Monday, April 5, 2010

A Schoolgirl’s Research Assignment: VD

In 1953, our senior class at Lincoln High School of Seattle was among the first participants to have the topic of sex as part of the Health Education curriculum. Although I was encouraged to ask my mother any questions I had about sex, I realized that there was much I didn’t know. I didn’t even know the questions to ask.

The all-girl class waded through the relatively boring topics of muscle and bone structure, blood, and parts of the brain, then, joyfully, it was time to discuss sex.

The teacher, whom I greatly respected, assigned topics for which we were to present both oral and written reports. She expected us to thoroughly research our chosen topic which we selected from a list the teacher provided. I chose VD–I knew nothing at all about venereal diseases.

When discussing methods of research with the teacher, she suggested I go to the King County Health Department in the Public Safety Building and conduct a personal interview with someone in charge. I felt a little uneasy about doing this, but agreed it would be a good approach. I had checked the school library’s material and came up with almost nothing on the topic. So one day after school, I took the bus into downtown Seattle to tackle my assignment.

I found the office, but once in the room, I wasn’t sure where to go. I noticed a long line of people, so I stood in back of the queue. Soon a nurse glanced down the end of the line and scurried over to me. “May I help you?”

I launched into my rehearsed speech and she escorted me into her office whereupon she explained in detail venereal diseases and their unfortunate manifestations, and gave me some good material, pamphlets, statistical reports and a small booklet explaining treatment for the different VD conditions.

She mentioned that I had stood out from the others in line, people who were waiting for treatment. She laughed and said that she seldom saw scrubbed school girls in her waiting room.

After leaving the Health Department, I noticed signs to the Seattle Coroner’s Office and the Morgue. Hmmmmm. It worked once, why not try again? Join me next week and I’ll tell you about my Coroner’s research.

1 comment:

Heidiwriter said...

A great story, Mary! Funny how "back in the day" we were all pretty naive about these things. But I wonder how much has really changed in communicating about this subject?