July 2015
Billie Silvey
'A Real Lady'
My mother, June Huxford Wesley
My mother, June Wesley, was always
considered a lady.  She always considered
herself a lady, and it was one of the great
disappointments of her life that she wasn’t
able to consider me one.

The daughter of the owner of a string of
department stores, my mother was always
well dressed.  She knew and followed the
rules of etiquette, and her handbags always
matched her shoes.  

“Why can’t you be, sit, dress, behave, talk
more ladylike?” was her constant question—
a question I never had an answer to.  
"Because it doesn't matter that much to me,"
didn't sound right.  "Because I always wanted
to be a boy" wasn't even right.  "Because
boys seem to have it easier" wasn't always
the case.

The word lady was a term of respect for a
woman, the female equivalent of the word
gentleman.  It means a woman of high social
position or economic class.  It can also
mean a woman who is refined, polite and
well-spoken, or it can mean just any woman
or female, or the mistress of a household.

It is a woman who has the characteristics of
a good family and a high social position.  It
has a formal and respectful quality.  It is used
to described a woman in old age, such as “a
little old lady.”

Being a lady is associated in my mind with
the color pink, skirts, lace and ruffles, bows
and high heels, and I never cease to be
amazed at how naturally all those
preferences seem to come to the mind of my
granddaughter Katyana and how unnaturally
they come to mine.  I more naturally prefer
brown, pants, tailored style and flats.

Ladylike implies possessing the qualities
associated with a lady.  The son of a mother
widowed when he was two, my dad was
smooth and handsome.  My mother was his
ticket to the middle class.  She loved to
dance, but he wouldn’t let her because he
didn’t know how.

As a shopkeeper’s daughter, she was
concerned about money and kept good
accounts—both at home and at the shop.  I  
thought she was pretty money-hungry, but
reading her account of her family's history, I
could see why.  Going from being bone-
pickers to owning a chain of dry goods
stores, it must have been hard to be cavalier
about money.

She was a skilled Linotype operator, she
worked with Daddy on the paper even though
she hated being around printer’s ink.  It
stained your fingers and got on your clothes,
but she always did what needed to be done.

We were the perfect 50s family.  My Dad was
head of the household, probably from
feelings of inferiority as much as anything
else.  My mother was the perfect
homemaker.  She'd studied home
economics in college, but wasn't able to
finish her degree because of her health.
My parents loved each other, though they
disagreed about a number of things.  

Mother was a loving mother to me and to my
little sister Barbara, though as in most
families, our very closeness made it easy for
us to get on each other’s nerves.  

She was ladylike where I was brutally
honest.  She was neat where I was
scattered.  She was a homebody where I
was more career-oriented.  And she
constantly criticized my messiness.  

Every time I think about what she was like, I
realize that I was not that way, and it was a
constant source of tension between us.

She was almost too good.  She had strict
standards and was punctilious about a lot of
things that I considered frivilous.

In our family, the women have always
worked  And so have the men and the
children.  My best girlfriend’s parents owned
the local hardware store.  Another friend and
her widowed mother ran a farm outside of
town—driving tractors and raising cattle.  
Mothers who just kept house and children
who went out with their friends after school
were a rarity.

What a surprise to move to the city and
discover that the role of women was a heated
issue.  What some women considered a
“traditional value” had been a luxury we
couldn’t afford.  

It’s wonderful when women have the option
of staying at home to rear their children.  But
for the sixty-two percent of us with children
under eighteen who have jobs, the question
is not, can we hold a job and still meet the
needs of our families? It is, rather, how can
we do it?  How can we manage our time on
the job efficiently so we can serve our
employers, advance our careers, and still
keep our families as our first priority?

Today’s working mothers have to fight for
maternity leave and good child care.  They
have to perform up to competitive standards
on the job while maintaining a home and
family.  They do not need a load of guilt as
well.

Why do we work?  To support ourselves and
our families, to give to the needy and help
spread the gospel, to contribute to society, to
develop and use our talents, to gain personal
satisfaction and self-esteem.

Christians who work have an even better
reason.  God made us to work.  He put the
first people in the garden and gave them
work to do before sin entered the world.  He’s
given us our hands, brains, and muscles,
and he wants us to use these gifts for his
glory and the good of others.

Since we didn’t have much money, most of  
our vacations involved camping out in Palo
Duro Canyon or the mountains of Colorado
or New Mexico.  "Roughing it" couldn't have
been easy for my mother.

Although they
didn't make it to their 50th
anniversary
before Daddy died of a heart
attack
, I remember when they celebrated
their 40th, and they were proud to have made
that .