I was in my late twenties when I read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I remember being stunned to find out there were other women who felt the same frustration I felt. I was not alone. I was already married and had one child and had left my teaching position and the only area of New York I had ever lived in and had followed my husband to a small town in upstate New York so that he could pursue his career. It seemed like a logical move. I had worked for a few years to help support our tiny family while he went to school and finished his pharmacy certification. We now had a new baby and he had a new job and I was ready, I thought, for a new adventure. I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into. Oh my! There I was in a new town and I knew no one, No One! And, I had a new baby, I was unemployed, my husband left every morning for his job and it was snowing. It snowed all the time, 110 inches on the average every year.
March 8th of every year is International Woman’s Day. March has now been officially declared International Woman’s Month. I celebrated this year’s day with over one hundred other women and at least one man. Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Judy from A Place for Women to Gather threw a party and what a wonderful event it was. There were all ages, races, sizes and shapes and we had all come together to give thanks and praise for being a woman. It was a reminder of our grace and beauty and also of the price so many brave men and women have paid for us to live the lives we are able to live today. Oh, let’s never forget the cost of the freedom we have. It wasn’t that long ago that even here in the United States women couldn’t vote, had limited availability to education, didn’t receive equal pay for equal work and weren’t valued for their contributions to society.
In my study group one of the questions we asked ourselves was, “What other time and place would you have liked to live in and would you prefer to be a man or a woman?” Think about it. What is your answer? We then had the opportunity to discuss what it was like to grow up as a woman in our families. I am the oldest in my family and my father desperately wanted a son. He didn’t get one until twelve years after I was born. I remember his joy. I was glad it took me so long to fully realize how important it was to him to sire a son. Up until then, I simply felt like the favored child and for some reason I felt I could do anything. But, societies restrictions were very heavy and I fell into the role somewhat expected of a young woman. The saving grace was St. Agnes Academic High School for women. The women there didn’t know about limits. Many of my teachers had masters degrees and doctorates and many of my fellow students were looking at careers in medicine and government. I remember looking around and wondering why I wasn’t pursing a college education and then, because of their examples, I did just that and without any help or guidance from anyone applied and was accepted to St. John’s University. And, because I didn’t know any better, I applied to the Mathematics program. There were five women in that program; five women and about fifty men.