If you were at all ambitious in the 1940’s and beyond, or a woman starting a family, chances are you had to store away those dreams, or make yourself believe that they weren’t important enough to pursue. Women were reluctant to talk about a future that didn’t involve marriage, children, a house with a nice backyard. Of course, there were exceptions.
As a teenager, my mother was lucky enough to attend a prestigious fashion design school in NYC during the late 30’s, where she had won all kinds of recognition for her unusual talent.
My grandfather was a manufacturer of ladies fine knitwear, and so she was influenced by the fashionable industry around which she had grown up. Her perceptions and talents though were emphatically unique. A huge fan of the glamorous movie star set of her era, my mother conjured up all the greats whenever she created gowns or outfits for her many school assignments─ an ensemble you might see on Davis, Harlow, Hepburn or Crawford. Though she was barely seventeen, her creations looked like small masterpieces from the fashion houses of famed designers.
But there was a war brewing through-out Europe, and by 1941 some of our closest relatives would soon suffer a terrible fate under Hitler’s command. My grandfather, despondent and guilty for not being able to protect and save his brother’s entire family, went into a deep depression, and without explanation, other than financial restraints, he pulled my mother out of her fashion school, and never allowed her to return.
She was crushed. It had been the one thing she loved the most, and she was embittered by his act most of her adult life. She soon chose marriage and within eight years, had become a family of five. Her project then: decorating a 1500 sq. ft. house in a small suburb of Long Island, where she would live until her husband, my father, retired and moved away to Florida in the 60’s.