August 17, 2012

Role Models: June Callwood 1924-2007

June Callwood, 1966 © Norman James

I love female role models. Even as a young woman, I looked up to older women and wanted to emulate their qualities. Like my 4-H leader. I wanted to be like her. And my Aunt, the one who got divorced and got her master's degree. I wanted to be like her, too.

Then of course there were my grade school teachers, fat ones and skinny ones plus the lunch room ladies with giant wooden spoons in their hands. You did not wanna mess with any mother in that brigade. They were a unified gang with hairnets tied in knots. I wanted to be like all of them, especially the kind and strong women. The ones you'd feel comfortable telling your deepest secrets to because you knew they cared and you knew, without a single doubt in your mind, that they would STICK up for you and claw the eyes out of your enemies. You just knew that if you went to that woman and told her you were being picked on, that she'd take care of the problem and you'd be safe. This is a common denominator for all the women I saw as role models when I was young. They were strong and they were extraordinarily kind and they weren't afraid of doing whatever it took to make things fair and right. In my eyes, women stood between kids and injustice; kids and chaos; kids and the inevitable violence of schoolyard bullies.
June Callwood 
"If any of you happens to see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant, and you have an obligation to do something." ~June Callwood, journalist, author, social activist (1924-2007)
I had archived the video below, fully intending on posting it at some point. It's a heart-touching interview even if you're unfamiliar with June Callwood. I read somewhere a long time ago that she was Canada's Mother Theresa so some of you will know her story far better than I. Callwood suffered her own series of tragedies from childhood and in her married life when one of her sons was killed in an accident. If you want to know more, Wikipedia has a fairly decent article on her life story. 

June Callwood makes me feel good about being a woman; good about embracing the seasons of life and good about being my true self, my honest self. She is a wonderful role model for older women now that we're bombarded with 'shaming' messages about aging. Here she sits in her remarkable beauty, inspiring us to throw out the mascara, the lipstick, the hair spray. Wait! I already did that! ha!

With age-defying role models like Jane Fonda (sorry Jane!) now we expect women to mask their age or at least make the attempt to look younger. Critics point wagging fingers at women who've done more to benefit our world than than they ever will and what do they focus on? Her face. Well, human beings don't gain experience and wisdom without getting older whether they're a man or a woman and yea, I'm referring to the Hillary Clinton insults. I do not know how Hillary has put up with such an asinine population but I know without the shadow of a doubt that I could never do it. If my readers were commenting on the size of my butt or the thickness of my thighs or even my lousy pantsuit wardrobe, my ego couldn't take it. It was bad enough when my husband, who was two years older than I, told me I looked old. Yea. As if he were Rhett Butler. "Ooooh...if I just wasn't a lady, what wouldn't I tell that varmint!"

Choosing Truth over False Eyelashes
3 minutes

We have this idea circulating in society, that lifetime marriage is an impossible expectation since we're living longer than we used to, and women aren't dying in childbirth, and other arguments supporting serial monogamy. This idea bothers me because I believe marriage  benefits each partner as they mature together. And of course, I love the continuity of family when and if it's possible.  Managing to stay together is challenging. Instead of rising to the challenge though, we're giving up rather than living up to lifelong partnerships.

Well, enough of that soapbox. Let me say that I believe we have the capacity to be better than we are.

The video embedded below is an interview with June and her lifelong husband, Trent. Note: June kept her surname even after marrying. The scoop on her story is that married women weren't allowed to work at the Globe and Mail where she was employed when she married Trent Frayne. Times have changed. For the better. And not without demanding women have equal rights with men. Never forget that. I promise not to.

10 minutes

Go to CBC's Digital Archives for more video links about June Callwood. I trust you'll enjoy reading about this remarkable woman as much as myself...and I hope, sincerely, that women like her will continue to be role models for all of us.

WHIZZZZZZ...did you feel something flying past your ear? Yea. It was my anti-wrinkle cream. 



  1. Thank you. June was a great woman. IMO, the reality is, we ALL are in our own ways. And there's a whole bunch of great guys out there too: Hint-You likely won't meet them on a "Dating Site." They will not be a Calvin Klein Model and neither are you, but you don't have to be or aspire to be some air-brushed/photo-shopped picture of advertiser's "perfection." Or Jane Fonda.
    I was one fortunate woman: I married MAN, not a "boy" masquerading as a "man." Or some facsimile of one. This is NOT the "euphoric recall" of some old widow. Even my Dad and SM, my friends use to tell me, "Your marriage is the exception, not the rule!" I'd laugh and say, "Yeah, I know. I have an exceptional partner." And I did.
    I never thought I'd get old. I never thought those lines and wrinkles, those saggy knees and baggy ankles (when they're not all kinds of weird puffed up) would be anything except the result of cheap panty hose. I never thought my hair would thin or it would appear in some...strange places. I never thought the day would come when a daily shower/hair wash would not be necessary or an "Activity of Daily Living" (ADL) requiring more energy than I have. I never thought "Olive Oyle" would have this little pouchy thing despite the skinny-ness of the rest of the mess, or the muscles would atrophy despite being so physically active. I never thought my bones would turn to dust, my "infrastructure" would deteriorate despite lots of calcium and weight being stuff. Don't believe any Medical Professional who tells you "Osteoporosis doesn't hurt." They're either male or young.
    Maybelline isn't gonna save us and neither is Chanel or Creme de Mere. If you live long enough, you can either look like Joan Rivers or look like you. Make-up (which I loved) will become minimal because any more than that is down right scary looking.
    Ya know June's comment about her DH's observation about her bootie in the first video? Wanna bet he told her that while he was wiping it as she was dying? He meant it then, and I bet he'd tell you the same thing now if he was alive. I wiped my late DH's 20 yrs. ago this Oct. Love really never does end.
    But we do. And what remains is the vestiges of our character and how we've touched one another's lives. Love one another, take care of one another. We're all we have. Don't get too bent out of shape about the day in/day out stuff: In the end, it's pretty much all "small stuff."
    But that doesn't mean we are, no matter what we've been led to believe as a result of life on life's terms.

    1. Hi CZ, and TeeDub. I'm with both of you. First, I enjoyed learning about June Callwood, since I'd never heard of her before. I suspect there are many more women out there like her. And I agree that if you see an injustice, especially in your own home, at your neighbor's, at work, you should do something, anything, even if its just speaking out. Being the child of wehrmacht survivors, I know that silence is complicity. Re: looks and getting old, this last year I have witnessed the sudden appearance of: back fat, vertical upper-lip lines, a weird pucker in my chin that looks just like that in my mothers (UGH), loose-skin hanging off my freaking elbows, and to my utter horror, a "cankle" encroachment starting on my hitherto lovely narrow ankles. Overnight, it seems, I have crepe paper hanging draped over my eyes; a mole that used to be right under my chin is now mid-neck. My breasts seem to begin under my arms. And--here's the scary stuff--belly fat, the unhealthy deep abdominal kind, is starting to form no matter how much I exercise. I have a new drape of skin where my waist used to be. There is simply nothing for it short of surgery. And even surgery only helps for a few years. My new goal is to spend more time looking at the beauty in others and less time frantically inspecting what's left of my own. And it's about time. One thing I've learned is that you cannot be the child of two narcissistic parents without having serious narcissism issues yourself. I'm working on them. Love to you both, TW and CZ

    2. What a beautiful response, TW! You've touched my heart this morning and I thank you for reaffirming my belief in marriage as a healthy commitment to one another. "Through riches and poverty, in sickness and in health..." the idea of maturing together thrills me.

      What marriage does not mean is ownership. Transience. The trading of properties like assets on Monopoly.

      Unfortunately, the man I married had a different perspective. You can be sure that I was not high-maintenance, nor a raging lunatic, a gold-digging greedy guts, a nasty difficult controlling and horrid person to live with. He honestly had NOT a leg to stand on when he switched ass-ets after proclaiming for years, that he was motivated by the same principles and values as myself.

      Rat Bazturd.

      How sad it is when good women like myself, good mothers who cared not only for their own children but the whole world's children, are set back TEN YEARS or MORE by weak meN, cowardly meN, meN who would rather destroy her than love her.

      I get carried away by my outrage even after ten years.

      Undoubtedly, my online work prevents me from succumbing to the "forgetting dis-ease." Because when you have moved on and are no longer fighting to save your self-respect, it's easy to forget about other people who are struggling with the same injustices in a society that WANTS us to either forget, or blame the victims of patriarchal construction.

      To even conceive of one's wife as replaceable (which is getting worse and worse as people replace moral judgment with bystander indifference) is blasphemous to the spirit of the whole of society.

      Forgive me. I can get really worked up over blatant injustices society pretends aren't.

      But I am very happy to read about your life, TW, with your goodly husband and if you ever feel inclined to write more about your relationship, I would be an avid reader. I love healthy marriages as role models. It keeps me from being jaded and cynical which is easy to be after a life like mine.

      I fight this state of being however, giving due diligence to the goodness of human beings. I had several aunts and uncles whose marriages were emulative and inspiring. They weren't ideal, they were real.


    3. Hi Caliban's sister,

      Some of our discussions in the blogosphere have brought up the complex situation women are in when their partner is narcissistic, sometimes abusive. This is not a good place to find yourself when your entire heart, soul and being is immersed in the sacredness of family. Yet there you are, faced with a partner who isn't "getting it" and you know that and you try to intervene however you can so your children feel safe with you as their bear claw mother.

      When you must scratch the hide of the grizzly on the other side of the marital bed, you will suffer for it.

      Revenge of the Grizzly is best when his rage seethes undetected for years and then when she least expects an attack, he takes advantage of patriarchal privilege (which most people don't even see or deny exists) and exacts revenge.

      Just at the point when she is struggling with her age in a youth-obsessed society, he leaves. Believe me, recovery is a long crawl but when you climb out with your dignity and self-respect, you must stand up for what is right and true. You can't be afraid of the insults, the sideways glances, the appraisals of your older body and un-sexy softness as reasons why a man would seek another partner. Ludicrous. Is our definition of love so shallow?

      I have met many women who refused to even talk about their divorce----the shame was that intolerable. And I've met women who succumbed to plastic surgery, fixing every flaw public criticism pointed out, even AFTER they'd been subjected to their X's humiliation. So I can't blame her feelings of worthlessness on just the X-N. It's the whole of us---we all do it. We were trained to do this: brainwashed misogyny. If she's fat, she deserves rejection, and yet...the most beloved aunts were the ones whose softness invited trust and gave comfort.

      I'd like to feature female role models like June Callwood on my blog and learn from them, too. I am so grateful for the female role models in my childhood who protected me like steel armor when I needed them the most.


  2. Wow, a big difference in perspectives. I like yours much better. Has me thinking about the women that did influence me for the better.

    1. Hi Ruth,

      Because we've been talking about narcissistic women who happen to be mothers, it's especially easy to feel bad about yourself as a woman. I find it useful to counter 'bad' examples with doses of 'good' examples. Kinda like the positive feelings theory that suggests we evoke ONE positive feeling for every three bad feelings we experience.

      So when I was writing about narcissistic women and thinking about the terrible, truly atrocious experiences I've had with them, my mind automatically went to June Callwood (and other women like her).


  3. I can't understand why anyone who was traded in for a "Younger Model" (or likely, "more pliable model") after 30 yrs. of marriage and very likely "pretzeled" themselves into something "acceptable" to a Narc Spouse would NOT be outraged; IMO, that seems like the most (dare I use the word? OK, I dare-) normal response.
    It seems to me so many of us-whether we were married to/in a relationship with/children of Narcissists-spent so much of our lives in the dark. We didn't HAVE the internet, we didn't have much but socially sanctioned unrealistic role-models for what constitutes a "good" marriage, what constitutes "good" mothers/fathers/girls/boys/women/men or kids. So we worked harder, we tried harder, we did every last thing we could think of to make the relationship "work." We-here, let me personalize this-I believed for YEARS (like about 30-must be the "magic number, huh?! before I terminated the relationship with my MN "mother") the problem was ME. Don't we all? My naievity and just plain ignorance (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, simply "not knowing") and of course, the primal bond of a child to a parent as well as the Narcissistic Brainwashing we all endured ensured I remained a captive in the whole mess. No internet, no self-help books, not even self-anointed "Experts" to send us anywhere except in the "wrong direction:" Right back to where we were: "Thou Shalt Not Rock The Boat." But yes, you can spend the rest of your life bailing like a wild person and oh, by the way, here's some pharmaceuticals that will ensure you feel....nothing!
    Just another observation: Blaming the VICTIM is a tried and true tactic and unfortunately the reality to which we're subject when we speak up, call it as it is, tell it like it is, feel it like it is and then (drum roll, please) in flies the "PC" Crowd. We must have done SOMETHING "wrong!" Doesn't that just feed the shame? The guilt? The sense of having "failed" in some fundamental way? Yeesch. Thanks a whole bunch for THOSE actions/tid-bits of often unsolicited "advice" and "wisdom."
    I'm not "PC" and have never pretended to be; perhaps that's why I actually LIKE "Outrage." Really. Outrage gets us off our butts and doing for others what was not done for us: Informing, educating, truly hearing, genuinely sharing, supporting and encouraging one another.
    Ahhh, but the "PC" crowd would have us believe we're "bitter," "angry" (and BTW, what's "wrong" with anger? I don't get that at all) and "Commiserating in our Misery" (so much for consciousness raising) "Spoiled Brats" (HUH??) and we "JUST NEED to MOVE ON" and "JUST GET OVER IT!"
    Yep. That'll "fix it." Actually, that's exactly what we're doin' but since it doesn't appear that way to the "PC" others, we should be dismissed with a flick of a slender wrist/magic wand minimally or if possible, stomped on preferably. It's just tell "inconvenient truths." Dropping off a casserole is "nice." Dropping your former "Dear Friend" like the aforesaid preheated-to-450 casserole when they're struggling is preferable to being truly present for their pain: For how ever long it takes, in what ever way it manifests itself and yes, that includes everything from "Can't get my butt out of bed-again" to "anger." Oooohhhh, just imagine!!
    Since it appears Narcs are fairly ubiquitous don't be surprised when your PC self finds your PC experiences/charmed life rocked by one.
    We'll be here. (Casseroles are optional.) The unvarnished truth is what it is and its NOT PC. Welcome to the real world, sweet-stuff. ;)

    1. In the last interview on my post, June and her husband were interviewed. When they were asked about their happy marriage after sixty-some years together, June said luck had a lot to do with it.

      I've written about luck before and people got upset with me--as if I were discounting their efforts to make their marriage work. Or as if I were abdicating myself from responsibility for my marriage not working.

      Well, as the saying goes: "It takes two to make a marriage but only one to destroy it." And while i don't deny the effort required to resolve the inherent problems people bring to their marriage, there is a wee bit of luck in finding someone who will grow with you.

      When you write about outrage, what's so interesting is that many of us struggled to even feel anger. Anger is what motivated me to protect myself---outrage developing later. Outrage can be an extremely motivating emotion---it's certainly a factor in creating this blog and the WoN forum.


  4. I absolutely agree with "luck": Indeed, it DOES play a role in terms of "right time, right place" both geographically and in terms of where each one of us are on our own unique paths. It's very, very difficult to resist the "Social Clock" that society imposes, ie, You "should" be doing certain things at certain times at your life. I'm not sure how this plays out for younger people, but it does seem for example little girls are being encouraged by the media etc. to "grow up" and take on more "mature appearances" than seem IMO age appropriate. I find that whole "Toddlers and Tiaras" thing repugnant but again, I watched that play out within my own family and the sense I get is those dynamics are demonstrated as somehow "normal" and "desirable" by the media and embraced by the parents. It's as if kids and childhood are some how on fast-forward, particularly for girls.
    Yes, "luck" matters. And in NO way does that diminish one's efforts to bond and STAY bonded to their partner AT ALL. But the reality is, we DO change in every way over time-except our character as demonstrated (not necessarily in words at all) through our morals, values, ethics. Over time, those can't be faked or instilled. The bottom line IMO, is don't be in a rush. Take your time and observe not only how you're treated, but how they treat others. It's no guarantee-frankly, their aren't any, but there's a ton of information you need to make a decision that's not only informed by appearances, the Social Clock and our desire to merge with another and stay that way but also by red flags: Entitlement, selfishness, "appearances," etc. No Narc can stay "hidden" indefinitely and no one with an agenda other than the one you THINK you're sharing can fake it If he or she is the right one for you. Time is on BOTH of your "sides."
    You know when I absolutely KNEW my late DH was the right guy? When I told him with great excitement I had been offered a phenomenal opportunity to complete undergrad at an outstanding University of my dreams-a long way away geographically from where we were very remotely located. All grants and scholarships, no loans, no internet, no cell phones/skype, easy "accessibility." He was so thrilled for me, encouraged me in EVERY way, never once said, "What about MEEE!/US?" Instead, knowing this was gonna be a long term, couple of years, long distance "haul," he said, "TW, if you think this is the right opportunity for YOU, do it! We'll work it out somehow." And we did. Not ONCE did he make this about HIM/us. After we were married for a few years he confided to me he thought for sure I'd "meet/tie up with some college guy." But he never said a word, never indicated he had anything but the utmost confidence in me and in us.
    You've taken your Outrage, CZ and allowed ALL of us to benefit. That's what makes your site outstanding; it's most fundamentally a reflection of the person behind the screen. Thank you. And yes, luck does play a role in every area of our lives if we're honest, IMO; how "unlucky" was I to be a "young widow?" The first time I was ever perceived as a "threat" simply because my husband died and none of my cohorts were widows? Huh. It seems we're suppose to have a crystal ball or at the very least, a "reliable" Tarot Card reader (as well as our Cosmo, Vogue, Town and Country etc.) eh?!

    1. Hi TW!

      What a lovely story about your husband and his willingness to support your academic aspirations. Not everyone experiences support like that---couples only wanting the best for one another. We make Hallmark cards when that happens. ha!

      In the narcissistic relationship, there's an underlying sense that you are in a competition with your partner and you're supposed to lose. The Winner-Loser dyad may never be spoken but you sense it; and this makes you distrust your intuition because the narcissist says, "I only want what you want!" But he or she sabotages your efforts and blames you for being incompetent when you fail---or give up.

      Did you really have to bring up "Toddlers and Tiaras", though? O my gosh, how people love to 'hate on' those mothers when every commercial on television, every ad, every billboard, promotes early sexuality.

      That mothers then dress their little girls in hooker clothing is a profit-endorsed social assault on children's innocence and nobody seems to care all that much, as long as they can sell 'adult' toys and Viagra on TV.

      I get very upset about the way we've shortchanged our children's right to BE children so I'd best take a break before I type an epistle on boomerism and consumerism.


  5. No, I'm not hating on the mothers by any stretch-I've never seen the program-it was simply an example that came to mind. (You bet it's a very seductive, very lucrative "Industry.") It's part of the whole phenomenon I find disturbing, this "normalizing" of what is NOT normal as evidenced throughout the media.


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