January 5, 1917
“The house and home require a head as well as any other business. No study is of greater importance to a girl; after marriage she often wishes she knew more of cooking and less of Latin. Money and love combined does not form a safeguard where there is domestic incapacity. A woman who is capable of filling her home in every sense of the word is worthy of more true applause than if she possessed many accomplishments.”
My mother would have called the item above, extracted from the Caddo Herald, a “left-handed compliment”. In her day being left handed was “not quite right” and there is certainly something about that last statement that is not quite right either.
My mother never seemed to question her role as wife, mother, homemaker, farm worker, writer. Becoming a wife was just a natural progression of womanhood and being a mother was a privilege and a duty, not a choice. Women had babies, the Bible said so, and my mother openly pitied those few women who did not. Creating and maintaining a home was also her duty and she took it very seriously. She had definite ideas about the delineation between women’s work and men’s, even though those lines blurred when it came to farm work. Farming, and working outside the home, were extras that were accepted if there was a family need, but certainly could not take precedence over the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. My mother had a grudging acceptance of “career women”, but I always had the feeling she was skeptical of their ability to “bring home the bacon AND fry it in the pan”. Of course Mother was also a wise woman who changed with the times and encouraged me, and her granddaughters to take a different path. She experienced the personal fulfillment of her writing, even though she could never bring herself to consider it a career, and she wanted her girls to find something equally rewarding. I think she knew that we would somehow manage to also be good wives and mothers because we had excellent role models.
I wonder about the young women who are becoming wives and mothers today. I fear for those who take on the roles tomorrow. With all of the emphasis on “college and career” we have somehow gone full circle and made the roles of “wife and mother” inferior to other choices. We only have to look as far as our education system to see that practical classes in home management are often scaled back or eliminated from the curriculum in order to advance more college prep classes. Young girls are not prepared for the challenges of managing a home and family unless they have good role models within their own families, and many do not. So many girls today are getting their ideas about family from watching television families, and we know that can’t be good.
We are neglecting the complete education of these young women if we expect them to take on their true roles in society without any training in home management. We can’t put more and more pressure on young women to have important careers without also teaching them how to be in a relationship with a man who has his own career. We can’t give them the skills to work outside the home without remembering that they will also feel responsible for maintaining the home they return to each night. How many women just sit down at the end of the day and wait for their dinner to appear on the table? How many women think their clothes will be magically washed and returned to the closet? How many women have or want a nanny to help their children with homework and tuck them into bed? Many men still expect and live that charmed lifestyle and until we completely change their attitudes and ways we need to at least prepare our young women for the realities of daily life. A woman will never be “just a housewife” or “just a career woman”. We will always blend the two roles and take on the responsibilities of the world. We seem to have an inherent need to do so.