Margaret Jean Harkey


As Interveiwed by Olivia Hardick, March 20, 2011

Margaret Jean Harkey: In Her Own Words

My husband never wanted me to have a job. If I had a job it made it look like he could not support the family. Husbands were supposed to control their wives. If the men couldnít control their wives at home then they werenít controlling their wives.

Being a house wife was a 24-7 job, men were not expected to do any housework or really take care of the babies. Maybe watch the older kids once and a while. But mostly it was the womanís job was to raise the children, Iím not saying they did not have any input though. A lot of them made the decision of what their children were going to do as far as going to school, going to college, and a lot of the fathers made the decision that their sons were going to college, but not their daughters. Not every son went to college, though. Iím just talking about the girls not going to college but a lot of the boys didnít either. I mean, it was expensive. A lot of the boys went straight from high school to working in a factory.

I donít think women had as much control over how many children they had and that's why they tended to have more children than women these days. The birth control didnít come until later. Not only had that, but a lot of men expected them to have a lot of children. The farmers wanted to have a lot of children so that they could have workers for their farm. By the fifties people were cutting down on the size of their families.

A lot of women went into healthcare. Also they could work in factories where they sewed a lot of the women in my town worked in a factory that made lingerie. They made very little. A lot of them went into a secretarial position. I went into a secretarial position and then I worked for a drug company, which was pretty big back then.

Men did some hard jobs like farming and things like that, but women also did hard jobs. They would slaughter animals if they lived on farms. They would raise the chickens and cook and clean and sew and, you know, they did not have machines like we do, so it was very hard.

Women had to give up their jobs after the war because, you know the men needed a job and they had priority over all of the women, so yeah I think that affected a womanís ability to have a job after the war, yeah. Women felt like they were their own person when they were working.

I think the feeling of women being their own person went away when they had to stop working, but I donít really know. My sisters were single at that time, so they had jobs and did not lose theirs. They had to work because they had to make money. Once they got married, they still needed to go to work and help support their families. But of course it didnít pay what the menís jobs paid.

I was expected to get married. all I was expected to do was go to school, get a high school education, get married, and have children.

There werenít as many scholarships given out to women so it was harder for them to go, but then again most of them didnít go to college. The girls who did go to college became teachers.

Now women are paid as much as men, and a lot of women donít have to take responsibility for all the housework and they donít have total responsibility for the kids. That is the greatest difference; I think we have come a long way.