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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The role of women at Columbia's founding


     A couple of weeks ago at the 50th anniversary of March on Washington it was mentioned that none of the speakers at the 1963 March were women even though there were prominent women like Dorothy Height pictured above who helped with the planning for the March.  This fact was mentioned a few times at this year's March.  Remember this is the time of our history that is depicted so well in the TV show "Mad Men."  The role of women was still one of limited options and opportunities.
     This reality got me thinking about of how women were involved in the planning of Columbia which also happened during the time of 1963 March.  In doing research at the Columbia Archives about the planning for Columbia I didn't remember seeing photos with women or remember any role they played in the discussions.

     The picture above of a planning meeting shows only one woman at the table during the meeting.  This was Antonia Chayes.  She was brought into the planning to address some of the "family life" issues with Columbia.

  Ms. Chayes had been a member of the White House Commission on the Status of Women in the early 1960's.  In reading some of her comments in some Archive documents it is interesting to see how the status of women was seen in the 1960's and how it impacted the thinking on the needs of women living in Columbia.  It is important to remember how women were viewed at this time (Mad Men remember?). This was not a time where young women were being encouraged into STEM programs as they are now. The anticipated needs of women in Columbia in our early days centered around family and child rearing.  Often the opportunities for women in our community were prefaced by the words, "after women's child rearing days are over."  In the 1960's there was the expectation that a woman's place was in the home until the children left home.  Woe to any woman who wanted to balance a career with raising children.  The assumption was that only single mothers would need to work outside the home.  The following sections in written planning material  gives this view:
        "Child care services are needed in all communities for children of all kinds of families----those of broken homes, or one parent homes with working mothers or mothers who want to work in the community or enjoy some recreation."
       "There are temporary family crises, emotional or physical illness of the mother, or another child, which makes on-going institutional arrangements for child care a necessary social utility in a well planned community."  
       "They (daycare centers) will perform a great service to middle class mothers who may chose to work part time, engage in volunteer work or simply want some free hours to paint, write, think or play tennis."
       " Family life and homemaking education is needed at different stages in a person's development.  A comprehensive and sophisticated program will be needed to prepare girls and women (and men to some extent) of all ages, educational levels and cultural and economic backgrounds to fulfill their responsibilities for homemaking, the health of the family and family in general."

      Not surprisingly Howard County didn't have any female County Commissioners, State or National elected officials in 1963.

1 comment:

jessie said...

Hi Duane, Interesting piece. Hey, we'd love to have your Hoco-focused blog posts in the Community section of All you need to do is add this term: hocoblogs@@@ to your post, and you're in. :)