Tuesday, April 09, 2013

One Woman's Life in the 20th C.

Evelyn on one of her last Christmases
Evelyn Frances Gustafson Eggebroten died on April 9, 2008.

She fought the good fight--many of them.  

When she was born on March 12, 1919, women did not yet have the right to vote in most of the United States of America.

When she died, a woman was a serious candidate for the presidency.

Less than a year after she was born, the 18th Amendment prohibited the sale and distribution of intoxicating beverages.

She grew up under Prohibition, saw it end when she was 14 years old, and eventually married a man who turned out to be addicted to alcohol.

Though her parents only had high school diplomas, she attended college during the Depression years, eventually earning a B.S. and an M.S. at the University of Colorado.  Her undergraduate years were interrupted first to earn money in a grocery store in Telluride and later to serve in World War II.  

She entered one of the few professions open to women, nursing.  It became her passion as well as her means of surviving economically and having the means to send her four children to private colleges.  She taught nursing for 14 years at the University of Maryland.

Like her three brothers, she enlisted in the Armed Services after the War began, and all four survived the war.

Being a "working mother" in the 1950s meant facing disapproval, but she transmitted her dreams to her sons as well as her daughters.  

She loved being a Navy nurse in California during World War II, and her son Jim became a naval officer.  Her son Bill became a doctor and surgeon.  

Her daughter Emily became a physical therapist and later a Presbyterian pastor, a profession just opened to women in 1956.

Her daughter Anne inherited the feminist bug, perhaps from all Evelyn's tales about egotistic and bumbling doctors.  "He thought he was God's gift to woman," she sometimes said about one doctor or another.

She loved babies and lived to see four grandchildren from Bill, five from Emily, three from Anne. and two from Jim.  

She stayed in a difficult marriage and became a widow at the age of 74.  She suffered from Alzheimer's in her last 9-10 years and survived six years in various levels of care: independent living, assisted living, and memory care. 

She resented being impaired and decided to push her walker into a busy street to end her life, but the plot was foiled.  Four years later she died gracefully, saying accurately "I won't be here tomorrow."

Today marks five years since she "laid down her sword and shield."  

Mother, your achievements over nearly a century sustained this country, marked progress for women, and live on in your children and grandchildren.

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