The Women in My Family Had to Be Good With Money
How my mother, grandmother and I saved, schemed and sacrificed to gain independence from our controlling husbands.
“If you write the check for five dollars over, they’ll give you cash back,” my grandmother told me, scrawling her name and ripping the paper out of the checkbook. “Then you can get some money for yourself.” She took the five-dollar bill the clerk handed her and tucked it into the inside pocket of her purse, between the coupons and crumpled tissues. “Just make sure you do it every time, so your husband thinks that’s really what the groceries cost.”
I was twelve, in that liminal state between childhood and womanhood, still playing with dolls but also shopping for training bras. Eager to soak up lessons about what it meant to be a woman, I watched, and learned, never once questioning why a woman who had a job had to hide money from her husband.
My paternal grandmother Pat graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in chemistry in the 1940’s. When we’d talk about her college experiences she’d laughingly tell stories of how, right up…
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