In 1963, when "The Group" by Mary McCarthy was published, it shocked. It looked at the raw underbelly of life for educated women once they graduated an elite institution. Here is Vanity Fair's take on the book, the controversy and lessons perhaps learned.
That same year, what was going to be the Class of 1967 entered women's Roman Catholic Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Our biology teacher Sister Florence Marie told us that we could not take the birth control pill, a technology invented in 1960, unless there was medical justification. A number of Freshman classmates stopped their education, pregnant. Others left school because they wanted to get married, assumed they would become pregnant, so that was that.
Weekly we attended etiquette lessons to prepare us to entertain our husband's clients. One early how-to involved eating a banana the right way.
The head of the English Department Sister Miriam Joseph hammered me about my weight. Of course, I dug in my heels and ate more and more. Yes, I was one of the myriad English majors who landed in real life without a marketable skill.
As an outsider (I never was a "Seton Hill woman") and a writer I observed my classmates and myself during the past 51 years. My conclusion is that we were as ill prepared and equipped to deal with life on life's terms as those in "The Group." Soon after graduation, as in "The Group," one attempted suicide. Unlike "The Group," she didn't succeed.
The most painful part of the past 50+ years was that if we kept our suffering secret we couldn't gain perspective. Had I known some of my classmates were as ambitious as I was I might have given myself permission to focus solely on my work. On the other hand, when we were open about our setbacks, we could become victims of unsolicited and sustained advice. My biggest regret is sharing with four classmates a professional catastrophe in 2003.
Will female Millennials and Generation Z (here is my article on Z) suffer less than we Baby Boomers did? Hell if I know. My focus now is to find joy where it can be found. For that reason I now refrain from associating with any member of the Class of '67. That's exactly the wrong space for me. Around the turn of the century, I notified Seton Hill to remove me from all mailing lists. Any communications from the institution, I informed them, would be treated as harassment.