In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fly on the Wall.”

If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose?

I would land in the days of flappers, prohibition, jazz music and the women’s right to vote. The days of change had come in a big way with the invention of insulin for diabetics, penicillin (the silver bullet), bandaids and radios. My grandmother, Mary, was born in 1905 and was left motherless as a toddler then sent to a family in Chicago, Illinois by her father to be raised. She never was treated as a member of a loving family. No. As she got older, she was expected to clean, care for the children and cook. When she was eighteen, she moved on to go to a women’s Catholic College to study Chemistry.

She was a rebellious young girl with a mind of her own. Short hair was the style of the day. That wasn’t her plan to cut her long, beautiful, curly, red hair. But when her father became enraged that his daughter would not act as a nice Irish Catholic girl should behave, she cut the one thing that her father prized most about her, her hair.

Her father and mother had immigrated from Ireland to America before she was born. They held all of the ancient traditions and values of their homeland. Expectations were high for Mary to dress appropriately, learn her manners and her place in society. Women were wives and mothers, cooks and a housekeeper. School was not supposed to fill her young life. Dancing, short hair and drinking were not acceptable. As I said earlier, “a mind of her own.”

She graduated from college as a chemist and found a job in a hospital. She earned respect and a reputation in an all male profession. She did get married and had three children in order to fulfill her obligation to society. But her love was her work. Mary cherished her days and nights peering into her microscope to see the unseeable, writing in her log books with words of wisdom, and caring for her frogs that would be sacrificed for science.

It would have been amazing to have seen her at that time, my grandma that raised me. Little did I know then that she was a pioneer for women and breaking down walls for them. Women looked up to her as a hero and lived vicariously through her. They could only imagine what her life was like.

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