article is part of the International Women’s Day Pairing. To read the other story, click here.]
When Bunny Galladora was an infant, her mother promised she would bring up her daughter, with the help of God, to be drug and alcohol free.
A white ribbon was tied around Galladora’s tiny wrist as part of the recruit ceremony, and from that moment on, she became part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) community.
At 12, she joined the Youth Temperance Council, the WCTU program for teenagers. She lived in Montgomery County, MD, a small dry town where no alcohol was served. A bookmobile served as a library, and the closest grocery store from her house was 8 miles away in Takoma Park, MD.
Most teenagers in the local Free Methodist Church joined the WCTU too, she said. They played ping pong and went to big Halloween parties held in a barn. They learned the negative effects of narcotics and about influential women in U.S. history like suffragist Frances Willard.
“We not only learned the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, but we were also taught leadership skills and how to voice our concerns on legislative matters,” she said.
Now in her 60s, Galladora has served as the Maryland State President of the WCTU for 20 years and has kept her promise to completely abstain from drugs and alcohol her entire life. She also holds dear the WCTU value of being pro-family, and she’s worked on several initiatives to help foster that goal, like packing and sending school kits to underprivileged students and understanding how our government is trying to help people already suffering from substance abuse.
“The work I do with my WCTU sisters to prevent alcohol and other drug use is very rewarding,” she said. “It’s better to educate people to prevent family problems than to need law enforcement to intervene.”
Her experience working as a law enforcement officer for 10 years gave her that perspective.
“It was a time when women were not welcome as officers,” said Galladora, who got her degree in criminal justice and management at the University of Maryland.
Women got paid six pay grades lower than the men in her department back in the early 1970s, she said. But she still remembers people telling her to stop taking a job away from a man.
New male hires got guns, she said. But when she started her job, the supervisors told her that her gun would be locked up at the police station if she ever needed it.
“We all got sworn in, took the same oath and signed the same book,” she said. “How come they know how to shoot just because they’re guys?”
During her decade on the force, she said she worked to make changes that gave women more opportunities. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, she was given an award for furthering the status of women in Montgomery County, MD.
“I do have a disclaimer, though,” she said. “I still don’t like the idea of women being on regular patrol. They should be paid equal and have the same job description, but I find it unsettling if you’re a one-woman unit handling certain things. I think that when it comes to physical altercations, that’s where the men would do a much better job.”
She said in an effort to fight for women’s equality, she thinks some things may have gone too far in the other direction.
At one point her husband had a difficult time getting a job as a police officer, she said, and they thought it might be because of affirmative action policy.
“We’ve seen both sides of it in our family,” she said. “I think it should the most qualified person who gets the job.”
She’s also subconsciously impressed on her kids to always be self-sufficient. She didn’t realize this was a lesson she taught until her daughter mentioned Galladora always stressed that her daughters should be able to take care of themselves.
And it’s this commitment to preparing and protecting her family — her husband, five children and five grandchildren — that has been the driving force throughout her entire journey.