Sunday, July 20, 2008


Amazon “Top 500 Reviewer” Dr. Cathy Goodwin said in part in her review of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL:

As I read, I was reminded of Rona Jaffe's classic, The Best of Everything, made into a movie that captured the 50s era career woman.

What Jaffe did for the college graduate in publishing, Miller does for the
Vietnam era junior officer's wife.

I have to admit that I had never heard of the book (which was first published when I was 10) or the 1959 movie based on the book. Of course I clicked on Amazon and bought the book.

The novel starts in 1952, the year I was four, my brother two, and my parents got their first car and their first television. The book’s depiction of all career women as just waiting till they could hook some man and give up their job depressed me. I’m not saying this wasn’t true then, just that it depressed me.

Years ago in Philadelphia at the Norman Rockwell Museum I saw the cover of a Saturday Evening Post illustrated by his artwork. The date of the issue was some time after 1945. And the title of one of the issue’s featured articles announced on the cover went something like this: Now that the men have returned can the girls keep their jobs?

Those words “can the girls keep their jobs” have always haunted me. I had read somewhere that, in the second half of the 1940s, there was a concerted propaganda campaign to get women who’d worked during WWII to return to their places at home.

And this propaganda campaign meant that those of us who were early feminists had to spend the 1970s fighting for our place in the workforce. I won’t repeat here the things I was told as a Mrs. Lieutenant as to why I couldn’t have a job. Or what was said to me in job interviews when I returned to civilian life.

I do know that, when I taught newswriting courses at Temple University Center City in the mid-1970s, I had to first overcome the prejudices of both male and female students towards women. Only then could I get these students to report about women in the same neutral tones that they reported about men.

(I’ll never forget when a front-page Wall Street Journal article, talking about a woman, said “the blond” did such and such. In those days I had quite a collection of newspaper clippings featuring derogatory portrayals of women.)

So while I very much appreciate the good review that Goodwin gave to MRS. LIEUTENANT, I do hope that my portrayal of the wives of four junior army officers in 1970 was not as one-sided as Rona Jaffe’s portrayal of young “career” women in the early 1950s.

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