A Woman’s Place, 1963

CBC has a great program called Rewind which I got a chance to listen to the other day while driving. With Rewind the CBC digs into their archives and features some of their old radio programs. As a kid I used to stay up late listening to old radio shows on my walkman as I lay in bed. The few programs I have caught on Rewind have fascinated me but this recent one I can’t stop thinking about.

National Farm Radio Forum 1941-1965:

It was radio that got farmers talking. From 1941 to 1965, pestilence National Farm Radio Forum brought together groups of neighbours across rural Canada to listen to a weekly half-hour program on a single farm issue. Using accompanying printed study guides, remedy the groups then discussed the broadcast and sent in a summary for follow-up on a subsequent show. Launched as an educational experiment by the CBC, along with the Canadian Association for Adult Education and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the show’s motto was: “Read. Listen. Discuss. Act.”

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I’m not surprised that I didn’t know anything about this program, I’m sure there are a a million programs out there I know nothing about – especially if they deal with farming which is something I also know nothing about. The episode I was listening to was A Woman’s Place:

All across Canada, women are leaving their kitchens to join the paid workforce. But can married women go out to work without neglecting their duties at home? In the town of Knowlton, Que., participants on National Farm Radio Forum are divided. Some believe a mother should be at home if she has preschool children, while others point out that working is not a choice when money is tight. Freelance broadcaster Anne Francis helps moderate this 1963 forum, subtitled “Women in their Place.”

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Listening to this 40+ year old discussion, recorded on a cool, wet night as a group of farmers got together in the nice warm basement a United Church, I was struck by the old adage the more things change the more they stay the same –at least in terms of women’s views on women’s roles in the home. One woman thought women should suck it up and stay home with the children while they are young. One man thought women just wanted to work out of the home to buy more things – however, he also said if she wanted to do it to have a fuller life he didn’t have a problem with it. Should women be on the town council? On the school board? They tried to find a woman who owned properly to run on the school board but couldn’t find one. Mostly, it was the question of working vs. raising children that – for obvious reasons – affected me the most and one I still see women arguing about over 40 years later and I suspect they will continue to do so 40 years to come.

Sound bites: (Not word for word – there is no pause button once the program starts.)

I think as long as the children are small, preschool age… it is very important for women to be home.

If the woman is frustrated she isn’t doing the children any good and better find someone else to look after them.

Isn’t the conversation of a three-year old pretty tedious?

Accept certain phases of your life and then you will be happier.

Most women who go out to work who have young children do it because they need money.

The first few years are very formative.

By the time they (women) figure out their transportation costs, meals they have to buy pre-packaged and extra help are they making any more?

If she wanted to have the family she should raise them.

Don’t you think that even if they don’t feel like it (raising children) they better stick to it because nobody pushed them into it… they should really stick with it and do the very best.

What is more important: making money or raising a family properly?

The crux of the problem: going out because they have been doing too much credit buying or licking too many stamps and over consuming – also thinks they should go out to lead a fuller life, not to spend money.

Women are so darned stupid that they haven’t prepared themselves for work. (This comment was from a woman.)

People only get the education they demand.

I was rather fascinated by it all and there is so much to take from that discussion. One thing to note if you listen to it is how polite they all were with one another. I suspect if this current discussion were going on today things would get aggressive and many other issues would come into play – like how they were raising their children. I see women fighting all over the internet about the proper ways to: raise children, educated children (home school vs public schooling), give birth (much focus on the ideal birth), feed children (formula, breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding) etc. The more I read about parenting the less I want to participate in dogmatic discussions about the proper way to do anything. What I would like to do is take a group of women from today, put them in the middle of that Farm Forum discussion and see what the result would be. I suspect those women would think: a) we all have cushy lives (certainly there aren’t as many farm wives these days) and b) we make life harder than it needs to be.

If you get a chance go listen to it and tell me your thoughts.

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