h sofia

I haven't read your Hirshman posts yet, HF, but I love this testimony about your mom.


I asked her once why she didn't leap on board when the women's movement broke out in full force in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her answer was that while the women's movement had her full support, she felt that it came slightly too late for her.

Not to pick on your mother (or this beautiful piece you wrote about her), but stuff like that always makes me wince.

Your mom is younger than one my parents and only slightly older than my other parent. At 22, that makes my parents older than most other parents of people my age. My oldest sibling just turned 43.

A pet peeve of mine is how baby boomers like to pretend SO much that they were the hippie generation, that they were freedom riders in Selma, that they went to Woodstock, that they were the feminists. Yet most of them weren't, as most of them were in their teens. Those that WERE involved were on the young end of the movements, and almost NO one that young was in any sort of leadership position. *Even the so-called student leaders were mostly graduate students, not undergrads.)

Most of the big name feminists -- Robin Morgon, Kate Millett, Gloria Steinem, etc. -- were born in the early 1930's. The youngest late-60's-early-70's feminist I can think of was one of the members of the Boston Women's Collective that helped put together Our Bodies, Ourselves. The next youngest might have been Shulamith Firestone, who was born in 1945 (so still, not a boomer!).

I think it makes it even more amazing to think of these women, who weren't kids, still having the idealism and energy that they did, you know? It also makes me feel better in my life, knowing that you don't have just a few years in college to be a "radical" and then, that's it, it's grownup time.

The Happy Feminist

Yep, I agree that my mother was certainly not too old to have been radicalized if she had had the temperament to do so. As I said, she is not a fighter. I think her comment was a really a reflection that given her time and place, feminism came to late for her to partake of its benefits without openly rebelling, which is contrary to her nature.

But she was pretty darned radical in her views, if not her actions.


This is a great story, and it really helps me as I try to wrap my brain around what feminism means in my life. I already do much more toward shaping my daughter's attitudes than was ever done for me when I was a child, and it's reassuring to remember that whatever walls (often self-erected) I bang my head against, I'm at least helping my daughter to not build barriers for herself later.


I agree that naming these things -- being honest and talking about them -- is hugely important. My mother was much the same way.

And while she would never fight for stuff for herself, she would fight for her daughters.

Scott Lemieux

I wish I had more substantive commentary to add, but great post.


This is a great piece. I also find your mother a strong woman in mind, if not in action. She really seemed to have taken the best course of action for herself, and for you - she seems to have really taught you an interesting perspective.

It makes me reflect on the women in my family. My family is very small, and now that both my grandmothers are dead, it's just my mom and two aunts - the three sisters - as role model women, each of whom are completely different. My oldest aunt is stubbornly opinionated, my mom terrified of denial, and my youngest aunt a confident woman in a male-dominated profession.

And honestly, I think it takes all three for me to be able to get a sense of the generation in which they were raised - all three reflect a different angle of the movement in the 70s - and to get a sense of where women who are of the age of second wave feminists are now.


I agree totally - not only are these choices we make very personal, how we feel about them is very personal, too, and also has to take into account the curve balls life throws at us. I think Hirschman doesn't allow for the bad things that can happen, or for personal limits, when she talks about the sell-out.

My mother (like yours) was very up-front about how she wasn't where she thought would be when she was young, and why. She wanted to be a pharmacist, but when the 4-year program mutated into a five-year program halfway through, she couldn't afford the fifth year and so she returned home to be a secretary. Totally not where she thought she would be! She always told me very clearly that if she had been a man, she would have gotten the financial aid to finish the fifth year of pharmacy school (because she was 2nd in her class on grades). She wishes now that she had had the chutzpah to make a huge fuss with her family or with the school, and the stamina to follow it through, and always always told me that I should stand up for myself because I had one strike against me already just by being a woman.

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