Starting a New Life at 35: PhD Years: 1966-1973

That summer of 1966 was the turning point in my life. I had left the convent at 35 with little more than I'd had at 21, except that I had earned a Master's Degree in English during the summers, and I had 11 years experience teaching in high school. What on earth would I do with myself next? What path would I follow now? I had to support myself now, starting over from scratch. Should I continue my education or go to work? In the short time I had to think about it while still in the community—July and August, I had oriented myself to Chicago and the University of Chicago, as the only real place I knew, unless I were to stay in Kansas City (unadvisable, as my mother and I would start quarreling after three days).

Having applied to the PhD program there late—in early August-- I wouldn’t have been surprised to have been turned down. I was immensely relieved to hear that I was accepted into the program. (Fortunately I never heard that I was accepted into the graduate program in Counseling at IIT until I received a tuition bill, so I didn’t have to make a choice, which could have cost me some major dithering.)

The die was cast. This was the “road taken” that made all the difference. In the next 7 years I would get a PhD, take the teaching position that I would keep until I retired, settle into the Hyde Park neighborhood with all the opportunities and friendships it has presented, buy a condo on the lake and begin traveling abroad.

1966 Family Reunion Back Home in Kansas City
At home again in Kansas City for a break until classes began, I was welcomed among the growing families of my brother and sisters. Kathleen and Dick Connor now had Keith (9), Brian (8), Kevin (4), and Brennan (1). Malachy and Mary Kate would arrive a few years later. Carol and Bob Miller’s family was complete, with Sean (8), Therese (7), Matt (4) and Marie (2). Joe and Pat Shaughnessy had Mike (9) and Mary Rose (4); (David would come along in another year.) Mother immediately rounded us all up for a family picture, in which I am wearing one of her beautiful outfits, which amazingly fitted me.
They quickly brought my numbed spirit to life. Having a large family has been one of the great blessings of my life.

The Shaughnessy/Connor/Miller clan in Kansas City, 1966 I

My two sisters and brother with their spouses and children in 1966 at my parents' home in Kansas City. with them all and never miss a wedding or ordination.

Settled in Chicago
At the University of Chicago

Chicago became my base. Was I just lucky? I had chosen Chicago so casually, almost on a moment’s whim, like jumping a passing train, or asking a Ouiji Board for answers. Yet much of my life has seemed like that. I have a compass within that sets the direction, and I have only to check the bearing, stay on course, and keep the sails filled. Spontaneous impulses arise from my deepest self, without outside pressure, based on the path I've been following all along, without realizing it. If I act on these impulses, I will put my foot surely. As Yeats said, “We embody the truth, though we do not know the truth.”

The University of Chicago has always been on the quarter system and doesn’t begin until October. That allowed me time to take the train to Chicago for a few days in September to find a place to stay. The Eleanor Club, located on 59th, right across from International House, housed working women as well as graduate students, and I considered myself a working woman, temporarily working toward a PhD. These working women knew what was going on in Chicago and took advantage of tickets to the symphony and the opera. My concert and theater-going began there.

I asked for a roommate-- “a foreign student.” She turned out to be Waltraud Teufel from Vienna, studying German literature at the university, who became a lifelong friend. Waltraud was an outdoor girl, who grew up hiking in the mountains of Austria. She drew me out to hike with her along the lakefront. During the memorable blizzard of ‘67, she led me on a harrowing walk to the lake, through 4 foot drifting snow. The following fall we both moved to International House, into single rooms, when the Eleanor Club was closed and taken over by the University as an undergraduate residence hall. There Waltraud met Deepak Bastia, and they were married at the end of the year in Bond Chapel.



Harper Library in the 1970's

I must say that although I had used Harper Library at the University of Chicago while living and teaching in Hammond (this was before Regenstein Library was built), I hadn’t felt a part of it. But when I moved onto campus and lived there through the change of seasons and walked daily through the quad, I felt I belonged. I was inspired—not so much by the elderly professors who taught me, as by the place itself and its air of higher seriousness. Here was a place where higher education was taken seriously, even religiously. The grey Gothic buildings around campus, the very gargoyles, Rockefeller Chapel, Harper Library, Bond Chapel, Weiboldt Hall and Classics where our classes were held-- the old classrooms with their original desks --everywhere the Gothic seriousness of it all appealed to me in the same way religion did. Graduate education was the religion on campus. I felt at home in the ivy-covered Gothic, in the same way I had felt at home in the Tudor halls at St. Mary’s. This feeling stayed with me, inspiring me to finish my degree. I could not let this inspiration go unheeded. I wanted it All. A PhD was part of the Everything.

I was fortunate to enter the PhD program in the sixties, just after Sputnik, when the push to education was so powerful that there were Titles created to encourage higher ed. Among these were generous student loans. University financial officers encouraged us to take out student loans because of the generous payback allowances, so I did. Altogether I borrowed $8000, at 3% interest, which I didn’t have to begin paying back until I had stopped taking classes and started working. The application asked what my parents’ income was. I had no idea but knew I had better make it look like they couldn’t pay for me, so I put $5000. My family roared with laughter. What did I know? It sounded like a lot to me, as did the amount I was borrowing--$4000 for the first year and another $4000 for the second, to cover ALL MY EXPENSES—all tuition for the course work needed for a PhD, plus two years’ board and room. (My parents gave me $1000, which I am proud to say I paid back years later, when I was flush after the settlement of a class action lawsuit at my university over gender inequities.) To think that I could have taken all my courses and boarded for that miniscule amount when students today are paying $30000 for tuition alone.

The English Department at the University of Chicago

The requirements for the PhD at the University of Chicago way back in the 60's and 70's were, as I recall, pretty strict. Besides the dissertation and a lot of exams, there were a number of course hours--thirty, I believe--that had to be taken and passed with a high grade. These included a Proseminar in Bibliography (taught by Ned Rosenheim), which I enjoyed immensely. After that, we could choose from a number of seminars. Thank heavens I had a good base at St. Mary’s and Notre Dame, for this was no place to develop a love of English or American literature. The focus was on theory. The text was only the ground floor, the entrance through which we had to walk to get to the upper floors, the discussions of all the questions literature academics love to engage in—taking the Text apart to find how it operated (the Aristotelian-based Chicago method), or searching out the sources of, the background (social, cultural, historical) of, the influences on, the language of, the implied narrator of, the symbols and myths of, the embedded tropes, etc. In this way we were gradually weaned away and detached from our love of the mere text, and we grew properly critical of it. We were to spend all our time working upstairs and leave the downstairs to undergraduates. The courses were not the important thing in getting a PhD anyway; passing the exams and writing the dissertation were. We would do well to remember that.

The first hurdle at the University was the MA Final (since I hadn’t gotten my MA at the University, I had to prove that I could discuss literature’s the upper story, the way they were accustomed to hearing it discussed). Somewhere early on also, I should sign up to prove I had a reading knowledge of two scholarly languages. I reviewed French and took that, then took a German reading course to master enough German to pass that one. Taking three classes per quarter I quickly got the course work out of the way. Then it was on to the famous Seventy-five book list (no longer required)—literary and intellectual texts with which we were to become sufficiently familiar (including the chief criticism) to display our erudition verbally before a committee in three hours of questioning. That was exhilarating; I always enjoy discussing literature. Once all that was done, we were to select a dissertation topic, find an advisor and develop a reading list of three special fields related to our topic and then pass the special fields exam, a three day exam, taken in the stacks of Harper Library. (The special fields exam is no longer geared to the dissertation but seems geared more to teaching survey courses). After that we needed to come up with a sufficiently original thesis about our topic to meet our advisor’s approval.

I got a lot done quickly; I took the maximum load the first year, passed the MA final, the reading exams the first year. I had only one course and the Seventy-five book exam to go before selecting a topic. I stayed there for the summer working on the Seventy-five books and took the exam the opening quarter.

How the times they were a’changing in the universities

The courses were not memorable. Most of the teachers were old by that time, well past their prime; some were frequently ill and missed class. Among the better ones were Gwin Kolb’s course on American Humor, Taylor’s course on the History of the English Language, Williamson’s course on the Metaphysical poets, Norman McLean’s Literary Criticism, a seminar in the History of American Literary criticism—. Otherwise, the courses were mostly pretty dry. There was no exciting intellectual discussion going on at the U of C then. We were still talking about form; all the competing literary theories had yet to hit the English departments-- Deconstructionism and Derrida were unknown. This was even before women’s studies or cultural studies.

But change was underway. There was a new mood at the university—this was the Sixties after all, when student sit-ins were popular around the country. Berkeley had one. It was our turn. And in our department, it started among the women. There were not many women among the PhD students in English—Elaine Kleiner and Lynne Woods were two with whom I went around. We got caught up in the campus-wide discontent. There was a sit-in at the administration building, in the fall of ‘67, not long after classes began, demanding reforms. Seeing the writing on the wall, Elaine wrote a manifesto, (inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time) in which we demanded that there be more relevance in our classes, and that there be classes in black writers, women writers— all the familiar demands that would change literary studies across the country. We demanded a meeting with the English department. We knew we had the winning hand; even so, I was surprised when the English faculty took us seriously and stopped everything, cancelling classes for two days, to meet with us—on the second floor, west room of Ida Noyes Hall. They listened to our arguments and promised things would change. And they gradually did.

Popular Literature

A New Field

That second year I took a class from one teacher in the English Dept. at the university at the time who seemed to me a new voice-- James G. Cawelti, who taught courses in Popular Literature. Having done a lot of research on Chaucer’s narrator and Piers Plowman, I would have expected myself to specialize in medieval literature and write a dissertation on Piers. But I was caught up in the new protests about the irrelevance of the ancient past. In Cawelti’s class I was intrigued to discover that writers I had loved as a teenager—Zane Gray, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury—were classics in their own (formulaic) genres. The fact that Cawelti could teach a course covering science fiction, Westerns, detective novels and spy novels as legitimate genres for literary study emboldened me. Since I had been teaching high school and had been involved in films and theater and popular arts, I could easily throw myself into this new field of Popular Literature.
Women Writers
and Edna Ferber

What about popular women writers, I wondered. What about Best Sellers? I had read loads of these as a teenager. The field was wide open, so I would select a best-selling woman writer for my dissertation. It was only 1967; the women’s movement had barely begun; neglected women writers were not yet being introduced to the academy; Women’s studies hadn’t begun.

One of my favorite popular writers was Edna Ferber. Many of her novels had become best-sellers among women—So Big, Giant, Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron, Show Boat, etc. All included strong (often pioneer) women who were forced to become the support of their families, after the abrupt departure or failure of their husbands. I admired her women immensely. If I was going to be stuck indoors for years, researching someone else's life while putting my own life on hold, I might as well be reading and writing about women who lived exciting adventurous lives in different times and places. I could vicariously enjoy their lives while writing my dissertation. No one had ever regarded Ferber as an object of scholarship; there was no criticism except a brief German dissertation. (I could use my German!) And what a meaty topic she was-- someone who had lived a rich full life in New York, traveled all over the country doing research for her novels, written plays as well as novels, collaborated with George Kaufmann, won a Pulitzer, even become a member of the Algonquin Circle. She had led what seemed to me an ideal life. She had even written a memoir!

A personal aside here: I found Edna Ferber endorsed some of the ideas I was developing on my own about men. Her male characters are often disappointments to the women they marry, and her women are forced to create the world they want on their own. She often portrayed marriage in ways unflattering to men. What disappointments her men were, as her own father had been. She confirmed my belief that in their hearts, women’s lives are not what they hoped they would be. Women are keeping this secret to themselves, for they always rejoice when a young woman becomes engaged. Often I felt sorry for married women and realized that, with the exception of having children and a big family, my life was full and perhaps fuller than most married women’s lives were. I had the big family vicariously through my sisters and brother’s families. I had gotten along without being married for 14 years while in the convent and hadn’t missed living with a man; I felt like I had plenty of students whom I could help. If I had to, could I make it through a lifetime single?

Moreover, I loved the fact that all of her women were pioneering in different regions of the country. She was even considered a "regional novelist. " Though she lived and worked in New York, her women lived and worked in Chicago (as she briefly had), Oklahoma, Saratoga, Texas, Alaska, , Connecticut, Seattle, and on the Mississippi River. And all worked in different, new careers. They were exploring different worlds from their own. She researched all these areas and careers, and then wrote about them at home in New York, a model for my life. I loved the way she combined research, writing, and travel.

Joining the faculty at Chicago State College, (now Chicago State University)

Once I finished all my courses and exams in the spring term of 1968 and was ABD—“All But Dissertation” qualified for getting a teaching job then, I began looking for a full time position that paid real money-- at most as Assistant Professor, at least as a summer replacement. Chicago State College was then on 67th and Stewart. It had recently become a liberal arts college, having been a teachers’ college for many years. All students were required to get a broad liberal arts background, including surveys of British literature and American literature, which no one complained about. Today that may seem unbelievable, when students are reluctant to take anything they “don’t need” and want to get into their majors immediately. But back then the goal of a liberal arts college was still to provide a foundation upon which people would build further.

Chicago State had students galore, in many sections each of British Lit, American Lit, and Introduction to Lit. As a result, many English faculty were needed. I interviewed with Robert C. Meredith, chairman of the department then. Charming, intelligent, humorous, magnanimous, he immediately scored a hit with me, and remained in my eyes, the ideal English professor and department chairman. There was a need for more instructors in the multi-section British and American Lit. courses, so he hired me for the summer, with the understanding that they might need me in the fall.

I had a job! I was an instructor in British Lit, with 2 sections of 30 students each, meeting every day! I ran to dig out notes from courses I had taken at St. Mary’s and from a class I had taught at St. Mary’s. Then began my career long rush to develop syllabi in time for deadlines—courses that would begin in a few weeks, that involved immense amounts of reading. It may seem impossible to cram everything from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf into two months of summer, meeting every day, with little time to read the vast numbers of pages in the Norton anthology, but those were the expectations at that time.

By the fall it was clear that Chicago State really needed another full time position, and since I was there and doing the work, I got it. I became an Assistant Professor of English in a tenure track position! Those looking for positions in universities today will know how fortunate I was to come into the job market at the time when there was a demand for English faculty. Universities were supposed to raise the standards in higher education to help Johnny catch up with Ivan. The shadow of Russian domination in the form of Sputnik was still looming; we were playing catch-up with the Russian education system, where schoolchildren could quote Pushkin and do higher math. Johnny wasn’t able to compete with Ivan. How different nowadays; most of the English requirements have been abolished. Our educational system has declined precipitously since the 70’s.

Not long after I began teaching there, Chicago State switched from being a liberal arts college to being a university: Chicago State University, with a new campus to boot. In the fall of 1971 we moved into the modern facility at 95 th and King Drive. That fall was so wet, and the landscaping wasn’t finished, so we were mired in mud; the campus newsletter was even called the MireWire. There didn’t seem to have been much thought given to any of the Liberal Arts in the compound of buildings A, B, C, Administration and Library. We of the English and Speech Department were initially quartered in the Library, teaching our classes in various library cubbyholes. We were eventually moved into a long term temporary space in the Williams Science Center, along with History, Economics and Geography, Philosophy, Anthropology, Political Science, and we were still there when I retired in 1996. Modern Languages (which was eventually merged with English and Speech) were over in the Art Building.

African-American Literature

During those years I taught a variety of the traditional English lit. courses—Shakespeare, World Masterpieces in Translation, British Lit, American Lit, Introduction to Lit., Poetry Writing. There was, during those years, a growing number of our students who were black, especially after we moved to the South side. The “black power” movement hit us too, and influenced by the crusading student demands that had hit us at the U of C, our black students called for black literature classes. The only black professor in our department—Henrietta Macmillan—was a Wordsworth scholar and certainly wasn’t interested in Richard Wright.

In my early years there, as a junior faculty, I was expected to volunteer for everything from acting as secretary at department meetings to teaching courses that others didn’t want. Thus it was that I was asked whether I wouldn’t teach Black Literature—wasn’t I always ready to learn something new? I accepted and began to read everything by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, W.E.B.DuBois, as well as members of the Harlem Renaissance like Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and various contemporary black poets. These had all—like my women writers -- been ignored by the mainstream. Broadening of our cultural horizons was what literary criticism was beginning to be all about. Having been raised on the traditional canon and hving become a bit of a rebel—venturing into popular literature for my dissertation-- I found the new culture studies exhilarating.

Reading Black writers opened a new window for me into America. I had been raised in the uncritical mainstream, and had only begun to think outside that with the rise of the feminists. DuBois wrote of a “double consciousness”—of being at once American, heir to all the opportunities, and Black, with all the limitations imposed by that. My convent experience had given me a sort of double consciousness—I was heir to all the opportunities of America, yet as a nun, I could not follow through. These writers interested me in the same way that Solzhenitzn and psychologists examining the psyches of people in confined worlds did.

Black lit courses were actually being taught at the U of C by then, so I audited a number of George Kent's classes in order to prepare to teach similar courses at Chicago State. “Black Literature” was the beginning course—in which I used the same text (Black Voices). When he taught Wright Baldwin and Ellison, I took his course and next term we added Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison to our curriculum.; next came The Image of the Black Man in American Literature; then Black Poetry, and even The Harlem Renaissance. I taught them all and enjoyed them. I had large classes of black and white students, and no one complained that I wasn’t black. One student from those years, who took all my classes, Melissa Tatman, became a close personal friend. She was very down to earth, a good judge of people, a skeptic who threw cold water on my romantic inclinations. A young black professor (Ulysses Chambers) was eventually hired by the department, and he took over the black lit courses. Other black professors followed him over the years, becoming more militant as the students became less militant. The numbers enrolled in black lit seemed to decline after those heady days in the 60’s and 70’s when everyone wanted to take Black Literature. Black Studies courses later became more about power and posturing and less about literature.

How the 1972 MMLA Convention Inspired Me

What about my dissertation amidst all this? Years were passing. I was living a full rich life as an Assistant Professor at Chicago State, developing new curricula, traveling, always expanding my world, did I really need to be more? Lurking in my mind was the knowledge that I couldn’t go any higher than Assistant Professor without the PhD; indeed, I couldn't get tenure. People said: “Write anything, just get it over with.”

In the spring of 1971 I had been doing research at the Newberry Library, had gone often to the U of C library (feeling inspired every time I did), or met with John Cawelti, my director, occasionally spending a day at home working on the dissertation, but I lacked inspiration. I hadn’t even got a thesis I liked. I just kept plugging along. When classes began again September 13, I resolved to get the Special Fields exam out of the way so I could concentrate on the dissertation, in the fields of Women Writers--novels and intellectual texts--all the de rigeur texts of women's studies, including some of Ferber's books. I scheduled them for November, finished the reading list and began two weeks of review in mid November, and finally took and passed the exams Nov. 22, 23, 24. I went to Kansas City for Thanksgiving to celebrate. Another hurdle was behind me.

Each year the Chicago State faculty were given new contracts, and in the one I received in August, 1972 for 1972-73, mine contained the ominous phrase “terminal contract.” Unless my dissertation was finished by the end of the school year and my PhD assured by August 1973, this would be my LAST year at CSU. Subconsciously I had been waiting for this ultimatum. I didn't, however, buckle right down as I should. I continued going to parties, hunting for a new apartment (my neighborhood was getting too scarey even for me), going out for dinner, shopping for fabric and sewing new outfits (pants suits were the rage, and I made one in orange wool), going to movies, playing tennis, having my hair done, all the while teaching full time.

Fortuitously, that fall of 1972 the topic of the Midwest Modern Language Association meeting in St. Louis was “Women and Literature,” the first time for such topic. That a whole weekend would be devoted to the topic was too good an opportunity to miss. Our long ago protests at universities had finally changed the mainstream enough that women's studies had attained a critical mass. By this time, however, I was out of the mainstream of both popular culture and women writers and was more up to date with Black writers, about whom I knew a lot and had thought idly of switching my topic to a black writer. But the topic of the 1972 meeting signalled to me an opprtunity to catch up with developments in my women writers. That meeting on those few days, October 26 to October 28, saved my life, because it captured my attention and gave me a dissertation topic. The meeting was dominated by women from the University of Wisconsin, which seemed to be way ahead in already offering a new program called Women’s Studies. I was impressed by their spirit. I met women working on other wonderful women writers. I had, without realizing it, walked through the door into the new field of Women’s Studies.

The “feminist critics” as they were being called, had what I thought was a very pessimistic attitude; they looked at women writers as victims of the patriarchal society. They reflected the dominant society’s norms and could only write, as one critic said, about “How She Fell in Love or How She Went Mad” (var. “and Killed Herself”). I wondered if perhaps these feminist critics might not be overly influenced by the Black critics who emphasized black victimization by the dominant society and saw the black writer as limited by what he could portray. Countee Cullen had wondered why God would “make a poet black and bid him sing.” Perhaps women critics were looking through the same lens of victimization and limitation. “We have yet to be given a realistic novel in which a heroine shows us what it is like to live as a free and fully human female being in a patriarchal society,” Ellen Morgan argued. “Women are presented as passive creatures rather than human beings who lead challenging or even risk-taking lives,” Wendy Martin claimed.

Whoa! For 46 years, from 1912 through 1958, Edna Ferber had been writing stories about women who embraced competition with men, who led challenging, risk-taking lives. In story after story (it was almost her formula) women leave (or are uprooted from) their secure girlhood homes and transplanted to insecure and strange—often pioneer-- environments, where they are forced (often by the failure of their husbands) to confront a variety of adversities—loneliness, poverty, rejection, ill health, inner revulsion, ignorance and narrow customs, barren soil, and above all, a patriarchal society that tells them “this is no place for a lady” or “this is no work for a lady.” In spite of these hardships, they emerge triumphs-- of success in some stories, of survival at others--“scarred,” “battered,” but always “splendid.” The women critics were wrong. They should be encouraged by the example of Edna Ferber. I had my thesis and I felt a white hot urgency to get the message out. I always have needed to say something before I write.

And Thus Inspired, I Got Going on My Dissertation

From that Thanksgiving conference on Women and Literature, I came back armed with my thesis, which I got approved, along with an outline, and I set to work. I cleared off the dining room table, put away my sewing maching and replaced it with my typewriter, typing paper and carbon paper, the Manual of Style, all EF's books, my notes, as well as the many articles and books I had gotten at the convention, which served to inflame me every time I read one. I was teaching full time on my “terminal contract,” and still skiing, but secretly, I was working at home. I was a closet dissertationist. Each day I came straight home from work, sat down at the table and began spelling out my strong argument against the feminist critics and in favor of Edna.

I wanted to establish that Edna Ferber’s life (and that of her mother) had served as the model for her successful women, to show that much of her thinking about women and success came from her own experience and that of her mother. I wrote a long first chapter about her own “success story.” Her own mother provided her with the model. When her father's dry goods business failed, her mother Julia took over the reins and turned it around. This was to be the pattern of her stories. Ferber herself moved from Appleton, Wisconsin to Milwaukee, then to Chicago, where she began writing feature stories for the Daily News, and working on a novel about a journalist turned novelist, Dawn O'Hara. Her Emma McChesney series about a woman drummer (traveling salesperson) bought her her first big success. She broke the mold with novels about successful working women, set in Chicago-- Fanny Herself, The Girls, and So Big. Eventually she moved to New York, where she loved the ethnic mix of people and tramped all over town exploring. The world was her oyster. How could I be other than exhilarated by this woman?

Ferber’s women express her own rapture at seeing women at work in formerly male-dominated fields. People who think women got started in business only after the women’s movement should read Edna Ferber. Her early gutsy heroines were in journalism and business—Dawn O’Hara the journalist turned novelist (modeled on Edna Ferber herself) in Dawn O’Hara; Emma McChesney the traveling saleslady in the three Emma McChesney books; Fanny Brandeis the Chicago department store clerk who moves up to become an international buyer in Fanny Herself. Selina DeJong in So Big who after her husband’s death turns around his failing vegetable farm to support her son, took Ferber back a little in time and she became interested in how women had managed along the frontier. This led her to research various regions to find how women on their own (with failed husbands) would have survived and raised children in those difficult places. Magnolia Ravenal in Showboat, after the failure of her gambler husband, goes on the vaudeville stage to support her daughter. Sabra Cravat in Cimarron has to take over and the newspaper in Osage, Oklahoma, started by her homesteading husband who tires of civilization and heads out to the gold rush. Clio Dulaine in Saratoga Trunk a declasse Creole turns her husband into her collaborator in revenge and outplays the robber barons at their own game. Leslie Benedict in Giant protests her Texas rancher husband’s vast wasteful land empire.

I admired Edna Ferber’s attitude embracing challenges in life and readiness to compete with men. She was my model, a positive inspiration in the face of the pessimistic pronouncements of the feminist critics.

Teaching All the While

And Finished in 1973

I continued teaching my full load and held myself to a goal of writing 10 pages a day. I cited fatuous remarks by feminist critics in profusion in my endeavor to argue the need for some new insight (which Ferber would provide). My pages bristled with quotes and footnotes, in those days before end notes were accepted and citations were simplified. I wrote a rough draft long hand, then transferred it to a first draft on the typewriter. This was long before the computer and printer made writing easy and enjoyable, but I enjoyed the writing process once I had my fine thesis. I enjoyed the discipline of turning out the pages out on my manual typewriter (elite type), making 2 carbon copies of each page. I am a perfectionist, so retyped many pages. Once those 10 daily pages were written, I allowed myself on the weekends to go to a movie or play or party. On Monday, June 11, 1973, I turned in the first 166 pages to Cawelti and the last 200 by June 26.

By then I was an expert at time management. It was summer which meant tennis, and, surprise, with the end in sight, I decided to broaden my life again, and took up sailing, in lessons from AYT (American Youth Hostels) in Monroe Harbor. (That would open another path. )

 

Received My PhD


Rockefeller Chapel, where the Graduation Ceremonies for the University of Chicago are held.

With Mother, Dad and Carol in Mexico, a graduation present from my parents.

My dissertation was okayed by Cawelti July 2, in time for the August graduation. The next day I rented a good Royal typewriter and began typing the final draft in earnest. On July 6 I signed up with Mrs. Templeton to get my degree in the August graduation. I turned 20 copies of the abstract in to Mr. Plimpton in the Dissertation Office July 10 (then went sailing that afternoon). Every day between July 6 and July 22 I typed steadily, then spent three days proof-reading it. On July 24 I took my orals (Raven McDavid, Beth Helsinger, and John Cawelti examined me) and finished the proofing, and the next day I handed the finished dissertation in and registered it at the Dissertation Office. I had only to make the corrections and hand in the final version to the Dissertation Office by August 10.

My parents were so relieved that I had finished my degree and would get tenure that they took me and my sister Carol to Mexico for my reward, August 11 to 18, then I spent a week in Kansas City where we celebrated my Dad's 75th birthday, returning for my graduation on August 31.

The graduation ceremony was stirring. The medieval pageantry is enhanced by the Gothic setting in Rockefeller Chapel. My parents came, along with two of my best friends, Melissa Tatman and Muriel Lippman, who had supported me through it.

Graduating August 31, 1973

and Bought a Condo on the Lake


Mother was so relieved!

On May 26 I had seen a picture in the Tribune of a condo conversion in Hyde Park, at the Barclay. Units in this old vintage rental building, built in 1929, were being sold for wonderful prices, starting at $12,000. Condo conversions were just beginning. I immediately drove over from South Shore, where my building was now vacant but for me, to check out the Barclay. There were lake views, and I fell in love with the first unit I saw--a one-bedroom with an angled dining room, and wrote a check for $1000 as a down payment towards the $15,500 it cost. When my parents came for graduation, they went through it and were relieved that I would at last live in a respectable neighborhood.

Classes at CSU began right after Labor Day, and my new sideline occupation was packing and renovating. I painted the walls and ceiling and sanded the floors myself at my new condo. I was allowed in even before the closing, since the place was vacant. The gas and electricity were cut off at my old place, October 2 and 3 and I moved in October 4 and closed on October5 at the Chicago Title and Trust.

It was also nice that I had a new boyfriend, or rather a sailing buddy, Bob, whom I had met at Monroe Harbor after one of my sailing lessons that summer. He owned a boat in Monroe, we would sail together, so I had it all, didn't I? . By living my life in double time, hadn't I caught up those missing 14 years in only 7?

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