Thursday, February 20, 2014

Making the Best of What We Have: A Ration Book, a Home, a Name and a Life

Here is a photo of my grandmother's war ration book.

My grandparents lived at 3939 Washburn Ave N, Minneapolis, a 1-1/2 story, one-bedroom, one-bath home with an unfinished basement and short ceiling attic which housed their family of 2 parents and 3 children.

Please notice the form of the address. Looks like "12" was an acceptable form of zip code "55412" at that time.

Please also notice the signature.

I've only met one other woman who *today* identifies with "Mrs. HusbandsFirstname HusbandsLastname." I understand that a great deal of pride can go with the tradition. It is a ritual-of-association, but also one that many women today feel contributes to a loss of the personal identity and person-hood necessary for a mentally and emotionally healthy partnership.

I understand that the women on this side of my family struggled to freely choose the men they wanted to marry. (Nothing to do with love or spirit. Everything to do with power and control.) My great grandfather threatened to "disown" -- which is to say shun and disconnect my Grandmother Marie (aka Mrs. Donald Piepho) from any and all family connections and resources -- if she dated or married out of his approval (which she did, twice), and one great uncle on the same side threatened to have my 2nd cousin committed to an insane asylum for the same. This was an extremely dangerous proposition for these women because independent sources of income available to them during that time in history were very limited.

I don't believe that Marie was in any way forced or coerced to sign her ration book this way. Per the delighted tone in her voice when she spoke of her name, I believe it was a tradition she was familiar with that she was carrying out dutifully and with pride. Of course, elders sometimes make light of things for the sake of creating a more positive experience for their progeny, hiding the raw nerves of abuse and violence. Marie did not reveal her first annulled marriage until she began cleaning out her home at 3938 Washburn Ave to enter assisted living. That annulment was forced.

The creepy part of this oppressive history is: had that marriage not been annulled, I would not be here.

The song "Some Nights" by Fun runs through my mind....

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