How I Was Introduced to Feminism as a Young Woman
Yes, my mom was a young woman in the 60s. Nope, she did not attend consciousness-raising groups that many women gravitated towards in those days. As far as I know, my mom didn’t suffer from the “problem with no name” that was coined by Betty Friedan.
In the 60s and into the 70s, she was having children, one right after the other. I was one of them, the oldest. Before me, my mom had worked as a nurse in a hospital. She became a stay-at-home mom, although it was not referred to it as that in the 60s and 70s. She never seemed wistful about it.
Nope, it wasn’t my mom who introduced me to feminism. It also wasn’t my dad. Clearly. He worked a 9-to-5 job and came home to the meal my mom had cooked. My mom did the laundry, including his. She cleaned the house, she did the dishes, or delegated the task to one of us kids. My dad sat in the living room and read. He went down into his workshop. He mowed the lawn. I never thought much about it. It was just how it was.
I did well in school. Both of my parents noticed that. In high school, I was in the National Honor Society and at the top of my class. With my dad’s encouragement, I applied to the Chemical Engineering program at a prestigious college, the one I so badly wanted to attend, early decision, and got accepted. My parents were thrilled. I think they wanted me to be able to support myself. Yet they also wanted me to get married and have children.
As I got further into the engineering curriculum, I grew tired of all the math and science courses. My (only) elective was a Sociology course called Medicine and Society. My boyfriend’s mom was dying of cancer at the time, and that course helped me process what I was seeing her go through. And how it could be different.
I started to lose more interest in engineering and yearned to learn more about the world at large, and the people in it. I wanted out of engineering, but my father encouraged me to add a double major, and do an extra year, participating in the Five-Year Engineering and Liberal Arts Program at the time. I agreed.