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Beatrice Nava (1943)'s picture

dinner party

Like Mary, I can see myself in these three representations, but unlike her, my identification with the Sojourner Truth dinner plate does largely involve my feminist evolution. After willingly falling into what presumably was expected of me, despite my BMC degree, about a year and a half after that acquisition, I left a promising career in journalism that I’d craved, got married, rapidly reproduced (four children in four and a half years), and subsequently experienced those three phenomena.

I never ceased to love and take pride in my children, but I definitely came to feel trapped in an increasingly incompatible marriage. For many years I wore the mask of suburban wife and mother, held back tears that grew into rage, before determining that I had to make my own life, albeit within the strictures the mask imposed. I went “back to school,” preparing myself to reenter the workforce as a teacher so that my hours would largely coincide with those of my children. It was only when my children were either away or about to be away in college—and the death of my very family-oriented father, that I filed for divorce and started the new chapter in what I've sometimes called my bifurcated life.

However, though I see my parallel with the graphic in my feminist evolution, even as I emphasized my right as a woman to break from the stranglehold of my era's expectation of even a first-generation college-educated “bourgeois gentlewoman,” I have always thought that men were similarly and perhaps even more forcefully entrapped behind masks. I’m reminded of that as I get into the first reading assignment--and the search for peace in our present time of war: What indeed has been expected of the educated man (and not just the sister who seeks to emulate him)?

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