Against the Grain: Reclaiming the Life I Left Behind

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Thorne, Susan

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* Designated as an Exemplary Master's Project for 2014-15*

Against the Grain revisits a period of my life long neglected: the 20 years between my graduation from London University with a BA in African history in 1964 and my professional reinvention as an academic librarian. In keeping with second wave feminism's emphasis on professional life, I had dismissed this period of my life as subservient to "patriarchy": I was the dependent wife of a Foreign Service officer. At this point in my personal and professional history I have come to recognize this was anything but a prelude to a more real existence. With the benefit of historically informed insights, I recognize that I lived for extended periods in hotspots throughout Africa and beyond in the nineteen sixties and seventies, at moments of world historical significance: Ghana, Burundi, South Africa, Bulgaria, and Zaire. Moreover, because of my relative independence I was able to develop relationships that continue to shape my understanding of this complex period in US foreign policy. In classic feminist fashion, the personal and the political were inextricable. Somewhat more against the feminist grain are the rich experiences and examined life of an adventurous, independent woman in a traditional marriage. I eventually regained my independence; when I remarried and moved to North Carolina in 1984, I put those years behind me. Viewing that part of my life in historical context has revealed that, even without a career, I led a full and rich life that has helped to shape my identity today.





Brill, Margaret (2015). Against the Grain: Reclaiming the Life I Left Behind. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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