A HEALTHY WOMAN IS A CRAZY PERSON: PART II   14 comments

My previous blog mentioned the stage of my progress toward the Ph.D. in Psychology. The fact is, my children were ages 4 and 6 before I finally completed the dissertation, passed the orals, and received the degree. Today the research I finally ended up doing could be completed, statistically analyzed and all, in a couple of weeks.

So why the delay? Boston University is, obviously, in Boston, Massachusetts and I was living in Hamden, Connecticut. Long distance calls cost money in “those days”, based on the minutes spent. There were no cell phones or personal computers. Snail mail was the only method of communication as I tried to design research that wouldn’t cost me money or time away from home. At one point I mailed in a big brown envelope containing a proposal so crazy it made me look diagnosable. I guess it had a shock factor, because Dr. Phil Nogee.came to my rescue.

He and his wife even welcomed me into their home for a weekend (while my husband could be with the children). Together we came up with a proposal that involved throwing darts at the complicated side of a dartboard and estimating one’s score.

Yes, it really did provide useful information. And it could be done in the basement of our home.

While subjects headed down the cellar stairs with me, Lou served Italian pastry to those waiting on the porch. Well, actually one potential subject got spooked and left.

Anyway, my children were the only kids in the neighborhood who played thesis – papers spread out all over the floor as I punched away at a Friden calculator, borrowed on a daily basis from my husband’s work site.

Human error was a factor, so usually I had to run through the whole process several times before I got it to come out twice with the same result.

I guess this is not so much a gender story as a historical one. But when all was finally accomplished and I traveled to Boston for the orals, I learned that the faculty had assumed I would not complete the process once I had chosen the career of wife and mother.

Another quick historical story: the word “secretary” which I mentioned in my previous blog. Today “secretaries” are not easily found. The current title is closer to the professional truth of the occupation – i.e. “Admins/administrators.”

I googled “secretary” to validate my observations. Yes, it was originally a title for a male occupation – until sometime after WWI when it opened up to women.

My father, when he came to the US from Sweden in 1910, included in his armament of skills the ability to take shorthand. By the time I arrived in the world it had become a skill attributed primarily to women.

Sorry to keep you waiting while I traveled a little off to the side. Now I’ll move on to tales out of (or in?) school, primarily from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s.

Southern Connecticut State University was at the time still Southern Connecticut State College, with its roots in teacher training. The Education Department was of primary focus. In spite of requests from some of us faculty parents, however, there was no training school involved.

When my daughter (my youngest) was four years old, I paid, therefore, to enroll her in a nearby nursery school. On one occasion we mothers were invited to a guest lecture by a psychoanalytically oriented Yale professor who explained to us that mother’s who engaged in careers outside the home were damaging their children by failing to provide constant maternal guidance. (guilt?)

By the way, I believed then (shamefacedly) and I do now, that the socialization offered by being with other children in such a setting is extremely valuable – assuming, of course, that the situation is of high quality.

At any rate, no one stopped me from bringing my children to school and paying a student to babysit with them in my office while I was in class. One of the really great things about teaching in a college.

I had a neighbor who taught at Quinnipiac. She was not allowed to bring her child to school.

Now, more stories in no particular order, mostly left for you to draw your own conclusions.

Remember Title IX, with its initiation in 1964? It took a while for it to be seriously applied to women’s sports.

I remember one of the athletic directors at Southern commenting, rather sneeringly as I recall, that no one would ever want to watch a women’s athletic team. I invite you to look at the success of the UConn Huskies. (or choose your own team.)

Back in the “old” days

Women made 58% of the wages of men for the same jobs. Today by one calculation it has reached 82.1%. Other calculations are lower. At the time, childcare workers were earning at the same rate as parking lot attendants. I haven’t checked to see if that is still true.

Women anchors were, in my memory, absent on TV and radio news stories with, perhaps, some notable exceptions.

The same goes for women reporters, especially in war zones.

The claim was that women’s voices were not strong enough to elicit respect.

There were no (or extremely few, if any) women firefighters, mail carriers,lawyers, police.

And what do you call women police? I’m not sure that one has been fully worked out, but they certainly are now part of the police force – and not just as meter maids. If TV series are to be believed, they are often high ranking officers. So, what does one call them?

The same problem existed for women at SCSU who were department chairs. The resolution was, in general, to refer just to “chairpersons.” That way the stigma attached to being a female was removed. But consider one “chair” meeting I attended where we were addressed as “twenty chairmen and one chairperson.”

But people tried. At one meeting of a smaller gathering of Liberal Arts “chairs,” I interrupted the discussion after some period of time saying, “Gentlemen. I feel if I were to look in a mirror, I would see no one looking back.” I responded to the quizzical looks by referring to research observations that women were rarely heard in meetings where both sexes were present. Even when the discussion paused to politely give her a chance to speak, the conversation picked up right where it had left off, as if she had said nothing.

It’s true. I remember being on a one-semester sabbatical in 1980, listening to a discussion on TV while I was doing my noontime floor exercises. Suddenly I heard a woman’s voice start to say something. (Oh, there’s a woman in the group, I noted.) A man’s voice entered to say, “I’m sorry. I’m afraid we’ve been ignoring you.” And then I heard nothing more from the woman.

“Oh no, Mona, that’s not true” said one of my women colleagues. Then came the day when she stormed into my office. “You’re right. I was at the M.A. thesis hearing and made a suggestion, several times, actually, and it was just overlooked. Until Mark came in, that is, and made the same suggestion which was immediately accepted as a necessary change.”

By the way, she with her dark hair and olive skin and I – blonde all over at the time – apparently were an interesting pair. I remember having dinner together when we were at a weekend workshop. The two guys who approached us allowed as how two such pretty women shouldn’t be wasting time on such professional stuff.

But wait, readers of this blog. This is really a story of effort and consideration. After I had said the “mirror” thing to my male colleagues, they took great effort to stop after every round to ask my opinion. It was awkward at first, but after a while I had been neatly folded into the discussions.

The thing is, we were all swimming in the waters of habit – both men and women – and there were both men and women who desired to equalize things – to introduce fairness. We all needed a call to see things differently.

Sometimes that equalizing thing led to unforeseen results. Take the Southern New England Telephone Company, for example. Some women had been campaigning for opportunities to be placed in the higher income jobs – like pole climbing (or whatever you call it) for example. So all jobs were opened up to both sexes. That’s when we started experiencing the startlement of hearing men’s voices saying “operator” when one dialed zero. (I don’t know the data on women pole climbers.)

Yes, dialing zero did used to get one to a real person who said “Operator.”

The same sort of thing happened with retirement ages for us state employees. originally it had been that women were eligible to retire at 50, men at 55. That was equalized by setting 55 as the retirement age for all employees. It’s only fair.

Oh yes, stories out of school. In 1964 I was the president of the Lutheran Church Women at Christ Lutheran Church in Hamden. A reporter for the Women’s pages of “The New Haven Register” wanted to interview me as a person in that leadership role. The deal was to photograph me with some “favorite” recipe I had prepared. I couldn’t think of a “favorite” recipe, so I made what my mother-in-law suggested – stuffed breast of veal. Anyway, here’s the deal. I had just received my Ph.D. and told the interviewer so. It was of no interest to her and didn’t show in the story. And I thought it was a big deal! Oh well.

One result of that article was a phone call from a male student saying something like “That’s you, alright, a stuffed breast.” Whereupon I replied, “be careful. I recognize your voice” and he hung up. All that happened before I had become involved in teaching the psychology of women or doing the “Healthy Woman” talks. Just a hazard of being a college teacher – fair game for insults. But also for compliments.

Here’s another “in school” story that I love. Just a bit of background. What people didn’t quite “get” – in fact maybe some people still don’t “get’ – was the benefit of that women’s movement to men and to families. I love it now when I see dads in the grocery stores with their kids. But, I’m straying. There was a man who was actively involved in several committees on which I also served. He took to bringing his baby with him to meetings, carried in her little baby carrier. When it was his turn to present, some man or woman would hold the baby. I still feel warm all over when I remember that sight. I mean, that was really unusual at the time. Not like today when some men choose to be stay-at-home dads.

But I’m not done. One more thing about that faculty member. I saw him one day walking down the hall with his baby in the carrier. “Oh,” said someone, “I see you’re babysitting today.” His reply, “No, I’m taking care of my baby.”

Then there was the woman in another department who told of her little daughter saying to her girlfriend, “Lets play Mommy.” Next thing they both were carrying their “briefcases” off to work.

One more thing. We used to long for things like job share, or, as computers became more common, working from home. Economics and technology make a difference. Now that dream is a reality for many women and men.

Oh my! I’ve never written such a long blog. I hope I haven’t driven you away from my site forever.

On the other hand, it would be so great to hear comments from you, either things you remember from “those days,” or stuff that surprises.

Given past experience, I won’t be surprised to hear from some who have found this annoying.

 

 

 

 

 

14 responses to “A HEALTHY WOMAN IS A CRAZY PERSON: PART II

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  1. In the 60’s women expected to work till about their 5th month of pregnancy.

  2. I am in awe of what I have read. Very fascinating and interesting. I am speaking to a woman of great intellect, a wonderful mother, and a story problem solver. great post Mona

  3. This is hilarious writing. In a good way! But you are cramming into one post what obviously is a delightful book that I want to buy when you publish it. I hope you will – cause i admit this made my head spin 🙂 And I DID want to read it all and enjoy it all – but to me, th style got in the way – can you forgive me, please?
    AND write that book?
    There is so much to learn there for today’s children and youth!
    much love
    Leelah

    • Hilarious. Hmm. I think I’m glad. After I make my way through all my other projects, or maybe while I’m making my way through all my projects, I will be working on my “Riding in the Back Seat” which has some of this stuff in it. Thanks for noticing.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. Particularly when you mentioned the guilt of working while your children were cared for. I have many friends who have chosen the child care field and feel that they do not get paid enough and that we as parents pay a lot for child care. I have a 10 month old and am finding that returning to work although great for my childs development is very expensive and hard for me to do.

    An interesting fact, I live in Ontario and we do not qualify for subsidy nor do many people in the world, but in the province of Quebec it is my understanding that childcare is free and the workers in these daycares are paid well… something needs to change in order to make it easier on parents who want to work.

    Also its very applaudable the dedication you have in your field, from the very beginning.

    • Thanks for this. And why can’t we “get” that children are more important than almost anything else for the welfare of our world. Governments should be tumbling over themselves to be sure they all get the best care and education from the beginning. And think of what the world would gain if we took full advantage of everyone’s — including women’s — abilities. But the nice intentions are lost, I fear, under the load of power hunger and greed.

      On the more cheerful side, as I hoped to emphasize in my blog, we do make progress, if ever so slowly. (And I wonder what happened in Ontario to produce that wise choice.)

  5. I can remember the time before Title IX when there were few women’s sports at high schools or colleges. I can also remember how the newspaper classified ads listed “male jobs” and “female jobs” when I was young.

    • My goodness yes! I forgot about those gender discriminatory ads. And really, in the stretch of time, it was really only yesterday.

      By the way, before she became pregnant with her first child — my big brother — my mother worked at Bristol City Hall doing Title searches. Her retirement party was even mentioned fifty years later in the Bristol Press. I believe that would have been a man’s job — certainly later a lawyer’s. I’m quite certain she would have taken it for granted that “of course” she had to give up her job. I’m also certain that her later depression was related to the frustration of not being able to use all her talents, though she never identified that as the cause. That’s just “how things were.”

      • It sounds like your mother had an awesome job when she was a young woman. I know of several similar stories in my family of women who gave up good careers when they married. You’re right that it was just “how things were”–but somehow it seems sad that so much talent was lost.

      • Thanks for the comment, Sheryl. Yes, so much was lost with having to give up her career — “her” referring to women in general. In the case of my mother and also my sister-in-law, what’s really sad is the depression that results from restraining one’s talents. What strikes me as even sadder is that I didn’t understand it sufficiently to appreciate what my mother had given up and suffered until I began teaching the psychology of women. She was so unappreciated.

  6. I thought the blog was great!  When ever I think of the inequality, I remeber my dad telling me I didn’t need to go to college because I was just going to get married and have children. Bah Humbug

    tappersal@comcast.net

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