Friday, October 31, 2008

Old-School Activism

[This week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings is "scandalous." This family story is what immediatly came to mind.]


Old-School Activism

My mom grew up in the Depression, though she reminds us that as kids they didn't know that they were poor because nearly everybody in town was in the same way. So partly because of the era and partly because there was no money, it was up to the kids to make their own fun. My mom was sandwiched between two brothers and it sounds like the kind of fun she enjoyed a lot of the time was physical. She loved to run.

I guess it was natural, given the kind of play she liked, that she took to wearing her older brother's denim jeans. He was just two years older and he didn't like it, but it didn't stop her, even though she had to roll up the bottoms and belt them really tight. At school, though, she had to wear dresses or skirts. All the girls did – it was a rule.

As I hear it, though, my mom wasn't content to let that rule stand. As I remember hearing it (and I'm sure my family will correct me if I'm wrong) my Mom was just a year or two into high school when she decided to do something about the "no pants for girls" dress code. She counted up the number of girls in her class. She figured if they ALL wore pants on the same day, there was no way for them to punish them all.

So on the appointed day, nearly all the girls showed up in slacks instead of skirts. And as Mom had figured, there were too many for them to send home to change (the usual approach). And the rule came tumbling down. I'm sure some thought that was scandalous.



19 comments:

B. Roan said...

I remember the days of no pants for girls. It wasn't fair, especially in the winter. Perhaps your mother was responsible for our dress code being changed, as well. BJ

sister AE said...

Hello, B. Roan. I suppose anything's possible.

sister AE said...

Actually - B. Roan, since my mom grew up in southern Illinois I suppose that is entirely possible (unless you are in Illinois now but not then).

Rinkly Rimes said...

An old-fashioned scandal from a bygone era. It wouldn't be a scandal today.

sister AE said...

Hi, Rinkly. Exactly.

Lisa said...

It is hard for me to imagine the scandal of women wearing pants. I am jsut glad it changed.

paisley said...

girl,, i was in sixth grade before they allowed us to wear pants,, and by seventh we were not only wearing pants,, but low rider hip hugging levis and midriff tops to boot!!!!!

wow i haven't thought about that for ever... this was a fun trip down memory lane for me!!!!!!

sister AE said...

Hello, Lisa. Stop by any time.

Hi, paisley. I'm glad you liked it.

Cricket said...

Your mom was quite courageous to stand up against silly rules. I had to laugh when I read this as I remembered back to when I wore the first mini skirt to our high school. I was sent home to change.

Stan Ski said...

In a way' the democratic way - but it could have backfired. 'If everyone's doing it, it must be wrong' is usually the attitude in schools.

Linda Jacobs said...

Even as a senior in high school we weren't allowed to wear pants! I remember being so embarrassed because on really cold mornings my mom would make me wear pants under my skirt.

But, it's weird because now I almost exclusively wear skirts to school! I don't know why but it just seems right. Most teachers don't, though, and dress almost as casually as the kids. I'll admit that I do wear jeans on Fridays most weeks.

I enjoyed your story!

gautami tripathy said...

I have three brothers. So I kind of liked to wear their tees and pants.

Now I am a teaher. Saris are the dress code but I have been known to wear cargoes for work!

*grin*

entangling
Kill Word Verification

sister AE said...

Hi, Cricket. She's always had strong opinions!

Hello, Stan. I think they were probably overwhelmed!

Thanks, Linda. I figure most of us tried hard to fit in in high school. If we are lucky, we get around to dressing in what makes us feel good - not what everyone else is wearing.

Hi, Gautami. Good for you!

JAXTER said...

What a great story and how courageous of your Mom! My mother used to make me wear skirts to elementary school - not many of the other girls did, but I had to. I would sneak a pair of pants in my school bag and change at the bus stop. By the time I hit middle school she was tired of fighting with me about skirts, but really what could she expect when I too was sandwiched between two brothers just like your Mom! I haven't thought about that in years...thanks.

sister AE said...

Thanks, Jaxter. Any time.

"Sunshine" said...

Hee hee hee... this brings back memories of the time I accidentally wore jeans to a UPC church; however, I wasn't punished or publicly humiliated for it or anything. I did feel a bit scandalous though.

sister AE said...

Hello, Sunhine. Glad I gave you a chuckle.

~ Jenn said...

My great aunt was the principal of a HS in Dying Steel Town, WVa. She used to staple filler paper to the hems of girls who came into school in skirts shorter than the dress code allowed. This would be the 60s-70s.

This story was told to us by one of the nurses in the nursing home as Aunt was dying. It's one of the best stories I tell about her.

Kudos to your Mom for shaking things up!

sister AE said...

Hello, Jenn. What a great story! Glad you stopped by.