Monday, January 18, 2010

Threshold Girl

Flora in a formal 'school picture' either from St. Francis College or Macdonald Teacher's College,

Yesterday, I re-read the article "the Present Unrest Among Women" by Gertrude Atherton from the 1909 Delineator Magazine, which I had posted on my website a few years ago. Someone had found it interesting and put in on Twitter.

This paragraph stood out to me this time. "We are all familiar with the selfishness, the slyness, the lack of real frankness it what might be called the Threshold Girl, anywhere between seventeen and nineteen. This is nothing worse than the mating instinct driving her blindly until she has learned to play her part with taste and tact. During that period she gropes about in her still childish brain for those qualities that will enable her to hold at least her own in the great game, and she is the more befuddled because of that curious tradition, that a girl must be seen other than she is."

I want to portray Flora, the heroine of Flo in the City, my novel in progress being written on this blog, as someone on the threshold, but also someone who refuses to give up who she is, either."

And here's another paragraph which sums up what I am trying to show with Flora and Edith and Marion.

"And the girl of today , with her mind full of the furniture of modern life, and a hundred new windows in her mental house of which her grandmothers never dreamed, with her manifold opportunities for independence and liberty, has sought and found antidotes to the old humiliating canons. If she can not pursue a man as a man pursues a woman when he wants her; if she has not the supreme attractions which bring a man to a woman's feet with a flash of the eye, she can at least avoid the mean subterfuges of the husband-hunters, and lead a life in which man as a love-factor is practically eliminated. She can also enjoy much the same privileges as men, until, perhaps, who knows? - one day she may meet in this larger, fuller life a congenial, many-sided creature who wants something more than the reproduction of his grandmother."

Funny, but in their letters, Marion jokes a lot about being 'an old maid' and about finding a husband. Flora does too, in a more indirect and gentle way and Edith never does.

But what I want to show than ever, that despite the rhetoric (as above) there were not that many opportunities for women -or men - in society. If there were, why do the statistics show that most women worked as domestics, teachers, shop-keepers or factory workers, depending on their social standing. Yes, new jobs were opening up, but they evolved into the 'pink' ghetto of the 20th century.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, when I graduated from university in the 70's and was interviewed at an Advertising Agency, the one of Peel, between Sherbrooke and St Catharine, the person interviewing me said I would have to work 2 years as a receptionist and then 2 years as a secretary and the MAYBE I could get a job as a copywriter. (Like in the series Mad Men which won best drama at the Golden Globes last night. I have watched it but couldn't get into it.) What would she have told me were I a male?

You think things are better now for women, take a look at this CBC article.
A female freelance writer, in Montreal, like myself, created a blog where she 'suggested' she was a man and 'instant respect' and much more work. Makes me want to cry a bit, but then that's so girly.