What are Women Willing to Sacrifice for Freedom
In the mid-twentieth century, women were encouraged to sacrifice freedom for marriage, and discouraged from ever sacrificing that marriage for freedom. I have written about both.
Growing up in the South, we noticed the rules early: white people ruled over Blacks and men over women. My father certainly ruled our house; we feared his anger and obeyed his commands. By we, I mean his three daughters and our mother (whose cardinal sin became not giving him a son).
During the years covered in my novel In Common, men had careers and women did not, or at least proper white women in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, did not. Women were to serve by supporting their men, making sure a drink awaited when they got home, along with a nice, hot meal, and obedient children. Support meant not bothering the man with trivial household problems or asking for money. It meant not getting in the way of his work, his dinner, or his rest.
Properly brought up young women absorbed these lessons. We were sent to college primarily to find a man like our fathers, one who would go out and earn the living. In return for the great freedom of staying home, we were to keep quiet, run a good house, and give birth to at least one son. We were not to complain of boredom or purposelessness.
In my novel, two extremely capable women, Lillian and Velma, (Lillian could run an entire hotel; Velma was a superb secretary), sacrifice their talents for the love of a man who hardly appears to notice. Today, their choices look absurd, but we forget how little agency women possessed in those days. A married woman could not get a credit card in her own name, nor own property, or serve on a jury. If she complained too much, she could be declared a hysteric and institutionalized.
My first memoir, The Last Resort, is about one young female’s quest for freedom. The protagonist (me) looks for it initially by following the rules: find a man, marry him, give birth. In each instance, the promise of freedom turns out to be hollow. The man (in the middle of the civil rights troubles) is not the tolerant person she’d believed. Marriage brought a boring, poorly paid job and equally boring, unpaid household chores. Childbirth freed her from the job, but exponentially increased the chores.
In the end, she gives up home, husband, children, and reputation in exchange for autonomy—the freedom to think, and enough education to acquire a job she loves. The sequel, That Woman from Mississippi, shows the consequences of that bolt for freedom.
Literature (and life) are filled with far more dire sacrifices than mine. Saint Agatha, a high-born Sicilian beauty, lived during Roman rule in the middle of the third century. The Prefect wanted to possess her, but she refused his advances. She desired only the freedom to remain chaste and devote her life to the church. Outraged, he had her breasts torn off and she was sent to a dungeon to die. According to legend, the Lord sent an angel to heal her. Hearing this, the furious governor had Agatha dragged over hot coals until she died. In Sicily, February 5 is St. Agatha day, and bakeries sell breast-shaped buns in her memory.
Freedom is a moving target. Be careful of your choices.
Lillian Creekmore grows up at her family’s popular rural spa. She successfully runs an entire hotel, yet longs for a husband. Then she meets Will Hughes.
Velma Vernon accepts life on a small, struggling farm until a boy she barely tolerates proposes marriage. To accept means duplicating her parents’ hard life. Alone, she leaves for the city and triumphs, not as a wife, but by being the best at her job. Velma is content until the most beautiful man she has ever seen walks into her office.
This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man.
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Print Pages: 595 Pages
Purchase a copy of In Common by visiting Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure you also add In Common to your Goodreads reading list.
About the Author
Raised in the South during the civil rights struggles, Norma Watkins is the author of In Common and two memoirs: The Last Resort, Taking the Mississippi Cure (2011), which won a gold medal for best nonfiction published in the South by an independent press; and That Woman from Mississippi (2017). She lives in northern California with her woodworker husband and three cats.
You can find her online by visiting her website or reading her blog.
Blog Tour Calendar
February 13th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the blog tour launch of In Common by Norma Watkins. You’ll have the chance to read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.
February 15th @ Michelle Cornish’s blog
Visit Michelle’s blog to read about good food as reward and vengeance by Norma Watkins.
February 18th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features In Common and shares a guest post from Norma Watkins about writing truths about people who might be hurt by them.
February 20th @ Lisa Buske’s blog
Stop by Lisa’s blog to read a guest post by Norma about civil rights and growing up in the South during Jim Crow.
February 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Join us today for author Anthony Avina’s review of In Common.
February 24th @ Fiona Ingram’s author blog
Stop by Fiona’s blog to read a guest post by Norma Watkins featuring a look at how women were treated in the South pre-feminism.
February 25th @ The Book Diva’s Reads
Visit Vivian’s blog for a feature of In Common by Norma Watkins. You’ll have the chance to read an excerpt too!
February 27th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blog
Stop by Mindy’s blog to read a guest post about bad sex.
February 28th @ Seaside Book Nook
Join Jilleen for a spotlight of an excerpt of In Common by Norma Watkins.
March 1st @ The Mommies Reviews
Join Glenda as she reviews In Common and shares a guest post from the author about sharing the hard stuff.
March 2nd @ The Frugalista Mom
Join us for a guest post from Norma Watkins on how you are unique and irreplaceable.
March 4th @ World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole’s blog where Norma Watkins is a guest for “Three Things on a Saturday Night.”
March 5th @ A Wonderful World of Words
Visit Joy’s blog for a feature of In Common by Norma Watkins.
March 6th @ Life According to Jamie
Join us as Jamie reviews In Common
March 8th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Revisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “What are Women Willing to Sacrifice for Freedom?” by Norma Watkins.
March 9th @ The Knotty Needle
Stop by for Judy’s review of In Common.
March 10th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog
Join Lisa for an interview with Norma Watkins.
March 11th @ Reading in the Wildwood Reviews
Join us today for Megan’s review of In Common.
March 12th @ Jill Sheets’s blog
Stop by Jill’s blog to read her interview with Norma Watkins