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Housewives should have memorial

Date: 5/12/2010

No memorials have been built to honor the WWll generation American housewife whose strength of character stabilized our society and served as the underpinnings upon which the massive war effort rested. Theirs was a mission of quiet determination which had been so intimately woven into the fabric of American society that we, in our inclination to focus on obvious, dynamic things, never recognized.

They had a spring in their walk and a song in their heart. Most carried a large change purse and placed the "Iceman Sign" in their windows when their icebox needed another chunk of ice.

The stay-at-home WWll generation American housewife was not a seeker of pity. They did not crave creature comforts but placed a high value on their Ration Stamps.

As a whole, these women were resourceful, loyal, open and honest, hospitable, resilient and frugal. The majority of the housewives handled the discipline problems with their children while the father worked long hours in the factory. A thick, red oak yardstick which could be bought at W. T. Grant's Department Store on Dwight St. in Holyoke was the choice instrument of many a housewife in the lower Pioneer Valley who skillfully used one to make instruction resonate within their children.

With a sense of self-imposed duty, these women readily took to the task of wearing many hats. They scrounged to make ends meet and many organized their children to collect aluminum, paper and rags for the war effort.

They always seemed to be keenly aware of their family's nutrition, priming their children with cod liver oil and Blackstrap Molasses.

"Eat your greens, the kids in Europe are starving" was often used to prompt their children to eat everything on their plate.

Many of these resourceful women had a corner of their dwelling reserved for their treadle-style Singer Sewing Machine on which they repaired or made their own clothing. They ran their own "in-home-clinic" of sorts. They would go to the medicine cabinet to concoct remedies for common ailments. The words "mustard plaster" and "tincture" come to mind.

They put together simple, but effective remedies out of baking soda, lemons and honey.

While it doesn't seem fitting that the sound of a bugle or the beat of a drum be used to call attention to these unsung heroines of WWll, there is an ancient text found in the Old Testament of the Bible in Proverbs 31 that seems most appropriate: The Wife of Noble Character: "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates."

This Memorial Day let us give praise at the city gates to those who wore bandanas on their head and Oxfords on their feet and did what they could where they were with what they had while softly singing to themselves whimsical songs that were popular during those difficult days.

William Santy