It’s difficult for anyone younger than a Baby Boomer to understand how ingrained young women were with their role in society before the age of “women’s lib.” Oh sure, you could go to college, get a job, have a career–but shame on you if you didn’t marry, have children, and stay at home to raise them. I’m not certain if, by the 1960’s, this notion still thrived in cities, but in a rural community like the one I grew up in, it was pretty much an expectation.
Thank goodness times have changed: My daughters can choose to work–or not. Have children–or not. Have a career, and a marriage, and a family if that’s what they choose.
And that’s the crux of it: choice. In the sixties and seventies there were choices, but nothing like today. And in rural America in the twenties and thirties, when Hope–the title character of my novel–was growing up, the choices were none. Zip. Zilch.
It has been frustrating that some of my younger beta readers don’t get this. “Why does she allow her husband’s abuse?” They ask. “I can’t get behind this woman who won’t take control of her life,” they say.
I’m so glad these things rarely happen anymore (although abuse is still a big problem). I’m so glad most young women would never allow it.
But honey, at one time a woman had no say. At one time women believed marriage was a duty, their husband was their owner, and it was forever. The community, the church, reinforced it: abuse happened when a wife didn’t behave.
And God forbid a woman leave that abuser. I clearly remember a young woman–a friend of my mother–who was divorced from an abusive husband. I clearly remember understanding that “divorcee” was a dirty word; that any woman who left her husband was somehow tainted–and often avoided as if that taint might rub off.
It wasn’t just about leaving a husband back then. A woman who left her husband left everything. Her home, her belongings, her source of income–sometimes even her children. She lost status, suddenly toppling to the bottom of the pecking order, becoming the leper–the pariah. And Hope believed–Hope knew–that leaving was no choice at all.
So to the young adults of today. Congratulations on your choices, your achievements, your lifestyles. But please, never, NEVER forget what your mothers and grandmothers sacrificed to get you there.