Beyound AdolescenceThe radically changing female roleTheme:adolescence, changing family, cultureSummaryDiscussionTranscriptRelated Insights
Now let's look at how the female role has changed since World War II. 100 years ago 96% of the population of America lived on farms. The farm was the whole life blood of the nation, 96% of the population lived there. By World War II, by the end of World War II 4% of the American population lived on farms, 95% lived in the cities.Coming
Now let's look at a couple of other things, and I've got to do this in a hurry, female role has changed dramatically since World War II. Let's look back. There is just a marvelous book that came out about the role of women and the whole history of early America. We have women in the kitchen. The woman in the kitchen but, the kitchen of what, the American farm. 100 years ago 96% of the population of America lived on farms. The farm was the whole life blood of the nation, 96% of the population lived there. What was the heart of the farm? The kitchen. A farmer without a wife in America was absolutely crippled. What did she do? She ran the kitchen, the heart of the whole enterprise. She ran the kitchen gardens, the putting up of all the food, the taking care of the cows and the chickens, the source of their direct food. She kept the books, literally. She was the bookkeeper of the organization. She brought the children into the world, she nurtured them, she fed them, she fed the hired hands, she educated the children, whatever education they got, and they all ended up remarkably well educated by in large, certainly all literate. All of this she did. She was the kingpin. Literally the hub around which this huge enterprise called the farm rested.
Read their accounts of life in those days and don't think it was grim, it was not necessarily grim at all. I've read magnificent, glorious accounts of her role in that time and how she met it and the joys therein. This also was the extended family. She was the hub of an extended family which was not just a nuclear family of mother, father and child, but a great extended family. There were many people there to help her, to take over, to give her rest a bit from those children and so on and so forth, and so it was a big give and take and a community in itself.
Little by little this started changing dramatically and by World War II, by the end of World War II 4% of the American population lived on farms, 95% lived in the cities. Now what do you have happening? You have a woman whose place is in the home and whose place in the home is in the kitchen, that isn't the hub of anything. You see, all of the sudden the kitchen doesn't mean anything. You have all sorts of prepared foods, the kitchen's an instantaneous place, it doesn't require much and so on, and you have this whole huge industry to fill that kitchen with what it needs and so she doesn't really need to even be there so to speak, and we say, ah, the mother's place is in the home and in the kitchen, it wasn't.
You see the kitchen was not that in the 19th century, it was the center of everything and so we put the mother to work during World War II because we had to have her in industry and all of the sudden she discovered something interesting. In this great shift that's taking place all of the sudden there's no place there in the kitchen really for her to flourish but she can flourish just as well in the marketplace. She discovers that she can run the industries. She can do anything out there that anybody else can do and that's what she wants to do. She discovers she has loads of talents and capacities that can now be expressed in totally new ways. They can't be expressed in the kitchen any longer, it doesn't count for much anymore. You see what I'm talking about.
So now we have this dramatic shift in change of the woman but, immediately everything polarized. What I heard in the fifties and sixties, now I was teaching in the college at the time, but what I heard coming out of the high schools was the constant demand by the teachers of their young women students. "What's the matter with you, don't you want to make something of yourself? Do you want to just stay home and have babies?" As though that were the lowest single act they could do. The failures, the drop-outs, the quitters would stay home and have babies. What did that do the mothering instinct of the whole species? It denigrated, put it as the lowest item of the whole social speed. What's the answer to this whole thing?
When we get into the issue of day care you see. So if she began to have children there was only day care, so she could go out and take care of her rightful place in society. I've heard many young pregnant women sitting there at their office, their desk, say to me, as I come in we talk about her pregnancy and she says, "oh, yes I'm only going to have to be gone for two weeks and I'll be right back on the job, I'm not going to lose much time". She's apologetic for the time she's going to take off to have her baby. "Oh I'll be right back", as though she's abandoning her post, and so we have day care, and it's a bad situation. It's a bad solution. She's no longer the hub of that whole universe. The answer is what is happening in so many other countries. Let her simply take her infant with her. That's what's happened throughout human history. Never did the woman abandon whatever she was doing, she put the infant in a little sling and went right on with her work. I was the last of 8 children, all born at home.
My father was a newspaper man, he owned newspapers, and my mother didn't like to stay at home at all and we had hired help. We couldn't have hired help, and my mother would come home, she'd have her baby, and all of us were born at home, but then she simply lugged us off to the newspaper office. She liked to run my father's newspaper. He was the editor but she kept him going and I cut my teeth on linotype. I mean my world was the world of that newspaper and I loved every minute of it. It was a fantastic place. I had lots of other worlds, I had woods and streams and rivers and all that kind of thing too but I could be with my parents in their work day world and I wanted to be.
With this young boy here, he was here all day yesterday, he's right here in the marketplace, he's right here at the scene of action you see and I certainly was too and my brothers and sisters were too. That's one solution. What we have to do is have industry simply provide for the care of the children, of the mothers so the mothers have continual access to those children as needed. It would save the nation trillions of dollars. We find that child under age 4 can take about two hours of separation from the mother and they love it but after that the old anxiety starts coming in. So you've got about a two hour period at a time and then the mother needs to check in. How easy it would be to have day care right there in any industrial or any office situation. You have to incorporate that into the society rather than this terrible polarization and separation. This striation of society, locking these kids up in a special place completely isolated from the rest of the society, it isn't working. It isn't working now and it won't work.
So the answer is not for women to have to do an either or thing if they don't want to. If they elect to stay home and have children then we should give them every conceivable opportunity to. IF they elect to work and have children we should make that work too and make it possible because we pay a dreadful price when we don't. So these are some, I'm just thinking of some of the approaches that we can take to this but at base is the critical issue of the revival of the nurturing one, the mother, the matrix, the source from which everything in our species derives its energy and its strength and without that we're in trouble. That's what my book is about. That's what most of my books have been about. That's why I concentrate on the mother rather than on the father. I know that's a thorny issue, in fact I've received just really extremely excited letters of condemnation over that kind of a position but I thinks it's a strong position and I think I'm right on the factor of nurturing of our young as the critical issue. And, nurturing of the male species. They're a fragile species. That intellect is here for a very special purpose, don't think it isn't, but you have to nurture it. You have to take care of it or it will destroy itself.
Do you remember what Richard Wagner, that enormous genius of the 19th Century said, he said "he spotted Cosima", unfortunately this is the wife of Hans Von Bulow, but that didn't stop him for a minute, and he said "in that woman I saw that which would save me from myself", which was one of his great motifs running throughout all of his great dramas. That the man sees in the woman that which will save him from himself and of course then the whole species is lifted up.Coming