Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fearless Females: Ruby Pecht Baker

Lisa Alzo, who writes The Accidental Genealogist blog, has brought back a 31-day series of blogging themes called Fearless Females, in honor of celebrating March as Women's History Month. I hope to participate in as many of these blogging prompts as possible this month.

March 8 - Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do?

Ruby Pecht Petersen Baker
My father's mother, Ruby Luella Pecht Petersen Baker, worked consistently through her life until retirement.
After graduating from high school, she became a teacher herself in Hardy, Nebraska. Around 1928, she moved to Lincoln with her first husband, Otto Petersen, and their son (my Dad), Kenneth.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression left a lifelong impact on this family. My father tells of how his parents both worked to earn money to support the family during this decade. Ruby would take in ironing that she would do during the day. In the evenings, she would bake fresh rolls and my grandfather would go door to door selling them for pennies.

I don't think there was ever a time that anyone in the family wasn't working. In August, 1944, Dad commented in a letter home from boot camp, "Dad tell everyone at Cushman’s hello and don’t you work too damn hard and Mom you better not work too hard either."

Stanley Home Products Convention
The woman in the hat (with glasses) on the left is my grandmother, Ruby Luella Pecht Petersen (later Baker). The second man from the left, standing, is my father's father, Otto Petersen. My mother, Patricia Kelly Petersen is in the middle (I'm not sure if that's a foo-foo in her hair or if the guy behind her is holding a dusting product). My father, Kenneth Petersen, is to Mom's left, with glasses. All of the Petersens were selling Stanley Home Products in the 1940s!

By the time I came along, my grandmother was working at Gold's Department store in Lincoln. She worked in the baby and toddler department. All of the ladies in that department wore white uniforms, white hosiery and white "old lady" shoes.

As her first grandchild, I was well outfitted in clothing from Gold's. It was always a pretty big deal to go to downtown Lincoln from the suburbs, and we always stopped to see my grandmother in the baby department, followed by lunch in the Gold's cafeteria, which made the best tuna fish sandwiches on rye bread that I've ever had in my life!

When I became a teenager and my friends and I took the bus downtown, I'd always stop to see my grandmother at Gold's. Not that I was motivated or anything, but Grandma would usually slip me a five dollar bill and I'd head off to Gold's record department to get a couple new 45's. 

It's no wonder that I have a strong work ethic today. It's something that is definitely in my genes.

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