Equality for women
There is history on equality of women, but some of it is still in progress. I never miss voting in an election because Susan B. Anthony made it possible. She was arrested on charges of voting illegally in the 1872 election. She then went on a speaking tour “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to vote?” Women were considered second-class citizens, but she convinced them that we should have the privilege to vote.
Women have come a long way since then. They could own property long before I was born, but I would like to tell you why there was a question in my young mind if we girls in school were equal to boys. We definitely did not dress alike. Well, if it were really cold and stormy, we were allowed to wear slacks under our dresses or skirts, but had to immediately remove them in the school building. We could carry a pair of slacks for Physical Education, to wear only in that class. Days were cold, and the walk to school was long for most, as there were no buses for any students in town. They seldom called off school because of a snow storm, because we could all walk in the snow. Dungarees were worn only by laborers and were not the style then for students (or teachers). In the grade school we had only women teachers, who wore tailored dresses, so plain that I never forgot them. I remember one teacher who had four dresses: dark green, dark brown, dark blue and black. She alternated them all four years I had her in high school. None of them brightened the room.
May Day was celebrated every year as health day. The boys’ toy band marched first from the Elm Street School to the Village Green and we girls marched behind them. It was in 1931 and we all could dance around the May pole. The boys’ band placed third in Class Competition held in Portland on May 9, 1931. We accepted the fact that the boys had a band, but we never knew or questioned why we girls could not be included. Anyway we were allowed out of school for a couple of hours, and that was quite a treat.
But the subject of “equality” reached a high point on June 9, 1931, when the Lions and Rotary Clubs sponsored “Camden Boys’ Day.” Chaperones and 225 boys spent the day at Pemaquid Point, while the girls stayed in school and studied. I don’t believe that study day made us any smarter because we were thinking about the boys getting out of school on a nice day, and we seldom got out of school for anything. This custom continued for a number of years.
On a nice spring day, the boys were excused from the classes to go out and rake the ball diamond; the girls stayed in and studied.
The Boy Scouts went on hikes and had plenty of leaders for their troops, whereas sometimes the Girl Scouts could not meet because no one volunteered to be their leader. We never went on a hike and therefore did not wear out our shoes. One year was wonderful. It was Depression times, so no parents had money enough for uniforms. Mr. Watson, of IBM, gave our Girl Scout troop $50 and with a couple dollars each we could really look like Girls Scouts. We could even march in the Memorial Day parade.
Probably these things cannot even be imagines by today’s school children, but I shall continue on to amuse myself and maybe some of my readers of this column.
The cost for a membership to the Y.M.C. A. was $1 for a year. It was a generous gift to receive one for Christmas, but there was a drawback. It was a Young Men’s Christian Association, so girls were not allowed in there except for two hours, twice a week for basketball practice. The boys went there after school and in the evening, where they could shoot pool, scrimmage basketball or bowl. Needless to say the boys had championship teams; we girls couldn’t win a game. There was even talk, when I was in Camden High School, of not having girls’ basketball, because it was too strenuous. In fact the court was then divided in three sections, and we didn’t have to race the length of the floor as the boys did. By my junior year we did go to two courts, so they must have decided we were not that frail.
We have come a long way; a very long way. Girls dress in boy’s clothes of slacks, dungarees and baggy clothes, as do some “gray haired girls.” It is the style for some girls to wear short hair, cut like boys and boys wear long hair like girls. Some is even red, green, yellow, etc., that they tell me comes from dyeing with Jello. The boys wear earrings and girls get tattoos.
I only get frustrated occasionally, when I cannot figure out the gender of the person.
But I am not complaining, as we have come a long way.
Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian. While she's officially retired from writing Who's Who, she often submits "just one more" column for publication.