On November 13, 2018 I was given the chance to interview a woman named Anne Shapiro. Anne is a retired accounted who taught my grandmother to speak English up until last year when my grandma past away. Together we discussed her life in detail, she held nothing back, and we examined her life through the lens of the broader context of the history of women in the U.S.
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Anne is the second of two children. She has a brother who is thirteen months older than her. She was born in Chicago in 1942 to educated parents from very different backgrounds who provided models for interesting lives without undue deference to cultural norms. During her lifetime, Anne, a white woman, continued the ways of the middle class she was brought up with by her parents. She grew up in a neighborhood where 100% of the residents were born in America, 100% of them were white, and 90% were Jewish. Anne is now 76, divorced and living in Pasadena to be closer to her only child and her brother. While Anne’s family lived up to the cultural norms of the 40’s and 50’s where the woman stayed at home and the man went to work, they did not preach this lifestyle. She had a liberal upbringing and yet she was not involved in many of the women’s movements going on at the time. After hearing about Anne’s experiences, I see that I can put them in conversation with the historical context of Women’s education, sexual division of labor in the U.S., and the birth control movement.
Anne’s father missed the first two years of her life because he was enlisted in WWII. He was sent to pacific as a doctor specializing in orthopedic surgery with the Marine Corps and landed on Tarawa and Saipan — two really terrible battles of war and he was on front lines doing surgery on the wounded rather than shooting. He probably suffered PTSD but that was not a term then. Anne recalls how the war affected her family by saying; “It interrupted my parents life—my mother with the fear of the death of her husband and taking care of two babies alone; my father with the experience of terrible battles.” He was 41 in 1945 and just beginning a life that had been interrupted for the war years. Anne’s mother was a college educated nurse but never worked after having children. As a result of the Great Depression when her parents were growing up the family’s political views were very liberal but not to the extreme of being communists. This allowed their children, especially their daughter Anne to have a life that many women of her generation could not. This was a mindset shared by the majority of her extended family including a female cousin who graduated from Yale Law School in 1951 when no women went to law school.
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