Even though graduating from high school, getting married and having a family was considered the norm for young women in the 1950s, many had other career aspirations. However, this path wasn't always an easy one.
Good luck if you needed a business loan. Only a man could sign the paperwork required to borrow funds from the bank, recalls Linda Alvarado, CEO and president of Alvarado Construction in Denver and co-owner of the Colorado Rockies. Against many odds - and much soul-searching - women like Alvarado became successful in male-dominated fields, leading the way for a new generation of CEOs, engineers, scientists and athletes.
"You don't have to be a man to succeed in a male-dominated field, you have to be a woman who steps up, takes some risks and pursues her dreams. The difference is that while some people take action, other people continue to dream," said Alvarado.
But now, those "dreamers" may find inspiration in the stories of dozens of prominent women featured in the documentary "Makers: Women Who Make America," which premieres tonight at 7 p.m. on Rocky Mountain PBS. The three-hour film narrated by Meryl Streep chronicles how women have transformed virtually every aspect of American life over the last 50 years.
The "makers" were the daring women who ventured out of the house to lead the women's liberation movement. They broke barriers and became emblems in the fight for equality. The film recounts the challenges faced by women then and now, from shattering the glass ceiling to the realization that "having it all" is not all that easy.
Many of those trailblazers were Latinas like Alvarado, whose courage paved the way for other talented women in their fields. There is the story of Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist whose outstanding career inspired her to fight the perception that "women could not be scientists," and the story of pioneer Latina writer Sandra Cisneros, author of the book "House on Mango Street," which has been translated in 20 languages and sold 6 million copies.
Filmmaker and founder of "Makers" Dyllan McGee said that the mission of the documentary and its accompanying website, www.makers.com, which features short, individual narratives, is to change the way women's history is taught.
"There has been a need to preserve these stories on a large scale. Women need to be inserted in history and that is the hope of this project, that we can find that voice for women so that history books and history websites can now make sure that women from all walks of life, their stories are told," she said.
McGee said that other women around the world will have a chance to add to the video archive on the website by telling their own stories.
Alvarado hopes that the film will inspire the next generation to continue the work on behalf of gender equality and women's rights, at home and abroad.
"We are not completely there but certainly we have made progress," she said. "We need to join together to assist women in other countries where they have no choices and cannot go to school. We made a difference in this country, let us do that again."
For more information about the film and to view Alvarado's interview, visit makers.com.