PERSPECTIVE FROM THE 1940s

by Teresita Sparre Currie '43

I've been absorbed by the latest Bulletin, marveling at the variety of work undertaken by Mawrters while raising children -- even schooling them -- and the sensible solutions that have emerged since my graduation in 1943. Elizabeth Kaplan Woy '57, closest to my age of your authors, remembers how rare it was for a woman to work outside the home. Ann White Lewin-Beham '60, mentions that "mainly men attended the B school." Indeed, few women tried "men's jobs" (almost everything except teaching). However, dur ing World War II, when I started out, it was possible to find diverse work because men were away in the Army, Navy and Marines. In Washington, D.C., I found a berth at the C.I.A.'s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, as editorial analyst, translating and editing Norwegian and Danish underground correspondence. Then I married, but continued to work until pregnancy put an end to it in 1945. No one had thought of maternity leave.

Five children and 20 years later, my husband's illness made it necessary to find work again. (My oldest daughter Tezi was a Freshman at BMC.) Fortunately, a job turned up as admissions director at the Spence School in New York City, then headed by Barbara Colbron '37. It was an 8 to 4 job, allowing me to get home in time to meet the children as they returned from school; the youngest was 8.

A vital factor in my child rearing was speaking Swedish, at home. My children loved having a secret language. For me, as a child, it had been a gift and still keeps me in touch with my Scandinavian family. For my children, it started the linguistic fluency and sensitive ear for pronunciation that are impossible to achieve to the same degree at a later age. (All my children speak two languages; one speaks three, and my Bryn Mawr girl is fluent in nine.)

It was with misgiving that I accepted the job offer at Spence. How would I manage to do the household work, have the energy to listen to, love and discipline my children, pay attention to the volunteer jobs I had in schools? (I'd been nominated head of the parents' association in our boys' school, and trustee in a small elementary school.) This kept me in touch with the New York educational world. How would I manage the shopping and cooking and -- sometimes -- entertaining?

At the time, I had no woman friend who was employed. I was embarrassed by my need to work. Our social life ended; we sold our house in the country, the car to get us there, and left our spacious apartment for something just large enough to bed down all the children. But the job provided new friends and a school world that I loved. Eventually I was asked to teach, which I found more interesting than anything else during my two decades at Spence. My job gave me the opportunity to write articles for the s chool magazine, practice for the work that has become my daily occupation.

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