When I was first asked by Nancy Mills to be a contributing ‘blogger’ as a woman lawyer for Spirited Woman, I thought hard about what, exactly, I could write about that had not already been written by a woman lawyer in terms of women’s rights, the law, society, and women’s contributions. Then I thought of my mother. What better symbol, I reasoned, than to speak of my mother and what she taught me about being a woman in this society, at this time, at this age, and what contributions she made to me, her daughter.
To begin with, I have learned that without self reflection at some point in my life, I would have selfishly reaped the benefits of my mother’s generation, without knowing all that she and her generation did to help this, my generation. My mother was born in 1927, the precipice of the Great Depression. She was a young teenager when World War II broke out in 1941, which basically means that the early years of my mother’s life were all about doing without, and of sacrificing her personal needs for the good of her own family and a struggling world at war without the financial resources for a better life. In my mother’s early 20's, she was a young married woman who came to marvel at the wonders of the 1950's and early 1960's, and all the ‘opportunities’ it brought to her family, a working husband starting his own blue collar business, and six children. But what about her own opportunities?
I learned from my mother through her life’s example, that her ‘opportunities’ were always through the eyes of others. She did not have the opportunities of choosing whether she would go to college, work or raise a family, or do all of it, or just some of it. It was her father, and then her husband, who decided for her. "Get married," said her father. "Be a wife and mother, and don’t work," said my dad, her husband of 59 years. Whether my mother wanted to have a career or not, was not important. It was not relevant to the ones who did decide - whether it be her father, who refused her permission and financial support to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York where she had been accepted after secretly auditioning, or her husband, who decided that she should not work at all, despite my mother's desire to have 'her own' money. My mother’s voice and her opinions as to how she would lead her life and what her personal choices would be were silent and irrelevant. That’s what I learned of her generation from my mother.