19. Sociable Bridge: Learning to play during WWII and after

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I have a fondness for stories I come across about women who learned to play bridge during WWII, or as result of WWII, kept right on playing through the 50s and 60s, were oblivious to the dive playing bridge took in the 70s, and kept right on playing until the day they died. Because it’s my story too.  I’m just not dead yet.

And this path to lifelong bridge is why I consider sociable bridge to be more of a pop culture phenomenon than serious bridge–we have always been “organic”, i.e. exist out of the enthusiasm from the bottom up–and surviving without any official organization–purely from word-of-mouth and being passed down to next generation as simply part of the social life. An element of women’s history in particular.

Our existence is more remarkable than that of the ACBL bridge world!

I was struck, doing research for my book, by the changing language referring to women over the decades. I don’t remember even noticing it then back then, but there definitely was sexist language we-all just accepted as part of life I guess.

I say in my book about the 40s:  “Two House Beautiful articles . . . suggest the beginnings of an etymological shift in how to refer to women by women’s magazines–women, ladies, girls, gals. One article, repulsively calls us hens.”

As in “How to Give a Successful Hen Party” in February 1946. It refers to women in the text as “gals.” But a year later in February 1947  (perhaps they got complaints from early feminists?) “gals” becomes “women” and “Hen Party” becomes “all-feminine gathering.” Both are menu/recipe articles for ladies-only lunch.

That era would gradually end during the 1950s as women increasingly went to work once their children were school-age. By the 60s, even our hometown bridge club had one member who was married but pursued a career as a teacher as well.  And one decided to go back to college and become a CPA. By 1967, I decided to go to work myself because I could get a walk-to-work good secretarial job at the local high school, have summers off, and help pay for two kids in college at the same time.

Ladies-only bridge clubs also, gradually had to give way to working women and move their club to the evening. More about that later.






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