Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Sound of Women’s Heads Exploding

The Sound of Women’s Heads Exploding

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 19, 2010

Dialog for Mother’s Day

Lula Green Richards, Juvenile Instructor, May 1903, 350

Characters: Teacher and five little girls.

Enter five girls in group, left, with motions as if talking. Girl No. 1 carries small telescope; Girl No. 2, small globe; Girl No. 3, book of music; Girl No. 4, doctor’s satchel; Girl No. 5, beautiful doll. Group pauses center. Enter teacher (briskly).

Teacher (brightly): Well, girlies! I’m pleased to meet you all, with your sparkling, happy eyes. What will each one of you do, some day, to better the world in your own good way, and to make it, perhaps, more wise?

First Girl (profoundly): I shall study astronomy, and tell mysteries of newly found spheres. (Raise telescope and look upward).

Second Girl (loftily): I think international economy (indicate different countries on globe) will afford women broader careers!

Third Girl (dramatically): I’ll be a star actress (throw head and hands tragically) and musician (indicates playing piano), and sing operatically! Tral, lal, lal, lal, la, and win many a golden cup!

Fourth Girl (grandly): I’ll be a famous surgeon and physician! (indicate instruments by thumping satchel) and learn to – to – (draw thumb across body) cut people up! (All laugh.)

Fifth Girl (gaily and mock heroically): Oh, girls – you do whatever you can! Be as great, or greater than any man. Run races long! (indicate long distance) climb mountains high! (indicate great height). Make brilliant names that will never die, in this world or any other. And while you are doing grand things like these (sweetly), with “Love at Home,” and health and ease, I’ll live with my husband, and if you please – I’ll be my Baby’s Mother! (Caress and kiss doll tenderly as all exit.)




    my wife is the second girl, having studied international relations at BYU. Now she runs a NYC public school she designed focusing on international relations and I am girl #5 :) I love feminism.

    Comment by Dan — August 19, 2010 @ 7:00 am

  2. I’ll choose to cage the cynic and be glad they had girls model lots of adult women who made different choices.

    Oh, and great title!

    Comment by Ray — August 19, 2010 @ 7:24 am

  3. Yeah,
    I’m not certain one should take offense.
    Not everyone can do everything…
    If a guy is lucky enough to get a wonderful accomplished women who can also be a mother (like my fiancee), then great.

    But not all women can do everything, and often the pressures of making them be everything professional and a mother causes depression, even when it is a self-imposed depression.

    Comment by psychochemiker — August 19, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  4. sorry, strike second depression, should read “self-imposed expectations…”

    Comment by psychochemiker — August 19, 2010 @ 8:06 am

  5. I chose the title for several reasons, not all of them the most high-minded — attention-getting, and because some get so offended at anything that champions wifehood/motherhood over other careers.

    *My* head exploded at the way the dialog suggests such lofty professional possibilities existed for women in 1903. I do realize that these are made-up words from a fictional event, but it’s amazing to me that LGR listed so many, so glamorous, ambitions for her characters instead of, say, teaching and nursing and store-clerking which would have been more likely female career choices from the audience’s world.

    Even though there is more than a little condescension in the way this playlet pounds home yet again that any woman’s work other than family is a distant second best, for those of us who had little or no opportunity for family life, it’s always hopeful to hear even dim encouragement to be the best at what you do and to set your aim high.

    My head gave a satisfactory pop at that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 19, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  6. Is my head allowed to explode as well?

    Comment by ben — August 19, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  7. I read it totally different, Ardis and psychochemiker. I sensed not just some condescension, but total and abject mockery. In my opinion, the point of employing such lofty careers is purely to enhance the rhetorical point that nothing, nothing, nothing compares to being a stay-at-home mother. I guess I don’t see it as hinting that there is second-best out there; the point, I fear, is that there is only one option for a good woman: marry, stay home and have babies.

    Sorry, but this dude’s head exploded.

    Comment by David Y. — August 19, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  8. I’m trying to imagine the context of 1903, and suspect that this little scenario, while certainly condescending in several respects, fairly reflected the prevailing attitudes of the time, and was likely applauded by most who heard it. I think the heads started to explode during the 50’s and 60’s, when the parents of baby boomers often had the experience of mothers who worked in many professions otherwise not open to them while husbands and fiances were off fighting in WWII. Suddenly, the idea that you could possibly do both didn’t seem so unrealistic, but post-war, many men wanted things to go back to the way they were before.

    Having opened the door to a more equal distribution of financial independence, education, and opportunity, most women did not want it closed again. My mother, married late in 1945, loved being a mother, but in reality worked through most of her adult life while my brothers and I were growing up. She only quite working due to health issues by the time I got to college.

    I don’t think many heads exploded in 1903, but that subtle ticking sound was the time bomb starting to run down to the middle part of the century.

    Comment by kevinf — August 19, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  9. So many ways to look at it! This is fun. Keep the varied interpretations coming.

    I don’t think many heads exploded in 1903, but that subtle ticking sound was the time bomb starting to run down to the middle part of the century.

    Great image.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 19, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  10. Lula Greene Richards is so interesting–it’s worth noting in this context that she was also the first editor of the Woman’s Exponent.

    Comment by Kristine — August 19, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  11. To be complete, I should say that, to the extent Sister Richards’ dialogue was meant to underscore the importance of diligent parenting, I can totally get behind that.

    (And yes, kevinf, I agree that most heads in Salt Lake in the year 1903 weren’t exploding at this little drama.)

    Comment by David Y. — August 19, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  12. This little skit seems to read like a conservative reaction. No exploding heads here.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — August 19, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  13. “…some get so offended at anything that champions wifehood/motherhood over other careers.”

    While I have oft met this strawman, I have yet to actually meet anyone who feels this way.

    I think this is interesting in the context of 1903. However, it is also not all that different than what we find in Young Women’s manuals today.

    Comment by Chris H. — August 19, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  14. Really? I don’t want to start some kind of inter-‘nacle feud, but there are at least two ‘nacle blog with current posts and comments that spin this supposed strawman into concrete blocks.

    Mostly, though, I think this playlet is fun because it’s so easy to shift from the context of 1903 to 2010 and back, and from the point of view of its endorsing feminine achievement in the world (altho’ in second place) to its opposition to those careers under any circumstances. That the same issues can be of such importance to us a century away fascinates me.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 19, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  15. “…spin this supposed strawman into concrete blocks.”

    Whoa,,,you are much better with words than I am.

    Anyways, I will let it go. You rock.

    Comment by Chris H. — August 19, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  16. LLGR was the first editor of the Exponent as a single woman. She got married, had a miscarriage and then became pregnant again. At that point she resigned from the Exponent to become (as far as I know) a SAHM. I think there is an almost universal tendency/need to validate one’s own choices. This probably accounts for the tension that often exists between women who are employed and SAHM.

    Comment by Marjorie Conder — August 19, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  17. Wow! The second girl was a true visionary: she was more than a century ahead of her peers.

    I like the context that Marjorie Conder has contributed.

    Comment by Manuel — August 20, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  18. While it may not be necessary to put down a differing path, still there is value in upholding and honoring the important role of mothers. If this playlet were presented in 2010 where girls picked their own preferred destiny, and one made a choice similar to the fifth girl, I hope her choice would be appreciated, supported, and honored.

    Comment by ji — August 21, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  19. I don’t see why women should compartmentalize themselves–especially the way they do on the ‘nacle and in the Church. There seems to be this false idea that the Church expects us to have only the roles of wife and mother, to the exclusion of all else. But that’s errant nonsense and the Church teaches no such thing. They never could teach it and call it Christianity.

    The reason Christ has so many names is because He doesn’t just define Himself by one role. He understands and accepts that Parenthood is completely inseparable from Godhood, and defines Himself primarily as a member of a family. Just like Heavenly Father does, I might add. But defining yourself primarily by a role and solely by a role are two completely different ideas!

    Christ has so many other roles that show through in His teachings–a stone mason and architect, an astronomer and physicist, a gardener, an advocate, a governor of peace, the list goes on and on. Clearly, Christ shows us that to be a god isn’t to give up our interests and desires in exchange of being a Parent only. If He is such a multi-faceted, wonderful example of fulfillment–while also being a Parent–why would we ever argue with Him when He tries to guide us in that way?

    Those who define themselves as feminists with an ax to grind against marriage and family, simply because they think that’s the only thing Christ and His Church have to offer them, do not know Christ. They rob themselves of the fullness He offers them, and in so doing forsake the one who could actually give them the fulfillment they crave.

    Comment by Paradox — August 22, 2010 @ 1:55 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI