Week 36: Working

Looking back at my female grandparents for three generations I don’t see many who worked anywhere outside the home. Most are listed on census records as “keeping house” or “working at home” probably because they had large families to care for. There are a few exceptions.

My Grandma Great (Amelia Juhrend) was widowed at a young age. She had a laundry and catering business that she probably ran out of her home. Her daughter, Louise, my Dad’s mother, was also widowed at a young age and wound up putting her children in an orphanage and moving back home. She joined Amelia in the catering business until she remarried.

During WWII many women entered the workforce including my Mom’s sisters. My Mom had “side hustles” going on and did not get “a real job” until I was about 12. I think she knew that chances were high she would be widowed and would need to support my sister and me. She earned her high school diploma and got an entry level job at Abbott Labs. She was a very hard worker, very smart and was recognized for her work ethic. She worked as a Purchasing Assistant and then was offered a position as Executive Assistant in charge of tracking engineering project work using the new IBM computer cards. She took her work very seriously and received high praise from the executives she supported. I realize now that my Mom was my role model for working women.

By 1950 it was pretty common for young women to go to college and pursue a career. I had wanted to be a teacher since 4th grade so college was always in the works for me, if we could afford it. Lucky me…I got a scholarship from Abbott and from the state. I always worked summers in an Abbott office and worked during my college years cleaning house (which I hated).

I’ve written previously (https://wordpress.com/post/memories-and-musings.com/503) about getting my teaching job after 2 years of college. I taught for two years and then started our family. I was fortunate that I could stay home and raise our children. Most of my girlfriends were able to do this also. During this time I continued my education through night school, correspondence and summer school. After 17 years I got my BA degree in Education and English. I always knew I would be a teacher again.

Reading to my Nursery Schoolers

When my youngest daughter entered kindergarten, I landed a job as Director of a private co-op nursery school. I don’t think my kids were pleased with this decision. I was there for a few years then after receiving my degree I got a position at Avon Center school in Round Lake where I taught kindergarten and fifth grade. Honestly, it was hard trying to be good at all three roles in my life…wife, mother, teacher. I was on the fringe of the feminist movement of the 50’s…not burning my bra, but wanting to have a fulfilled life. Staying home and shopping or playing cards with the neighbor ladies wasn’t enough for me.

In 1977 we moved to California (Jim accepted a good job offer) and I decided to leave teaching. I was burned out after 10 years of teaching and CA required another year of school to get a teaching certificate. I applied at Abigail Adams temp agency and got a job stuffing envelopes. I did so well that the company hired me on the first day and my business career took off from there. Over the next 20 years I was a credit analyst, customer service manager, materials manager and training manager. In every job I was the person who trained the new people, trained on new software, trained on new programs the company was launching. My close friends said I was “always a teacher”, sometimes to the point of irritation.

Halloween Fun at work

In 1993, along with three fellow managers, we launched our own corporate training company, Bolero Associates! We worked hard and were very successful training at companies that were launching Total Quality Management. All my other jobs paled in comparison to being the owner of the company!

I always chose to work for companies that manufactured an important product. I always wanted to feel that I was making a positive impact on the world or on people by the work that I did. Occasionally, I would have people comment to me and validate that my work, my words, had helped them. One young man asked if he could take a quiz home to share with his wife because he thought the ideas would help them get along better. Another young man came to me and confessed he couldn’t read. Could I help him out so that he could apply for a supervisor job? So rewarding to connect with people in such meaningful ways!

Recently, I had a woman ask to “friend” me on Facebook. I recognized her name but could not place her. She contacted me again and I realized she was one of my students at Avon School. She said I was her favorite teacher. Wow! After all these years… She made my day!

1 thought on “Week 36: Working”

  1. Nice. It’s amazing how the things you do out of pure joy and service , somehow impact people’s lives .
    I recently did a post on my life after divorce. I didn’t know that it would impact others. Life is a joy.


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