The Greatest Generation...

...of Women!!??Since I never watch TV except for the news, I am amazed to have found two terrific programs all in one evening: "Call the Midwife" and "The Bletchley Circle." Both are set in early fifties London. Ration books are still in use. Babies are delivered at home. And "Call" the midwife seems to require running to the nursing convent where they live because people have no phones. The women sleuths in "Bletchley" are in the process of regathering their experience as wartime "decoders" to solve a case of serial murder.Without going into plot details, let me suggest that the overall impression (on one sitting) is that the women in both dramas are smart, resourceful, energetic and terrific. Naturally there are overtones of male chauvinism which hardly deters them--they smile indulgently. Since there are few expectations by their betters that they are as smart, resourceful, etc., as they actually are, they are free to act without fear of failing, achieving, etc., or having a graduate education.Since these are current 2011-12-13 productions, I am impressed that the filmmakers are conceptually and dramatically able to imagine liberated women before there were any--officially! Sunday evenings on PBS.

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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