Minnie Lee Weakley has always been able to manage her own destiny - as well as the destinies of everyone who happened to be nearby. She was born on a small
She eventually found her way to the city of
After the war, there was a massive media campaign to bring women back into the home and to convince women like Minnie Lee, young and newly married, that working to help support the family was unfeminine. Of course, Minnie Lee did not see staying at home as a viable option; she had the ability to earn money and money was what her family most needed. There have always been at least two feminisms – one for wealthy women and one for working women. Although Minnie Lee’s fair skin and dark hair might have made her look a bit like Mary Tylor Moore, women’s rights weren’t something for which she consciously campaigned; yet neither was she content to let her family suffer a decrease in income so that she could conform to the highly promoted image of the good (stay-at-home) wife and mother. Minnie Lee continued to work factory jobs, and she continued to demand respect from her now mainly male coworkers. She meant for her children to have good educational opportunities, and they did.
Minnie Lee does not see her life as having been anything extraordinary. She reminds me that many women of her generation left their childhood homes, came to the cities, worked in factories during the war, and stayed in the workplace afterward. When she talks of leaving her father’s farm to make a different life elsewhere, she simply says, “I was not a country girl, even though I was born there. I felt at home when I came to the city.” Yet, although she might not realize it herself, her decisions have consistently been brave ones by which she empowered herself, and, by extension, all of us.