The Boomers Didn’t Invent Modern Living

Who Did What, When?

Not that it matters, but for the record, the boomers didn’t invent modern living.

working women eating lunch
Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, C. & N.W. R.R., Clinton, Iowa (LOC). 1943. Photo Credit: Library of Congress.

Several weeks ago I heard Jane Pauley talking about how “her generation” is the one who broke out of the home and mommy mold. Not really,

She is young enough to be my daughter, if I had been unlucky or stupid enough to get pregnant at seventeen, not unheard of in my day. But let me tell you about the women in “my generation.” It is true, in the 50s we started out on the stay-at-home mother and housewife track our own mothers had followed. But even some of them chafed under that regimen. As far back as World War I, women were beginning to question the exclusivity of domestic life. Just read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street. I love that novel because fifty years before Betty Friedan, he caught the restlessness and unease of a comfortable existence that could be stultifying. Of course, in my mother’s and my own generation there were always women who had to make their own way, single mothers and those who had to work even though a man in the house was employed.

In my own group of friends, I got a lesion in the early 1980s when I moved back to Oklahoma City from the D.C. suburbs. I had lunch with a group of women with whom I had belonged to an organization called the Panel of American Women. It wasn’t a feminist organization, but a civil rights one. However, by the 80s, all of us had raised our children, many had gone back for graduate degrees, and every woman at the luncheon was employed in some way. Most were teachers, counselors or worked in various social work enterprises. I had started as a political volunteer, finally gotten a paid job in campaigns, done some consulting and was at that time in the process of taking over a family business.

Like all the “Silent Generation” nobody paid attention, but it was deeply fulfilling for us. I wish I had emphasized that more in my novel about women growing up in the 50s, Virgin Hall. The heroine, Sheila, was obviously a successful working woman, but in creating Miriam’s biography, I always envisioned her as a teacher after her children were school age. Like a lot of us, we just did it because it was what we wanted, not to make a statement.

Who Said What and Why?

The paragraphs above are just an observation—this is a rant!

What is it with the New York Times and it’s women columnists? The Times has a whole stable of young interesting men, Nocera, Bruni and Douthat, about whom I have written before. The women?

They have to be funny, or at least try. They fail in my opinion. Maureen Down, despite all her awards shows me only that she can be uniformly vicious about everyone and everything. Maybe if I hadn’t been a Comp. Lit. major with a lot of Classics thrown in I would be more impressed. And, yes, I loved William Safire although I seldom agreed with him. However I always learned something from him. The Snark Queen hasn’t had an original idea in years—if ever.

Then there is dear Gail Collins. Nice lady, but please! Let the poor roof dog just go home and lie down on its comfy bed. People, isn’t it time she was a bit more serious?