Empowerment through Conception Control
I was brought up in religious schools, so I had great access to wonderful education until twelfth grade. I was able to obtain this on scholarships afforded me because of my intellectual abilities and my family’s poverty. Because of the belief in my religion that women were to either enter religious orders and serve as nurses or teachers, or marry and have children, I married and had children. This seemed to be the only path I could take since I had no access to parental support to pursue a college education, and I had no counseling about obtaining scholarships. My mother believed that education was a sin against humility.
Marriage seemed an easier route to income than did working while going to school. I was fortunate that conception control was available, even though it brought great shame on my parents that I used it in my marriage. I planned the births of our children and my husband limited them to two. My father often said that the reason he had not given any of his five daughters middle names was that we would only marry and stop using them. This became true for me when I was barely eighteen years old. My husband, a man eight years my senior, knew that I did not have the education required of a woman to earn a living wage, and there were still many industry management jobs closed to women in the Southern United States of 1969.
One of the biggest challenges facing women is the fantasy that others, including her husband, will continue to support a woman simply because she is a mother. The men of the area still consider women a burden that they must bear in order to have children and prestige in society. They still expect that women will do all the dirty work that used to be done by slaves, poorly paid black women, and uneducated immigrants. I was treated as a breeder, nurse, and housekeeper by the family of my husband. Other people have their own families that they are promoting, so they will not take resources from them to give to the children and mothers of others, especially those outside their own “tribes,” as I was considered by the family of my husband and my own family of origin.
When I asked my husband for a divorce in 1974, my lack of higher education and the fact that I was female relegated me to poorly paid positions. I took it upon myself to work as an unpaid apprentice to experts in the field in which I had natural talent and training, the food service industry. I had obtained this education through observation of my mother and grandmothers. My birth order placement as second daughter, with an older sister who was ill, had put me in the position of management of my siblings. These management skills were obvious to others, so I was always quickly pushed into management positions, initially without management pay.
I took my son and daughter to a more progressive environment in 1979. I was able to use my skills and experience to continue improving my work status. I continue to learn and to teach because, where there is the will and any natural talent, there is a way to access power and honor. It is necessary that we do not burden ourselves with too many others dependent on us before we are strong enough to do for ourselves. Without access to conception control, I don’t think I would have been able to work my way out of an unpaid servant class.
Although my career path was often put on hold because of the needs of my children, I am now watching my children as they succeed in parenting and positions of honor in their professions. They have exceeded me and their children seem on track to exceed them. Because I am no longer tied to family responsibilities, I am free to indulge my true passion in an unpaid position, helping others top become empowered with their voices and channeling their talents. By this I am greatly blessed.
People still come to my table for my culinary skills. I teach as they eat; this was the way of mothers for many generations before me.