From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Be Yourself

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... And What I Think About It...



In a cookbook that my mother-in-law's church published in 1975, I noticed that some of the ladies used their husband's names as their signatures -- "Mrs. Donald Woods", "Mrs. George Lewis" -- instead of simply signing their own names -- "Rosemary Woods", "Carolyn Lewis."

It reminded me of the elementary school in central Missouri where I taught in 1982-83. It was a small-town school, and the principal was a tall commanding woman with a withering gaze, a steely demeanor, and an obsession with micro-management. She had worked in the same building since her first day of teaching.

When she was in her late 40's, she married, and from thence onward, she signed her name as "Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor*." Unfortunately, Mr. Windsor had a heart attack and died when they had been married only a few years. Mrs. Windsor had been a widow for about a decade when I taught under her scrutiny, but she still signed every correspondence from the principal's office with "Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor."

When the time for the first report card grew near, I began to wonder if I was expected to sign my report cards as "Mrs. Dennis L. Netz." I questioned a young co-teacher, and she told me that she and most of the teachers did sign their report cards with their husband's name. She felt it demonstrated a spirit of voluntary cooperation with Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor.

Well, that seemed absurd to me. My husband had absolutely nothing to do with my classroom or my teaching, and in fact, no one in that town even knew him. So, I signed my report cards with my own name as I had done through previous years of teaching -- "Genevieve L. Netz."

If Mrs. Windsor had any objection to my signature, she didn't ever mention it to me.

I think the days of ladies identifying themselves by their husbands' full names are nearly finished. I honestly can't remember a single time that I've signed my name as "Mrs. Dennis L. Netz." I have always been convinced that I am myself. On the other hand, I do sometimes write "Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Netz" on guestbooks and similar things.

My church's cookbook, published in the late 1990's, doesn't have a single recipe signed in the Mrs.-Husband-Name style. That's not evidence of a trend, though, because I was the editor. If any lady did submit a recipe that way, I'm sure I changed it to her real name.

Bar

*Names in this article were changed to protect the innocent.

What do you think? Comments are welcome.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.