One of Washington State’s first female pharmacists, Shirley was born in Seattle’s Swedish Hospital in 1922. She practiced pharmacology until she retired at age 66, and with her husband, Herb, raised two children. A pioneer on many fronts, Shirley was one of the first Jewish women to become a member of the Women’s University Club. A passionate and indefatigable supporter of women’s and health issues, Shirley survived five primary cancers and was a no-nonsense pragmatist venerated for getting things done. The Shirley Bridge Power of One Award is given by The Women’s Endowment Foundation to an outstanding Jewish woman for her contribution to the community. Shirley Bridge passed away in May, 2008. [See also: We Remember for reminiscences and audio clips of Shirley Bridge.]
“My mother was proud of working, yes, and she told me she was the one who pushed us into pharmacy. She always said to me that you should be able to support yourself and your kids, and she thought everybody looked great in those white uniforms. She thought it would give us a little bit of credibility.
“Mother and Father both valued education very strongly and thought that women should have as much education as the men. I started the University of Washington in 1940, one of eight girls in a class of 80. Nobody had any money. In fact my aunt loaned me $200. I dropped out for a year to work two jobs and then I came back when my sister came in, too. And I paid my aunt back.
“You know, I was in pharmacy for so many years and, it gets to you finally when you hear somebody come in and say, ‘I want to see the pharmacist,’ and you say, ‘I’m the pharmacist,’ and they say, ‘I want to talk with a man.’ You have to be tough.”
“I met my husband Herb at a picnic, around 1947. He was a good dancer. And then we went on from there. He came down to where I worked to meet me and see what I did because he was very interested even then in having women have a career. He knew what he was getting.
“I told Herb that my working was one of the terms of the marriage. At our wedding ceremony, they always used to say, ‘honor and obey,’ and I said I wouldn’t go through the service if I had to say ‘Obey.’ Instead, I said ‘Love, honor and cherish.’”
“In high school the Jewish girls sort of stuck together, but I enjoyed going out with the non-Jewish women that I knew there. One of the women’s brother was a principal at one of the high schools in town and the other woman’s mother worked in the unions, and the other one’s parents were Baptist ministers. I really was quite close to these women. I was never just wedded to the Jewish community. But I was always aware that when I go out with my non-Jewish friends they know I’m Jewish. I think if you know who you are, you can go with anybody and enjoy them. That’s the way I feel. That’s the way my mother felt too. And my father also.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.