Girl Born in ’51. That’s Me!

I am a girl, born in Canton, Ohio, on May 23, 1951.

Being born in 1951 is quite common. It was at the height of the baby boom. Getting married and having babies was the thing to do in those days, so my parents did it. My other relatives too—I have a first cousin who was born the exact same day as me 25 miles away.

And of course, being born a girl was quite common too. I’d guess that about half of all babies born in those days were girls.

The fifties, at least in my experience, were a period of conformity and girls doing what girls were supposed to do. Which was to prepare for marriage.

There were certain expectations for girls, and these expectations were even stronger for me, seeing that expectations for me were set so low at birth and throughout my childhood. Yes, I was intelligent, but that meant simply there was no excuse for me not to complete homework on time and recopy it with big, straight margins in dark blue ink, thought my mother.

Modern feminism kicks off

In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, which kicked off the modern feminist movement. I read the condensed version in Ladies Home Journal and found it quite depressing. It pointed out everything that was wrong with being born female, but I had no idea how to overcome my birth defect and make something out of myself.

For me, the women’s movement existed in New York City where Gloria Steinman went undercover as a Playmate at the Playboy restaurant and wrote an expose. This proved that not only does it stink to be female, but a feminist is worthy of respect only if she is hot enough to get married if she wants.

Gloria was hot enough to be a Playmate, for crissake. (The year 1951 was when J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was published. It taught me that it’s spelled “crissake,” not “Christ’s sake,” as I had assumed.)

Feminism strikes in Ohio

The feminist movement continued to trickle down into Ohio during the rest of the sixties and early seventies, until it impacted my life directly on January 1, 1973.

Oh, I can’t be certain of the exact date. It may have been a few months earlier or a few months later, but I’ll say January 1 for convenience.

I graduated from The Ohio State University (yes, “The” is part of its official name) in March 1972 and entered Kent State University’s School of Library Science in September to earn a Master’s of Library Science. When I began the program and people asked what I was majoring in, they would say “that’s nice” and commend me for my decision. By the time I graduated in August 1973, they’d say, “Why did you major in library science? You seem like a smart girl. Why didn’t you go to law school?”

I didn’t know what to say. I could say, “Appearances are deceiving. I’m not a smart girl. I am stupid.” But I knew that wasn’t accurate because I was a smart girl in terms of passing college courses and I could have done the coursework.

Or I could have said, “I don’t think I could make it through law school because you have to stand up to challenges from professors—see The Paper Chase movie—and later in court, where you have to shout out loudly “I object” to prove you’re on the ball.” Not my style.

Or I could have revealed a deeper truth if I had been aware of it at the time. I was not particularly drawn to the study of law, although I would have liked to be recognized by others for my brains and would have appreciated some prestige.

Actually, librarians are the smartest people I know. For book learning, no one has them beat.

But the earnings are generally modest.

Anyhow, that’s how it was for me. This is my first post on this blog. More to come.

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