Images that match ideas for writing hang out on my desktop. The local tech suggests that fewer of these could improve the computer's function. They are too important to an old lady's memory bank to hide.
When both our children were in school, I entered a fulltime program in social work at the University of Maryland. Graduating in1976, I thought there'd be a job where I could do clinical work in a family agency. Now 42 years old with a considerable resume in public relations in New York, the challenge was finding a fit for the next step.
Though I'd done community work and developed innovative workshops in Baltimore, it was another 20th century recession with intense competition for professional placements. It was ten years since I'd worked fulltime.
During social work school I had an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital and had an exhilarating experience with another younger student. We designed a group for relatives and visitors to the Intensive Care Waiting Room. Joe Lynch and I co-led a new collection of anxious people twice a week with anywhere from ten to 25 individuals, wide range of ages, ethniticies. We published about it and hope this would be a model for Hopkins to us with other grad students--in nursing and other disciplines.
Because Hopkins was not oriented toward group work--something Joe and I discovered when one patient complained-- I was surprised that I was asked to work there. I turned down the offer because social workers were at the bottom of the Hopkins' hierarchy and moving toward less emphasis on clinical services.
When an instructor of mine who was an exceptional clinician at another hospital, offered me a position, I was tempted. She explained I'd start at the same level as 22 year olds recent grads in spite of my past employment. As she explained, "None of that was in social work." My response, "I've just spent two years as 'school student' and I need to feel I'm moving on." That was my ego speaking. Looking back, I think there would have been value in working for her but I was not a fit for a medical setting.
We lived in a three-story house in Baltimore, had two young children. The house was not one we'd have chosen but was what we could afford--$30,000 in 1971. Twelve rooms on 3/4 acres with a 200 year-old black walnut in the front yard, built in 1923. The smaller places we'd seen were more costly.
Houses were cheap in that city after the 1968 riots. We'd arrived in '69 from Oberlin, Ohio, a small college town where we lived for a dizzying two years like others on college campuses in the late sixties. Our best experience, the birth of Rachel, our first child, was shadowed by Martin Luther King's assassination eleven days before her birth.
At lunch with a friend from school I was asked to identify my ideal goal. "Running groups for women," I answered. Building on my experiences with feminist activities--starting Baltimore's Women's Political Caucus with two others, attending N.O.W. meetings in a small room at a local college, strongly influenced by second-wave feminist energy, this seemed my destiny. My friend had focused me: I'd have to begin my own practice.
A few weeks later the phone rang. "A woman I know told me that you are a women's counselor. I'd like to make an appointment." Pulling myself together, I looked at the calendar, and suggested an afternoon time. Of course, I remember J, first of many.
Late fall 1976, I sat in the rocking chair facing the camera in the top photo. J. sat across from me in the other rocker. She could look out the window behind me onto our back yard. Between us was an oak washstand facing the alley. I kept cash and checks in the drawer. My fee was $15.00, payable each session. One year later I began two women's groups.