LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN

MYFANWY PHILLIPS February 1 1975

LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN

MYFANWY PHILLIPS February 1 1975

LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN

MYFANWY PHILLIPS

There's a new mood among the women of this country. A growing pride in their strength and independence. Instead of writing about it, we invited four representative women to speak about their feelings for themselves.

I don’t remember my parents ever saying anything about what they wanted me to be. I don’t know whether I thought very much about it or not. I know that when I got through high school in 1929 I wanted to be a druggist. I had an uncle who was a druggist and I mentioned it to him. “Oh women don’t be druggists,” he said. “Bah! That’s not a job for a woman.” I didn’t say anything more about it. That was during the Depression and there wasn’t any money for me to go to university.

So my first job was at a knitting mill. They wanted someone for payroll. I started at $14 a week and I stayed there for 30 years. I think anybody that takes a job and stays at it for 30 years is really crazy. But the thing was I liked the job and I liked the people, and it was just sort of a family.

I suppose you could say I am retired now. When I stopped working I had a million things to do. I read quite a bit and I go out to meetings if something’s on. I think ordinary people have more say now in what’s going on. The people that had all the power before had to belong to the Orange Order if they wanted to have anything to say. Nowadays you can start up a little fight without being an Orangeman.

I suppose I’ll always live in this house. I’ve got so

much junk it makes me sick to even think of moving.

I think people are better off without a whole lot of possessions. If you don’t have a whole pile of stuff to worry about you can just go. Good-bye.

I couldn’t picture myself ever married and with children. If you want to look out for your old age, you can save your money the same as if you were married. The only advantage to being married is if you need a man companion, you have one. The advantage of not being married is that you don’t have somebody coming home and crabbing because everything isn’t in its place.

It’s like bridge. I don’t like bridge. You’ve always got to have a partner. If I could play bridge and be on my own, and if I make mistakes, okay, then I’m the one who loses. But if you have a partner, they say why did you do this and why did you do that?

I’ve always been a pretty independent person. I didn’t go along just because somebody else did something that I felt I had to do, or they had something that I had to have. If I don’t want it, I don’t want it. That’s all. Lots of times people don’t like you because you don’t go along with the crowd, but that doesn’t bother me. If they don’t like me the way I am. then that’s too bad.

y mother was a hardworking woman, she was a farm wife like me. 1 think I would say that I took my values from her and in some respects I am very much like her. She isn’t what you’d call an outspoken person. She has quite a few talents, but you’d never know it to speak to her. We were a close family. My life was centred in the community and my parents were my centre of influence. That’s one of the differences between my daughter Linda and myself. Quite often we have differences of opinion. Children nowadays have such a broad way of living.

Ron and I were married in 1951 in the church down here at Fullerton. I was 19, Ron was teaching public school, and it was around this time that we decided to buy our own farm.

We started out very modestly with just two cows, some hens and a few hogs. While Ron was at school I ran the whole operation. I can’t say that I was ever overwhelmed by having to run a farm by myself, or very confident either. The decisions were the most frustrating — whether I was making the right ones. But I took it in my stride and I suppose I was quite pleased with the results sometimes.

Basically what I was doing was man’s work. And I still do heavy jobs. This year it was my turn to throw off the sheaves, and I would say that was as hard as man’s work ever is. The same with tractor work. We used to cut the few acres of grain we had and I drove the tractor while Ron rode the binder. It was work that I could do and I didn’t feel that I was overtaxed by having to do it. I really enjoyed it.

When Ron quit working at school, I gave up some of the things I’d been doing around the place. But I still go to the barn and do part chores. I guess the biggest part of the job is keeping the milk house clean. It’s not my favorite chore but it’s my share of the responsibility. I see myself as a partner. Ron and I worked side by side to bring the farm along; we were working toward the future.

I don’t feel the laws in Canada are fair to wives. In farming, in a good many cases, the women do put everything they’ve got into it, and actually don’t get a great deal out of it other than the satisfaction of having helped their husbands. Money isn’t everything in this world, don’t get me wrong. But to think that Florence Murdoch worked 25 years without any recognition at the end seems very cruel to me. A generation ago women quietly took these things in their stride. If they left home there was nothing for them to do and they had nothing. In this era I think there are a good many women who, even after 25 years of marriage, could rock the boat and go out and make a living on their own. I would hate to have to face that.

To me, men are still . . . Well, I don’t mean that they should be superior in any way, I think women are just as superior as men. But I feel that there’s a place for women to be . . . not secondary, I don’t mean that, that men should have the authority in some cases over women, possibly. Maybe I feel more comfortable that way myself.

Living is quite a business isn’t it? You can take it lightly, and you can take it too seriously I suppose. Some people can cope with it and others try to escape it. I heard just this past summer that a lot of mental illness is found among women my age. They say it’s because they have nothing to replace the hours they spent with their families before the children were grown up. I was astonished that women my age are the ones that are collapsing.

In a way I am kind of sad to think that my daughter Linda prefers a different kind of life. I worried about her a bit when she moved away to take this medical technician’s course. She’d been active in the 4-H clubs and a real help to her dad. I think she would have made a very good farmer’s wife.

Myfanwy Phillips is a painter-photographer and coauthor of the book Working People.

nhen I first moved to the city I thought it was terrific. I started a job at $35 a week, and it was the best time I ever had.

I was a dreamer. I used to think about the man I would marry. I didn’t really dream about money, but I thought I’d like to be comfortable. I wanted to be very good in business. I wanted to be successful and I wanted to be very independent. I think I’ve achieved very much of what I wanted.

My parents are very proud of me and they say “Lise is doing this,” and “she’s getting this much money a week,” and all that. I always wanted everybody in Welland, where I grew up, to know exactly what I w'as doing. And when my friends got pregnant and had to get married, I made sure that I didn’t. Even those that did have a better education than I did all ended up the same way.

At the moment I’m resigned to staying home most of the time until my kids are old enough to start school. When I first quit work to stay home with them I was getting depressed because I never saw anyone. I wasn’t talking to grown-up people, and my husband, Joe, is very quiet. That’s the way it was until I started working at the market on Saturdays again. Saturdays helped me a lot.

I work in the bakery. I sell the bread, deal with all the cash, make sandwiches and coffee, do everything. I know so many people there now; going back really drew me out of my shell. I don’t think of it as being like running my own business. It really is my business too. but Joe and his partner Elso are the bosses. I’m just, say, the foreman. I see working as a big part of my independent life.

I used to laugh, when I was working fulltime, at these silly women spending all of their time watching the soap operas. When I stayed home myself. I did the same thing. I like what happens in the stories . . . the romance. It doesn’t happen like that in real life because your husband is tired when he comes home

and you’ve had a hard day with the kids and they’re

screaming and you don’t feel like being kissed at all. That’s why we sometimes go away on weekends to hotels. Joe takes me out to nice places, brings back a bit of romance.

I think it’s better before you get married. When you live together, like Joe and I did before we got married, he’ll ask you to go out a lot and he’ll come home and bring some wine or . . . now, he won’t unless I mention it. Men are so nice to you then, they open doors and all that, and after you’re married they’re different. 1 think we are different too.

Before you’re married you are nicer and say yes a lot, but afterward you say, “Well. I’ve got him now.” And I suppose the man says the same thing. I don’t go out all dressed up and glamorous like I used to when I was working. Then I was always sharp. At home I’m in jeans. Joe likes it that way. And there’s no use in getting all dressed up when you have kids.

Men are very important to me. I’m not talking about sex, but I like to talk to men and to feel like I’m one of the boys. Maybe I’m a sort of, what do you call them, a tomboy? I just get along better with men. There are a few women I like and get along with alright, but mostly I’m friendly with their husbands and. of course, they don’t like that. Maybe if I wasn't working one day a week I’d be more like the rest of them. All they do is sit around talking in front of their houses. I’d rather stay home and watch my soap operas than go and sit with them. Joe says, “Why don’t you go?” And I say, “Well, at least they’ve got something to talk about. Me.”

I try to have something to look forward to all the time. Even if it’s just ordering a new dress. As Joe says, “If Simpson’s doesn’t stop here once a week, there’s something wrong.” So I’m pretty happy now. I'm looking forward to having my kitchen redone. I'm not going to buy the Taj Mahal, but I do want to have the kitchen redone.

Ihere are seven people in my family. It’s lovely to have such a big family and I really can’t think of one that works quite as well as ours. We have this house in town, a great 345-acre farm up north, two cottages, three boats and a car. As well as an incredible number of possessions.

I’ve always been loved and taken care of and never laughed at. I have a sort of “well fed” atmosphere around me. I’m a fairly confident person, but at the same time I’m insecure in some ways. That’s probably because of adolescence.

My mother would really like me to get ahead in the world. I have a very superior attitude to a lot of things, an elitist attitude, and she knows that I need a fair amount of fame because I’m sort of a vain person. She thinks I should do whatever I want to do, but I should do it well.

I’ve always been fairly bright. I used to go to a free school where I spent a lot of time swinging on a rope swing and getting straight As. But I decided I was really too sensible to be a free-school type. A freeschooler has to be much more of a drifter, and I needed a little more security. So I went to high school where I found everything was very average. I don’t even like the word average.

At the moment I can’t really decide what I want to do. I don’t intend to do anything quite so serious as settling down and having a rough time just to make my name somewhere or make money. The whole world is open to me. I’d like to travel around and then hit some further learning. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a university education. Nothing permanent. I don’t find myself the devoted type.

Because I’m young and I’ve come right into this age, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be treated equally. These problems that have happened to other women never happened to me. I’ve always been a person. I’ve always been Liz.

My social life goes up and down. I’ve been with

glue-sniffing, motorcycle riding groups down in dingy basements, and I have been with the top Forest Hill champagne drinking parties. I like a fastmoving crowd when I like a crowd. At other times I retreat and am very antisocial. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like myself and I like to torment myself; sometimes because I’m very fond of myself and I’m absolutely having a great time. I could never tell you what I do when I’m by myself. It’s like a dream; you could never write it down exactly.

I don’t think I’m the kind of person that could live alone. I had a very strong attitude about marriage for a long time — never get married — but that has changed just recently. I fell in love in August, and now I’m beginning to see with a lot more intelligence what some of the problems really are. Before that it was all very simple. Just take care of yourself. I think marriage is having a terrible time. It’s very close to being extinct. Perhaps the closest people have got to a new type of marriage is writing their own contracts and ceremonies. But I do look forward someday to being married.

I was sitting in this restaurant the other day and there was a flasher there. One of those kids with gold spangled boots, gold studs, platform heels. At my school they’re called flashers now. She was just a little angel face. Big blue eyes and blond hair. She had purple makeup on and red penciled-in eyebrows and red lipstick. She intrigued me, she looked kind of odd. I wondered what made her be that way. That’s how I sometimes wonder about the world. What’s really going on here? What is making us the way we are?

I have to leave home and go out into the world at a certain time, to make the family circle work and to let my sister move into the eldest position. It all has to be timed perfectly. But I regret the fact that I have to leave, just like you regret the fact that you have to grow out of hopscotch.