Monday, March 09, 2015
In Honor Of Women’s History Month- From The Archives-The 50th Anniversary Of Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique-In The Time Of Not Her Time
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Delores Reilly had to laugh, chuckle really, with a little sourness around the edges, as she listened to her daily kids at school show on the radio The Sammy Williams Show, the two hour morning talk on the Boston station WMXY. This morning Sammy had a panel, a panel of women, mostly from the sound of it, professional women, who were discussing this latest bombshell book by a woman named Betty Freidman, a book entitled The Feminine Mystique. What Betty had written about was the vast number of women, women from her generation or a little younger, who were now fed up with their little suburban white picket fence manicured lawn ranch house- all spic and span modern appliances- have a martini ready for hubby at five, maybe a roll in the hay later after the kids went to bed, missionary-style- five days a week house-bound routine and weekends not much better, hubby tired after gouging somebody all week-over-educated under-loved, under-appreciated and under-utilized lives. After listening in some disbelief, and in some hidden sorrow, for a while Delores Reilly (nee Kelly) got a little wistful when she thought about her own life, her own not suburban Valhalla life.
Funny she had been somewhat educated herself, her father the distant old Daniel who nevertheless was practical and insisted that she get more education after high school, to learn a skill, although maybe not like those panel women, not like Betty’s complaining suburbanite women from Wellesley, Sarah Lawrence or Barnard, having gone to Fisher Secretarial School over in Boston and having worked down at the North Adamsville Shipyard before she got married, married to her love, Kenneth Reilly. But that is where the breaks kind of stopped, that marriage point. She had met Kenneth at a USO dance down at the Hingham Naval Depot toward the end of World War II when many soldiers and sailors were being processed for demobilization. Kenneth had been a Marine, had seen some tough battles in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal (although he like many men of his generation did not talk about it, about the hellish war, all that much) and had been stationed at the Depot. He sure looked devilishly handsome in his Marine dress uniform and that was that. They were married shortly after that, moved to the other side of North Adamsville in an apartment her father found for them, and then in quick succession within a little over three years they had produced three sons, three hungry sons, as it turned out.
Not an unusual start, certainly not for the generation who had withstood the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought the devils in World War II. However, Kenneth, dear sweet Kenneth, might have been a great Marine, and might too have been a great coalminer down where he came from in Prestonsburg down in coal country Harlan and Hazard, Kentucky before he joined up to fight but he had no skills, no serious money skills that could be used around Boston. So they had lived in that run- down apartment for many years even after the three boys had outgrown the place. Kenny’s work history, last hired usually, first fired always meant too that Delores had to work, not work in her skilled profession but mother’s hours (really any hours she could get, including nights) at Mister Dee’s Donut Shop filling jelly donuts and other assorted menial tasks. And that was that for a number of years.
For a while in the late 1950s Kenny had a steady job, with good pay, and with her filling donuts (the poor kids had many a snack, too many, of day-old left over donuts she would bring home), they were able to purchase a small shack of a house on the wrong side of the tracks, though at least a house of their own. Not a ranch house with a manicured lawn like Betty’s women were complaining of, but a bungalow with a postage stamp- sized lawn filled when they arrived with the flotsam and jetsam of a million years’ worth of junk left by the previous owners. Something out of a Walker Evans photograph like ones she would see in Life magazine now that Jack Kennedy was doing something for her husband’s kindred down in Appalachia. A place with no hook-up for a washing machine and dryer so she had to every week or so trudge down to the local Laundromat to do the family washing. A place with just enough room to fit a table in the kitchen if the kids ate in shifts. A place where, well why go on she thought, those were the breaks and while things had been tough, money tight, other kids making fun of her kids when they were younger and having fights over it, those three boy starting to get old enough to get in some trouble, or close to it, she had her man, she had her stalwart Kenny who never complained about his lack of breaks. Still, still Delores dreamed, wistful dreamed that she had had a few things those women were getting all hot and bothered about being stuck with…
And hence this Women’s History Month commemoration.