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She Couldn't Cross the Street, So She Flew Around the World
by Rita Juanita Mock, Granddaughter of Jerrie Mock.
The first woman to fly around the world lives about twelve miles from me and bears the same last name as me. Her name is Jerrie Mock, and she is my grandmother. Born in 1925, Jerrie Mock lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and many other things. She is currently enjoying her retirement in Quincy, Florida, a quiet little town adorned with Spanish moss and Royal Palm trees.
As a little girl, Jerrie Mock played with boys because all the girls lived across the street from her, and her mother wouldn't let her cross the street. She played cowboys and Indians, and cops and robbers because that's what the boys played. She didn't play with dolls much, and when she was finally allowed to cross the street, she decided the boy games were more fun than girl games anyhow. She wanted a toy train to play with, like all the boys had, but her mother said "no," and Jerrie never got a toy train until the 1990's when her oldest son, Roger, and some of her grandchildren gave her a train for Christmas. She gets it out every now and then and plays with it even now, to make up for time lost as a child.
As a twelve year old girl, she went with her mother to the local power plant, where her father worked, to see some kind of demonstration. The woman demonstrating did her work, then when she was almost done cleaning up, she sat down and knitted for half an hour to fulfill the Women's Protective Laws which said that a woman could only work for five hours, then must take a thirty minute break before resuming work. Jerrie still resents these laws now as a retired grandmother.
As a young girl, she was expected to do such normal tasks as ironing her clothes, washing the dishes, setting the table every night for supper and then clearing it after the meal was over. Her mother also expected her to learn how to knit. Jerrie did not like knitting and would get hysterical every time her mother tried to teach her. Eventually her demure mother actually gave up on the idea of her learning how, though at her public school, the teachers still insisted she learn how to make tiny embroidery stitches. Jerrie absolutely refused to learn and resented being herded into the domestic education room while the boys were allowed to tinker with mechanics. Jerrie says she still cannot stand being in a room where someone is doing needlework or knitting and cannot imagine anyone actually wanting to do these things.
Jerrie wrote a book entitled, "Three Eight Charlie" about her flight around the world. Now she wants to make a revision of this book, but she cannot handle a computer. She has had a computer sitting in her office for about five years and has only been on-line once and someone else had to make the connection. She is so terrified of this "new-fangled contraption" that she has decided to write a different book. The story is about this little old lady who ends up using her son's computer to try and change her mailing address with her bank and screws it up so royally that the Mafia, CIA and whatever the KGB is now called are now searching the catacombs of cyberspace for this hacker who has disrupted the world. The little old lady's mail still goes to the old address. Jerrie has promised that in January she'll turn the computer on again, if she can remember how, and give it one last try.
Jerrie's hatred of computers dates back to when they started putting them in automobiles. In the past few years, she has had to replace her car engine, brakes, wheel bearings, and various other things because of "computer sensor failures." Jerrie has often been known to comment on such things that, "Life used to be much simpler!"
There are many reasons why Jerrie has resented being a female from her early childhood, including the facts that very few women were in politics during her childhood, women's jobs were extremely limited, "boys had more fun," and she wasn't allowed to join men's clubs. She says that any group that can get together, excluding others, is fine with her (in reference to women's and men's clubs), but she'd have preferred being a man so she could get away from the women, too!
Society gauged women more as inferior and weak than it does today. Women were "too weak" to work long hours in factories, etc., "meant to be at home, raising the children," and other domestic activities, which thoughts were greatly influenced by women themselves from the Cult of Domesticity in the 1800's. Jerrie has always resented being a woman because of these views that society held of women when she was a child and young woman, and even now as a retired grandmother.
"The men get to have more fun and they don't want the women around to interfere with their fun." This worldview sums up the impact of the historical, social, political and economic events in Jerrie Mock's life. Throughout her life, Jerrie has played with the boys, either by design or by accident. Very few women would even think about the possibility of climbing into the pilot seat of an airplane with the anticipation of being isolated from the entire world for hours at a time, just so they could enjoy the outdoors. In order to make her flight around the world in a single engine Cessna 180 (designed for a pilot and three passengers), they had to take out all the seats and replace them with fuel tanks. Because she was so small, she could carry more fuel, so she got a bigger fuel tank and put a cushion on it for her seat. It has only been in recent years that we have encountered women trying to take on such events with any regularity, and for the most part, society still casts a suspicious eye at them. "There must be something wrong with her."
It would be impossible to list all the various events during her life that helped to develop and shape Jerrie's personality. In many cases, timing, more than anything else, shaped her opportunities and opinions about life. At just the point in her life when she wanted to get a job that traditionally was reserved for men, World War II changed American society's opinion about what a woman could do, thus she was the only female in her Chemistry class at Ohio State University, but many more women enrolled in the same class the following year. In many ways, she was just a little more aggressive and a little earlier than many women in terms of pursuing things that only men would do, or "could do."
When I asked her what she considered her greatest accomplishment, I thought she would respond that it was her record-breaking flight around the world. Instead, she brightly answered that her greatest accomplishment was the fact that out of three childhood dreams, which were to fly around the world, ride a camel across the Sahara Desert and ride an elephant in the jungle, she accomplished the first two of these, despite being "just a woman."
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