“You can go to college. You can have a career. Study hard.”
Those words from my mother still echo in my head. Good advice. But from a woman married to an alcoholic and poorer than a church mouse, the statistical possibility of her daughters graduating from college would have discouraged many.
Not my mother.
One of the few girls in her small Iowa town to graduate from high school, my mother married at the beginning of the Great Depression, raised a son during the Dust Bowl, and experienced widowhood with two preschool daughters after WWIl. My mother knew the odds against women realizing their deepest dreams better than a mathematician.
But history leaned onto her side.
During the war, the government finally realized the worth of intelligent women. Recruits for nurses combed the high school records in small towns of the Great Plains states for the highest ranking female graduates who also knew how to live frugally and resourcefully. The southern states yielded their brightest young women who knew how to follow orders and keep a secret. The Army and the Navy examined the math scores and foreign language capabilities of the few girls accepted to Ivy League colleges.
When approached by recruiters, these women applied for the undefined government jobs offered to them. Their only choices in life included marriage, secretary work, retail, nursing, or teaching elementary grades. They had nothing to lose and a dream to gain.
The Bataan Nurses, the most famous of the nurses who served during WWII, set the standard for military nurses as they continued to treat soldiers during four years of Japanese imprisonment. The honor roll high-schoolers with the talent for secrecy worked diligently at Oak Ridge to create the bomb that ended a worldwide conflict. The college grads with inquisitive minds decoded the encrypted messages of the Axis forces.
All of these women faced work that was rich with meaning and challenge as they labored for a nation at war. Their diligence pioneered the acceptance of women into fields usually reserved for men.
Imagine my mother’s joy when my sister and I both attained Master’s degrees and enjoyed the careers that the education provided.
As one of my granddaughter attends college in pursuit a pilot’s license, my heart is bursting with pride. And her great-grandmother’s blessing rests on this air-borne young lady.
She has beaten the odds.
“Our generation is in need of Christian women who are willing to rise up and show the culture the powerful influence a God-defined woman can have.” – Girl Defined book
Photo of nurses used for meme from www.centralmaine.com.