Marta contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to review her book. She will also be featured during today on Inklings.
I’ve always been nostalgic about the early 20th century. I guess I watched one too many Doris Day and Greta Garbo movies. There was something that was just so magical about the time. Sometimes, I wished I could jump back in time. After reading this book, however, I think I’m better off in the here and now.
When you think about it, life changed dramatically in the 20th century. This country went from being Victorian to modern with in the space of 100 years. First, most houses in the early 1900’s didn’t have in door heat or plumbing. People only bathed once a week. It wasn’t till the 40’s and 50’s that bathing every day became the norm. Just think, there weren’t any antibiotics. People died from infections and things like flu regularly. Remember polio. Well if you are my age, you won’t know what a scourge this disease was. People were afraid to let their children play with other kids for fear of getting this disease. Just think, iceboxes instead of refrigerators. There was no Dawn to help wash dishes; no dishwashers.
Just think about the changes in gender norms. Parents often wouldn’t put their daughters through college because it was seen as a waste of money. If a woman worked, she’d be fired as soon as it was found out that she was pregnant. Jobs in the paper were divided by sex. Even if a woman had a degree, often she had to be a secretary. Sexual harassment was the norm. Women were supposed to use their “wiles” to get their bosses to leave them alone.
Let’s not forget race. We all know about Jim Crow laws. Black people were still treated like servants at the beginning of the 1900’s. Now, people are horrified at the notion of anyone showing racial animus.
Last but not least is the change in technology. We have tv’s with hundreds of channels. We have phones that function as mini-computers. Think about iPods! We fit thousands of songs on a little device little bigger than a credit card. Computers back in the day were so large that they had walkways in them. These days, my iPhone has more computing power that the earliest computer. We have the internet, which gives us more information than we are really able to assimilate in our entire lives.
I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a lot to think about- to be grateful for. Marta did an excellent job. She punctuated the factual account with personal stories of her interviewees. I think the one thing that I do miss about earlier times is social interaction and manners. We are so isolated now a days. People sit in front of the tv for hours or their computers. What happened to the bowling nights or family game night? Then there is the self-centeredness and self-indulgence that permeates our culture. People are so rude. I think it stands out most in weddings. It sickens me that people use their weddings as a money making function. They have weddings they can’t afford, then try to demand that their guests give them money. To me the limit is that some people actually send out invitations by email.
Come join Marta and I over in Inklings were Marta tells me what life was like growing up in the early 1900’s.
Marta is offering a signed copy of her book to one of you readers. So leave a comment either here or on the podcast, which is here. This contest is open for two weeks.