Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Western Wives. The More Things Change...?

by Heather Blanton

“What are some of your favorite dishes to cook, Miss Swank?” Miss Stella rose and began clearing the breakfast dishes. Ellie immediately jumped in to help. There weren’t many. Mr. Hoyt had not joined them. Not that she had assumed he would, of course.
“Dishes? Well, I’m not really much of a cook.”
Miss Stella’s hand slowed as she dragged a coffee cup toward her. “Surely you must cook something. How do you expect to feed a husband?”
I don’t. Or he can cook. “Um, I guess I hadn’t given it much thought. I can muddle my way through the kitchen.”
The older woman gathered the cups to her and shook her head. “Miss Swank, I will save you a lot of heartache and grief. While you’re here, I will give you cooking lessons. Cowboys work hard, sun up to sun down, in blazing heat and bitter blizzards. They come dragging in at night half-dead. The least a wife can do is a have a meal on the table. Something edible.”
Ellie felt properly chastised. “Yes, of course, you’re right. It’s just that I don’t have much to offer in the way of culinary talents so I haven’t pursued it to any level of appreciable skill.”
“Well, we’ll start with bread. And while the dough is rising, we’ll go through my recipe book and pick out a couple of meals for you to learn. Clegg is fond of my country fried steak.”
This is the kind of conversation that would have Hillary Clinton turning purple and passing out. Women can do more than cook. We can be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, CEOs, anything we put our minds to.
That is a fact.
But what is also a fact is that a hundred years ago, the world was a different place. Roles were different. The expectations of a woman, both of herself and from society around her, were different.
In my current work-in-progess, tentatively titled Mail Order Bride: Undercover, I explore the delicate dance between a woman’s ambition and her submission to love. Ellie Blair wants to be the reporter who will never be confused again with Nellie Bly. She wants success, fame, and respect from her male peers, and will do almost anything to get it. But at what cost? Can she have fame and fortune and love, too?
Most of us know that a century and more ago, women faced unique challenges to chasing their dreams. The culture didn’t exactly encourage independent ladies to push past the bounds of propriety.
But narrow-minded expectations didn’t stop them as often as you might think.
As we all know, prior to modern times, women became doctors, lawyers, spies, politicians (https://ladiesindefiance.com/2014/10/13/the-first-woman-mayor-ever-elected-in-america-was-no-joke/ ) even law enforcement officers (https://ladiesindefiance.com/2015/03/02/the-first-female-sheriff-in-the-usa-was-in-texas-and-from-texas-of-course/ ). You name it, they did it. However, in most cases, they also did the child-rearing and the cooking. Few whined about the inequalities. Instead, they shouldered them. Then, as now, there was a vocal minority that decried chauvinism. Most women, however, dug in their heels, squared their shoulders, looked life right in the eye, and pursued their careers, babies on their hips, spoons in the sauce.
I think the primary difference between women of earlier centuries and today is that our ancestors didn’t expect anyone to lighten their load. Today we expect our husbands to help (whether it happens or not is a different story). Back then, I would argue the ladies truly had no expectation of assistance. If they ran a business, they ran the house. If they wore a badge, they darned their kids’ breeches. If they studied to become lawyers, they still helped the children with their homework. A vicious cycle, but these gals persevered and paved the way for us.
I, for one, sure appreciate their struggles.

Here’s to the Ladies in Defiance who find their own way. Never give in. Never back down. Never lose faith.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on where women have gone, vs. where we were. Do you think things have changed much?

Feel free to comment below or visit me on facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/authorheatherblanton/


Paty Jager said...

Heather, you made valid comments. I have friends who give me a hard time because I have always made breakfast for my family, and now my husband. Not just cereal, but breakfast. I make sure everyone has lunch on time. And until lately, I always had meat, potatoes, vegetable, salad, bread, and dessert for dinner every night. But now that we are getting older, we are eating less food, though we haven't slowed down that much. My husband was proud of himself in January when I was helping my daughter in Alaska and he washed a load of clothes. He figured out how to use the washing machine. He has never had to do inside chores. Because I spent most of my married life as a stay-at-home mom and he brought in the money, I felt it was my job to make sure he was fed, clothed, and had a clean home to live in. That is just how I've felt. But I watch in envy when I visit my brothers and they are cooking meals for their wives and families. There have been days(after my children were grown and gone) that I wished someone would come in and cook for me.

One daughter, her husband folds the clothes. She puts it in the washing machine and he takes over from there. My other son-in-law puts dishes in the dishwasher and cleans up the kitchen. I'm lucky if my husband remembers to take his plate to the sink. He is slowly learning to put things in the dishwasher when I'm gone. There for a while I'd be gone a week and there would be a week's worth of dishes piled in the sink when I returned. He's busy and half the times skips meals when I'm gone, so I'm happy to see the empty dishes.

Anyway, off the subject. I agree, we have come a long way, but if a woman prefers to be a homebody or a career woman or both, they need to be encouraged not put down for their choices.

Great post!

Heather Blanton said...

THANK, Paty. I have one of those husbands who doesn't do much inside. Mostly, though, because he's lazy. LOL!