Uplifting | Trending

80 Years After Being Expelled, 97-Year-Old Woman Finally Gets Her Diploma

Although we may be struggling with a few social issues right now, there are still things that we can do today that we wouldn't have been able to less than a hundred years ago.

Iris Weatherwax's story is a great reminder of how far women have come in the battle for gender equality.

Davison Community Schools

In the late 1930s, a young Iris was attending high school in a suburb of Flint, Michigan when her childhood sweetheart decided to propose. The couple tied the knot in 1938, but during an era when many married women end up assuming the role of a housekeeper, Iris continued to pursue her studies at Davison High School.

But since there was no law protecting women from gender discrimination, Iris was kicked out of school and barred from obtaining her diploma for a very sexist reason that would not fly in today's society.

Now, nearly 80 years later, the school district is awarding a 97-year-old Iris a high school diploma.

Associated Press

But why was Iris expelled from school in the first place?

Iris and her husband decided early on that they wanted to start a family, so it wasn't long after the wedding that the couple found out they would soon be welcoming their first child.

While most girls quit school after marriage, Iris continued attending classes. However, all that changed when she became pregnant. Since schools didn't want to expose youth to the concept of pregnancy and how it occurs, Iris wasn't allowed to return to school.

Davison Community Schools

Even though she had a successful career after and went on to raise four kids, not being able to graduate high school has been one of Iris's biggest regrets in life. So when her niece, Paula Clarambeau, found out the reason why her aunt never got the chance to walk across the stage, she set out to make things right.

Paula knew that her aunt would've excelled in school so she got in touch with the school district to see if they could rectify the situation.

Her efforts proved successful and on August 23, the Davison Community Schools superintendent, Eric Lieske, awarded Iris with an honorary diploma.  

"I love it," Iris told WJRT. "I think its [sic] wonderful."

Associated Press

The senior wore a cap and gown for the special occasion and was surrounded by friends and family, including her son James.

"They didn't let her finish school because she was pregnant with the guy who is standing here talking," he said. "Back in those days, they wouldn't let them finish school. My mother and dad put all four of us through high school. That was the goal and we made the goal, so this is another one."

Associated Press

Lieske was more than happy to give Iris the document because he thinks there's no one more deserving that her.

"She's missed out on that. Shes [sic] had a lot of roles and a lot of achievements throughout her adulthood, but one thing that was missing was that high school diploma," said Lieske. "So to be able to provide that today certainly is a memorable experience for everyone involved."

Associated Press

We're glad Iris got her biggest wish granted, but we can't help but think about all the other girls who were forced to leave school for reasons similar to hers.

Thankfully, since 1972, school's must abide by the Title IX law which "protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs."

You can watch Iris receive her diploma in the video below:

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.