Hilary Mantel causes a bit of a ruckus

If you haven’t heard, Hilary Mantel (author of Wolf Hall) recently gave an interview in which she said that some women were capable of setting up home and having children when they were as young as 14 years old.

”I was perfectly capable of setting up and running a home when I was 14, and if, say, it had been ordered differently, I might have thought, ‘Now is the time to have a couple of children and when I am 30 I will go back and I’ll get my PhD,”’ she said.

”But society isn’t yet ordered with that kind of flexibility,” she said in an interview in Stella magazine. ”We were being educated well into our 20s, an age when part of us wanted to become mothers, probably little bits of all of us. Some were more driven than others.”

This has caused a bit of a ruckus.

I think it’s really important, when reading her opinions, to remember who Hilary Mantel is: she is a novelist. She has spent the last few years researching, reading, and writing about the 1500s so she can accurately represent the age in Wolf Hall. Don’t you think there’s a chance that she’s been influenced by those times? In 1500 it was quite common for a 14 year old to be running the household and/or be pregnant.  And remember, in 1500 “running a household” usually meant telling the cook what to make for dinner, not actually making it yourself. Most women were taught simple mathematics and a little reading, but would probably have had a clerk on hand to do more complicated writing. They would have to know the fundamentals behind ordering food, supervising the cleaning staff, and entertaining the nobility. It was a different time, a different place, with very different social mores.

While I’m not sure that I personally would have chosen that route, I do believe that with the proper education and support, it is definitely possible for a 14 year old to run a household effectively.  And should someone choose to structure their life like that, getting children over early and then focusing on career, I think that (with the proper education and support, always) it’s definitely possible.

The problem is that people are reacting to the Mantel interview by looking at teen pregnancy today. Teen parents are definitely not given the social support, and most certainly not the educational opportunities, that they need in order to make a success. Nor is teen pregnancy a chosen-decision. It’s almost always an accident — something that was a mistake and should be avoided/corrected at all costs.  Maybe we should be looking at the problem differently.

Just a few things to think about!



Posted on 02/03/2010, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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