I have lived half of my life in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. I have lived the other half of my life in the Midwest, Northern, and Western parts of this United States. My experiences in the South trouble me as an older, single, white female because they indicate a segment of the population that is losing choices, impact, and respect in economic, political, and educational arenas in this geographical region.
When I was a teenager at the University of Alabama, my “boyfriend” thought I should skip my classes and not worry about my grades because now I had a beau. (We did not wind up together.) As a divorced woman, I returned to Georgia and South Carolina from Arizona and finished my degree in a class that held two white women. (I was one of those women.) SWFs in this part of the country are not encouraged greatly for higher education unless their families and money support it. The traditional roles are still encouraged even if you have letters to put to your name.
There is nothing wrong with traditional roles, but as a married woman I was encouraged to become a kindergarten teacher because it was “appropriate” for women to concern themselves mainly with children. This did not just come from my husband, but also from his employer in South Carolina. (My husband was a high school coach and literature teacher.) We did not have children of our own, and the principle of the school was looking for an “appropriate” career for me. Before I was married, I worked in a Learning Disabilities center in Georgia for children with problems in school, and not more than one male ever worked there in three and a half years while I was employed as a receptionist/secretary. In fact, most of the employed staff were SWFs (except for one or two married women).
I have been in South Carolina for several years now, working first for Boeing and then as an independent Freelance Technical Writer. The website I was visiting for dating purposes posted a false profile of me (using my picture) as a lesbian. My job in South Carolina at Boeing was high profile, low position respectively within the corporate structure. Paid a decent commensurate wage, I faced several instances of personal animosity that I can contribute directly to being a SWF holding a career-oriented position.
Women’s suffrage culminated in 1920. I am wondering when I time-warped back before women could achieve respected, viable answers in society and became someone that can understand what women must have felt like. African American women have a large voice in the Southern Hemisphere. They are gaining ground in education, hitting harder over political impetus and standing proud of their achievements. SWFs are not finding themselves so well off. Women in the South do own businesses. They do have education and they do find good lives. On the other hand, they are still fighting the war against female stereotypes and demands of the pre-suffrage movement.