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