Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! #Equality by Noelle Granger

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today author Noelle Granger shares her experiences as a young professor at a time when equality and respect were not freely given within the academic environment.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! #Equality by Noelle Granger

I’m a bit older than most people in the blogosphere, having been born at the end of WWII and growing up in the 50s. Life then was family-oriented, patriarchal, and had no electronic distractions except for the arrival of a TV in the house in the mid-50s (strictly regulated by my father.) I Iistened to my favorite radio shows on Saturday morning.

I went to an all- women’s college in the 60s – my choice but approved by my parents. There I heard lectures by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and the other women icons of that time. These were the years of “women’s lib’ when birth control liberated us from virginitus and from the traditional roles of housewife and mother. You can do it all, we were told, and even ads reminded us “You can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man…” Still many of my classmates got an MRS along with their BA.

At the time, I never felt limited in my choices, perhaps because both my father and mother were college-educated and Mom worked outside the home by choice. My college years reinforced that. And I never considered myself any different from my male colleagues in graduate school. But there, for the first time, I ran into a wall of misogyny. I taught the anatomy labs for both medical and dental students.

There were maybe three or four women in the medical school classes and none in dental school, and the dental students were pigs. The directors of dental anatomy assigned me to give the lectures on reproductive anatomy, which I did to cat calls and rude comments from the students. In the labs, the students told me more than once I should be home behind the stove. I’d finally had enough when they called me b–ch, c–t, and various other epithets, but when I complained to the Dean of the Dental School, he essentially told me to suck it up.

Noelle on the faculty at UC Irvine

There followed a faculty position at a west coast university, where I was paid 2/3rds the salary of a man who came in after me at the same level. When I pointed it out, the administration increased my salary to his level, but then upped his, saying that he had a family and needed the money.

Chapel Hill and factulty at UNC

If there was any upside to all this, it was the fact I grew a tough skin. When I became an assistant professor here in North Carolina, I was advised not have children until I got tenure since I would be viewed as unserious about my career. I had both my children before getting tenure, which I did in five years, not the standard seven. There was no maternity leave at the time – my children came to work with me until we could find decent daycare (a rarity). My son took his afternoon naps in a filing cabinet, my daughter played in a playpen in the middle of the lab. But I worked hard on committees to establish rules for maternity leave, parental leave, time off the tenure clock for personal and family reasons, and a program to teach women in the academy how to succeed.

Noelle and Gene with young family

After I became a full professor, the question I was most frequently asked was, “How can you do it all?” and my answer was, “You can’t.”

Those women in the 60s misled us to believe we could, and a lot of my colleagues crashed and burned trying to have it all. They had a career. They never married, but if they did, they often divorced, more than once. They opted not to have children, when they wanted to be mothers. Some had children, but then opted out of their careers.

My advice was: “Learn how to juggle. You have three balls – research and teaching, service to the university, and your family. Not necessarily in that order. Never have more than two balls in the air at a time. Sometimes it might only be one, but you decide which balls and when. Take advantage of what you have now: maternity leave, time off the tenure clock, and professional education. That’s how you do it.”

If I knew then what I know now, I probably never would have chosen an academic career and a family, fearing for my sanity. Especially after all the bad advice. But I loved what I did and I loved having a family. So even though the advice was bad, finding my own way to ‘have it all’ made me tough. I have to thank them for that.

© Noelle Granger 2022

My thanks to Noelle for sharing her experiences and also the inspiration to overcome the obstacles and succeed in such a spectacular way. I know she would love to hear from you.

About Noelle Granger

Noelle A. Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a rambling, 125-year-old house with a view of the sea. Summers were spent sailing and swimming. She was also one of the first tour guides at Plimoth Plantation. Granger graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and from Case Western Reserve University with a Ph.D. in anatomy. Following a career of research in developmental biology and teaching human anatomy to medical students and residents, the last 28 years of which were spent at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. The Rhe Brewster Mystery Series was born.

The series features Rhe Brewster, an emergency room nurse, as the protagonist. Rhe lives in the fictional coastal town of Pequod, Maine, (similar to Plymouth) and Granger uses her knowledge of such a small town, her experiences sailing along the Maine coast, and her medical background to enrich each book in the series. In the first book, Death in a Red Canvas Chair, the discovery of a wet, decaying body of a young woman, sitting in a red canvas chair at the far end of a soccer field, leads Rhe on a trail that heads to a high-end brothel and a dodgy mortuary operation.

The second novel in the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Death in a Dacron Sail, was released in 2015, and finds Rhe responding to a discovery by one of the local lobstermen: a finger caught in one of his traps. The third book, Death By Pumpkin, begins with the sighting of the remains of a man’s body in a car smashed by a giant pumpkin at the Pequod Pumpkin Festival. Up next? Death in a Mud Flat.

In addition to the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Granger has had short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, published in Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, the Bella Online Literary Review, and Coastal Style Magazine, and has been featured in Chapel Hill Magazine, The News & Observer, The Boothbay Register, and other local press. Granger lives with her husband, a cat who blogs, and a hyperactive dog in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She spends a portion of every summer in Maine.

Books by N.A. Granger

One of the many reviews for The Last Pilgrim a book I can also highly recommend.

It’s inevitable that a detailed, closely-researched account of the tribulations faced by those who crossed the Atlantic in “The Mayflower” will be read differently by a British audience than an American one. Yet even if you don’t feel the patriotic overtones, this is a still well-researched and at times deeply moving tale of people fighting to remain true to themselves, despite hardships and disagreements of every kind. There is no romantic whitewashing of revered historical figures either. These hyper-puritans squabble, quarrel, are tempted away by profit, lust after one another and frequently prove themselves fallible human beings, not cardboard figures in a sanctified history.

Most unusually, the author tells her story not through the actions of male leaders but mostly through the eyes of a woman whose family joined the desperate venture when she was just a small child. Mary Allerton Cushman lived through all the triumphs and disasters of the colony until almost the end of the seventeenth century, 80 years after the day in 1620 when their leaky ship set sail from Plymouth, England, bound, they hoped, for lands to the south of Cape Cod.

Page by page, you see the colonists’ bitter struggles through the experiences of those involved, complete with the emotions which drove them either to hold out in the darkest moments or give up. Despite their professed attachment to the colony’s beliefs, several members grew weary and went elsewhere. Others openly lived in a manner inconsistent with their sect’s doctrines. Nothing went easily for the colony, despite growing numbers and prosperity. Indeed, this very growth produced constant friction between the original colonists and those who came after. There was a surface brotherhood, but one constantly at war with all the individualism and personal desires the human race is naturally prone to. The Plymouth colony saw no golden age of harmony, but a seething mass of disputes and antagonisms, held together by the few who set being true to their beliefs over the opportunities available in a land still lacking any kind of central authority or government.

If you want to get a powerful insight into a time of conflict between set religious dogma and burgeoning individualism, a time when people discovered that freedom from the rule of the English king brought its own drawbacks, this book is a must-read. All praise to Noelle Granger for bringing it to the general reader with such care and skill. 

Noelle A. Granger Buy: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK Blog: Sayling Away – Goodreads:Noelle A. Granger – Twitter: @NAGrangerAuthor


Thanks for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share Noelle’s post..

127 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! #Equality by Noelle Granger

  1. Those certainly were tough times, Noelle, and you did a tremendous job of making it all work. Congrats on the wonderful review. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Sally, thanks for sharing!

    Hugs 💕🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m in awe of you, Noelle, for managing a career and childcare and putting up with such misogyny. I stayed at home until my boys were 12 and 9, and then went back to work. Childcare is expensive here, and at the time I couldn’t afford to pay a childminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A very inspiring post, from Noelle. She is and was a very brave woman, but those like her helped all women to get the changes we see nowadays. No equality yet, but her advice is sound and important. I have a friend in academia right now, and although things are better, her husband is in academia as well and shares in all the tasks, there are still difficult choices and plenty of struggles. Thanks for this fantastic series, Sally.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks very much Olga and I know in industry things are also not as they seem. Back in 1995 my then boss told me they would be taking on a man when he left the job so not to set my sights on it!!! Thankfully plenty of very good things to remember but those sorts of comments stick with you… ♥

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Olga, for your kind words. At the time it just seemed like something I had to do – maybe because my mother worked outside the home after my brother and I were in school, and maybe because Mt. Holyoke DID have some effect on my thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing it with us Noelle. As a young manager I would have loved to have had you as my mentor. There were not many options if your couldn’t stand on your own two feet and put the negativity to one side. But I enjoyed my career and achieved a role that enabled me to empower women coming up behind me and that is something rather than the money and status that was important to me. You carved out that with those women who followed you in academia and just think of how much they have accomplised and the good they have done. ♥♥

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Your courage and strength were outstanding, Noelle. In spite of the difficulties you managed to put all the pieces together, and that is an achievement in and of itself. Bravo! Thanks for sharing this moving story with us. Hugs
    Reblogged on Improvisation – “The Art of Living”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m trying to wrap my head around the number of women you have very likely helped along the path behind you—women who are able to stand on your shoulders and continue the work of combatting misogyny and all the other problems facing women both in and out of the work force. Thank you for all you’ve done. That is a wonderful legacy for your children and grandchildren.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Those were interesting times. I also grew up in the 50’s, probably a few years younger than you. I faced much of what you did on the path to MBA, Mid-level manager, but I don’t regret for a moment where I ended up, where the misogamy pushed me (and a few lawsuits). Do you agree, that you’re now where you should be?

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I loved that picture of you as a happy child hugging your knees! All power to you for sticking with academia when I’m sure others would have caved-in. The behaviour of the dental students was abhorrent and the lack of action against them equally so. Now, that at least would have been punished, but that comment about the salary disparity and that the man needed it for his family – I think there’s still a hint of that no matter how illegal it might be.
    Your description of your son in the filing cabinet made me smile and I suspect you’ve survived because of your intelligence, good humour and pragmatic approach to life. You couldn’t ‘have it all’ then. Today, it’s still sometimes the woman who checks school runs, birthdays, shopping and dental appointments even if the man is happy to actually do those things. Sometimes, a man can simply focus on his work while the woman is mentally checking that all’s well. Many men are equal partners in everything and there lies happiness!
    Great post, Noelle, and many thanks to Sally for this remarkable series! ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Another very interesting post and certainly shows how times have moved on, not fully but a bit.
    A great account.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Noelle I really enjoyed reading this it was shocking and inspiring and you did it all girl despite the odds. I was born, I guess about ten years after you in 53 and had similar problems though I was never an academic or in your league.
    I found your letter very inspiring!
    I have been to Plymouth Massachusetts, with my sister a lovely place.
    I really love the photos of you and your beautiful family 💜💜💜

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I love the analogy of juggling the balls. Long ago, I remember saying to my friend that I could be a good mother and a good wife, but the career was not getting enough attention, or, of course, I could be great at the career and not so much at another of my balls, and for many years I felt driven to try to do them all at my best, which really is not possible. But the message at the time was that we could do it all, and well. The men at the time didn’t worry about their other balls in the air because they weren’t juggling those at all, someone else was!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Sally, I really didn’t mean to, but I forgot to say how lucky I was to have a supportive husband (even if he was a physician and not home much) and three mentors, along the way – all men because there were no women at the top. They were very forward-thinking and supportive. I couldn’t have done it without them, I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What an inspiring post. Thank a lot of this has changed but not all of it for women. Great reminder of how things were.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I didn’t work in academia, Noelle, but even in business I learned that my male coworker made more money because, “he had a family and needed the money.” You should have seen my boss’s face when he remembered he was talking to a single mom. He turned around and walked away. I love your toughness and that you figured out how to do it all, but also your wisdom that doing it all isn’t necessarily possible or healthy. There are still a lot of women who are expected to handle jobs, homes, and families, all at the same time. No wonder there’s so much stress! Thanks for sharing and congrats on pulling through and becoming the powerful and talented woman you are today. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hi Sally, what interesting timing for this post from Noelle, just a few days after the overturning of Roe v Wade in the USA. I am completely horrified by this decision and believe it is a huge step backwards for women everywhere. I am much younger than Noelle, but I have faced a lot of misogyny and prejudice in my working life. A lot of it has come from men abroad whom I deal with in my role in corporate finance rather than men locally. It takes a lot of energy and broad shoulders to keep facing it down, transaction after transaction so I understand Noelle’s words very well. Her comment that you can’t have it all also resonate with me. You can’t – something has to give, either with your job or with your family, but working women must have some concessions in comparison to their male colleagues if they also have children. Your children always have to come first if you are a mother. That is my view, anyhow. Thanks both for a most interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What an inspiring post! Noelle, I would like to salute you for sailing through turbulent times with confidence and ignore misogynic comments! Thanks for sharing your experiences… a reminder that women have accomplished much and would continue to stand against the prejudices and control, come what may!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I love this, Noelle. You were a warrior of the very best kind! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your advice about keeping the balls in the air. Inspiring! Thank you, Sally!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Kudos to Noelle. Even though her family seemed all about equality, sadly, the world didn’t. I admire her tenacity. And yes, juggling too many balls, something is going to suffer. Great share! Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Hi Noelle, This article was brilliant and quite a shock to look back at those days and think that the discrimination you experienced was widespread. There was still an element of that when I was young at uni. You were very courageous, and made such a difference. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Powerful post, Noelle! You can’t do it all (at least not well) is one of the most honest pieces of advice. There are so many double standards for women in our society. The ones that gall me the most are the stereotypes that women can’t do jobs as well as men (Why exactly haven’t we had a female President yet?) and that in a so-called “progressive society,” women aren’t paid the same as men.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Sounds like you did have it all, Noelle, even if at times it was tiring. I’m a little younger than you but I still remember those days when paying women less and treating us as inferior was the norm, and considered perfectly acceptable!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Noelle – LOVED your article and the follow-up discussion that came out of your insights. We lived during transformational years, didn’t we? And the work continues…. Your enthusiasm for life, your determination to choose your destiny was inspiring. It isn’t easy to be an outlier, but you embraced this role with grace and optimism.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. We all appreciate women like Noelle Granger who’s efforts made a better place for women nowadays. My mother was a single, working Mom (before Noelle’s time) in a man’s world. It must have been difficult but she persevered. And I don’t know how she or Noelle did all that they had to do to survive with a family.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I certainly remember the burnout and depression many women faced trying to do it all (because we were told we could), and I still tell young women today that they need to prioritize. Not doing it all doesn’t mean failure. Great advice and reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What a wonderful post, Noelle! I can’t even begin to imagine my students being so obnoxiously rude to me. How horrible! In some ways, things have changed for the better, but in many ways, they haven’t improved much. Women still fight to make as much as men. Women-dominated careers, like teaching, still struggle to make a livable wage in many areas. Although you struggled, it sounds as if you were successful in the end. Thanks for sharing her experiences with us, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This is a powerful and inspirational post, Noelle. You must work three times as hard as the male students and colleagues to get to where you wanted to be. Against the advice given, you had children before getting tenure and you had tenure in five years, not seven. I love your family photo. I was an administrator in my late 20s when I was in Hong Kong. After getting my education in the US and getting into the state education system, I worked as an elementary school teacher. I tried to climb the administration ladder. I got my Ed.D. and was promoted to a middle management position. Two of my male counterparts had less education and experience but were promoted.
    I wanted a family and I’m glad to have a beautiful daughter and two adorable granddaughters.
    Thank you so much for sharing, Noelle. Thank you again for this series, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I’m echoing Sally’s comment: I wish I’d had you as a mentor. I think the fact my mum gave up her nursing career spurred me on to not have all the housewife tasks thrust upon me. Glad I’m about eight years younger than you… I think I had a few more enlightened men to work with. Although my successor in one post came in at director level…

    Liked by 1 person

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