Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tolson 4 TEARS Reviews "The Girl I Left Behind"
The Girl I Left Behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties by Judith Nies
Judith Nies focuses on the sixties for both her personal and professional lives. After earning a graduate degree in 1962, Ms. Nies could not find a job. Social norms dictated that women's roles were limited to wife and mother. Nies writes: "A successful college woman of the era was supposed to have an engagement ring on her finger by the end of her senior year." Campus recruiters encouraged her to take a job as a receptionist or customer service rep.
Nies' husband, Mac, was an economist working at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. When he's called into the office of security agents, he is shown a file compiled by the FBI that pertains to Judith. Mac explains to his wife that it was customary for family members to be included in a security clearance. Judith was still in her twenties. What could possibly concern the FBI? Thus begins the weaving of professional with personal, and the stretch and strength that led to this memoir.
Judith gets a job as an aide to ten Congressmen. Her job is considered "the most interesting job in Washington." Nies is faced with hostile work environments filled with sexual innuendo, disparities of income, and credit reserved for men only. Judith must also make impossible personal decisions limited by the mores of the time.
Judith Nies views the sixties with clarity so that readers are able to see how the collective feminist consciousness evolves. The Girl I Left Behind is as much of a history of social cause and effect as it is a personal memoir of Nies challenges and changes. We are reminded to not take our rights and privileges for granted because they were hard-won by enlightened, intelligent women such as Judith Nies.