HEARING WOMEN ROAR
Nearing her 88th year, my mother (I’ll call her Mary) has perfected the art of giving away her possessions using various tricks and subterfuge. So when she sat me down on her couch the other afternoon and handed over a manila envelope, I was suspicious. “It’s an early Christmas present,” she said. “Open it.” I did so with a hidden sigh and was surprised to find the October 29, 1972 issue of the Detroit News Sunday Magazine and a copy of Time magazine from November 13, 1972. They both had cover stories on Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which was dominating bestseller lists at the time. Mary had written the feature for the News on
JLS author Richard Bach’s ex-wife, Bette Bach.
Bette and the couple’s six children moved to an old farmhouse near us in rural northern Michigan in the early 1970s, not long after the divorce. As happens in very small towns, our families got together for meals on occasion, we kids hung out a bit, and Mary became good friends with Bette, a pilot, artist, and avowed free spirit. When the Jonathan Livingston
Seagull phenomenon exploded, Mary pitched a profile of Richard Bach’s ex, and the News quickly accepted, giving her an early deadline so as to publish before Time did their piece on Richard.
I hauled my early Christmas present home and a couple nights later paged through the magazines, marveling at, well, the Mad Man-esque ads. “One great dish serves a great dish from Swanson,” headlined one showing a coiffured mother serving her family canned soup. Another promoted Kitchen Talk: helps in the care and feeding of a happy husband, a Wednesday column in the News. By the time I got to Mary’s “She Flies Alone” story, I was in a state of shock about how dreadfully sexist things were just forty-five years ago. But then I started reading and came across this quote about how happy Bette was to be divorced: “The biggest change in me is the ability to be myself. I’m often blunt, say what I think. I used to be so tactful, afraid I might say the wrong thing. I wouldn’t dream of wearing Levi’s because I was Mrs. Richard Bach. Now I feel no one is going to judge me on my clothes. When I was married, meals were on time, full course, with correct table setting. Everything revolved around Dick; what would suit him, make him more comfortable. … Now we’re noisy! This freedom is good for us all.”
Nowadays, that attitude wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but back in 1972 you can imagine the secret thrill it offered tens of thousands of unhappy wives, and the angst it caused in their husbands. Way to give ‘em hell, mom.
With powerful women in mind, look for our Women’s Voices Foresight on page 10—eight wonderful books from top indie publishers like Algonquin, City Lights, Turner Publishing, Archipelago Books, University Press of Kentucky, and others. And then several more women-authored books in the Writers of Color feature on page 16. Intrepid women, indie presses, inspiring books. We got you covered.