How It Was

It’s 1954 and you’re the leader of a group of Camp Fire girls. You host their weekly meetings, plan little crafts with acorns and pipe cleaners, make sure they all have their outfits pressed for the 4th of July Parade, and, when the local paper calls, you pose with all the other Camp Fire leaders for a picture.

When the paper is published, in this case, the Hastings Banner, you look to see if the photograph is flattering and then you look for your name. Only it isn’t your name that is listed, it’s your husband’s name with a Mrs. There is Mrs. Robert Beadle, Mrs. Arlin Chambers and Mrs. William James. And then there is you, Mrs. Roy Overley. But this doesn’t bother you because this is the way it is. You don’t think two seconds about it. You’re just glad you crossed your legs at the ankle unlike some other ladies in your row.

My mother never said much about feminism. As she would say, she had other fish to fry – like trying to function with chronic and often debilitating depression. And I never talked to her about feminist issues like women keeping their own names after getting married or even using their own first names if they took their husbands’ last name. So I figured she didn’t care about the naming thing, assumed she was fine with being anonymous. But I might have been wrong.

The first time I went to the cemetery where she and my father had installed their shared headstone before they died, leaving only the departure date blank, I saw this engraved on my mother’s side.

Virginia (Boyes) Overley

Her given name, her maiden name, her married name. I wish we had talked about it.


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