Did They Try to Run the World?

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Did They Try to Run the World?

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My mother Bernice Ethelyn Crittenden Knight smack dab in the middle of the front row in a Bruck Mills promo photos in Cowansville, Quebec.

When I was growing up as a child I never thought that women were supposed to be restricted to being homemakers. I grew up during a time that was a decade after World War ll. Some women had taken jobs while the men were away at war. History states that after the war, many decided to keep some sort of job, and some did, but most became the Suzy Homemaker that you see in the 1950s ads.

My mother used to work at Bruck Mills in Cowansville, Quebec before she married my father. There were 600 people that began working there in 1922 and they employed 30 men and women at the start. In 1946 when my Mother worked there were 4,000 employees: 2200 women and the remainder men. After she married she not only looked after her children and the house, but gave piano lessons and sometimes helped out during lunches at school. In fact most of the women from what I remember on Albert Street worked in various retail stores or manufactures and new appliances were being made that allowed women to spend less time in their homes. 

My grandmother worked for as long as I can remember helping the family South Street electrical contracting business and then doing the books every week on the dining room table. Saturday nights before Lawrence Welk the small metal cash box would come out and she would teach me to balance the books with my Grandfather sitting beside me. I worked in the store on Friday nights and sold fixtures and typed out invoices on carbon paper on the old typewriter every summer. I never knew I should be learning homemaking ways to please a future husband as my family taught me differently.

Looking back, the smartest woman in Cowansville was hands down Doris Wallet of Albert Street. She was a businesswoman before I even knew what business was all about. Not only did she keep her house spanking clean and look after her children, she ran a small men’s wear store on Main Street where the old Continental store once stood. Her husband Murray worked at Vilas and Doris ran the shop during the day. I loved going hanging out in the small store with wooden floors before her daughter Sheila and I went to the Bluebird Restaurant after school. She had a great personality and you could see she loved to do what she did. Years later they moved to Knowlton and had a hardware store. Doris was always involved, and I never realized how smart she was until I thought about it today.

There were also many Avon, Watkins and Tupperware business ladies during my childhood. A Tupperware manufacture had opened up in Cowansville and suddenly the local women were making money marketing and selling the new plastic products from their own home. There was always the various Tupperware parties up and down the street and when pink and blue plastic salt and pepper shakers appeared on our table you knew everyone else had them too. 

Suddenly everyone visited each other’s home and my Mother was making her pineapple squares once a week to bring to somebody’s house. As for Avon, every child I knew owned a Snoopy Rubber soap dish and our Mothers reeked of Avon’s Daisies Don’t Tell Cologne!

I guess I was lucky, but from what I see in the news archives Cowansville, Quebec was pretty progressive. In 1913 Dr. Robertson, chairman on agriculture and technical education, spoke at the town hall on the need for education on farming. He encouraged a 5 month course for men and a 3 month course in the summer for women. Robertson said the Dairy Farmers would be in trouble if women were not included. The Cowansville school board encouraged women in the 1950s to join the men as they said women would have a softer view on things and it would balance out the board.

Growing up with strong women taught me to never worry who gets the praise or the credit– just work hard, and don’t look back. Thanks to the women in my childhood I use my hands, head and heart for the good of others. I learned from the best– a foundation of women from the past.

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Age 5 or 6 on Albert Street..Notice how we basically all have the same dress on that carried on for years?
Front row: the late Russell Rychard, Murray Dover Danny Dover..
Back row- France, Janet Sandstead, Sheila Wallet Needham, me and Judy Clough

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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