by Laura Barandes

Interview 10/12/98

Name: Lucille Braverman

Date of Birth: August 8, 1928

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, NY

Occupation: homemaker

Status: Retired, widow, 5 children

Educational Background

Lucy attended "Brooklyn High School for Homemaking" where she also studied nursing for a few years. Although she was extremely interested in becoming a nurse, she was discouraged from many angles. Her mother did not think it was a suitable position for her, insisting that she did not want her daughter "changing bedpans" for a job. Other relative were equally disapproving of the idea. Lucy recalls one day when a guidance counselor at school asked her to hold out her hands. The woman then said, "you're hands are shaking -- there is no way you can be a nurse."

Lucy did have an aunt who was a practicing nurse, and she regrets not going to her for advice. Years later, her aunt told her than she wished she could have supplied the necessary encouragement to Lucy and perhaps even have spoken to the family about the realistic possibility of nursing as a vocation.

The problem was, Lucy explains, that her mother could not see nursing or any of these sciences as a possibility. It wasn't even an option. The family's limited economic resources were such that they had little exposure to the possibilities that existed "out there."

As for science in general, there was little possibility of Lucy continuing past high school anyway. In her words, "girls got married and had babies." Science fields, let alone higher education, was only open to the boys.

Exposure to Technology

Relatives involved in science/technology:

Jeffrey (son), OBGYN; Howie (brother) Psychology PhD

First memory of technology or science influencing her life:

She remembers when her family got its first telephone. "It was a momentous occasion," she explained. She also notes home appliances like the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, and microwave oven which came later

Self-described level of scientific/technological understanding:

Lucy describes herself as a "push-button mechanic," someone who uses technology without really understanding how it works. When I asked her the last time she had used a computer, she laughed and remarked that the "first and last time was when Jacob [grandson] needed me to send him something from his computer. I was visiting the house and he talked me through the entire procedure over phone. I was completely able to do it -- all I needed was the instructions."

What technology has had a large impact on her life:

With 5 children in the house, Lucy recalled the amount of laundry that she had to do. "This was before disposable diapers," she explains, and the amount of washing she had to do was immense. Also, the weather posed a problem because, without a dryer, she "had to hang the diapers out in the cold, where they would freeze." The only other option was to "put them on the radiator in the house, but then it filled the whole house with steam." As a result, she cites the washing machine and dryer as being a big advancement in her personal life.

What technology has had a large impact on society in general:

Lucy said that the technology of travel has had a large effect, airplanes, cars, etc. She thinks the world has changed a lot since these technologies have "brought nations together" and "closed the world up a little."

Occupational experiences with technology or science:

When Lucy was a young teenager, she worked at a garment factory making scarves. Her job was to measure and cut the fabric. Later, during WWII, she worked at the hospital to roll bandages and do inventory, but it wasn't very science-based. Soon after this time she tried to work as a doctor's office assistant, but the job required that she work on Saturdays but as an Orthodox Jew, she could not work on the Sabbath. Finally, she attended comptometry schools, where she learned to operate adding machines. In any event all of these jobs were seen as "temporary, until I got married and had babies."

Views of Science and Technology in Relation to Gender:

Does she see a gender imbalance?

Lucy argues strongly that boys are encouraged to learn the sciences and girls are not. She thinks that attitudes in the home have changed, and places more of the blame on schools and teachers. "Even now," she explains, "I read all the time that boys are much more involved in computers than girls. There's no reason for that except that the teachers aren't encouraging the girls as much or making it interesting for them. They need to start doing that when the kids are young."

Has technology had any negative effects?

While Lucy noted that technology has "made life easier" through mechanization of certain types of work and through medical tests and treatments that allow some people to live longer, she also believes that there are problems. She noted that some of the technology that is used has not been perfected enough to avoid some damage. First she used pollution as an example, and then she talked about reproductive technology. She described how women using fertility treatments are often put in the dangerous and difficult position of having too many embryos implant. Often the choice is between selective abortion to reduce the number or accepting the risk of carrying that many fetuses. The first choice is many times completely unacceptable, and the second puts the women in a dangerous position, sometimes risking death. Lucy begins, "I don't think women should be allowed to have that many babies at the same time," but then she stops and corrects herself. "No, that's not what I mean. I do think they should be allowed to do it, but I just think that the science is moving too far ahead without dealing with the problems first."

What does she hate most about technology?

"That I don't understand it. But I like to read about things in science magazines. If I need to do something, I learn how to do it. Like if I need to do some task for a job, I do believe that would be able to learn and understand. But right now I've reached a stage in life where I don't really need to do that."

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Laura Barandes

last updated 10/22/98