Arrival: A Little Feminist History


    [top dis] => 
    [bottom dis] => 

With the statistics of how COVID is affecting men and women differently as regards employment and superannuation, no one would suggest that everything in the garden is now perfect. However, when I look back on how things were when I was first looking for employment in the early Sixties, I can see an enormous improvement.

Back in the UK I was fortunate in that I had a dream education in that I was able to attend the local grammar school for free and then on to university, no fees entailed. What an incredible time! Perhaps one of the smartest things I ever did was to choose my birth date, even though it was in the early stages of WW11. The story goes that on being told by my Mother that I was on the way, my Father looked serious and said the words that would follow me into family history, “Ina, we have done a wicked thing”. Hardly an auspicious beginning!

When the Australian lad I was dating at Uni proposed, I cancelled my trip to Sweden and decided to obtain a teaching position in Sheffield, where he was completing his Metallurgy Degree. I felt confident that I would obtain a position teaching Science somewhere in the area. Overconfident as it turned out. One of the three gentlemen interviewing me for a position inquired if I thought I could teach sewing! I rapidly disabused him of the idea. Not that I do not think that the ability to sew is an excellent thing, and one to this day I have never mastered, but it was not what I was hoping to be offered. Finally, I left with the promise of a teaching position in a Primary School. Details as to which school, grade. Etc. would be supplied by letter just before the term was due to begin.

With no idea as to what to expect, I entered my school only to be confronted with forty-eight beaming eightyear-olds. Remember, the teaching of Reading, Writing, Spelling, Tables, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Art, Singing, Geography and Nature had mysteriously been omitted from the Science Syllabus I had recently undertaken at University. I then made an error, which in retrospect, was probably unwise. I confessed to a more experienced teacher the position I was in. Her advice was invaluable and one which I have endeavoured to follow my entire life since, with appropriate adjustments. Her never-to-be-forgotten words were, “Fill your board with very simple sums and think fast!”

I was fortunate; the children seemed to like me, and I certainly fell in love with them. I had some catching up to do but I do not think I made a bad fist of it. Even then I could make them laugh which brightened up both their day and mine and so the following years flew by.

Eventually, Don found he was homesick for Oz and having proved to my parents he was not a wife-beater and that we were happy together, they reluctantly agreed to let me go. We had married in 1966 and left in ’69 but not before I was given a warning as what to expect by my friends, being given a book entitled “Isolation, Desolation, and Convicts”.

Australia proved a steep learning curve when I first arrived, pregnant, nauseous, and missing family and friends. We were overwhelmed with hospitality but I soon learnt that I had to mind my P’s and Q’s at social events.

An English friend I met later, confessed to me that she too had made the mistake of treating such events similarly to that of myself. Her husband had been head-hunted by a rather conservative large firm in Australia, and then invited to meet other members of the firm along with his wife. She was used to such occasions back in the U.K. and confidently mingled with his colleagues, introducing herself as she went. She did not feel the necessity to remain joined at the hip with her husband and felt the evening had gone rather well. Sadly, the next morning her husband was called into the Boss’s office who told him that he had better learn to keep his wife under control. He was amused, but kept a straight face until he got home. My friend was anything but amused. But in those days it was a case of “When in Rome….” and we both kept our thoughts to ourselves when in company, although our respective husbands caught some flak in the privacy of our own homes.