I sat down to tea with a woman who’d retired recently. She was the daughter of a dear friend, now deceased, and so we walked down memory lane together, recollecting her mother’s life as a homemaker. As the 93rd anniversary of the Women’s Rights Amendment (August 18, 1920) had just passed, I asked the daughter if her mother had ever expressed regrets that she’d never taken up a profession. The woman admitted that her mother had but went on to argue that where children are concerned, a woman should remain in the home.
Surprised by her firmly held opinion, I offered no objection. The afternoon was warm. The sky was cloud free. Why disturb the universe?
As I drove home, however, I thought of what the daughter had said. Even if I shared her opinion, the truth is, many women don’t have the luxury of being purely homemakers any more. Families and children would be better off if society accepted that fact. World War II could have been a model for us. Women were encouraged to work outside the home, then. They were needed in machines shops and on assembly lines to replace the men who had gone into battle. The government supported this migration and called for child care centers so mothers needn’t worry about their youngsters. The country understood that it takes a village to win a war.
That public good will toward women and families is needed today more than ever. Yet there are always those among us, like my friend’s daughter, who embrace old prejudices as if they were chiseled on holy tablets. Phyllis Schlafly was one. She made a career of opposing the women’s Equal Rights Amendment. But as she crisscrossed the nation, making her fiery speeches that a woman’s place was in the home, where were her children? I would ask the same of Sara Palin, an ultra conservative Vice Presidential candidate in 2008 or of Margaret Mead who frowned on women in professions though she was a leader in the field of anthropology.
In The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan nailed these females dead to rights:
Perhaps women who have made it as “exceptional” women don’t really identify with other women. For them, there are three classes of people: men, other women and themselves; their very status as exceptional women depends on keeping other women quiet, and not rocking the boat. (The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, W. W. Norton & Company, 197, pg. 517).
(Courtesy of arthuride.wordpress.com)