This past weekend in Spokane, thousands of high school seniors graduated and most received gifts from friends and family.
My daughter graduated this weekend, as well. And, just as it was with her siblings, our gift was a computer to take to school with her. It's a pretty common gift these days, a tool for study and work. Exactly what the contemporary student needs to succeed. But that wasn't always the case.
In the not-too-distant past, girls didn't get that kind of gift. Instead, they were given items that would prepare them for becoming wives and mothers. College was fine, but the real work came after they were awarded their 'Mrs.' degree. Later, in the 1960s and 70s, luggage became a popular graduation gift, suitable for a traveling coed, single working girl and (fingers crossed!) eventual honeymooner. Remember Mary Tyler Moore's matched set of white luggage?
I write a column about antiques and collectibles for Nostalgia Magazine each month. In the latest column I wrote about the tradition of Lane Furniture Company gifting high school senior girls with a miniature cedar chest to be used as a jewelry box. The hope was that soon they would be buying, or be given, a full-size 'hope chest' to fill with things they would need as wives and homemakers. Silver companies gave girls a miniature sterling spoon or knife, often fashioned into a pin, when they picked out a silver pattern.
Today the idea of a hope chest filled with household items, linens and lingere seems laughable. But it wasn't that long ago that young women were expected to marry young and set up housekeeping right away.