Don't Put the Boats Away
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message 1: by Ames (new)

Ames Sheldon | 18 comments The second scene in Don’t Put the Boats Away takes place on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison in early September, 1945. Harriet has just arrived in town from the East Coast…

Standing outside Dr. Blackwell’s office on the third floor of the Chemistry Building, she knocks briskly on his partially open door.


She steps into the room. Directly ahead, a wall of books and scientific journals face her, and to her right a man wearing a rumpled jacket sits in a club chair.

“Dr. Blackwell?”

As he turns, she sees that his bowtie is askew. “Yes?” He sounds annoyed by the interruption.

“I’m Harriet Sutton. We have an appointment.”

“Ah, so we do. Take a seat.” He grabs the papers off the chair facing him and places them on top of his messy desk.

She sits, carefully crossing her legs, and then tugs her skirt down over her knees.

He looks at her. “How old are you?”

“I’m twenty-six.”

“Why start a master’s program at your age?”

She lifts her chin. “I spent the war years running my family’s Victory Farm in New Jersey. Our chickens produced 1,500 eggs each day, so my hands were full until now.”

“I see.” Dr. Blackwell goes on to explain that she should register in the graduate school office, and he spells out precisely which chemistry courses she should sign up for.

“I’d like to take some business courses too.”

“Why?” Dr. Blackwell raises one eyebrow, which is as bristly as porcupine quills.

“Because I want to be able to run my father’s company when the time comes.”

Shaking his head, Dr. Blackwell declares, “That’ll never happen.”

She sits up straighter. “Why not?”

“You’re a woman.”

“So what?”

“What kind of company?”

Clenching her right hand into a fist, she says, “It’s a chemical company! I’m here to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry so I can become a research chemist.” She has never spoken so impatiently to a professor in her life. Her parents would be appalled. She’d better get a grip on her temper.


“Are there any other female graduate students in the chemistry department here at Madison?”

“One or two. I don’t know why you women bother with graduate school. After getting your degree, you just marry and leave the field.”

Coolly she replies, “That’s not my plan.” She shifts in her seat. “Are you and Dr. Fowler friends?” Dr. Fowler was her favorite professor at Bennington; he was the one to write her recommendation.

“We were both working on our dissertations here at the same time. I never understood why Fowler would choose to teach at a women’s college.”

“He’s an excellent teacher.”

“I always thought he was a little soft.”

“I’ll stop wasting your time, Dr. Blackwell. Good day.” As she exits his office, Harriet realizes she’s going to have to find some other advisor. Dr. Blackwell won’t do.

This scene takes place in the 1940s. In another scene later in the novel when a boys’ school and a girls’ school are on the verge of merging, a teacher at the boys’ school complains, “girls take up all the oxygen in the room.”

How different is life for girls and women these days? Have you experienced similar put-downs? Please post your comments. One of you who comment will win the giveaway tomorrow!

Don't Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon Don't Put the Boats AwayAmes SheldonAmes Sheldon

message 2: by Dyana (new)

Dyana | 189 comments OMG this makes me so mad! It still happens unfortunately. One occasion, our “old school,” Superintendent told me I needed to keep the dishes washed in the kitchen area of where I worked. I didn't drink coffee and they were the Site Manager’s cups. The Site Manager overheard the conversation and told me later that he would wash them - it wasn't my job to wash his dishes. I came close another time of losing my job for taking up for myself - when he rudely came into the office from another location where he was based. He said there was garbage outside the office that needed to be swept up! We had an office in a shopping center area. I was rushing around trying to get things ready for a meeting with an important person. I was in a temporary position, trying to become permanent after having to move from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Long story! After the meeting I told him that all he had to do was ask me to do something - I didn't appreciate being talked to in an angry tone. Instead of actually telling the Site Manager, he was angrily telling me. He started saying he didn't know whether to keep me on - he said he thought I was meek and mild - so he just didn't know if he would make ne permanent. There have been lots of times of feeling not as worthy as a man.

message 3: by Ames (new)

Ames Sheldon | 18 comments Dyana, those experiences sound SO FRUSTRATING! Too many men --including my own brothers!-- believe the role of women is to serve men. And when we fight back, we're considered bitchy or worse. What is it going to take for men to treat women as equals?

message 4: by Dyana (new)

Dyana | 189 comments I wish I had the answer.

message 5: by Ames (new)

Ames Sheldon | 18 comments Me too!

message 6: by Carol (last edited Sep 13, 2019 04:12PM) (new) - added it

Carol | 87 comments My father wouldn’t send to college even though I was accepted at
two. He claimed it as a waste for a woman to have to get a college
degree because they just get married and take care of house, spouse and children.
I talked him into becoming at medical technologist taking an 18 month course at a major Medical School & Hospital in Philadelphia.
The course has classroom classes plus you were required to work
in one of their labs either from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM or 11:00 PM
to 8:00 AM. No time off after either shift you went right into the
shift plus worked your day.
After I graduated from this course, I started night time college at
a local college that my Dad had graduated. My first course the
English professor said in front of the whole class that I didn’t belong
there as I was taking up a man’s seat . Turns out I was one of three
women allowed in a college which was starting to go coed.
I always had to face this type of confrontation as a young single woman in a man’s world.
At 75 years old, I cannot believe all the opportunities women have taken a role in a man’s world. Yeah for women in the work world now.
Happy Fall everyone 🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂

message 7: by Ames (new)

Ames Sheldon | 18 comments Thank you for sharing that story, Carol.

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