I thought it would be easy to move into my new Going to Seminary series. But it isn’t. Why? I think because this wasn’t an easy or seamless transition in my life.
Compared with getting married, this felt like an earthquake. A seismic shift. I didn’t understand this back then. Today I understand at least the following.
Being a Faculty Wife was a fairly low-profile role. Even though people were suspicious about women with minds and lives of their own, they were still courteous and polite to women who ‘knew their place.’
As long as I kept my head down, took care of our children and showed up at the Bible College to contribute my musical skills and presence, things went smoothly enough.
Nonetheless, sometimes I felt lost and misunderstood. Especially when I described to friends how I felt about not-so-public parts of my life. It seems I didn’t fit the pattern.
But then again, I never did fit the pattern. My father knew this and did his best to change me.
My family upbringing prepared me to survive and even flourish in the Deep South 1960s culture of the Bible College. It was all about being a proper lady, whether as a student or later as a Faculty Wife. I knew how to play the game and succeed, at least on the outside.
Now it’s 1973 and I’m on my way to seminary in California. I don’t have the home team advantage, and the seminary doesn’t have second-class expectations for women. When it comes to academic work, I have to pull my own weight.
When I take a course, D won’t take it for me. He won’t write or edit my papers. He won’t think for me.
This is a seismic shift, though I didn’t appreciate that back then. Gone is the world that groomed me to marry a good Christian man and follow him to the ends of the earth, bearing all the children he might want to beget.
Now I must stand on my own two feet and do my full share of caring for the children, cooking, and housecleaning. I must earn my own grades, write my own papers, make my own oral presentations and take my own exams.
At the Bible College, theology and Biblical studies were supposedly the domain of men like my father. Though women weren’t unwelcome intruders, they were foreigners from another planet.
Women belonged in clearly defined domestic roles, supporting their men who were doing the really important thinking and doing. If married women absolutely had to work outside the home, fine. Just don’t let it interfere with domestic duties.
At the Bible College, most men had no problem with women studying the Bible. Nonetheless, if women had questions about the Bible or theology, they should ask their husbands or their male pastors or professors. Why should they need to bother their pretty little heads with anything difficult or contentious?
As one of my theology professors at Bible College announced: “The next topic is for men; you women can ‘go pick daisies’ if you’d like.”
That didn’t mean we could leave the room; it meant we didn’t have to understand the next topic or take extensive notes about it. We could think about whatever we wished during the next half hour or so. It shouldn’t be of concern to us. The topic? The end of the world (Eschatology)!
When I was accepted into the MA in Bible and Theology, I was elated and terrified. Nine years had passed since I graduated from the Bible College. I was about 10 years older than many if not most other students in my courses. I was also the mother of two young children.
The stakes were high, no matter what I did or didn’t do with this degree. No wonder I was anxious and self-conscious. My life was about to change.
To be continued….
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2015
Collage image thanks to http://www.fullermag.fuller.edu