Next time you find yourself wishing that you had been born in a different era, remember that ye olden days were sexist as all get out. Case in point: Last week, a 97-year-old woman was awarded an honorary diploma from the high school that forced her out in 1938 for being pregnant. You might think that two brains — one of which, admittedly, was fetal — would be better than one, but apparently, '30s school officials didn't agree.
According to The Flint Journal, Iris Weatherwax married her childhood sweetheart, Lloyd, in 1938 in a suburb of Flint, Michigan. When she became pregnant with her first child, school officials refused to allow her to return to school. She went on to work in a variety of industries and raise four children, but she never obtained a high school diploma — until nearly 80 years later.
The affair was put into motion by Weatherwax's niece, Paula Clarambeau, after she learned the reason why her aunt never graduated. Convinced that Weatherwax would have breezed through school if she had been given the opportunity, Clarambeau contacted the school district to see if they could work something out.
As it turns out, they could. On Aug. 23, Davison Community Schools presented Weatherwax with an honorary diploma, cap, and gown. During the ceremony, she asked her son if she was allowed to cry, and afterward, she told the Journal that receiving her diploma felt "wonderful." Meanwhile, Eric Lieske, the Davison Schools superintendent who gave her the diploma, said Weatherwax had told him one of her biggest regrets was not graduating from high school.
I'm not crying, there's just a family of dust bunnies lodged in my eye.
The right to an education regardless of gender has a pressing issue for women around the world. Today, schools must abide by the Title IX law prohibiting discrimination based on gender in the United States, but it wasn't put in place until 1972, more than 30 years after Weatherwax was barred from graduating. Higher education took even longer to get with the times; many Ivy League undergraduate schools waited until the late '60s to open their doors to men and women alike.
Schooling may be easier for American girls to access in 2017 than it was in 1938, but Weatherwax's story makes it clear just how recently education was seen as a privilege, not a right. Who knows how many brilliant, creative girls were turned away from school over the years? But there is a silver lining: Weatherwax, at least, finally got her happy ending.