Gladys Markley spent her life as a housewife. Her skills are not necessarily those found in the workplace. She, however; is perfectly content and uses her considerable knowledge for the benefit of the community.
Gender roles have been a source of tension for years: from Betty Friedan’s legendary book to the controversial ERA, the women’s rights movement has gained invaluable momentum and won innumerable victories for the equality of women in the work place, as well as other sectors. All this focus on making sure women could leave the home put a stigma staying home, even for those who enjoyed it. This created the idea of “just a housewife” or “she doesn’t work: she’s a homemaker.” Gladys takes those prejudices and throws them out. She cared for her family, immediate and extended, all her life and now that they’re moved away she spends her time caring for those in need around her.
Turning Point is a local program that provides shelter, counseling, and other services for abuse victims, mainly women. While families are staying in the shelter they are provided with what they need in terms of food, clothing, and limited transportation. Sponsors do most of the financing with the help of volunteers and donations.
Gladys sat in her kitchen chair, completely willing to share with me anything I needed to know, but a little confused about why I would be interested. Even she was quick to put down the importance of the things she has done and is doing. Her main concern in every topic was not herself but the details of the story or characters and subjects of whom she spoke.
Staying home and playing the traditional role seemed like the obvious choice to her. She came from a time when that was expected. However, she gave no sense of being forced to be there. It had its ups and downs but seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the work she’s done in her life. She says, “I don’t really like to cook. I like to clean house, I like to do the dishes, I like to mow the yard. I like to clean the car. I never did mind to iron or anything. I like to sew and crotchet.”
More than being happy as mother and homemaker, she never really wanted to do anything else or take advantage of her newly acquired freedom pursue a career. “The only thing I would have liked to have done is be a Home Ec. Teacher.” She was involved in 4H with her children for many years, as well. She could teach these girls how to do the things she spent her life learning. She helped them learn how to do the crucial things that keep a household working.
With three children, two girls and a boy, she was kept pretty busy by everyday tasks. Yet, she managed to go the extra mile and take advantage of the opportunity to be as involved as possible in their lives. One thing that extra mile included considerably strengthened her skills. She appointed herself their seamstress. “I made all their clothes when they were little. Until maybe about seventh or eighth grade.”
The Turning Point stuff you’re making, what group is that for?
Well I was at my quilt club and one of the waitresses there, there are four waitresses, came back with sheets of paper the size of notebook paper. On them was directions on how to make a dress out of a pillowcase. See, I’ve never heard of this. And it was not clear. The picture wasn’t clear, like she’d copied it of off something. She comes to me and says, “Do you know how to make a dress out of a pillowcase?” I go, “Well, I’ve never heard of that before.” And she’s showing it to me and I said I’d almost have to have a pillowcase and go at it step by step. You know, like what they did on the first page and then the second page. And then she said what it was for. I said, “How would it be if I just made some dresses?” and that’s how that came about. And each dress I make I think, “Now this is going to be cute.” But sometimes I don’t realize how cute it’s going to end up. I’m going to give the rest of that sack to this same place. I feel funny about making all those dresses the same size. The reason I made them all the same size and all kind of alike was because I could get more done. I imagine, because of the economy, there is more strife in families. They need these secure homes. I feel like I can make another dress, like; what difference does that make?
She also does a a lot for another organization. She makes small blankets for donations to a hospital. “The lap robes I made for the wounded soldiers from Iraq. I mailed them to Texas. I got this idea out of the newspaper. I saw it in the newspaper and it said to call this certain number in Sandusky. I called it...and she called back. She gave me the address of where to send these. I sent them to a man in Texas, and then he took them there.”
“It seems that all my life, I’ve helped [others]. It seems that I’ve done a lot for other people. And I DON’T want anything done for me.”