The 12-year-old girl's voice sounded steady and calm as she read her prepared questions.
But underneath the small table, where Davenport seventh-grader Mickey Sloat was talking online via Skype with famous women's activist Gloria Steinem, her legs were shaking with nerves.
"This is just so surreal," the girl said, giggling for a second from her seat inside the Williams Intermediate School library. "It was just so awesome to actually meet, like, a legend."
For the past two or three weeks, Mickey has been reading books and articles about Steinem, writing questions to ask during their Skype interview, which she requested without knowing whether to expect a response from Steinem's publicist.
Yet, despite all the preparation, Mickey admittedly was nervous as several teachers and other visitors, including her mom, Bonnie Sloat, 50, and little sister, sat nearby to watch her interview.
"I think it's quite an opportunity," her mother said. "I think it's easy for girls her age to take for granted the work done by women in the '70s, when I was her age ... I'm sure it made my education and my work life much easier."
Mickey plans to portray Steinem in dress and monologue, written by the
12-year-old, which she will perform in January during a showcase event at school.
The best 25 student performances will move onto the National History Day regional competition in March at St. Ambrose University, said Mickey's Talented and Gifted program facilitator, Beth Miller.
This year's competition theme is "Revolution, Reaction and Reform," which is what inspired Mickey to research Steinem, a revolutionary of the 1960s and 1970s feminist movement.
"My subject last year didn't contact me," Mickey said about Shirley Temple Black, whom she portrayed during events last school year. "When I got the email (from Steinem's publicist), I was freaking out."
But Mickey kept her cool during the interview, even when technical issues caused the video picture to go black and audio to fade in and out at times. By coincidence, Mickey's father is Gary Sloat, the Davenport Community School District's director of learning information services, which includes technology.
As staff worked to improve the Skype connection, Mickey carried on, asking the 77-year-old Steinem what the world was like for girls when she was growing up.
Steinem told her that at that time, women could go into nursing or teaching or become moms. That was about it. Women were expected to grow up, get married and have children, and "it was like a blank screen after you got married," she said.
"You had no more influence over your future," Steinem said. "If you went to the movies, you saw women and girls doing something different. But in real life, that was pretty much it. I think one of the big differences now is that you do picture your future."
The school librarian, Sue Wolf, nodded in agreement as she watched the interview, whispering that when she went to college, women had three choices of study: nurse, teacher or secretary.
"Or nun," added Beth Miller, one of Mickey's teachers.
Steinem said she didn't know there was such a thing as feminism until she was older than 30, but she felt the unfairness as a journalist in the assignments and pay she received, compared to her male colleagues.
She described marching for women's rights and racial issues as giving her "really a wonderful feeling," she said. Steinem also talked about the experience of founding Ms. Magazine in the 1970s.
She faced a lot of ridicule, she said.
"Women weren't taken seriously," she said. "There was a lot of making fun of us."
Some people still don't like the term "feminist" because the media distorts the meaning, she said, adding that conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh refers them as "femi-nazis." But it actually means the support of full equality of women and men, she said.
"I think we're strongest when we work on what affects us the most and band together with other women," Steinem said. "We are all too much influenced by media filled with stereotypes."
Mickey asked Steinem if she has any regrets in her life. Steinem laughed, saying she regrets "lots of things."
"We make mistakes. We waste time," she said. "But sometimes you learn from what you did wrong more than from what you did right.
"Follow your good instincts," she coached the girl, "because your curiosity is telling you what you need to know."
Steinem has done only a few student interviews via Skype, she told Mickey during their visit. Steinem's publicist said, however, that she does her best to respond to inquiries such as this one.
"This was really, really awesome," Mickey said.
"Well, it was fun to see you," Steinem answered. "I hope it leads you to what you want to do."