Ladies Needn’t Wear Long Gowns

Susan K. Schmidt,
Oklahoma City, OK.

It was the mid 50’s in Miami, Florida. It was the time of “white only” and “black only” water fountains and bathrooms. I was 6 or 7 years old and riding in the back of the family car with my Grandmother, who was raised in Savannah, Georgia. We passed a black woman standing at the curb, possibly waiting for a bus. She was wearing a mid-length ordinary dress, possibly a cleaning woman, likely waiting to get home after a hard day’s work. I said something about “that lady” and my grandmother corrected me, “that’s no lady.” I didn’t say anything but wondered how my grandmother would know the woman was no lady without having met her. I figured it must have to do with her clothing; a lady must be like a princess and have to wear a long glittery gown. So that evening I asked my mother if a lady has to wear long gowns. When I got the answer “no” I knew immediately my grandmother was wrong.


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