Faculty Wife | Part 1

by Elouise

Faculty Wives

August 1969. Does anyone know what a Faculty Wife is? We’re on our way from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Columbia, South Carolina. When we married in 1965, we moved to Cambridge for D’s graduate studies.

For me, this meant liberation from sometimes intrusive expectations and scrutiny. Not just in my family and church life, but at the Bible College D and I attended. Now we’re going back to the Bible College? I’m  going to be a Faculty Wife?

  • I’m not sure whether to be elated or anxious.

Anxiety and Adventure
We need income! But does it have to be at the Bible College? Will this work? What will this mean for me? Will I have a life? An identity? I don’t want to go backwards!

  • Yet I can’t wait to come as we are and see what happens next. Not that we’re radicals, but by comparison….

What’s a Faculty Wife anyway? Is there a definition somewhere? Will there be a handbook of rules and expectations for me? What were those things we agreed to abide by when you accepted this offer?

  • I think we’ve already transgressed some of them. Will we be called to the Dean’s Office? 

From my experience as a student, faculty wives are considered peripheral except for appearances at formal occasions, or working on the Bible College staff. Also, students are always eager to hear juicy details about faculty wives’ private lives, including whether they get along with their husband-professors.

  • This doesn’t sound pretty or adventurous. Just gossipy. 

When I was a student a mere 5 years earlier, I barely knew any of my professor’s wives. Most were quiet, demur, discreet and behind the scenes. Their renown as faculty wives seemed connected to their husband-professors. What did they teach? How popular were their courses? Fair or not, it was a reality.

  • I’m certain D’s courses will be wildly popular! This could be fun after all….

So here I am, the wife of a brand new sociology professor. Isn’t sociology an enemy of Christian faith? You know, one of those worldly subjects, like psychology or philosophy, that can destroy a young person’s faith in an instant.

  • I can’t wait to see this play out. D is relentlessly faith-focused and relentlessly up-to-snuff in his subject area. And he loves a good debate.

In the meantime,

Farewell, Sweet Cambridge!
Here are some things we left behind that were endearing, if not uplifting.

  • Our first piano. No room for it in the VW…
  • Our tiniest bathroom ever—room to walk in, sit down, get up and get out. Forget about turning around, or stretching your legs out in the so-called ‘bathtub.’
  • Brilliant white snow that turned grimy overnight; moving the car every 24 hours no matter how much snow it was under; finding a parking space on the correct side of the street during snow emergencies.
  • Stunning fall foliage and large city parks for those lazy getaway days.
  • Anonymity, being part of the uncounted horde of pilgrims to this city dedicated to heady multinational ferment of every kind—religious, national, cultural.
  • All those places we may never visit again: cobblestone back streets in downtown Boston, The Harvard Coop piled high with books, the Cambridge Tea and Spice Shop, Durgin Park, Anthony’s Pier 4 and the laundromat just around the corner.
  • Health insurance! Enough for all of us! Outstanding facilities and expert care.
  • The joy of living the casual, semi-responsible lifestyle of graduate students.

I grieved leaving behind my identity at the Law School and at the church, my female friends, and couples D and I spent time with regularly. Is there anything in this move for me? I’m a wife and mother now, and will also be a Faculty Wife. Is this it?

Then there’s all that stuff I’m taking with me….sort of like unclaimed baggage. I don’t even know some of it’s tagging along, waiting to be discovered. I wonder. Does every Faculty Wife have unclaimed baggage?

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2015
Image from Florida State University Digital Library, http://purl.flvc.org/fcla/dt/124632