If Women Stayed at Home II

I'll give you three quotations from this story by Betty Wahl Powers, an author and wife of J. F. Powers.

  • " . . . Engraved there when ordinary things had tried to look beautiful."
  • "She was another to whom time was too precious, an administrator lucky to have a spare minute between her momentous decisions."
And finally:
"But, Sister," Rosemary said, "Who's going to preserve Western culture if we don't?"
Sister Timothy turned again to the new building, the source of so much foolishness, and said, "And while you're all so busy preserving Western culture, who's going to be preserving your homes for you?"
"All of us aren't going to be just housewives, Sister."
"Then what are you going to be--the President of the United States?"
"You know what I mean, Sister."
"The only thing I know is that your stitches are getting too big."
"Yes, Sister."

As the abstract in The New Yorker says: Sister Timothy has taught embroidery to three generations of girls at a Minnesota college. Today her work is much curtailed; the girls only work on clever dish towels and sometimes a dresser scarf or luncheon cloth. She recalls the old days when her department was a very important one, but it seems that her work decreases almost daily. She is asked to give a quick three week course in needlework to freshmen. When she looks at the projected syllabus she shudders as the course is to consist of showing the students how to mend.

In a world scornful of homemaking, Betty Wahl Powers' story "Gingerbread" challenges some common assumptions about what it means to "save the world."  This story came out in The New Yorker, 28 January 1950.  Read it here if you are willing to subscribe.

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