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By Ann Marshall

I had my own enchanted moment a couple of weeks ago, during a community performance of favorites from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music. At the first strains of “Some Enchanted Evening,” I sneaked my hand into Terry’s and fell in love all over again.

I’ve been humming that and other tunes throughout the days since – like the haunting “Bali H’ai” and the zany “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” — corny as what, Kansas in August? Yes! The songs are from the hit stage play and movie, South Pacific, a tale of two wartime romances.

For me, the music evokes memories of enchanted evenings, graceful palms, and sand between my toes from years we’ve spent on beaches in Hawaii, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. I would return to any of those places in a heartbeat.

 

Two Love Stories, Two Responses

South Pacific is more complicated than an enchanted evening on a balmy south sea beach, however. It’s the story of two couples coming to grips with ingrained prejudices – cross-cultural and racial – that threaten to derail their love. An American lieutenant is so in love with a Polynesian woman he wants to stay on Bail H’ai after the war is over. By contrast, the young nurse from Arkansas is in love with a Frenchman – until she finds out he has children by a Polynesian mother. Nurse Nellie drops her Frenchman like a burnt croissant. Enchanted evening derailed.

The lieutenant lashes out at the cultural barriers to the lovers, as he complains in song that prejudice is “taught” from a very young age:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed into your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught

Happily Ever After – or Heartbreak?

From our years in the South Pacific, Terry and I also know something about cross-cultural and interracial romances. We knew Peace Corps Volunteers and other expats who overcame such barriers to love. Like any other romance, some married and thrived. Some didn’t.

Cross-cultural romance was a controversial idea in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Even today, I look around and ask: Who taught this new generation to be afraid, and to hate? To shoot first and ask questions later? To exclude people of color? To engage in name-calling and bullying? To hunker down in racist groups? To fear and hate people who don’t look like us or talk like us.

I admit, parts of South Pacific are quaintly dated, but it’s a powerful story about an issue that’s as relevant today as it was more than half a century ago — and a film worth seeing, both for the music and the message. Bali Ha’i calls, folks. Take a few minutes to listen to some of the music.

by Ann Marshall

As I grew up, I thought women’s equality was an “of-course-we-are-fact”, not an “issue.” My mother had had a professional life for 10 years before she married Dad. She worked for U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez until she was 30, splitting her time between Santa Fe and Washington, D.C. She was smart, confident, and capable.

Mom and Dad brought me up expecting to obtain a college degree and believing I could do whatever I set my mind to. In the ferment at the University of Colorado, the nascent movement for women’s equality seemed a natural progression to me and my gal pals, not an anomaly.

How little I knew!

I can’t come in? Why not?

In 1962, prompted by Eleanor Roosevelt, President Kennedy established the Commission on the Status of Women. First task: Figure where women’s equality stood in American society.

Now, 56 years later, I’m astonished at how many things I was not expected nor even allowed to do in 1962:

  • Women in America were excluded from serving on juries, an exclusion the Supreme Court unanimously upheld so as not to interfere with women’s functions as wives, homemakers, and mothers.
  • Women were excluded from high-level federal jobs, even when uniquely qualified.
  • Women were denied credit and mortgages unless they had a male cosigner.
  • Women were not allowed to teach in public schools if they became pregnant, and some school systems refused teaching jobs to married women.
  • Airline stewardesses were forced to resign when they got married or reached the age of 31.
  • Women rarely received tenured professorships, jobs in educational administration, or admission to law, business, engineering, architectural, or medical schools — on the grounds they would use up a seat that should be filled by a man.
  • Katharine Hebburn — considered daring for wearing slacks

    Women earned 58 cents on the dollar that men earned for the same work.

  • Fewer than 1 percent of judges were women.
  • Unless you were Katherine Hepburn, whose decision to wear trousers in public was daring, it was unthinkable that you would wear slacks, except in the privacy of your own home.

Surprising? Yes, indeed. Read this and so much more in Judith Nies’ THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND.

Learn from Past; Celebrate Progress

And remember: The battle for women’s equality is not over. We still have work to do, as evidenced by a newer cause for foment: The #MeToo” Movement. See one of my recent blogs on this topic.

Meanwhile, let’s celebrate what progress we’ve made toward women’s equality. As Loretta Lynn reminds us, we HAVE “come a long way, Baby” — and enjoy her music at the same time.

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