Monday, August 30, 2010

Books - "A Woman's Place" by Lynn Austin

Earlier this summer, I read a fantastic book by Lynn Austin.  I've really gotten hooked on her books lately.  While I'm not usually one to read Christian novels, Ms. Austin's writing has a great balance between telling the story and mixing in Christian principles without being "preachy".  Here's the write-up for "A Woman's Place" from Amazon:

In an engrossing read, three-time Christy Award–winner Austin explores the lives of four women in smalltown Michigan during WWII. The unlikely quartet of heroines—a mouthy Italian, a farm girl desperate to go to college, a spinster schoolteacher who's inherited a fortune, and a bored housewife—meet and become fast friends when they take Rosie the Riveter jobs at a local factory. On one level, the novel is simply about the bonds that form among the principals, recalling Whitney Otto's How to Make an American Quilt and Lynne Hinton's Friendship Cake. But the subtext, as the title suggests, is about gender roles. Can and should women defy their husbands? What does the Bible say about wifely obedience? Such questions present themselves urgently to each of the four protagonists (and, one imagines, to many of Austin's female evangelical readers). Austin sprinkles some lovely images throughout—a newborn's fingernails "like drops of candle wax"—and a humorous depiction of inadvertently tipsy church ladies will have readers in stitches. All in all, Austin offers a very enjoyable journey to an earlier wartime America.
The entire storyline revolved around 4 women during WWII.  As most people are aware, during WWII the majority of the US male population was sent to the front lines to fight, which left a huge hole in the US production environment.  With all the men gone (and women not typically working outside the home), there were very few people left to work in the factories to make the supplies that the men on the front lines needed.  The women of America stepped up to the plate and joined into industries that were always male dominated.  The four women depicted in the novel have their own individual problems and worries at taking a job outside their home.  It was definitely a good book to read.

I think part of the reason I was really drawn to this novel is the fact that even though we're 60+ years after WWII, we still have women fighting for our rights to work in a male dominated world.  While women are definitely prevalent in the working society, there are still certain professions where there are very few of us.  Engineering is definitely one of those fields.

Throughout college, I was one of maybe 2 females in my upper-level classes of 30 people.  I learned to live in a male-oriented world, which has had its own affects on me.  Even now as I hold a very good engineering position, I am the only female in our group of engineers and drafters.  We have two females in our global sites, but I am the only female based here in the US.  While most of the time it doesn't really bother me, there are times when I feel like the odd person out simply because everyone else is male.  It does make things a little more "challenging".

All I can say is for the mothers out there with young daughters....encourage them to get into math and science.  Teach them that just because an industry is mainly male doesn't mean that they can't do it!  Set the foundation right when they are in grade school and middle school and they will do well in today's society. 

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