We’ve Come A Long Way

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My mother and her sister circa 1940s

Yet There’s More Work To Be Done

My son wants to know why my blog is all about women. Well, for starters maybe it’s because I’m a woman. I can’t say I was involved in the heyday of the feminist movement or I ever burned my bra but what I can say is that from an early age I’ve known the importance of having “opportunities” and “choices.”

This is the story of my mother who was born in 1929. Her parents were Italian immigrants. Her father journeyed to America first and then her mother followed. My grandfather was a master tailor who worked tirelessly in New York City’s garment district and saved every penny he ever made. He was fastidious and quick and since compensation was calculated by the piece he wasn’t liked very much – but that was okay with him. He had three daughters and a son. There was no discussion of college or careers for any of the girls. Though my mother graduated from high school, she went off to the garment district as well, along with her three sisters. The majority of their pay went to the household.

Not long after she graduated high school, my mother fell in love. They were a striking couple but unfortunately the marriage ended tragically. She found out shortly before they were married that her fiance was very ill. He had a heart condition. At 27 she found herself a widow with a three-year-old son and limited skills to earn a living. She ended up living in her parent’s basement apartment.

She was a single mom, a young widow with abundant talent and a shortage of opportunities or choices. Her father thought work was the only path for his daughters and did not view school as a choice for them.

My mother eventually married my father and had my sister and me. I remember my mother telling us, “It’s fine to get married, but get married after you go to college and you can support yourself.”

I’m not sure how many women in the ‘70s preached this to their daughters but my mom did and she started when we were young. She had a few happy years after marrying my  father but tragedy followed her once again and she died of breast cancer at 45. I was 11 years old.

I never forgot her message and I’m thankful for the opportunity to graduate from college and the choices I have had. I think if my mother was alive she would be surprised that there is still a wage gap and that there are so few women in corporate leadership and politics.

So, that is why I write about women.

Comments

  1. I love it. Your grandmother sounds like someone worth knowing and writing about. Funny thing happened when I saw your photo. I have one of my own grandmother that was probably taken at the same time, from the same distance, in the same style. So I did a quick double take, wondering for a moment if I’d found a long-lost relative!

  2. Fortunately, the three-year old was no ordinary kid 🙂

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