As a young girl growing up in Spring Lake, Joyce Verplank Hatton didn’t enjoy writing. In fact, she joked with her father telling him, “I preferred to make history rather than write about it.”
But after decades of making history—as an entrepreneur and in politics—Hatton put pen to paper and in December her memoir, “Breaking Glass–Broken Barriers: Voyage of an Entrepreneurial Spirit,” was released by Archway Publishing.
Hatton said she decided to tell her story after helping a friend, Bill Seidman, edit his book, “Full Faith and Credit,” in the 1990s. “It was a book about his experiences running the FDIC during the S&L debacle. It was a typical book of men running the show. I knew then that I needed to write about my own experiences slogging through political campaigns and starting new businesses while living in our patriarchal society.”
Having followed both the entrepreneurial path and the political campaign trail, Hatton wanted to share her experiences. Her book shares her accomplishments over the years as well as the struggles she faced as a woman in male-dominated realms. Though she started the book in the early 2000s she acknowledged its publication comes at a time of heightened attention to inequities women have and continue to face in society through the Time’s Up and Me Too movements.
“My challenges would be characterized, I believe, by the Time’s Up movement, which emphasizes workplace issues like fairness, safety, and equity,” she said. As an example, she explained, “My example of a fairness issue happened first in the 1970s. Old Kent Bank, Grand Rapids most respected bank, demanded guarantees from me for my husband’s company loans. As President of my own company, I refused to sign his guarantees. I had seen wives lose all their inheritance when their husband’s companies became insolvent. After I gave the bank those examples, they agreed to his loan without my guarantees.”
“At a time when women were beginning to challenge unwritten rules for their gender in business, politics and personal life, she was in the forefront,” said Arend D. Lubbers, president emeritus at Grand Valley State University. “She was living the challenge. Her story is one of success and failures, of persistent commitment to her goals no matter what was happening to her.”
Looking back, Hatton noted it was easier to break into politics than business.
For example, she noted that she could attend former President Gerald Ford’s political meetings in 1952 before she’d turned 21 years old. She became active in the League of Women Voters and in the Republican State Central Committee in 1957. And she became a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Committee in 1960, which “was organized by aunt Dorothy Judd of Grand Rapids.”
“It was much more difficult to break into business, because politics was a volunteer operation. If I put in the time, I advanced in politics. If I wanted to develop a new business, I needed seed money, which was much harder for women to raise than men, usually because they had little experience building a prospectus.
“My first business struggled for two years, but it was a business I knew well. And I had a great mentor who showed me opportunities to build the business over the next decade.”
Hatton said what she hopes her book does is chart a course for others and help young girls gain more valuable experiences early on.
“I believe if more girls had the same opportunities to compete in sports as the boys had when I was growing up, they would be much more able to stomach losing…and try again. And if they had the same male-dominated STEM opportunities then—and instead of home economics had Economics 101—they would have been better prepared to reach economic independence.”
Hatton wants to encourage women to “value their education, their time, and their talents.”
“And starting in elementary school, be willing to compete, to take risks, to learn new skills, to seek good mentors and to have the courage to face adversity,” she said. “To quote [former] Michigan Governor George Romney, ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.’”