My mother was an intelligent woman and had been a bright student at school, good with language and with figures so one of her teachers was encouraging her to be an accountant or a teacher herself.
Now, this was back in 1938, a time when young women were expected to obey their father’s will and my grandfather had the usual belief of the time, that education was wasted on females. So much to her horror and despite many arguments and appeals, my poor mother was taken out of school at age 14 and put to work in a factory doing piecework (sewing cut-out fabric pieces to make garments).
We must understand the times, my grandfather was a caring person and didn’t do this to punish mum, but to give her what he thought was a good start in life by earning some money to fill her glory box. In those days it was up to young girls to get their household linen and clothing ready in anticipation of a married life; working families could not afford that expense on the pay that one man earned.
Mum had to make the best of it and she became a very skilled seamstress, but later when she married, she was very determined that ALL her children would get a good education. And so, we did, but unfortunately, we were pressured into the careers mum had wanted in her own youth.
Most of us had a different preference, I know my youngest sister wanted to stay on the farm, but “girls can’t be farmers” said our parents. When I left school, I had visions of working in the radio station in the technical area, (not an announcer) but mum vetoed that because it was shift-work and deemed not suitable for a girl my age (I was nearly 18 by then for goodness sake?—?what didn’t I fight harder?)
Conflict in the form of rebellion or arguments from children in those days very often resulted in a lick of the strap, which was fairly effective in getting kids to toe the line, but I feel we were luckier than many of our friends in that we were listened to in family discussion time. Even so, we all felt it was more about making us understand why we were being pushed in certain directions as the pressure remained and we became a family of three long-term teachers and one short-term one, me.
It wasn’t a bad result for any of us really, just not our first choice but in later years mum admitted that the real truth behind these denials of our choices was in fact that mum wanted us all to have a tertiary education, what she’d longed for and been denied in her own youth.
Thank you, Mum.