A few weeks ago when I announced my big news about the Civil War book (hereafter to be known as Within My Memory Yet,) there were lots of comments and congratulations on my Facebook page -- and among them was one from the author Merrill Joan Gerber, a FB friend.
She had evidently followed the link to my author page on the Regal House website and read that I'd graduated from University of Florida. Since we were there at more or less the same time, she wondered if we might have studied under the same professors. As it turned out, we both remembered Dr. Nathan Comfort Starr -- which led to excited comments from two other FB friends -- Flossie Hickland and Anne Witters Langan, also students at UF at the time.
Then Merrill mentioned that she'd written a novel set at UF in the late fifties. (Merrill is a prolific and award-winning novelist and short story writer who currently teaches writing at Caltech). Of course, I ordered it at once and devoured it whole.
Glimmering Girls (and now I'm quoting from the write-up on Amazon) " tells the story of . . . Francie and her friends Liz and Amanda, . . . college students coming of age intellectually, emotionally, and physically in a setting where men were forbidden entry to women's dorm rooms, and women were locked into those rooms after curfew. College life for women was governed by one simple, cardinal rule: Marry Before Graduation or Be Lost Forever. . . "
Panty raids ( a mob of probably drunken young men storming the women's dorm and demanding underwear) were a thing back then -- and the general reaction of both the cloistered young women and the college authorities was surprising. Segregation was still the rule and girls were cautioned not to scare off potential mates by sounding too intelligent.
A student of social history would no doubt draw a straight line between the mores of the fifties and the views still held by many of that generation today. (Many, not all. Some of us moved on, no longer willing to accept 'things as they are'.)
Glimmering Girls is a terrific novel -- especially for those of us who came of age at that time. I was hooked from the beginning scene where Francie's roommate is pouring over a bride magazine as I suddenly remembered what a common sight that was. I poured over a few myself, inasmuch as John and I had an 'understanding' that we would be married after college, though we weren't formally engaged.
The novel points out the inequality of the sexes, the unrealistic expectations for women -- and here again, it brought back bad memories -- from the mandatory panty girdles; to the memory of being in a friend's dorm room when a girl I didn't know came in and said, "I think I was raped last night,' and no one had any suggestions to make; to the generally held notion that women in college were there to get a degree so they could teach (until they married) and said teaching degree would be 'something to fall back on' should the unthinkable (divorce or widowhood or, worst of all, spinsterhood) occur.
And that's what I did -- got my degree in English because I loved it and was good at it, and took the minimum of education courses to qualify for a teacher's certificate.
At this point in my life -- almost sixty years later -- I have no regrets. John and I have made a very good life together. But only because we broke away from the path our families had expected we would follow and moved to our farm in the mountains. I wouldn't change that for anything.
I wonder though . . . had I not gone off to college, already certain that we would marry, what path might I have taken then?
A very fine novel -- I'd especially recommend for book clubs There is so much to think about and discuss here -- whether, like me, you grew up in this world or whether you are younger and would like to understand how things have (or haven't, in some cases) changed.