Ginny Riedman-Dangler is the daughter of Paul and Mary Kay Klee Riedman. Both of her parents were raised in Rochester, New York, during the Great Depression. Ginny’s mother, Mary Kay Klee, was born in 1927 and attended Sacred Heart Academy and Nazareth College with the goal of becoming a writer. She was later denied employment and became a secretary. Mary Kay documented her experiences during the World War II through a number of published short stories and poems.
In this interview, Ginny discusses her participation in a book project called Before They Were Our Mothers: Voices of Women Born Before Rosie Started Riveting, to which she submitted a story titled, “And the Cardinal Sang,” written in her mother’s voice. The story describes her mother’s experiences with growing up in Rochester during the war and her aspirations to become a professional writer.
Mother’s College Reflections
[In] the story that I wrote, my mom is going into college. Actually, she’s in college doing some writing of short stories. Part of the story reflects on my mother reflecting on how she was able to go to Sacred Heart at the time. They were poor, again, because of the Depression. And her father was ill at the time. And so, I believe my grandmother had to work to bring in some income.
She was able to go to the Sacred Heart Academy because she earned a scholarship. And [in] the story, also, she’s reflecting on how she was able to go because the parish priest at the time was able to purchase the books and provide money for the uniforms.
CSK: And was this Roman Catholic?
Yes. Yes, it was Roman Catholic. So I was always very touched by that story when she would share that story with me.
To the Class of 1944
After my mom passed away, we found writings from high school, as well as college. And there’s one writing that I will read from.
CSK: What are we looking at here? It’s an original typed page?
Yes, this is an original, an original typed page with her own edits—sections that are scratched off, crossed off in pencil, as she’s editing herself. It seems as though it could be a piece from a valedictorian speech because it does address the grave times in 1944.
CSK: Would you read some of that for us?
Sure. And she writes: “We are happy today in the joy of achievement, for we have reached at last the goal of years of earnest endeavor, enriched with many lessons which will serve us and enable us to serve others in the years to come.
“But we are serious, too, for we realize that we are graduating in grave times, and that we also must look stern things in the face and be warriors, ready to turn our hands and hearts to labor and charity and endurance. We are serious, but we are not afraid, for we know that we are not unprepared. We are going into a troubled world.”