Conversations with my mother-in-law brought about the idea of addressing women working in the 1950’s. Women attending college was not the norm. It was the rare exception for those who did not have a man to marry after high school. However, career options were typically limited to teacher, nurse, or secretary. And frequently, if or when a woman married she was dismissed from employment.
I searched for an alternative for Missy and discovered there was a career that was well respected, professional, and allowed a woman to be self supporting – Occupational Therapist. After the two World Wars soldiers were returning home with injuries that made it difficult to join society. While men were primarily the doctors, they welcomed women in the role of Occupational Therapist. The important work they did soon gained respect in the hospital setting, and elevated the women to a status above nurse. The Occupational Therapist became a colleague to the doctors. Professional programs were established as part of several medical schools throughout the country, and most important, they were designed to educate women for this important role.
As a tribute to my mother-in-law MaryEllen Mehler Quinn, I have chosen a picture of her graduating class from the 1948 Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. She was one of those many women forced to leave when she married. I applaud her desire to learn and achieve at a time when it was not easy for women. She later returned to school when her youngest of nine children were near high school age and joined the workforce again as a nurse. She, like Missy, was a woman determined to be all she could.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana