Two Lucky People: Memoirsby Milton Friedman, Rose D. Friedman
In Two Lucky People, Rose and Milton Friedman provide a memorable and lively account of their lives, the people they knew, and the work they shared. Their involvement with world leaders and many of this century's most important public policy issues moves their memoir beyond the merely personal and makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the/i>
In Two Lucky People, Rose and Milton Friedman provide a memorable and lively account of their lives, the people they knew, and the work they shared. Their involvement with world leaders and many of this century's most important public policy issues moves their memoir beyond the merely personal and makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century ideas.
"The Friedmans come across as the last Enlightenment thinkers in a post-modern world. . . . This is a book that restores your faith in reasoned discourse. . . . There really are people who believe in scholarly exchange as a way to discover truth."—David Brooks, New York Times Book Review
"The Friedmans are a feisty couple, who clearly delight in their lives and each other. And shining through their reticence, and their conservatism, is a decency that even liberals will recognize."—Milton and Judith Viorst, Washington Post Book World
"This engaging book recounts the life and contributions of one of America's most influential writers and economists in the second half of the twentieth century. And her husband's no slouch either. . . . An indispensable guide through the evolution of economic thought."—Stephen Moore, National Review
"A thought-provoking book and one rich in history, the personal history of the Friedmans . . . and the cultural and political history of our country."—Steve Huntley, Chicago Sun-Times Books
"[Two Lucky People] is almost like a letter from a couple of old friends—a couple of old friends who had a long, compelling intellectual journey, came to know some of the great world leaders of this century, and had 60 years of happy, supportive marriage."—N. Gregory Mankiw, Fortune
"A rich autobiographical and historical panorama."—William P. Kucewicz, Wall Street Journal
- University of Chicago Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.25(w) x 9.75(h) x (d)
Read an Excerpt
Two Lucky PeopleMemoirs
By Milton Friedman
University of Chicago PressCopyright © 1999 Milton Friedman
All right reserved.
HOW WE MET
Monday, October 3, 1932, Professor Jacob Viner was presiding over the first session of his famous economic theory course, Economics 301, in room 107 of the Social Science Building at the University of Chicago.
To help him identify his students, Professor Viner arranged them alphabetically. This seated Rose Director, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago who had transferred there after two years at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, next to Milton Friedman, a recent graduate of Rutgers University who came from Rahway, New Jersey. Rose had never been east of Chicago; Milton had never before been west of the Delaware River.
Initial contact of two naive youths blossomed into friendship, then romance, followed by marriage six years later on June 25, 1938.
Why did it take so long? Primarily because of our economic insecurity. Times were tough and jobs in our chosen profession of college teaching were scarce--especially for Jews. We had only ourselves to depend on. Our parents could not help us with expenses at school let alone subsidize us after marriage. In addition, we regarded marriage as "till death us do part." As a result we did not want to take that step until we had a reasonable prospect of being able to support ourselves and a family.
This book is the story of our lives. It is now (1997), as we finish telling the story, sixty-five years since we met and fifty-nine years since we were married. We have had our ups and downs--the downs early, the ups later, but our love and confidence in each other was strengthened and deepened by the downs as well as by the ups. Our life has surpassed our wildest expectations: two wonderful children, four grandchildren, rewarding professional careers, and a loving partnership. Who could ask for more?
I was born in Charterisk, a small village in a part of Eastern Europe that was Russia before World War I, Poland between the two wars, the Soviet Union after World War II, and part of Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was two years old when I left Charterisk with my mother and siblings to join my father in Portland, Oregon. What little I know about life in Charterisk comes entirely from the reminiscences of my mother and older siblings. I did not get interested in family history until it was too late to ask questions.
Both Jews and Christians, whom the Jews always referred to as "Russians," lived in Charterisk, but there seems to have been no social contact between the two groups. Interaction was limited strictly to commercial transactions. Farmers in surrounding areas came to local markets to buy provisions and sell their wares. My aunt had a bar where the Russians congregated after the markets closed. My father worked in his father's mill, to which Russians brought wheat and other grains to be ground. I don't recall hearing any stories about pogroms such as are reported for other communities. Nevertheless, my parents and siblings made it clear that the Jews lived in fear of their Russian neighbors.
My mother was two years old when her mother died in childbirth. The baby, my mother's only brother, survived. Left with an infant and three young daughters, my grandfather lost no time in finding another wife--who came with two young daughters. My mother's stories about growing up were far from the conventional ones involving a cruel stepmother. On the contrary, they frequently concerned cruelties that one of my mother's sisters, resenting a new mother, heaped either on the stepmother or on the stepsisters. After we left Charterisk, my mother kept in contact with her stepmother and sent her small sums of money whenever she could--evidence of the good relationship between the two parts of the family. And when the infant son grew up, he married one of his stepsisters. They had a large and apparently thriving family--affluent enough to send one daughter to France to study, as I learned when we visited Israel and for the first time met Malke, who had studied in France and was teaching chemistry at Haifa University. We also met her two daughters and her two sisters and their families. To the best of my knowledge, they and an aunt and her family who emigrated to the United States before we did are the only maternal relatives who survived. The others all died in the Holocaust. We have never learned where or how.
Before she married my father, my mother lived not in Charterisk but in a neighboring village. However, an older sister lived in Charterisk and must have known my father's family. I assume that was how the marriage was arranged. As an only son, my father was exempt from being drafted into the Russian army, a real advantage for a potential husband. I do not know when his mother died, only that she had died before he married my mother.
Life in Charterisk
My parents never had a home of their own until they came to the United States. They moved into my grandfather's home when they were married and lived there with their children until we left Charterisk. My father's two unmarried sisters also lived with my grandfather, whether as part of one household or a separate household in the same house, I am not sure. I conjecture that there were two households with some overlapping quarters. It is clear that my mother's life was not an easy one. One unmarried sister-in-law caused problems for my mother because she thought that my grandfather was partial to my mother. One tale concerned bread baking. Apparently both households used the same hearth. It took several hours to heat the oven before it was hot enough to bake bread. The jealous sister-in-law would get up very early in the morning to bake her bread so the oven would be cold before my mother was ready to do her baking. Such interpersonal problems simply added to the hardships associated with living in a small village in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Running water, electricity, indoor plumbing, washing machines, and the myriad kitchen conveniences that we take for granted were totally absent. When Milton and I took a bus trip from Warsaw to Moscow (see chap. 20), I was reminded of my mother's stories about her early life. In the villages we passed, women were still doing their laundry at the village pump, and at night all was dark except for a single light in the village Communist party headquarters--the only thing that had been added.
Medical practice was primitive and superstition rife. For example, my mother had a long and very difficult labor with her first child. One remedy recommended to ease childbirth was to stretch a string from her bed to the synagogue, presumably to enlist the aid of the Deity. Another was to cut off the hair of all unmarried females in the household. I have never understood how this was supposed to help. Another story concerned my sister when she had what I assume was diphtheria at the age of two or three. My mother and sister were moved to the edge of a cemetery, which served as a place of quarantine, until the crisis was over. There were of course no antibiotics. But there were leeches. The doctor, after applying the leeches, said that if they fell off after a certain number of hours, my sister would live. If they did not, she would die. She lived, but I have no recollection of hearing whether or not the leeches fell off. (As an aside, there were still no antibiotics when I had pneumonia in the United States some fifteen years later, but medical practice had at least moved beyond leeches.) I bear a more lasting memento of medical inadequacy--a short index finger. Not long before we left Charterisk for good, my mother was standing on a stool hanging clothes to dry and I was crawling underfoot. As she got down she stepped on my finger. I have never learned whether a doctor was consulted. I only know that my finger was still bandaged when we left Charterisk and started our voyage to America.
I was born, according to family tradition and my own deduction, during the last week of December 1911, the youngest of a family of five. A sixth child had died as an infant long before I was born. Of my four siblings, two were boys and two girls. Lewis was closest to me in age and Aaron, next to the oldest. My sister Anne was the oldest and Becky came between Aaron and Lewis. The interval between siblings was roughly three years. Since there was never any discussion of sex in our family, I never learned how this more or less regular pattern of childbearing was maintained. There were, of course, none of the modern birth control devices.
Jewish children in Charterisk did not go to the same schools as Russian children, and only boys went to school at all. I know nothing about the schools the Russian children attended. My brother Aaron was the only one in our family who went to school. He attended classes with a few other youngsters in the home of the local learned man. I believe my parents paid the teacher in kind for the classes. All that the boys studied was the Talmud and commentaries on it.
Coming to the United States
My father made two trips to the United States, the first before I was born. I know little about why my father decided to go to "America," as his contemporaries would have referred to this country. His two sisters and their families had already made their way to the United States--one to Portland, Oregon, the other to Detroit, Michigan. Many of my father's cousins had also settled in Portland. In addition, my mother's sister, after first emigrating to London, had moved to Portland. I have often wondered why these relatives went to Portland rather than staying in New York as so many others did. I recently heard one possible explanation. An American manufacturer of furniture came to Poland looking for cabinetmakers whom he could bring to the West Coast to work in his furniture factory. Someone took up his offer, and relatives--not themselves cabinetmakers--followed in due course. The hypothesis sounds plausible, but there is no way to prove it now, since none of the original immigrants is still alive.
I am sure that my father heard from his relatives as well as from other emigrants about the wonderful country across the ocean. He was always very venturesome, so it is not hard for me to imagine him itching for new adventure. I can well imagine that my mother, for whom it meant being left behind with four young children and an elderly father-in-law, may not have been as enthusiastic. That would not have deterred my father. He would probably have tried to persuade her with glowing stories, but failing, he would stubbornly have done what he wanted to do. This was more or less the pattern I remember throughout my childhood.
I don't know how long my father stayed in the United States before returning to Charterisk, nor do I know anything about his life in the new country during this period. I know only that he returned at my grandfather's insistence. Neither do I know how long my father stayed in Charterisk before returning to the United States. I know only that he did not leave until after his father died and that he left rather precipitously and sooner than he intended. I suspect that he was going to stay until I was born but left prematurely as a result of a terrible accident in the mill that he had inherited from his father. It was my father, I believe, who improved the mill by converting it to steam. A young Russian who had brought his grain to be milled got his coat caught in the machinery and was dragged into the wheels of the mill and killed. My father feared for his life because of the anger in the Russian community. After hiding out for a few days, he departed a second time for the United States. I have never heard more than this about the episode. In particular, I have never heard anything about the reaction of the Russian community to the family that was left behind.
Fortunately, my father earned enough money to send for us shortly before the start of World War I. Had we not been able to leave then, we would probably never have been able to come or, at best, not until many years later. I realized what we were spared when a cousin who was not so fortunate told about her experiences during and after the war. Her husband made his first trip to the U.S. with us but left his wife and two children behind, one of whom died during the war. My cousin's stories were confirmed by a book on Poland written in 1938. It vividly describes what occurred in the "eastern provinces of Poland" where Charterisk was located:
In order to delay the pursuit of the retreating Russian armies by the Germans in 1915, the Cossacks destroyed everything: railway stations, churches, houses, bridges; . . . they burned all crops and removed three million of the local population together with their livestock and implements to the interior of Russia. ... [Further] misfortune afflicted these districts in 1921, when the three million Poles, White Ruthenians and Jews, driven six years earlier by the Cossacks from their homes, returned to their native land, fleeing from the hunger and famine that was raging in the interior of Russia. Those refugees found at home only abandoned trenches, a sea of barbed wire, remnants of conflagration, skeletons of buildings, empty shells and barren land covered with weeds. The only nourishment these people could find was that which they could dig out from the soil, uncultivated for the last seven years: mushrooms, roots, bark. Their only shelter was in abandoned dugouts. An epidemic of typhoid fever set in and raged throughout the whole winter.
Voyage to America
My mother's only brother lived in Kovel, a short distance from Charterisk. When the time came for our departure, he came with his horse and buggy to take us to the train station and bid us farewell--as it turned out, never to see us again. We then went by train to the port of Libau or Libava, about five hundred miles from Charterisk, where we embarked for London. How long we stayed in port before embarking I do not know. My mother's story was that we were delayed because my injured index finger was still bandaged. Tales were rife at the time about the difficulties encountered by the flood of immigrants entering at Ellis Island, so I assume that the officers at the port of embarkation tried to keep people from starting if there was likely to be a problem. But that's only a guess.
Our voyage to the U.S. was in two parts, from Libau to London and then from London to Portland, Maine. I have always wondered why we entered the country at Portland, Maine, rather than Ellis Island, which seemed to be the most popular port of entry. My brother Aaron's hunch is that the reason was my damaged finger, plus the tales about the difficulties at Ellis Island.
My mother's story of the voyage was one of great discomfort: everyone seasick and the ship smelling of vomit for the whole voyage. She had so many questions and no one to answer them. The other passengers knew no more than she did, and those who could have given her answers, that is, the crew, did not speak Yiddish.
My brother Aaron's version, which he related to me only recently, was altogether different. Unlike my mother, who was responsible for a brood of five children of whom the oldest was sixteen, Aaron was young and carefree, twelve years old, eager to learn the new language and excited about the whole adventure. Even after these many years his recollection of the voyage from Libau to London and on to Portland, Maine, is very clear. The voyage from Libau to London was not long--perhaps one or two days and nights. There were no berths. Everyone huddled in one large room. Passengers brought their own food on board. Aaron spent most of his time on deck among the sailors listening to their conversation, eager to pick up a few words of English. He had no recollection of being miserable or seasick. For him, it was an exciting adventure.
We had relatives in London, so that made a convenient resting place between the two parts of the voyage.
An incident on our trip from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, as told by my mother, indicates the insularity of the early immigrants. A black man who was on the train with us was apparently very attentive to me, a two year-old, and my mother was petrified. She had never seen a black person but she did know about gypsies. Stories about their kidnapping young children were legion. I have no idea whether my mother actually knew of any children being kidnapped. Nevertheless, she was sure that the strange man would kidnap me. The trials of the trip were increased.
When I recall my mother's stories about her life in Charterisk and especially the break with that life that was involved in coming to a strange land, I am full of admiration for the immigrants of those days. The voyage itself was difficult enough, and when they arrived at their destination, they were on their own. Some had relatives in the new land, but these had come only recently and had little to share with the newer arrivals. Some private charities did exist in larger cities like New York. However, I do not recall my mother ever speaking of help for arriving immigrants in Portland, Oregon. They were accustomed to depending on their own efforts and not on government or private charity. Of the many immigrants of that era whom I met in later years, I never heard one complain about the lack of help or express regrets about coming. They never expected help and did not get any. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, few fell by the wayside.
My father presumably had arranged housing for us, but men in those days knew little about housekeeping and cared less. I shudder at the thought of what advance arrangements my father would have made. As an aside, my father never got so much as a cup of tea for himself, much less removed the cup when he had finished. That was the pattern, at least in our family, and I expect in most families at that time.
Life in Portland
Life in Portland was certainly a big step up from Charterisk. We had running water, even hot water, which I believe was heated by a wood stove in the kitchen. We lived successively in three houses--each a step up the ladder--all in the same neighborhood. I have no recollection of the first house. The third house was the first one we owned. It was the home from which I left Portland and which my parents occupied for the rest of their lives. We had no electricity but we did have gas lighting. Central heat did not come until my father found a secondhand furnace that he installed himself and was always fixing. My father was a wonderful fixer, whether it was a furnace or a washing machine or some other piece of equipment. I do not remember ever seeing a repairman of any kind around our house when I was growing up. My father always did whatever repairs needed doing. With the proper education, he would have made an excellent engineer. Until my father installed central heat, the only heat was from a kitchen stove and a potbellied stove in the dining room. We never thought that getting dressed in the morning around the kitchen stove was a hardship. We had no telephone until my sister Becky, who went to a commercial high school so she could go to work, finally had one put in so her boyfriends could call her.
I grew up in a strictly Orthodox Jewish home. My father went to the synagogue on Saturdays whenever he was at home. My mother ran a 100 percent kosher kitchen. Dinnerware and tablecloths for meat meals and dairy meals were kept separate and never did the two foods mix. My father was more fanatic about religion than my mother. I always had the impression that habit rather than conviction ruled my mother and that when she broke the rules it was without any sense of guilt. For example, when I was anemic as a child, my mother did not hesitate to fix my meat without the soaking demanded by kosher rules. She felt, I believe correctly, that soaking took all the food value out of the meat. She kept separate cooking utensils and dishes for me, however, so as not to contaminate the rest of the kitchen. Many years later, when I visited my parents with my children, my mother never hesitated to serve the children milk with their meat. By that time, she had become sufficiently emancipated as not even to use special dishes for them.
Superstitions did not disappear when we moved to the New World. I remember one in particular related to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. As a child, I always dreaded that holiday. It was a day of fasting. My parents spent the day in the synagogue praying for forgiveness for any sins committed in the year past and for health and good fortune in the year ahead. There was much crying during the prayers. My mother always came home at sundown with a dreadful headache and went to bed as soon as she fed us. But the worst aspect of the holiday was associated with the custom of burning candles on Yom Kippur from sundown to sundown. The superstition was that if any candle went out during those twenty-four hours someone in the family would die during the year. I still recall the anxiety that followed a candle's blowing out one year. Even though no one died during that year, the superstition nonetheless persisted.
When I was about five I went to kindergarten, not in the public school but in what was known as the neighborhood house. I believe that it was not a government-funded institution but rather one financed and run privately. Miss Lowenberg, a descendant of earlier German immigrants, ran the institution. Her sister was the librarian in the local library. The neighborhood house was a place where people in the neighborhood, primarily immigrants, met for all kinds of activities. There were probably English classes in the evening for adults. I remember going to kindergarten there as well as to dancing classes and other activities. Long before I started grammar school, I spoke English like a native though I have always remained fluent in Yiddish as well.
Like my siblings, I attended Failing School, a public school that was a short walk from our home. As I remember it, the children all went home for lunch since they lived in the neighborhood. Although Jews were the dominant group in the neighborhood, there were other nationalities, and unlike Charterisk there was no social separation. We were all immigrants in a new land. One neighbor across the street was Italian and our two families became good friends.
School was very congenial. The teachers were always helpful and the atmosphere was friendly. I remember especially the year (I believe I was in the fourth grade) that I had pneumonia and was out of school for much of the term. This did not keep me from passing, however, probably because the teacher helped me make up the work. That winter is very vivid in my memory. I am not sure whether it was because of the stories I heard after I recovered about my behavior when I was delirious, or because that was the winter of a big snow storm, which was very unusual for Portland. Whatever the explanation, I can still see myself sitting at the dining room window watching the other children sledding down the hill.
I don't remember anything special about any of the teachers except the principal and her sister, who taught the eighth grade. Those two one could never forget. In my memory, they seem to be the tallest women I have ever seen. They always stood perfectly straight and had a stately appearance. Neither smiled much and yet I remember them as friendly. Classes were relatively small. As far as I remember, my mother never attended a parent-teachers meeting but she always took a keen interest in our progress at school. The periodic report cards told her how we were doing.
I attended Hebrew school for a year or so. The other pupils were all boys and I have never understood why I was sent. Hebrew was only just emerging in Palestine as a living language. The Hebrew school that I went to taught us only the Hebrew alphabet and how to pronounce words written in Hebrew. The aim was to enable us to "read," i.e., pronounce, the prayers in the Hebrew prayer books. That part of my education lasted a short time. However, I did go to Sunday school until I was thirteen. I still have the Bible I was given when I graduated. I have a vague memory of getting a medal; I'm not sure whether it was for good attendance or achievement.
My closest girl friend as a child was a black girl who lived either next door or a few houses away from the second house we lived in. I mention this only because to the best of my recollection there was no problem of race relations at that time in Portland. I have no recollection of feeling that somehow she was different from my Jewish girl friends. I recalled this early unawareness of race many years later when I was married and living in Chicago. My five year-old daughter was entertaining a black classmate while the girl's mother was visiting with me. The two children were playing upstairs and after a while appeared in the living room, having exchanged clothes. They announced in unison that they had exchanged everything except their skin, and they couldn't do that. They were quite indifferent to the color of each other's skin. Their attitude was in sharp contrast to that of a black maid whom I left on one occasion with my three-year-old son. David asked questions about anything and everything, and the maid was indignant when I got home. She told me that he had asked her why her skin was black and his was white. She felt that the question was insulting and that I was at fault for not instructing him about the difference between white people and black people--and presumably telling him never to mention the difference!
After graduating from Failing School, I went on to Lincoln High School, which was also within walking distance but not close enough to come home for lunch, so we carried bag lunches in plain paper sacks, not the fancy containers that youngsters carry today. Nor, to the best of my recollection, was there a cafeteria.
I studied the usual subjects: Latin, math, civics, history, and English. I did no dating except for a graduation party. I can, I believe, vouch for the total absence of any pregnant girls. Though I was immature, and some girls were more advanced socially, I think I would have known if any girl had dropped out because she was pregnant. The classes were not large and I knew most of the students. I remember no problem of stealing, much less other crime. We walked around the neighborhood at any time of day without fear.
I took piano lessons from a very early age. I occasionally even dreamed of life as a concert pianist. My greatest disappointment in high school had nothing to do with report cards, because I was always a good student: it was not getting the lead for the class play. In the competition I lasted up to the final round and then lost out. It was a terrible blow.
My brother Lewis, who was about six when we came to Portland, also went to Failing School and had much the same primary school experience that I had. Since he was not scholastically inclined, he went on to a technical high school.
Schooling for Immigrant Children
My three older siblings, however, had a very different school experience. With only a poor command of English, they started their primary education in what was called an ungraded class. Each youngster progressed at his or her own speed and their progress determined how long it would take them to graduate. That has always seemed to me an effective arrangement for older youngsters. My oldest sister Anne, who was sixteen when we arrived, stayed in school only long enough to learn to speak and write some English and then went to work. My brother Aaron, who was twelve when we arrived, finished his primary education by the time he was fifteen and went on to Lincoln High School, a four-year high school from which he graduated in three years. My sister Becky, who was about nine when we arrived, started in the ungraded class but moved to the regular class when she learned English and reached the required level. When she graduated, she went on to a commercial high because she was eager to go to work.
After graduating from high school at age eighteen, Aaron went to Yale University. How could a youngster from an immigrant family get to a university at the opposite end of the country? What did he know about Yale or any other university? The answer is very little. He was lucky. As it happened, the principal of Lincoln High School was a Yale alumnus. Recognizing a bright youngster whose parents could certainly not afford to send him to college, he advised Aaron to apply to Yale and recommended him for a tuition scholarship. Until the G.I. bill came in after World War II, there was very little financial help other than tuition--and even tuition scholarships were few and far between. Two other immigrant youngsters who were friends attending Lincoln High also received tuition scholarships and the three went off to Yale University. The tuition scholarships were the only financial help that they received from the university. I do not know about the other two boys but Aaron was entirely on his own aside from an occasional five- or ten-dollar bill that my mother scraped up to send him by taking in boarders. He earned his living expenses at a variety of jobs. He spoke very little about the jobs he had but I know one was teaching in a Hebrew Sunday school on weekends. He graduated from Yale in three years.
My father, always very ambitious and hard-working, had moved up the economic ladder from peddling to owning a small general store in Portland. After a few years, when he saw other small-business entrepreneurs opening stores in rural areas and doing well, he decided that he too could move up the economic ladder if he sold his store in the city and opened one in the country. He chose to open a store in Wilsonville, a small town some miles from Portland. I don't believe there was another Jewish family in the town. My father wanted to have the family move to Wilsonville but he could not persuade my mother to do so. The idea of living in a totally gentile environment did not appeal to her. More important, she was sure that the schools in Wilsonville would be inferior to the schools in Portland. Though she had no formal education herself, she was determined that her children should have as good an education as possible. When I hear people today, discussing educational vouchers, argue that uneducated parents would not be interested or capable of choosing the right schools for their children if they had free choice of schooling, I recall my mother. Though totally unschooled, she certainly was interested in seeing her children get the best education possible.
My father, determined to have a store in the country whether the family moved with him or not, decided to live there by himself behind the store and come home whenever he could. I remember that my brother Aaron helped, but his help must have been very limited since he was going to high school at the time. I don't know how long my father had the store but I remember there were problems. As the only Jew, and an immigrant as well, my father encountered a fair measure of anti-Semitism, unlike our experience in Portland. About the time that Aaron graduated from high school and was making plans to leave for Yale, the store burned down in very suspicious circumstances. My father was asleep in the back of the store and was fortunate to get out with his life.
My father felt that this was not the time for Aaron to go off to college. His help was needed to put together the information about the fire for insurance and to make other arrangements to recover from the fire. My father argued that Aaron could postpone his departure and enter college the following year. My mother feared, probably correctly, that things would drag on and that Aaron would miss his opportunity to get a good education. She was determined that he leave, whatever the circumstances.
The only money resource that my mother had was a life insurance policy that she had taken out on Aaron. I have always been amused about the insurance policy story. It seems that Metropolitan Insurance Company sold the immigrants one-hundred-dollar life insurance policies for their young children for something like twenty-five cents a month. Why any of these parents would be interested in life insurance policies on their children, I have never understood. Either they did not understand what a life policy meant or it was sold to them as a savings plan because the children could cash them at a later date. This was what Aaron did and used the proceeds to get to New Haven. I too had such a policy that I cashed some years later when I realized how foolish a thing it was. I believe I used the cash to buy a dress--far less significant use of it than Aaron's.
Of the two boys who went to Yale with Aaron, one, Marcus Rothkowitz, became a well-known artist, changing his name to Mark Rothko. The other became a physician.
Aaron spent the year after he graduated from Yale hitchhiking, first around this country and then Europe. Except for a few incidents, he never spoke much about his experiences. He was interested in the labor movement, and I know he spent some time working in coal mines. At that period of his life, he was a socialist--an example of the old adage, "If one is not a socialist before age thirty, one has no heart; if one remains a socialist after thirty, one has no head." In Europe, he met his history teacher from Lincoln High, Mr. Schwartztrauber, who told him that the Labor Temple in Portland was looking for a director and suggested that Aaron might be interested in the job. Aaron returned to Portland and became director of the Labor Temple.
There was always a special relationship between Aaron and me. He was semi-sibling and semi-parent. As a twelve-year-old he carried me to the boat when we left Russia. He took me to school when I started at Failing Grammar School. When I graduated from grammar school, though he needed the little money he had, he gave me a beautifully bound copy of Edgar Allen Poe's poems with the inscription "Congratulations: May this be the first of many graduations." And he made it possible for me to have many graduations. In another way, he was my mentor. I earned a little money as a teenager by playing the piano for gym classes at the neighborhood house. After a couple of years of enjoying the munificent income of, I believe, five dollars a month, a new gym teacher arrived with her own pianist and I was out of a job. I was heartbroken. In addition to losing the income, in the current vernacular, my self-image was devastated. Aaron, who was working at the Labor Temple, came up with an interesting proposal. He would pay me the same sum I had been getting if I would spend a certain number of hours each week in his office teaching myself to type. This not only restored my self-image and my income but also resulted in my learning to type, which stood me in good stead all through college. It was also a learning experience of a different kind that I do not pretend to have appreciated at the time. He did not simply give me the money because I lost my job. I had to do something in return, even if it was something for my own good.
By the end of my third year of high school I needed only two more courses to graduate. Aaron was planning to leave his job at the Labor Temple that fall to enter the University of Chicago for graduate study. He had a teaching fellowship as well. He proposed that I take the two courses I needed to graduate during the summer and go to Chicago with him and enter the University of Chicago. I do not know how he thought we would live on his fellowship income, which was $2,000 or less, but he seemed to think that somehow we would manage. However, my mother vetoed that proposal. I was the youngest child and whether for that reason or because I had little in common with either of my sisters, I was very close to my mother when growing up.
Above all, my mother felt that sixteen was much too young for her baby to go two thousand miles to some place that she knew nothing about. Aaron had no arguments that could convince her. So I did not go to summer school and Aaron left for Chicago without me. Instead, I graduated from Lincoln High at midyear, January 1928, and so had nine months to spend before I could enter college. This gave me nine months in which to work and earn a little money. I was lucky because a new store--a Kresge five-and-ten--had just opened and was hiring staff. I worked at the toy counter, which suited me just fine--I enjoyed demonstrating the toys at least as much as my little customers enjoyed playing with them. I remember particularly my pleasure in demonstrating the little tin horn into which one hummed and made music. Except for working a few Saturdays at a department store while going to high school, this was my first real job and I was very proud of being able to earn thirteen dollars a week. As I remember, after a very short period, I was promoted to manager of the toy department, which consisted of two counters. I believe I then got a raise in pay of seventy-five cents a week.
That fall I entered Reed College and remained for two years. Reed was a small private school (about five-hundred students) with an excellent faculty, which maintained a close relationship with students. Many faculty members had an open house or tea for students regularly. The atmosphere was very academic. The school was run on the honor principle. Exams were not monitored and grades were not given to students, though they were kept in the office for students to use in applying to other schools for transfer or graduate study. There were some dormitories but, like most students, I lived at home and commuted to school, and hence took advantage of few extracurricular activities other than occasional faculty teas. The courses were more advanced and exciting than my high school classes and I met students from more varied backgrounds. Other than that, life did not differ much from my high school years.
In addition to economics, I took courses in history, literature, contemporary society, mathematics, and biology. A course in ancient history led to heated arguments with my father about the Old Testament. My father was sure that the Old Testament was literal truth. He also believed similar stories that he read in other Hebrew books. I, of course, insisted that they were all fables. My father had not met such insubordination up to this time.
The biology course convinced me, if I ever thought otherwise, that medicine was not my dish. It involved a considerable amount of lab work, primarily dissection. We started, as I remember, with a frog and ended with a cat. While I was not at all squeamish about dissecting the frog, cutting up a cat and having to look at those lifeless eyes was almost more than I could bear. I am sure that if I hadn't felt that it was a sign of failure, I would have dropped the course. In any case I dissected the cat with a little help and skipped lunch many a day.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Reed, I had strange physical symptoms that resulted in a week's stay in the hospital for observation and then an exploratory operation. Only a very inflamed appendix was found and it was removed. To the best of my memory, no one then had health insurance. We did not have routine medical checkups, but there was also never a question of not seeing a doctor because we were too poor. Doctors had a sliding scale for charges. I remember very well that my mother paid doctor bills in installments--sometimes over months. I don't remember her getting monthly bills. I believe she was told how much the charge was, either before or after the visit. If she felt the charge was more than she could afford she met with the doctor, not with a bookkeeper, and the charge was generally adjusted and the timing of the payments discussed. There was a very personal relationship between doctor and patient as well as patient's family.
It is hard to exaggerate the change in medical practice over the past sixty years. Of course, there has been a tremendous advance in the science. There were no MRIs, no antibiotics, and much, much more. But at the same time, medical practice has become less personal. The primary interest on a first visit to a doctor or upon entering the hospital seems to be what kind of insurance one has, not what ails one.
After my sophomore year at Reed, I transferred to the University of Chicago. In a sense, I was on my own for the first time in my life. In another sense, I was still protected and still taken care of. If I had a problem, Aaron was always there. Although he had a very modest salary, he always insisted it was enough for both of us and never encouraged me to work apart from a few modest research jobs that I did for Professor Paul Douglas, with whom Aaron was writing a book at this time. I also did some work for Professor Palyi. None of these jobs contributed much toward my living expenses. Tuition was three hundred dollars a year, but we paid only half because Aaron was on the faculty. I lived in a small dormitory that was across the Midway from the university and took my meals there. I did much of my studying in the library or in Aaron's office. If I stayed until dusk, he always insisted on walking me across the Midway. His excuse was always that there were many stories about girls being raped while crossing the Midway. He was skeptical about the stories but nevertheless always insisted on accompanying me. That gave me a chance to have many interesting conversations with him. As I remember, these were mainly not about economics but about much more general, philosophical questions. Was happiness the primary goal of life and what produced happiness? What was important in life? Aaron, like me, is a very private person, so we didn't discuss any personal problems. I never told him how very homesick I often was. Every now and then he asked me whether I needed any money. My recollection is I asked for very little. I had a pretty good idea of his income and, since my room and board and tuition were paid in advance, I needed little more.
My wardrobe, such as it was, was purchased either by my mother in Portland during the summer or by my sister Becky, who was married and living in San Francisco. She had worked at Montgomery Ward in Portland from the time she left school at about the age of seventeen. She started in a minor position but did such a good job that she was given more and more responsibility. When she married and moved to San Francisco she had no difficulty getting a comparable position with Ward's in Oakland. Differing six years in age and with different interests, Becky and I had little in common until we were adults. As a teenager she had no interest in a higher education but was eager to go to work so that she could have nice clothes. I was in many respects the opposite. Clothes were never very important. My interests lay much more in books and in school. Becky had a great interest in boyfriends--perhaps because she wanted to get married and leave home. I had very little interest in boys. When she grew up, Becky regretted her choice, became a voracious reader, and did a wonderful job of educating herself. As adults we became close friends. She and I spent many hours together when we were both on visits to Portland during the summer and when I visited her in San Francisco on my way to or from Chicago. She shared my interests and my problems and became my closest friend and confidante. There was never any resentment on her part because I had had greater advantages. On the contrary, with her own love of nice clothes, she enjoyed getting clothes for me whenever she had the opportunity.
As at Reed, I did not have an active social life during my two years as an undergraduate at Chicago. I had a few very close girl friends and only casual men friends. I have no recollection that this troubled me. I never thought much about finding a husband: I suppose I assumed that in good time he would come along--as he did. I was going to college to get an education, to make life more interesting, but even more to prepare me to earn my living.
Strange the things that one remembers or forgets. I have no recollection of the graduation ceremony in June 1932. I do remember very clearly that Aaron took me to lunch at the faculty club and how impressed I was that a number of faculty men came over to congratulate me. Then I left for the summer at home, knowing that I would return in the fall to start graduate work in economics.
People today often express surprise that in the early thirties a young woman went to college, majored in economics, and even did graduate study. Women's lib as it exists today, of course, was not in the picture in the thirties. However, I do not believe that young women were discriminated against in seeking admission to college. On the other hand, I do believe there was discrimination when it came to getting financial help. Marrying and having a family was the ultimate goal for most women, including those who went to college. Accordingly, it was deemed proper to favor men in granting financial help, since they were to be the primary support for a family. Getting started in a career was also more difficult for women for the same reason.
Change was needed and change has occurred. But the changes have also created many problems. I believe that absentee mothers and latchkey children are the cause of many of today's ills. The big problem is that women have different roles to play at different periods in life. One is raising a family and that is best pursued as a full-time career for a number of years. However, it is no longer a career for a lifetime. Properly performed, it may bear fruits that last a lifetime, but the activity does not. A second career should start when the first comes to an end, and that is not easy to achieve. Perhaps the technological changes that are rapidly transforming the workplace will enable women to perform both roles at the same time. If not, then sooner or later, the market will make the needed adjustments so that women may enter and leave the marketplace at different periods in their lives.
Excerpted from Two Lucky People by Milton Friedman Copyright © 1999 by Milton Friedman.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Milton Friedman (1912–2006) was an economist who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades. He was a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, and is known for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and the complexity of stabilization policy. He was a principal founder of what has come to be known as the Chicago School of Economics. He was a well-known public champion of laissez-faire capitalism.
In 1962 the University of Chicago Press published Capitalism and Freedom, one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. In 1998 the Press published Two Lucky People, the memoir by Milton and Rose Friedman of their joint lives and work. In reviewing the book in the New York Times Book Review, David Brooks wrote: “This is a book that restores your faith in reasoned discourse.… There really are people who believe in scholarly exchange as a way to discover truth.”
Rose D. Friedman (1910-2006) was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, She was the author, with her husband Milton Freidman, of two books on economics and public policy, Free to Choose and Tyranny of the Status Quo as well as their memoir, Two Lucky People, which appeared in 1998.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews