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Lili Bell

23 February 2017
English, Junior

American Dream Research Essay:

Barbara Ellen Steele was born January 31, 1942. She was a part of a

middle-class family and grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Chicago Illinois. It

was there that she witnesses many injustices from race riots to gender inequality which

have shaped her. Her father worked while her mother raised seven children, three girls

and four boys.

While she was growing up women had two options to either get married or join

the convent and men went to college or got a job. Barbara's older sister joined the

convent and one of her brothers attended college. This was her model had she had

known that she did not have to fit into any of the three categories she would've chosen


At Barbara’s high school there were two education pathways business or home

economics. In home economics one would learn about keeping a home clean and how

to cook. Through the business pathway, which she took, one would learn shorthand,

typing and math. Those were all she learned because that was all women were

expected to do in the business world.

Barbara’s highest education is a high school diploma. She has found that one

third of women attended college and about half of them dropped out because of the

social pressures fighting against women at the time.

Right out of high school, she decided to marry and eventually she had five

children. It wasn't until then that Barbra noticed the unequal rights between men and
women. She would often talk to women of the PTA and others from her church about

these issues. She began to noticed that these women started in little groups and

eventually heard about other groups growing with some power behind them. She and

many other women had to learn how to fight back, in the right way, she eventually

participated in pickett's about women's rights and insurance issues.

A turning point in her life came, while visiting her mother, the pipes in her house

burst ruining everything they owned accompanied by her serve growing back problems

her husband took this opportunity and decided to move them to California. Originally

she did not want to leave however she discovered that California was a land of

opportunities for her children who also grew to love California.

Due to the fact that Barbara got married right out of high school as well as had

kids soon after, she truly believes that she was never able to find her independence

until she was 50 years old. At that point her life she was a widow and her children had

grown up and moved out.

With her new found independence Barbara got a job with the Painters Union and

she eventually became the Secretary Treasurer for the whole union. She hoped by

doing this she would model to her children that when things get bad you can always

start over again.

If she could start over again from graduating high school, Barbara really would've

gotten an apartment to find out who she was, where she stood with God and to become

independent enough to feel comfortable sharing her opinions with everyone. As for her

career she would've done something with history because she believes to know where
ones come from is the power to know where one can go.

While Barbara knows that her dream is different from others from her generation

she believes that society as a whole has an underlying dream. A dream to make each

generation better. Her grandparents came from Ireland, they travelled through Ellis

Island. They fought every day in Ireland to raise enough money to bring their family to

America. Her parents built off the hard work provided by her grandparents. They worked

very hard to have food on the table and provide an opportunity to their kids grow.

Barbara and her siblings decided to provide their kids with more opportunities to thrive

and are thrilled to see that their grandchildren are provided even more opportunities to

be become successful. To her this is the American Dream.

Andrew, Kylie, Carol, Kayla, Sylvia and I all interviewed people around the age of

eighty in hopes to discover a common dream within the one generation. Andrew

interviewed his Catholic grandmother who attended college to find a husband and

hopes to see more a diverse group achieving their dreams. Kylie interviewed her

grandmother a Native American woman who got kicked off of her land, overcame a

scary home life and got her degree in teaching. Carol interviewed a stranger named to

Gene who was a professional typer for the State Department in Washington DC and

supported protests for injustices in the ways she knew how. Kayla interviewed her great

uncle Bob Butler who was a lawyer for over forty years, a member of an Air Force

Reserve and has overcome three different cancers. Sylvia interviewed her landlady

Ardith Fishel who is an 83 year old native San Diego resident who persevered a

troubled childhood.
Growing up in the same times Andrew’s grandmother, Sylvia's landlady, Carol’s

new friend and my step-grandmother all dreamed of finding a husband, making a family

and building a home. While that was the normal path for women in this time Kylie’s

grandmother had a different dream in mind, she wanted an education and to be

independent. Kayla’s great-uncle followed the dream of most men and attended college.

Despite the many differing details in their American Dreams they all follow the same

themes of happiness, success and stability - to their own standards.

Looking back on their lives now all but Bob believe the American Dream has

changed for themselves personally and for generations that followed them. Bob

believes the dream was and always will be that pursuing your interests will bring you

happiness. Grandma Negus’s dream has changed to ‘being the best you you can be.’

She does not believe she has achieved this dream so she stays focused everyday to be

the best person she can be. Grandma Greaves dream evolved as she grew with her

marriage and now her dream is for equality amongst all races and genders. While she

knows this dream is not yet achieved there are people working tirelessly to see the

dream come true. Gene believes now that with a bit of luck and never giving up on your

dream America will never give up on you.

To me the American Dream is just that a dream, something that can be changed,

modified or redefined by who ever beholds it. My dream, beyond success in college,

career and starting a family, is it to change the world to be a happier and more peaceful

place to live. While my dream differs in its more global idea from some of the

interviewees we all want happiness and to have improved in our lives. Within my own
research I have found that most dreams are open ended, tailored for the ever changing

future and it's possible new ways to define achieving that dream. In this way we are all

similar, we all had slightly specific goals that are defined differently, Kylie’s grandmother

wants a more equal society while one could argue she has seen this dream become a

reality but she has altered her dream to be more inclusive and allow her passion to

continue on. I have found that the American Dream is not just a social construct of hope

but a powerful force in many people's lives to keep them headed toward their version of

their best life.

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