website statistics

Transgressive Grannies

Photo by George Leahy (Southern California, early 20th century)

From Ellice, who keeps finding cool stuff online:
Sadie at Jezebel covers Vanity Fair's article on Grace Kelly's life (and also loss of virginity at 17), but also debunks the notion that young women today are more rebellious than those who came before. The comments section is really cool because readers share stories about their own grandmothers, who are totally wild, even by today's standards.

A few of my favorites:

"My great-grandmother divorced her husband in the 30s as well. He was a philanderer and a drunk, and once she drove her car through a bar window and ordered him to come home. With her second husband, she was one of the first women to race high-speed boats in the country. I remember taking reds in her red Corvette convertible when she was older, which she drove well into her 80s. When she was 85 a doctor told her to stop eating spicey food and ice cream, and she told him to fuck himself. I wish I was old enough when she passed to interview her and collect her stories."

"My grandma was a 50's/60's housewife and when my grandpa retired, she told him she was retiring too and that she wasn't going to do all the housework anymore. He was fine with it. My grandparents were awesome."

–Phyllis Nefler

"Besides being crazy slick, my grandmother was a helluva woman. My grandmother graduated Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts at the age of 19, and got her Master's before her 23rd birthday. Mind you this is in the 50's. Also, she was a black woman. In the 50's. With a child born out of wedlock. She went on to become a social worker, then became the first black female administrator in her field in the entire Tidewater area. She also fought the Norfolk, Va school administration tooth and nail so that my mother could be placed in a predominantly Jewish high school. She won her case, and my mom and a few of her other classmates made history."


"My great grandmother ran away from west Africa on a whaling ship to Africa after falling in love with a sailor. She arrived pregnant and unmarried in Boston and he eventually abandoned her. She lived in Boston until the baby was born then moved back home and entered into an arranged marriage so no one would know the baby was illegitimate. But my grandmother kept her U.S. citizenship since she was born in U.S. soil and that's how my family eventually ended up here."


Comments like these even inspired one reader to start up How I Met Your Grandmother, a blog for archiving "personal accounts, interesting stories, family gossip about or even old photos of the older generations of your families."

Kind of a refreshing reminder, I think, in the midst of the brouhaha over "hookup cultures" aka the moral ruin of today's youth. These are exciting kinds of historical evidence that norms have been challenged for as long as they've existed--not just in the era of "sexting."