"Many women are only a man away from poverty." - The Older Women's League, "The Realities of Older Women's Lives"
It is no wonder that mothers are anxious as their daughters grow older, not for what career the daughter will choose, but for the career the daughter's future boyfriend or husband or partner will have. The father (or mother) often interrogates the boyfriend about his "life choices", "long-range plans" - they will often encourage a daughter to "marry up": to entertain middle-class and wealthier men. The underlying roots are still drenched in archaic beliefs: that "someday" a woman's "prince will come," that the woman will be "taken care of" by a strong, skilled man, that, once married, she will "live happily ever after." That a woman must barter and bargain herself, not to a corporation, but to one man, to improve her life and status.
Infuriatingly, these dreams are usually nightmares. The median salary of working women is 70% of that of working men. They often support themselves, either as a single person, or as a single mother. Their skills are often not considered skills, and their future, especially since most of women's power resides in their youthful looks, grows bleaker as they age. Oftentimes, the young woman was not supported or encouraged to complete an education that would fulfill her happiness and would give her a skill. I was raised in a typical patriarchal family - I was the oldest and had two younger brothers. I am the only one who was not supported throughout my college education. I am the only one who left home prematurely so that I could salvage my precarious self-esteem. I am the only one reeling in poverty, struggling and straddling both work and school. I am the only one who is viewed as a failure.
Oftentimes, wives do not leave empty or broken marriages, not because of the children, but because of the support of the children. These mothers are terrified of the abysmal future working 2 jobs or living in poverty to feed themselves and their young. Although my mother would never admit it, I believe she remained in an unfulfilling marriage for over 30 years because my father earned a better salary - she scraped by with her folk art business, but, in her eyes, never earned a livable income. Likewise, my aunt was married to a man who constantly berated and belittled her, lied to her and who had a long-term girlfriend. My aunt refused to seek a divorce. When her husband wanted one, she refused and insisted on counseling. Her reasoning was: she would have to lose her house and live in poverty. Her income, although she had labored over 27 years for a County office, was negligible.
"Many women are only a man away from poverty" is still too true in a day when women can vote, work, raise their own child, choose their own education, yet, not rescue themselves from a life of low wages, and economic struggle.