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feminism and sexism

 
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My grandmother firmly believed that women's liberation was for city folk and did not apply to her as a farm woman. All of the work was shared according to what needed to get done. During harvest, she would drive a tractor. In the dead of winter, the bedrooms might see new paint since my grandfather had time for it. They got paid whenever crops were sold and I doubt that they ever worked out how much was earned per hour.

They had sort of an arranged marriage. My grandmother was the youngest of 14 children and both parents died when she was under 5. Her eldest brother who held the whole family together, was very impressed with my hard working grandfather who owned a nice farm at an early age and neither smoked or used alcohol. He introduced them and sold my grandfather on the idea of marrying his sister.

Uncle Sam had a hand in other marriages within the family and generally sought to find upwardly mobile mates for his siblings who had been extremely poor upon their parents death. Several successful businesses were started with funds from a cross border bootlegging business and the entire family escaped the poverty of their youth.

Although he was their brother, my grandmothers family treated Sam as though he was their father. At every family reunion he sat at the head of the table and was treated with great respect. It was the most paternalistic situation I've ever witnessed. Whether buying a home, investing in a business or getting married, everyone sought Sam's approval and advice. He became the father of this large brood when he was only 21 and for the next 65 years, that was his role. I've never heard of any sort of power struggle ensuing. As each child came of age, they helped to raise the younger ones and to advance their business. The illegality of the business made them a very insular bunch.

Most of the older siblings in this family were boys, so that may have led to the paternalistic nature of their relationships. Had the older siblings been girls, I doubt that their wildly successful bootlegging business would have been built. The money from this enterprise was key to allowing the family of orphans to remain intact.
 
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