What Next, Grandpa?

Photo  credit : Jellico’s Stationhouse

With thanks to the cheerful and patient Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, for hosting our supposed-to-be-Friday Fictioneers group and inspiring us with a prompt every week. And to Jelli for the © photo.

Archie huffed. “Nursing is no profession for women, especially a youngster like yerself. It’s hard, dirty work, and too…revealing!”

Mary ignored the “Never contradict your elders” protocol. “Well, Grandpa, I’ve talked this over with my parents and they approve. In fact, Dad’s bought me a bicycle so I can attend classes to get the credits I need.”

“A bicycle! What next?”

The pop-up memory tickled Mary as she watched a jet land. Oh, yes, Grandpa. What next? Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t live to see this, she thought as a young female pilot strolled past wheeling a suitcase.

Written in memory of my dear friend, Mary Strathdee, who braved her grandfather’s displeasure and became a nurse back in the 1930s. (I doubt she got the bike, though. 😉 )

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44 thoughts on “What Next, Grandpa?

      • When I worked as a psychiatric nurse, the male patients never complained! Although some of needing keeping in order, such as the old fellow who kissed me without warning, declaring that it had been his ambition, ever since his Grammar School days, to kiss a Roedean girl, and now he could die happy.

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      • Thanks for your comment. Actually I think a lot of men don’t mind —maybe depending on what needs fixing. Some like to flirt with the nurses. Then you have to keep them in order! What’s a Roedean girl?

        But I’m told psychiatric patients can be unpredictable; a friend, Erna, told me she went into work on the psych ward one day and a teen girl came up to her. Erna said hello and smiled. The girl looked at her and said, “I don’t like your teeth.” Then she grabbed Erna by one arm and flipped her in a circle, so next thing she knew, Erna was lying on her back on the floor!

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      • Roedean is a single-sex girl’s independent boarding school. I based the setting for my novel “Desiccation” on it, but called it Toffdene.
        I never experienced any violence when working in psychiatry, although felt slightly unnerved during my 3 months of working on a locked forensic ward. Statistically, general nurses working in accident and emergency units are more likely to suffer violence than psychiatric nurses are.

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      • Friday and Saturday nights are meant to be the worst for violence, as quite a lot of those arriving at Casualty are drunk or high on drugs, which is going to have been a contributing factor to their trauma in the first place.

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  1. Love this. I wonder how many young people today know that the only women who were nurses back in the very olden days were “women of ill repute.” No decent lady would have considered it.

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    • Thanks for your comment. I remember those ads. (And how women started smoking and dying of lung cancer just as often as men. thank goodness the truth finally hit home!)

      In terms of job opportunities we definitely have come a long way. but we’ve lost an awful lot, too. My uncle told me that in his childhood men would never swear in front of a women or child, out of respect. thinking back to my childhood, I’d say that in general women got a lot more respect than we do today—and behaved a lot more respectfully, too.

      When I heard one young teen girl on the bus loudly telling her friend, “Boys are only good for (*deleted*),” I decided we’ve come way too far. We’ve reached the point of little respect for either sex, or sex.

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      • You’ve presented an interesting perspective and I don’t disagree with the loss of class some young women have suffered but from the 70’s until today my view has been that women have made tremendous gains. Yes, abuse still happens, and crimes against women still occur but in America, at least, we are not as often punished for the crimes made against us.

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      • Well, that part is true. (As long as women aren’t committing more crimes themselves these days. Don’t know what the stats are on that.) I just wish we could have our cake and eat it too: equal respect for, and from, men and women.

        A single woman can support herself and have a lot better quality of life now. My grandma was widowed with a family of six children and had to manage as best she could, becoming a housekeeper for local bachelor & widowed farmers.

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    • Mary was an interesting lady, a mom and grandma when I knew her, outspoken in some ways but practical, realistic, compassionate. She married a dairy farmer and told me once, “I don’t want equal opportunity and equal rights the way some women do. My husband gets up at 4am every morning to milk the cows, winter and summer. I don’t want him waking me up and saying, ‘It’s your turn this morning to get up and do the milking and the chores.’ ” 🙂

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      • Haha! Well, Mary had the right idea – there certainly are both pros and cons to liberation. It seems to me that many women just have to hold down a job now on top of all the work they have to do at home. I’m not complaining though – we have more opportunities than our fore mothers! 🙂

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      • That’s true. As to holding down a job as well as home work, that’s true, too.
        And I had a penpal friend who said she begged her husband to let her stay home with their pre-schoolers and not miss those precious years. But hubby insisted, “No, you need to get a job.” And leaving him was no answer —she loved him. Plus, on her own she’d have to work for sure.

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      • It’s tough. I’ve been lucky that my husband was earning enough when my son was small so I could stay at home, only working part time through his early years. Of course it meant few holidays etc, but I feel very lucky to have had that time. Now he’s nearly thirteen and I’m eager to earn more money again! 🙂

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  2. Love this step back in time. We women have come a long way, haven’t we. Some good, some bad, but we DO endure. Loved reading your story, and if my memory of my Gr. Grandpa serves, I think he would be proud of me.

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    • I don’t think most men of that post-depression era would have opposed their grand-daughter becoming a nurse. Nurses played a valuable role in the first World War, when he’d have been young. He must have been either especially old-fashioned or thinking of battlefield scenes. Thanks for your comment.

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    • He was probably “conservative” even for his time, but you’re right. Time doesn’t stand still. We can only hope what we gain by this forward rush is worth the price we pay. But I for one am not willing to go back to candles and wood stoves. (Our power was out for a few hours yesterday — which brought this to mind. 🙂 )

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