Only later did I realize, much later, that they were pioneers, women scholars who had studied in the 1930s, on the heels of the suffrage victory and before the post-WWII era wiped out lots of gains. They taught at historic all-women colleges in part because many couldn’t get jobs elsewhere. They taught at the colleges that had been created by women, for women, when women were not allowed any higher education at all.
They must have wondered at our anxiety to become engaged, get married and start having families. They must have wondered when women of my generation would wake up and achieve their full potential as human beings.
They never preached to us, just showed us. They must have welcomed the resurgence of a new women’s rights movement in the mid-1960s to 1970s.
The new woman’s movement stormed onto the public agenda as well, inspired by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the founding of NOW (the National Organization for Women), and renewed efforts to secure an Equal Rights Amendment, which Alice Paul had begun in 1923.
Gloria Steinem’s MS magazine, along with other new journals, blazoned the work and opened new paths. At universities, women’s studies scholarship emerged, took off and blossomed, forcing revisions of the American story and the role of women. Like millions of others, my consciousness was raised. I did what I could for the cause.
I see it now as the 'vise of ages,' that disjunction between historic eras that crept silently into the recesses of a brain wired from a different time.
I still had the dream: to teach at the university level, get on a tenure track, become a professor. But that didn't happen.
I taught women’s history part-time, published a few articles, found exciting new research interests, and had some twists and turns that others found distasteful, including an affirmative action case at the University, which I lost.
I found other part-time work, but I had to dumb down my resume to get it. “You have to take off that PhD degree, and that Master’s too,” more than one adviser told me. I did. It pained me at a level I didn't fully grasp. After working so hard to attain them, I had to delete the graduate degrees from my life.
I would find a new way, new challenges, new adventures. I began a new chapter. I began to pick up the pieces of an unconscious life and put them together, going forward from where I had left off when I graduated from