Elizabeth Kutter

Male-Female Roles in Society

I feel I've come full circle--back to Washington, to peaks, ski slopes, the pounding ocean, and back from narrow specialization to broad general involvement.

I spent a peripatetic childhood as an "army brat", moving all over the country before settling in Seattle. Very early, I became preoccupied with language and fantasy-acting, writing, debating, incessant reading.  A year as an exchange student in Germany exposed me to new ideas, making me question my middle-class-American values. It also confirmed my basic intellectual confidence in myself, while making me more people-oriented.

In college, I continued my interest in debate, civil rights, and a world community, but I majored in mathematics--disciplined, impersonal, a
honing of the mind with definite, concrete answers. Gradually, I realized I found math intellectually satisfying, but emotionally dead, providing good answers to dull questions. Molecular Biology seemed to ask far more exciting questions: How does the brain function? What are genes, and how do they interact to direct development and function? In short, what is life?

Sig and I were married in our senior year of college. We moved on together to the University of Rochester, where I hoped to learn to work with my hands rather than just my head ..I chose to study bacterial viruses: a few hundred genes, a complex yet neatly-programmed developmental sequence, challenging,  yet potentially decipherable. I enjoyed a giddy sensation of riding on the crest of human progress, however insignificant a role I played. The arrival of our two sons added further balance and joy to our lives--growing up in a lab seemed natural to them.

Sig accepted a position at the University of Virginia. I briefly tried (unsuccessfully) to be a full-time housewife, but soon managed to arrange for a small lab and a grant to carry on my research.  Life treated us well.  However, increasingly "heresies" played through our minds.
Taken seriously, research leaves little time or energy for introspection or politics, nature, reading, or simply living. Yet can it be done half-way? I felt trapped within deep canyon walls--too little chance to teach, to learn, to think.  It became time to move on.

So now we've come to Evergreen--back West, after 10 years of "exile" from the mountains, and back to a place where our many interests, many roles are openly valued  and, hopefully, can complement each other.