11th November 1970’s

My father was theoretically a feminist, but when it came down to the nitty gritty of life he expected everything to be done for him, of course, by his wife. It was taken for granted that ‘his work’ must come before anything else. He was both a European bourgeois in upbringing and a man of the nineteenth century, so my mother didn’t have a prayer. My father didn’t like her to work and never gave her credit for it, even in some years when she was designing embroidered dresses for Belgart in Washington D.C., and made more money than he did. Her conflict – and it was acute – came from her deep belief in what he wanted to do and at the same time resentment of his attitude toward her and his total lack of understanding of what he asked of her. They simply could not discuss such matters. Here we have surely made enormous strides in my lifetime. Few young women today would not at least make a try at ‘having it out’ before marrying. Women are at last becoming persons first and wives second, and that is as it should be.

—May Sarton

Sarah Gristwood, Recording Angels: The Secret World of Women’s Diaries (1988)

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