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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Back in the Day

The phrase "back in the day" evokes thoughts of simple living, safe neighborhoods, community spirit, full employment and a "chicken in every pot".  

Yes, I walked a long way to school because there were no school buses.  Yes, I was taught in classes or 45 to 50 students because there was not bedlam and mayhem from the kids. However, I was not taught to think only to memorize.  In one of my first classes in college I was asked to give an opinion about something and I didn't know how to do it.  I only knew how to repeat back what I had memorized.   Yes, a loaf of bread was 25 cents but my father barely earned $100 per week.

There was no air conditioning, there were only party line telephones, there were gangsters who corrupted the bigger cities and ruined any thoughts of trust in politics and there was tremendous racial bigotry.

Women had only a few life options when they graduated from high school:  housewives, teachers, nurses, secretaries, retail clerks, waitresses.  Absolutely nothing wrong with those occupations but when a woman is told to forget about being a doctor, scientist or professional athlete - the glass ceiling was closer to the floor.

My SAT's were really high but my high school counselor did not tell me that I could easily have gained admission to Harvard with those scores, my academic record and extracurricular activities.  Who knew and why bother to apply when the top schools were barely admitting any women?

Before me were women who broke down barriers for school sports.  Those barriers placed in front of them because they were told that participating in sports could place their childbearing capabilities in danger; could make women unattractive if they developed muscles; and, be deemed immodest while playing in gym clothes.  Title IX finally legislated equality in sports but it was still a long time coming for women's athletic programs to be given equal berth as the men's.

Back in the day the Help Wanted ads were separated into jobs for women and jobs for men.  So many women were told "That's a man's job." although the job was writing for a newspaper.  Women were strongly discouraged from scientific studies and careers.  Women weren't "as good as men" in science and math.  Right!  Thankfully, The Civil Rights Act made it unlawful to discriminate against women in employment but it took many more years to narrow the gap between male and female wages. 

So, "back in the day" was not so simplistic and rosy as we like to believe.  It was a time of enormous upheaval for women and minorities.  Looking back I fondly remember cookies and milk with Mum but not so fondly that I was not allowed to wear pants to class or work until about 1969 or 1970. 

Let's be realistic about what life was like back then and hope that circumstances never reverse how far we have advanced.

As always, folks, keep it simple.

P.S.  I deliberately have not written about women's personal rights because it could be perceived as political - especially at this time.  If you remember my first post, I stated that neither politics nor religion would ever be topics on this blog.  I am keeping it that way.   Jeanne

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