And I Know Too Much To Pretend: A Memoir
Friends marvel as I tell stories of the struggles and triumphs I encountered growing up in the mid-20th century — friends who did not know me then, who had different aspirations, who grew up in later years when women could choose a life path for themselves, when choices were not made by others.
My mother told stories of growing up in the tenements of Jersey City, picnicking along the Hudson River with her rich uncle, and taking the ferryboat to her job in Manhattan after she graduated from high school at the age of 16. There is much I learned from her when she was alive. But now, with no written record of her stories, memories of her life are fading. She died at the age of 87 in 1995.
It is my turn—my turn to tell how women of my generation faced overt discrimination daily. To overcome limitations placed upon me I made many choices along the way, often at odds with societal norms—some demanding and life transforming—others joyful and heart opening.
Hopefully my stories will provide women of all ages insights into their internal strength and perseverance to help them face the difficulties we still encounter in the male-dominated society of 2014, appreciating, however, that we have come a long way.
After reading about the discrimination I encountered while trying to get credit in my own name after my marriage, one young woman said: “This is appalling to me. I hadn’t been aware of this practice in that era. The ability to make and spend my own money and incur my own debts is so fundamental to me. I now realize I’ve taken this for granted.”
In 1953, my junior high school gym teacher gave me advice that guided me for the remainder of my life. “Lorraine, pay attention to all you have to offer.”
I took that advice to heart, remembering my dreams and imaginations for independence as a young child. I forged my way through the limiting predefined role of girls and women in the 1940s and ’50s, struggled through the feminist revolution, and discovered a spiritual depth I never thought possible.
I found my own way. And I learned that I did not have to pretend.
“Although history is often told through the tales of a handful of great people doing a handful of big courageous things, in fact, history plays itself out in the slow accretion of a large number of small acts of courage undertaken by a small number of regular people.
“The small number grows, and the small acts become a movement, and thus the world is changed.
“Lorraine Duvall has made history, and this eminently readable memoir tells her humble tale. She made many choices in her life that went against expectation, choices often controversial, always difficult, but always made out of her strong inner sense of self and a desire to live life in her own way.
“Nursing a lifelong interest in the Adirondacks, her choices began to bring her to the mountains. She again managed to create a path toward her desire: a life in the Adirondacks, on her own terms, on her own land. She leaves us with a photo of her very own ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ in this engaging memoir of quiet courage.”
—Marilyn McCabe, Adirondack Daily Enterprise