Sunday, July 31, 2022

Growing Up In The 1960's

This blog is a little personal and out of my comfort zone but sometimes events happen in life that spark memories that were deeply buried. That happened to me twice last week. The first was a book I read.  It was called "The Girl In His Shadow." It took place in London in the mid-1800's. The main character was a woman whose entire family died in a cholera epidemic. She was very ill but was healed and taken in by the local doctor. Through her life she didn't follow the girls of her age by doing homemaking and embroidery. She learned all about medicine from the doctor she lived with. I won't give the book away but it was not accepted for women to be in medicine. She was more accomplished than the men around her but she couldn't get a medical license. She had to "hide in his shadow".  

I never had to hide in anyone's shadow, but the fact that this woman was interested in a profession where very few women existed fascinated me. When I was growing up I didn't want to be a secretary, teacher or nurse although they were and are noble professions. I was just of a different mindset. I didn't even realize it or know there were other options at the time. I didn't grow up with out of the box thinkers. My parents were so loving and wonderful but they really weren't supportive of going against the grain. On the heels of thinking about this book came a call from my grandson.  He is taking a psychology class this summer.  He was required to interview a female and male over the age of 60. Since I am well over the age requirement, I was happy to do it. The main questions revolved around what it was like as a woman growing up. I grew up in an era where the role of women was much different from what they are today. Our role models were television shows where the "Leave it to Beaver" generation showed moms dressed in heels, aprons and house dresses. They sent their husbands off to work. baked, cleaned and had dinner ready at 5:00pm. We had dress codes in school.  Girls were required to wear dresses and boys dress pants with their shirts tucked in and a belt.  By the 1960's things started to change. Moms began to go to work, girls were starting to get opportunities to advance, but there were still areas that didn't accept females. I was aware of a few woman doctors, lawyers and professional women, but not personally. Half way through college, I wanted to change majors from teaching to business or accounting. I ran into many road blocks that turned into stop signs. I was once offered a job but I had to promise I would not have children. I declined so I don't know if it was a verbal agreement or if I would have been required to sign something. Women could not have their own credit or credit cards. If they were married, their income was not considered when applying for a mortgage or an auto loan. I remember in the mid 1970's I was able to apply for my own credit card so I could create my own credit history. I have many stories of working for the good old boys and getting so embarrassed by comments. There was no recourse. It happened to everyone but it totally messed with my self esteem. I so admired women who could speak up for themselves and keep on going and ignoring the roadblocks to reach their potential. My husband was very supportive of women. His mother owned her own business when that was unusual, therefore our daughters succeeded well beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I give him total credit for that.  He was a very forward thinker.

It was a time of activism. John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in the 1960's, There were riots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and curfews, the Vietnam war required that young people sign up, and Watergate happened in the early 1970's. I knew people killed in the riots and the war.  Young people don't really understand that people of my age grew up in very turbulent times. They think what is going on now is unique to them, and it is unique, but not necessarily harder. Imagine what it was like to have the telephone attached to the wall with a four foot cord. Likewise I hadn't realized what it was like for my dad to be in World War II and how at twenty years of age he flew 44 bombing missions in an airplane without seats or a bathroom.  Sometimes those missions were eleven hours long. Each era has had it's challenges.

I think my take on life surprised my grandson. His grandma isn't usually so candid and vocal. I had a good life, but I wish I would have known the opportunities women have now. I might have chosen the same life, but it would have been nice to have had more of a choice. I love that girls can be welders, auto mechanics, truck drivers, astronauts or anything they want. There are exceptions to everything like the woman in my book, but I was so naive I had no idea. I would be interested in the male perspective. Maybe my grandson will share that with me someday. Also other women growing up in a different household may have had another experience.  I should add that my mother worked for a woman optometrist in the mid 1940's. She wanted to send my mom to optometry school at the University of Minnesota but my mom declined.  She wanted to be a housewife. 

I promise my next blog will be more lighthearted. 

No comments:

Post a Comment