Of all the silent minorities, few are more put upon—according to Lynn Sherkow, a 31-year-old Milwaukee divorcée—than southpaws. By her calculation, at least a third of the population—herself included—are left-handed (or would be if their natural tendencies had not been thwarted by parents and teachers). Being forced to adapt to right-handed ways causes frustration and problems in later life, she believes.
Sherkow decided to come to the aid of her fellow victims after three events in 1975 dramatized the public and private discrimination against them. She was about to buy some expensive china when she realized she could not see the pattern on a cup when holding it in her left hand. Then a friend, she says, was required to pay cash—and wait three months—to get a left-handed fielder’s mitt for her son. Finally, Lynn discovered that her grandparents were determined to correct her own daughter’s natural left-handedness. “They wanted to tie her left hand,” Lynn says, “so she would use her right.”
In December 1975 a fed-up Sherkow opened a specialty shop, Left Hand Ltd., in Glendale, a Milwaukee suburb. She now stocks more than 150 items, ranging from a special corkscrew (it works counterclockwise) to left-handed scissors, of all her utensils perhaps the most useful to southpaws.
Since U.S. corporations manufacture for the right-handed majority, Sherkow has turned to Europe, Japan and Hong Kong, where goods are handmade and small orders are accepted. On her shelves are such left-handed products as billfolds (lefties can lose bills when opening right-handed wallets); an address book that opens to the right and runs back to front; ladles with spouts on the other side; a pen with quick-drying ink that won’t smudge as the left hand moves across the page; an iron with a cord that does not get in the way; instruction books for left-handed knitters and golfers and, for laughs, a left-handed boomerang.
Sherkow, a onetime high school speech and drama teacher, sees her business escalating into a cause. “Do you know why Jerry Ford tripped so often?” she asks. “Because he’s a lefthander trying to be right-handed. When you force yourself to do what is not natural, you become awkward and clumsy. A lot of stutterers are frustrated lefties too.” To promote justice in the left-handed world, she has taken her message to the public on TV and radio in 15 cities so far. “My goal,” she states, “is to require American manufacturers to make at least one-third of their products for us.”