College Was To Be My Dowry

My dad told me he was going to pay for my college education as a dowry for my future husband. He said it would be wrong to settle my future husband with debt wracked up for my education when I was going to be a stay at home mom and would never work outside of the home anyway. This is what came to mind when I read the recent viral post Six Reasons Not To Send Your Daughter To College.

If I was only ever supposed to be a stay at home mom, you may be wondering, why did my parents bother to send their daughters to college? Oh, they had their reasons. Part of it was that both of them were college educated and came from families where college educations were highly valued. But in a community where sending your daughters to college was sometimes suspect, they definitely had reasons they brought up to justify their decision. In other words, it wasn’t a given.

First, my parents pointed out that there was always the chance that my husband would die, or turn out abusive, or become disabled, or be out of work. If this happened and I absolutely had to take a job, they said, they didn’t want me working at Walmart. Besides, if I didn’t marry immediately I could work until I did and maybe earn some money for a downpayment on a house. I’m very thankful for my parents’ position here, and should Sally ever decide that what she wants to be is a stay at home mom, I would likewise encourage her to get a degree first, “just in case.”

Second, my parents also told me that it was important to be intellectually matched with your husband, and that since our husbands would be college educated we should be too. Otherwise, they said, we might not be able to connect on the same level. I do appreciate that they put this sort of emphasis on being on the same intellectual playing field, though I also question the classism inherent here and would point out that I was still suspected to submit to my future husband, intellectual equal or not.

Third, my parents said that a college education would help qualify me to homeschool my children. I was to be my children’s primary teacher, after all, and my parents were quite insistent that a college degree, regardless of the specific area of study, was indispensable for this task. Again, I’m really grateful that my parents took this position, especially given that there are Christian homeschool leaders who do not.

And then there was the dowry bit, this idea that my college education would be a gift from my parents to my husband. Because apparently paying for my college education as a gift for me was totally out of the question. Anyway, good on them for seeing college as something important and worth investing in, but, come on, really?

I suppose it may seem curious that I would head off to college without any plan to ever have a career, but I did. What did I study, you ask? Quite simply, I chose a degree that I felt could transition into a way of earning extra pocket change as a homeschool mom. My plan was to offer tutoring and camps to others in the homeschool community, and perhaps to write curriculum for homeschoolers, curriculum I would test on my own children. This sort of thing didn’t count as having a career outside of the home, and would, I felt, serve as a good intellectual outlet and bring in some extra cash. Interestingly, my close in age sister did the same thing, also choosing a degree that would allow her to transition into something to do on the side while keeping her house and raising her children. So while we weren’t majoring in homemaking, we majored in things we felt would help us in our careers as stay at home homeschool mothers.

It turned out that the concerns about sending daughters to college put forward by various Christian homeschool leaders were well merited. College corrupted me. Or, rather, it gave me a chance to form my own views and get outside of the box. And that’s the same thing to some people, I suppose. You may wonder whether my parents have since changed any of their positions mentioned above. The answer is yes, and no. For one thing, college choices have narrowed to Christian college or local state college while living at home (I’m not sure which option is better, to be honest). For another thing, my mother told me she is no longer pushing her daughters toward college, and that if one of my sisters decides she wants to be a stay at home daughter, she won’t try to dissuade her. But at least my parents aren’t flat-out barring my younger sisters from attending college, and for that I am grateful.

I remember a summer day years ago when a homeschool mom we didn’t see very often came over to talk to mom and found out that I was to be sent away to college in a few short months. This homeschool mom was horrified. She insisted to my mother that college would ruin me, and would make me unsuitable for being a wife and mother. She was extremely adamant. And indeed, there are girls I grew up with who, based on these ideas, were kept home from college. Some are my age and even older, still living at home, waiting, I suppose, for someone to come marry them. As for me, I will forever be grateful that my parents believed that there were actually good reasons for sending their daughter to college—even if one of them was that college was to be my “dowry.”

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  • Anat

    Israel. There is a national system of matriculation exams, so schools have to prepare students to that level.

    My school

  • Susie M

    You’ve mentioned that your sisters are allowed to go to Christian colleges…and I keep meaning to ask: any Christian college or something akin to Patrick Henry or Bob Jones?

    I live in CA so there are quite a few Christian colleges in southern CA that would probably horrify your parents. The girls there wear cute things like actual shorts, tank tops, bikinis, leggings, and and people date, girls get pregnant, etc. (I went to one of them. I enjoyed it, but hindsight, definitely not worth the 35 grand a year.) Anyways, I’ve been curious.

    • Oh, I went to one of those too. But mine was WAY more conservative than most down here. Only one piece swimsuits were allowed, and shorts/skirts had to be a certain length. I remember touring the University of San Francisco when I was possibly going to transfer, and I was shocked to see students laying out in bikinis.

      • Susie M

        I actually was thinking that as I typed the original post!;) Technically that was an outdated rule at my school (southern baptist funding lol), but the beach was right next store and students could go anytime and wear anything. One of the draws of my school was that I could wear shorts and scoop necked tank tops with no censure. I think mine had certain length requirements (essentially cover the hips) and it was really only enforced in chapel (an hour a week). Granted, I spent a hellish semester at Bob Jones Academy, where women were required to wear nylons on certain days, but many of my classmates practically grew up on the beach. It was an issue with a few of them, I think.

  • But will you let them stop learning math at multiplication? Will you let them stop writing at eight years old? How does unschooling work when the child simply refuses to learn the very basics?

  • L.J.

    “The way Baby_Raptor’s rapist tried to use it is cruel and despicable in any cultural context.”

    What really blows my mind is how her own FAMILY tried to badger her into marrying this man. The existence of abusive rapist shitheads has ceased to amaze me, but the fact that anyone could think this man is husband material for their daughter/granddaughter is… just… wow. I cannot begin to unpack the fractal levels of fuckery that’s going on here.

    I’m guessing that was the reason the rapist wanted Baby_Raptor to be the “lucky” girl *gags* and not the other woman he raped. (I hope to God there weren’t more.) A woman whose own family wouldn’t support her against her rapist, that’s like blood in the water for predators. Thank everything that’s holy Raptor has nothing to do with those people family anymore.

    • attackfish

      A woman whose own family wouldn’t support her against her rapist, that’s like blood in the water for predators.

      This is what really kills me about this attitude that a lot of people have when so-and-so victim reveals that more than one person at more than one time has raped and/or abused them. I get this when people find I had two separate stalkers. They look at you and think “well, lightning doesn’t strike twice,” and think you’re making it up for attention. But guess what, if you’re raped/abused/stalked whatever once, it’s statistically more likely that you will be raped/abused/stalked again by the same or different person than a given person who hasn’t become a victim will be victimized. This is because the same circumstances that lead to the first victimization often still exist, such as a family colludes with her rapist in Baby_Raptor’s case, or in my case, the fact that the school administrators thought I was crazy and a liar, and so wouldn’t punish any wrongs against me because they didn’t believe they were happening.

      Victim blamers who do believe victims of multiple events and perpetrators often tell us victims that the only constant is us, that all of these victimizations have us as the victim, so we must be doing something to bring it on ourselves. This ignores two simple facts, first that not having perfect victims will not make a predator not victimize, it will just make them pick someone slightly less vulnerable, so blaming victims will not keep anybody safe. And second, that often, what makes us easy targets is outside of our control. It’s a family situation, or a social situation, or a cultural situation, or a financial situation, or a psychological or psychiatric situation, or some other situation that the victim would happily be out of, but can’t get themselves out of. And maybe they could get themselves out of it with a little help, but guess what the victim blamers try to deny them?

      • “And maybe they could get themselves out of it with a little help, but guess what the victim blamers try to deny them?”

        THIS SO MUCH. The one productive reason to focus on the victim in abusive situations is to find solutions to problems that make them vulnerable, whether it’s shitty families, economic dependency, or support systems not doing their jobs. But nooooo, caring enough to take action depends on identifying with rather than othering the victim, and guess which is the attitude of the people whose interpersonal safety mechanism consists of IT CAN”T EVER HAPPEN TO ME BECAUSE I AM NOT DIFFERENT/WEIRD/WRONG LIKE HER LALALA.


        This reminds me of Jackson Katz’s talk about how violence against women is actually a men’s issue, in a video that restored my faith in TED and humanity. The part where he discusses the change in focus from “John beat Mary” to “Mary is a battered woman” is brilliant. I am sick of discussions of violence that make it about the victim at the expense of discussing the perpetrator.

      • attackfish

        I love that video, and ever since it first came out, I’ve been trying to change my own language (Two people have stalked me instead of I’ve been stalked twice) but it feels so strange and shows you just how pervasive the system of language and thought that makes it about the victim and part of the victim’s identity really is.

  • L.J.

    “if not for the presumption that the level of financial means or gendered job status directly equates to a man’s worth, how many women might readily admit a major reason for wanting husbands or boyfriends is the prospect of regular, satisfying sex and emotional support regardless of his social standing / financial situation?”

    *sheepishly raises hand*

    Seriously, no matter how much more financially successful I may become than my husband, money could never compare to the emotional and moral support he gives me. Also, every cent of financial support and more is worth it for that fine ass and mad bedroom skillz.

    Of course the real trick is that I can’t buy his wonderful, all-encompassing love or even the exciting intimacy of sex. Those things are only possible because we love each other. Everything else, money, childcare, housework, those are just arrangements to make our lives work together, pooling our different strengths and resources. That’s why the people who insist on rigid gender roles are missing the point by a ridiculous margin.

  • Ismenia

    It also sounds like having been convicted of rape, he realised he didn’t want to continue with that risky path so was looked for a socially sanctioned way of continuing to abuse women. I really hope he never found a wife.

  • Nick Bush

    Jesus. Your grandparents are at best horribly delusional, and at worst complete sociopaths.

    • Baby_Raptor

      They were very, *very* fundie. They had some rules I’ve never heard anywhere else, things like the only meat that was “not sinful” to eat being chicken (Fish on holy days being the only exception, because we know Jesus ate fish).

      I’m 27 now and I’ve still never had beef.

      • Even since you got out? Wow. It’s weird to me for someone who isn’t a full vegetarian or have religious restrictions still on them to have never had a hamburger. It’s weird to realize that I’d taken that for granted and not really thought about how a lot of people don’t know what a hamburger tastes like.

      • Baby_Raptor

        The food rules were so pervasive that even now, I have a strong aversion to a lot of things.

        I don’t have issues being around people eating beef anymore, but the idea of trying it myself is…The closest I can think of is gross, but that’s not 100% accurate. The food rules have definitely been the most stubborn ones to get over.

  • Oh yeah, my parents didn’t pay for my college either. But they had my transcripts (since I was homeschooled), so they wouldn’t even send them to other schools. 40K in loans, a sub-par (although accredited) degree… Thanks Mom & Dad! 🙂

    • Guest

      I hear you! They had my transcripts too, and were my only source of transportation. I guess it would have been really hard to go to a different school even if I had made up my mind to. Now, about 5 years since graduating, I can’t imagine going back to the mandatory chapels, prayer before class, assumptions that everyone agrees with certain things, etc. But at the time, I’m not sure if I would have been ready for regular college. Maybe it was just a stage I had to go through to get where I am. Fortunately, I got a graduate degree from a state school recently, so now I can mention them when people ask where I went to school. 🙂

      • TheCarolineEntity

        That comment was from me: I am apparently still learning how to use Disqus. : /

    • Guest

      I hear you! They had my transcripts too, and were my only source of transportation. I guess it would have been really hard to go to a different school even if I had made up my mind to. Now, about 5 years since graduating, I can’t imagine going back to the mandatory chapels, prayer before class, assumptions that everyone agrees with certain things, etc. But at the time, I’m not sure if I would have been ready for regular college. Maybe it was just a stage I had to go through to get where I am. Fortunately, I got a graduate degree from a state school recently, so now I can mention them when people ask where I went to school. 🙂

  • “I just DON’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL how anyone can be expected to raise a family today on one income without being very, very lucky.”

    People that do this tend to live extremely frugally. They don’t buy nice, new cars. They garden. They make all their food from scratch, and stockpile meat when it is on sale. They shop at thrift stores for most items, and buy the cheapest household items/toiletries. They don’t go out to eat, and they don’t go spending money on entertainment. They use the library instead of buying books or movies. They go on very cheap vacations, if they go at all. It’s possible to do it, but it’s definitely not fun.

    • But…how do you even get a job that lets you pay the bills–even while living that frugally–without a college degree and a huge amount of luck?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’d caution against demanding that he take college level courses in high school. They’re a time sink, a stressor, and a lot of schools are iffy about what they will and won’t take credit for.

    If he wants to, by all means encourage him. But don’t force him. It’s not worth it.

    • We’ll probably encourage him to do Running Start, actually, which is actually going to community college for part of your day and getting college credit that way. I would have killed for that opportunity in high school.

      • I had a friend who did that. Well, not that program specifically, but she took some community college courses for high school credit over the summer (though she was doing it to pad her GPA, mostly. She squeaked by me for salutatorian in part because of it, in more part because I got lazy my senior year). But yeah, that was her choice to do that. I think your approach (encourage but not force) is a good one for education 🙂

      • The program is a pretty big thing in Washington State; they have to limit the percentage of a class that’s allowed to be Running Start kids, because otherwise, it’s too hard for not-Running Start kids to get into, like, English 101. (I’m pretty sure there’s at least one in my friend’s online English 101 class right now; their first assignment was “write a letter to yourself at sixteen,” and one of them wrote a letter to herself at twelve instead. Presumably because she is sixteen.) It’s possibly my kid will turn into the kind of crazy grade farmers I knew who did community college classes in high school back in California (“Sure, I’m from Taiwan and took two years of French, but it’ll look great on my transcripts if I take a quarter of community college German, too!”), but I’m more hoping for “Hey, this is cheaper and frees up my four-year-college time for cool classes that you can’t get in community college.”

      • Baby_Raptor

        That sounds a lot safer, at least in the transfer department.

  • Hilary

    To this day I still remember some of the poetry I learned in public schools. I remember painting techniques, field trips, books I read that I would never have been exposed to otherwise, history I found fascinating and explained a lot. I gained a love for biology that got me into a bio major in college. I remember helping my father when he was a kindergarten teacher set up his public school classroom and the incredible picture book collection he bought out of pocket for his students.
    Learning you went to school in Texas explains a lot. I went to school in Minnesota – it really depends.
    You are doing your kids a favor by keeping them out of the type of schools you went to, no denying that. But I went to public schools too, and I hope to someday put my kids in a good public school.

    • The thing is, I went to school in Texas too. So you can’t even say all of Texas is terrible. It’s very dependent on where you live and what the local school system is like, just like anywhere else.

      • Hilary

        Good point, thanks for calling me on it. There are some terrible schools in MN too. It also depends on who you are, unfortunately. MN has a real problem with an achievement gap between white and minority students.

  • It depends. I think that a lot of kids don’t know how much access they actually have. There’s also the fact that a lot of parents assume that telling kids to look things up on the Internet will automatically inform them–even if the kids aren’t taught how to tell a good source from a bad one.

  • I had a much more enjoyable time in public schools than private ones, actually. I liked my teachers more, I felt more in control of my learning, and I wasn’t just sitting through lectures and parroting back anymore. I was actually having to think for the first time about so many subjects, and while it took a while for me to get used to that, I found myself enjoying it.

    I even got to pick quilting as an elective in senior year! It gave me time to do something relaxing in the middle of the day, taught me how to use a sewing machine (which certainly comes in handy), and helped stave off “senior-itis.”

    And the private schools used the same horrible curriculum that is standard for homeschooling. (Good luck finding homeschool curriculum that isn’t A Beka, BJU, or ACE–and I say that sincerely, not sarcastically. No child deserves that mind-rot.) Also, everything was lecture, drill, individual homework assignment, test. NO group work, NO discussions, NO critical thinking of any kind. Just parrot back everything you’ve been told, in nearly the same words, and you get an A.

    I had better grades before I went to public schools, but I wasn’t learning as much, or even really thinking at all.

    The schools in question were in Alabama, by the way.

  • IB schools are awesome! As a fellow math-degree-holder, I wish him the best of luck. 🙂

  • Yeah, typing on phones in general is an exercise in frustration. 🙁 I come here on my iPhone, but very rarely because I can’t stand trying to type comments on a touchscreen.

  • “There were a number of times when a college class felt like a waste of
    time, especially when the professor only regurgitated the textbook
    (which I read until I learned I didn’t have to read for those classes).”

    I had a “class” like that once, and I HATED it. The professor would read verbatim from his PowerPoints (which were, in turn, verbatim from the book), and he had a very, very strong Korean accent which didn’t really help. (I have nothing against people from Korea, but when you have to hear brand-new electrical engineering concepts from someone with that strong an accent, it is incomprehensible torture.)

  • Saraquill

    What are you laughing at?

  • KristinMuH


    There are not enough capital D’s in the universe for that horrified emoticon.

  • Alix

    That’s one reason I chose (for my second stab at college) to attend an accredited online university – cost was only $3000-ish (a technology fee was later added) per semester, and books and other course materials were sent to you free. (My other reason for attending is my wacky sleep disorder that makes it damn hard to attend physical classes.)

    From speaking to my fellow students, the cost was one of the major draws at my uni. A lot of my fellow students were retirees, half of a single-income household, or in otherwise low-paying jobs, and the relief with which we all talked about the low cost was … kind of amazing.

    It’s one reason I think online and other non-traditional unis are here to stay, actually. People are fed up with being squeezed for everything they’re worth and then some for a degree, and they’re looking for alternatives.

  • Alice

    A couple of years ago when I was in the middle of my college career, my dad said something about how I was going to college so that one day when I am a SAHM, I will be able keep up my end of intellectual conversations with my future husband and home-school my children.

    I was so dumbstruck I just stared at him for several minutes with the biggest “WTF?!” look on my face. Then he looked confused, “That is why you’re going to college, right?”

    *headdesk* I never said or did anything to give him that impression, and he had never said anything like that before. We had never discussed it, because we each thought it was an obvious question. Even when I was a kid, I always planned on working. I just thought I would work part-time or tele-commute full-time AND home-school like Mom did.

    I wanted to ask, “If you think that’s the only reason I’m going, why on earth were you two more than willing to spend enough money on college to buy a modest house? If that was it, then I would just study on my own.”