Work Life

Jan 23, 2020

Well, I only wanted to be a mother, but then I got engaged my last year in college. I majored in philosophy, and my to-be husband sent me a telegram, “A future law student needs support. Get a job in Boston.” So I did.

My first job was; I was the librarian of the Harvard College Observatory. I knew nothing about library science, I knew nothing about astronomy. I just studied philosophy. But anyway, it was a small library in the balcony of the big reception room, and I had someone to advise me what to do, but it was a lot of fun. I did that for three years… and I was the only one. It was a perfect job. I had a little desk in the corner. I helped people find things. Surrounded by books. It was great.

So then we moved to Washington, and at that time the International Geophysical Year was going on. This was 1958. And I had all these nice letters of recommendation, and so I went to that office, and for some reason I will never understand because I’m kind of shy, and I was even shyer then, I walked in to the reception, and I said, “I’m Mrs. Guttmacher from the Harvard Observatory, and I’d like to see Dr…so and so.” I don’t know why I said that, but, “Oh!” So they ushered me in, and Dr. so and so came, and Dr. Someone. All these guys came in, “Oh, from The Harvard Observatory,” blah, blah, blah, “Oh, how’s Dr. So and so? How’s this one?” And we chatted and chatted and, “What can we do for you?” I said, “Well, I’m looking for a job.” “Oh. Okay, well-” So they made me some kind of assistant editor to The Rocket and Satellite Data Center.

Well, I was kind of speechless too because I didn’t know about editing. I didn’t know about rockets and satellites. This is when the first satellites were going up, and so I made a little yellow card for some of the guys who were in charge to keep track of the first Sputnik 1 went up before, and then Guard 1, and they were all on a little card, five or six of them by the time I left and well, you know about satellites now.

Well, it was sometime between… I think it was after I got there. But anyway, it was around that time. So then we moved to Cleveland because my husband, who had gone to law school, decided he really wanted to be a doctor. So he got into medical school in Cleveland. So then we moved to Cleveland, and we had been very careful not to have any children then. And so we immediately conceived on the spot. We decided the time had come. But it didn’t work out too well. I lost the baby in the seventh month, and in those days, a three-pound baby could not make it. These days, they really can.

Anyway, so I got a job in Cleveland and that was one of Kennedy’s second cities to get a grant for the prevention of juvenile delinquency. New York was the first and then it was Cleveland. I had millions of dollars to work on preventing juvenile delinquency in Cleveland. So I worked for that and I got a kind of editing position till we got the grant. Then after we got the grant, I worked in an unwed mothers program, a jobs for youth program, like some kind of social worker, which I wasn’t. Well, in those days, if you were a nice person, I think you could just get a job.

Anyway, so finally last year of medical school, my husband and I decided, well… and then I couldn’t get pregnant again. So for the next three years I was trying to get pregnant while working. So we decided to give ourselves a prize of going to Europe after medical school. I was supposed to go get the passports, but my period was late. So I thought, “Well, I’ll just wait another day, and another day, and another day,” and it never came. And I was pregnant and we never went to Europe. We had a lovely boy and we moved to Boston. So I didn’t work for a long time after that. I was finally a mother. Then we had a second, you know the second one. And then the marriage dissolved. That’s another story. And I hung out and took care of my kids, but then they were teenagers then.

And I got sort of antsy and I thought, “Well, I should really try to get a job,” but I hadn’t worked like in 15 years and I didn’t- what could I do. My son’s like, “Mom, you’ve been doing all this stuff being a mother. Sure, you can do a lot of things.” So I got a job with a guy who was publishing college textbooks and it was a one-man job and he wanted an assistant. So I helped him do whatever had to be done with that. And then I forget why that ended. I don’t know. I forget why I stopped doing that job. But at that time, I think at around that time I started… In the ’90s I found out that the AIDS epidemic, a good friend of mine, Simon, had AIDS. And here I was in this big house with all this space.

So, I think I mentioned this before, I rented rooms on my second floor to people with AIDS for about five years. And because of that, I heard about a program that a neighbor was involved with called the hospitality program, where people who had extra rooms in their homes let people who came to Boston for medical care stay there instead of spending all that money on a hotel. So I thought, “Well, it’d be nice. I could have people who came to see people about AIDS. Would be a very nice thing together.” So we started with that and at that time, the hospital outreach coordinator job became open at this program and I thought, “Hmm, I can do that.” So I became the hospital outreach coordinator, which meant I went around to all the hospitals to make sure people knew about this program. It was a wonderful, wonderful program. It’s still going on now. It’s called hospitality homes now. For a hospitality program that anybody can stay. For any reason. And there are lots of people, their kids have gone off and there are these rooms. And it’s just a great program. And that was really the best job I ever had. It was just wonderful. Just running around to all these hospitals. Oh, but these people, for continuing education, they got credit for listening to me tell them about this program. It was hilarious.

Yes, this was my last job, I think it was. And then my daughter was about to have another baby, living in New York. I was 70 years old, I remember. And I thought, “What am I doing here? I’m sick of running down to New York every month to see my granddaughter. This is silly. Why don’t I just move to New York?” So I told my son, who was living in California. He said, “That’s a great idea, mom.” And I told my daughter and she said, “Oh, I can just see you at the Park Slope Food Coop.” And she was right, I just love the Coop. So anyway, I quit my job. I sold my house. I moved to Fort Greene, three blocks from my kids. And you don’t know if that’s going to work out being so close to your kids. It doesn’t work for everybody. We didn’t know. But after a year we knew it was fine. So we bought a house together down the street. They’re downstairs. It’s perfect. It’s so comfortable to have them down there. And my son moved back to Boston to be closer to his family. His father is not well in Boston, so he’s close to him and he’s close to us, so. Anyway, I feel so lucky.