Friday, May 11, 2012

My Mother Was A "Pretty Girl" and A Feminist

This is a post that I wrote a few years ago, but it has come back to my mind this year as Mother's Day approaches. My mother died too young 47 years ago, but I still appreciate the things I learned from her.

8 Pretty Girls
But You Can't Marry

That was the headline for the article which included this picture which was published in the Daily Oklahoman on Sunday April 3, 1938. My mother is the "pretty girl" on the left in the picture.

She was 24 years old and had made the decision to be a self-supporting, unmarried, working woman. In 1938, that was an unusual  and remarkable lifestyle. She and seven other working women lived together  in a large home in an upscale neighborhood. The newspaper article about these independent women was written in a tone that would raise both eyebrows and hackles in today's world. Here are some excerpts:

At 1608 Classen Boulevard is a large Spanish type house. It has the same distinguishing elegance of line that is characteristic of the houses in the block-those of a bone specialist, a city minister, a corporation lawyer, an architecht and some of the city's business and professional leaders.

But this house is a fairy tale palace without a prince charming and royal treasury. Without even a butcher, baker or candelabra maker to provide a monthly paycheck.
But there are eight young girls and fair, who live their lives in peace and harmony. Last winter these eight girls decided that eight hours work for each or the 64 they worked collectively each day was no excuse for a lack of home life. So they banded together and rented the house.

When and if slight differences arise, they are ironed out within the cloistered walls lest someone outside the organization should shake a knowing head. The tradition that two women can not live in the same house is being broken four times over.

About house rules. There aren't many. There's a standing rule against inviting large groups of people in to make noise. It would disturb the neighbors and the clever girls know that there are those who would welcome a chance to critisize a group of batchelor girls living alone.

Not a description that today's feminists would likely appreciate.

My mother did eventually get married and have a family, but at a far later time in her life than was common at the time this article was written.  She continued to be an independent thinker throughout her life and had very feminist views before "feminism" was culturally popular. .


  1. What a beautiful strong trailblazer you sweet Mama was. She pushed forward before her time for the rest of us.

    A most lovely tribute to you precious Mama.

    God bless ya sweetie and enjoy YOUR Mother's Day!!! :o)

  2. She was beautiful, Jeanie; what a great picture that was and very interesting article. It caused enough of a stir that a newspaper would be interested in writing a story outlining their living arrangements. I think it was great that these women decided to bond together like this in that house and break the molds so to speak of what "should have been". Instead they forged ahead with what they felt most comfortable doing.

    Just curious, did she live there until she got married? I was wondering if eventually all the women got married and did others come to take their place or did eventually the house be used for other purposes.

    Very fascinating.

    And you are right, she did die so young :(

    Wonderful tribute to her!

    May you have a Happy Mother's Day!


  3. I guess we were both digging in our old blogging "files"...I have a re-post scheduled for Sunday too. :)
    Loved reading this about your mom. She sounds like a woman after my own heart. I would have loved to gotten to know her.

  4. Your mother really was a trailblazer, and very beautiful. I love independent women. You are right, the tone of this article is so condescending. Thank goodness times have changed.

    Happy Mother's Day to you.

  5. Despite the condescending tone of the story, I'll bet it inspired a few others to be a little more independent in their own lives. Good for your mother! Now you've got me thinking about my own mom, maybe just in time for a Mothers Day post.

  6. I love this...thanks for sharing (o:
    I think we will have to get together to talk about your book plans when you retire...or before. I think it sounds great (o:

  7. Ididn't find the article offensive at all, guess I'm not a feminist.
    Your mother was very pretty and a woman not to let her mind work in a box a very good quality!

  8. Women have come along way haven't they...because of women like your Mom...what a pretty lady...

  9. And what a great tale this is to pass on to the female descendants like your granddaughters! But what I was really thinking about as I read this was that they actually published the address, and what a disaster that could have been if there was a Ted Bundy reading it!

  10. It's not easy living with 7 other strong-minded women, so kudos to your mother. You are right to be proud of her. Happy Mother's Day and aloha from Hawaii, Jeanie!

  11. This is wonderful. I'm so glad you re-posted. My mother described herself (at 22, when she met my dad, as "I was cute and I knew it.") Dad said she was the cutest thing in shoe leather. But she was pretty man-dependent. It's nice to have a heritage of a little more independence.

  12. Hi there, Like you I lost my mom at a young age(though not as young as yours); I love reading her history here. What courage it must have taken to stand against the tide.
    Maybe this summer you can join our mutual friend in Longmont for lunch and a girls afternoon.
    Hugs and Happy Mother's Day.

  13. She WAS a pretty girl! And more than pretty -- pretty amazing, too. So glad you shared this, Jeanie. She sounds like a remarkable person -- how lucky you were to have her in your life, even if it was for all too brief a time.

  14. Clearly your Mum was a wonderful woman!
    And yes, pretty as.

  15. Beautiful and strong.

    It seems to be me you take after your lovely Momma.

  16. She truly was a pioneer and you should be very proud. I'm sure you are! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Your mother was lovely in every way! I was lucky to have an independant mom, as well. Thanks for sharing such a courageous woman!